Geocentric theory

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Rendition of a geocentric system from the Middle Ages.

A Geocentric theory is an astronomical theory which describes the universe as a Geocentric system, i.e., a system which puts the Earth in the center of the universe, and describes other objects from the point of view of the Earth. The Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato described such a theory wherein all celestial bodies move on spheres around the earth, the moon on the innermost one and the fixed stars on the outermost one.

Ptolemy's system

Ptolemy invented the most elaborated geocentric system, allowing the planets not only to move on circles around the earth, but using epicycles. By adding further ideas, he was able to predict the motion of the planets quite well. Ptolemy's model was extremely popular from ancient times until the 1600s, as it had better agreement with observation than any alternative. His model was particularly effective at cosmological predictions.

However, during the 1500s and 1600s, alternatives were proposed. The Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe made the most accurate observations possible before the invention of the telescope. These showed discrepancies within Ptolemy's system.

With the invention of the telescope, the observations became more precise, and new phenomena were discovered: In particular, Galileo's use of the telescope to look at the skies revealed that Jupiter had at least four moons, and Venus had phases like the Moon: both phenomena were not predicted by Ptolemy's model.

Johannes Kepler used Brahe's measurements to improve the heliocentric system Copernicus had proposed, showing that planets had elliptical orbits around the sun. When Isaac Newton applied the newly discovered universal theory of gravitation to the data, he used a heliocentric model. By the 1800s, the spectacular successes of Newtonian theory and Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism had convinced practically everyone that the Sun is a preferred frame of reference, and that the laws of physics must be applied in that frame. The geocentric theory was considered to be profoundly mistaken at that time.

Since the advent of relativity theory in the early 1900s, the laws of physics have been written in covariant equations, meaning that they are equally valid in any frame. Heliocentric and geocentric plotting systems are both used today, depending on which allows more convenient calculations.

Scripture Quoted to justify Geocentric Theory

A few Bible quotes use geocentric terms. While some attempt to use these quotes to discredit the Bible's hold on science, others dispute this usage, claiming that the usage of the terms is similar to the way people today use terms like "sunrise" and "sunset". In this account, the terminology is not wrong, but merely reflects the observer's view.

  • "He has fixed the earth firm, immovable." (1 Chronicles 16:30)
  • "Thou hast fixed the earth immovable and firm ..." (Psalm 93:1)
  • "Thou didst fix the earth on its foundation so that it never can be shaken." (Psalm 104:5)
  • "...who made the earth and fashioned it, and himself fixed it fast..." (Isaiah 45:18)
  • "The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose." (Ecclesiastes 1:5)
  • "Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day." (Joshua 10, 12-13)
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