Geocentric theory

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Rendition of a geocentric system from the Middle Ages.

The geocentric theory is a system for describing the universe with Earth-centered coordinates. It was extremely popular from ancient times until the 1600s, as it had better agreement with observation than any of the contemporary theories. Ptolemy's model was particularly effective at cosmological predictions.

By the 1800s, the spectacular successes of Newtonian theory and Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism had convinced 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, and the heliocentric theory correct.

However, this view is apparently based more on a philosphical rather than a scientific position [1]. Bartosz Milewski (2006) states in reference to the Geocentric Theory: "Looking at the predictions it made of planetary movements, it is pretty good. One could probably derive it nowadays from the heliocentric theory by changing the system of coordinates (since the system attached to the Earth is not inertial, one would have to use Einstein's general relativity to do that correctly). Maybe physicists would be forced to introduce more cycles upon cycles to account for all the anomalies—maybe infinitely many. So even though the two theories differ in complexity, they are presumably equivalent in their predictive power." [2]

All of this means that it is possible to ascribe a consistent geocentric model of the universe; the fact that we do not choose to do so, is due to convention, pragmatism and parsimony of explanation, rather than an absolute proof that heliocentrism is correct. The idea that planets move around the sun, in nearly circular ellipses, has become the currently-accepted wisdom.


Conflicts with Biblical teachings

Copernicus and Galileo were the main proponents of the Heliocentric view, a view which brought Galileo into direct conflict with the Catholic Church. Eventually Galileo recanted his Heliocentric position, stating in his abjuration: "I believe now, and with God's help I will in future believe all that is held, preached, and taught by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. But whereas – after having been admonished by this Holy Office, entirely to abandon the false opinion that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable." [3]. One of the reasons oft-quoted for Galeileo's conflict with the Inquisition over the Copernican view is that Heliocentrism denies biblical teachings. However, as Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer points out: "When the Roman church attacked Copernicus and Galileo,it was not because teaching actually contained anything contrary to the Bible. The church authorities thought it did, but that was because Aristotelian elements had become part of church orthodoxy, and Galileo's notions clearly conflicted with them. In fact, Galileo defended the compatibility of Copernicus and the Bible, and this was one of the factors which brought about his trial" [4].

Scripture Quoted to justify Geocentric Theory

A small number of people still accept the Geocentric theory. They interpret the Bible as saying that the geocentric theory is correct.

"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)


References and Notes

  1. For example, in 'The Fabric of Reality", by David Deutsch (1996), Deutsch states the following criterion for reality: we should "... regard as real those complex entities which, if we did not regard them as real, would complicate explanations". This appears to be no more than a simple restatement of Occam's Razor.
  2. http://www.relisoft.com/Science/Physics/MicroAnt.html
  3. taken from: http://www.chowk.com/show_article.cgi?aid=00002228&channel=university%20ave
  4. (Schaeffer, F. , 1976, How Shall We Then Live?)cited at : http://www.gnmagazine.org/booklets/EV/wrongassumptions.htm