From the Greek meaning 'heavy with wine'
A blog devoted to science and reason
Written after a glass or two of Pinot Noir.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Your Elementary School Teachers Were Right. So were Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein.

We all learned that the that there are there are nine planets sometime in grade school. You may have used the mnemonic "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas." There are now only eight, because astronomers decided that Pluto along with Ceres, Iris, and perhaps about 50 others are dwarf planets. So maybe we should memorize "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nuts."

We also learned that these planets orbit the Sun. I bet none of us ever questioned how we know this. Why would we? It is established scientific fact, right?

So why would anyone think Galileo Was Wrong; The Church Was Right. This link is to a website that promotes Geocentrism, the idea that the Earth is not only the center of the solar system, but the center of the universe. I've been through this website looking for one thing - an explanation of orbits, because it's a straightforward calculation if you start with Newton's 2nd law and his law of universal gravitation. My students who have had PHY 211 can go back to Unit N of the text book and read chapters 12 and 13, and I can show anyone else who's interested how it works. [In the interest of scientific honesty, Mercury presents a small problem that took Einstein to solve.] So my challenge is that a geocentrist must be able to write a force law and derive a equation of motion for the planets that reproduce the orbits with the Earth as the force center.

Let's illustrate the problem:
Here's a Flash simulation of the heliocentric (Sun-centered) solar system. Only Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are shown. Press play and pay close attention to Mars. You see that Mars follows a nearly circular orbit as explained by Newton.

Now look at the Ptolemaic or geocentric (Earth-centered) solar system. Here Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are shown. Again press play and pay attention to Mars. Press the circle button and the animation will trace out the orbit.

See the problem? [Again in the interest of scientific honesty, many of these geocentrism web sites don't use a purely Ptolemaic system, they use the Tychonic model where the Earth is the center, the Sun and the Moon orbit the Earth and the rest orbit the Sun. But the orbit problem among others remains.]

So why would anyone believe in a theory put to rest 400 years ago? Galileo Was Wrong; The Church Was Right goes to great lengths to couch its arguments in criticizing Einstein's theory of relativity and other physics, but when you examine closely their argument comes down to…

Because the Bible says so.

Here are the verses (from NIV) commonly used by geocentrists:

Joshua 10:12-13
12 On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.

Ecclesiastes 1:5
5 The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.

Psalm 96:10
10 Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

Psalms 104:5
5 He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.

Isaiah 66:1
1 This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool…

1 Chronicles 16:30
30 Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.

Amos 8:9
9 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.

Micah 3:6
6 Therefore night will come over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them.

Jeremiah 15:9
9 The mother of seven will grow faint and breathe her last. Her sun will set while it is still day; she will be disgraced and humiliated. I will put the survivors to the sword before their enemies,” declares the LORD.

If you read this literally, then I guess it's clear that the Earth is stationary and the Sun moves.

Now for the irony. Answers in Genesis, a creationist site, finds geocentrism embarrassing. The site goes to great lengths to debunk geocentrism. But Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, is the man who built the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY. The museum has Adam and Eve and says T. Rex ate coconuts. He is also building Ark Encounter near Cincinnati, OH that will also feature dinosaurs.

What do you think is Ken Ham's reason for believing in creation?

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