Aside from that judgment, I am not ready to weigh further on the book's quality; but he does make one claim that is quite wrong. He is asking for a reconciliation of sorts between the old "paternalistic, Christian heritage" and the new world. Along the way he defends the old faith with a historical reference: "[A]s Rene Girard says it is not because we invented science that we stopped burning witches, but rather when, because of the Judeo-Christianity, we stopped burning witches that we invented science." (p. 39-40)
This is wrong as a point of history. We invented science when we started burning witches.
The usual dates for the witch-burning craze are 1480-1750, around the time of the Reformation and the Thirty Years War. It was about the time that there was this deep questioning of tradition -- that would lead to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and modern science -- that there also coincidentally spread a new cultural distrust of the feminine.
I was just reading a collection of essays called Friendship in Medieval Europe that shows how much things changed. Several of these essays note that -- contrary to what many people might expect if they were raised with the modern critique of Western history as "paternalistic" -- the early and High Middle Ages were a golden age for relations between the sexes. Of the Anglo-Saxon period, we learn:
"What we can conclude on a formal level, however, is that 'friendship' is not significantly limited, either in a hierarchical manner -- Boniface and Alcuin are friends with bishops as well as priests, abbots as well as monks -- or with regard to gender -- they are friends both with men and women. Every person (ominis homo -- and not: 'every male') needs a friend, as the Anglo-Saxon abbess Eangyth writes to St. Boniface; and she chooses him to be hers. Alcuin counts several women among his friends." (125)It turns out that there are vast examples of robust friendships between men and women throughout the early and High middle ages, and into the late middle ages, including whole collections of letters now being studied by scholars across Europe. There is particular importance placed on the exchange of poetry between men and women as tokens of friendship; in the last few years, we've gained awareness of a huge amount of female-written Medieval poetry that is normally captured in letters between friends, including between monastic communities and nunneries. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote on the virtue of friendship, drawing on Aristotle's dictum that we can say to our friend, "You are the other half of my soul," (in Aristotle this is more usually translated 'the friend is our other self'); and the priest Richard Rolle, who died in 1349, wrote that in spite of the dangers of physical attraction between men and women, "that sort of friendship is not improper, but rewarding, if it is practiced with a good intention."
However, in 1401 the chancellor of the University of Paris, Jean Gerson, wrote a sermon in which he charged that friendship with women put you at risk of "diabolical deception" and 'great evil unless God in his goodness averts it.' Gerson nevertheless knew some women, including Christine de Pisan, whom he engaged with intellectually (and agreed with) in the famous debate of the morality of Roman de la Rose. Christine de Pisan, in the early 1400s, was challenging this new, rising misogyny and objected to the vulgar language that the book put into the mouths of noble women. But when Gerson wrote his own book about it, he ignored her contributions and did not mention her at all. Gerson lived at the same time as Bernardino of Siena, whose traveling sermons popularized the idea of witches.
As for witch-burning in the early and High Middle Ages, it was actually banned by the Church under penalty of death. The same decree, in 785, banned belief in witches in order to suppress violence against women. That held until the 1400s, when popular pressure in Switzerland and Germany began to force the Church to rethink its stance. As late as the 1390s, though, women confessed to practicing 'white magic' to Inquisitors, but the Inquisitors had nothing in their guidelines about women using magic and had to write for advice.
It looks like the early 15th century is the turning point in which the Church (following popular movements from German-speaking central Europe) began to take the dark view of female sexuality that we have come to associate with witch-burnings.
The easy friendships between men and women that we observe in Chaucer, who lets the Wife of Bath have a merry wit and deliver a good long sermon on the virtues of women, did not quite die with him in 1400. Sir Thomas Malory, born in 1405, stands at the end of this golden age. He was in the English speaking world, which did not receive the witch-burning craze until after his death (England did not pass a law on witchcraft until 1542). Though it is commonplace to blame Malory for making Guinevere's sexuality the cause of the fall of Camelot, it is clear that Malory does not view Guinevere as a bad or wicked woman. In fact, one of the few times that Malory directly addresses his audience is to make the point that "she was a true lover and therefore she had a good end." Her love with Lancelot, though it had tragic practical consequences, is what redeems her for Malory, not what damns her.
Even the wicked sorceress Morgan le Fay is not a witch, but a student of necromancy -- see the article on the meaning of this in the Early and High Middle Ages, which is different from the word's meaning today. Of course, Morgan was a necromancer for Malory, but earlier she had been something else, not a witch but a fairy. In this guise she is the heroine of Marie de France's Lanval, saving the knight from an unfair judgment.
There is a doctrine that the Middle Ages were a dark and miserable time, and that the story of the Reformation, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment is a story of ever-marching progress toward a more rational society. In truth, the story is more complicated. The same breaking of the old order that allowed for a new scientific world view also let loose a great deal darker. It was not when we became scientific that we stopped burning witches. Rather, that was just when we began.
History Ireland has a counterexample, the earliest witch-burning case I've heard of from 1324. It's worth reading their account in full. The only one who was burned was a minor figure, a servant of the family chiefly charged with heresy; and the secular law worked hard to defy the Church in the face of a very enthusiastic (and foreign) bishop. Of the principal defendants, the woman escaped by flight (she was extraordinarily wealthy), and her husband got off with a penance. The Church forced him to go on pilgrimage and to re-do a part of the local cathedral with lead. It turned out the lead was too heavy for the cathedral roof, which collapsed as a consequence of his fulfilling the penance the bishop had imposed. Divine judgment, possibly.
It's interesting to see how this early case played out, compared with the enthusiasm that would appear in later centuries.