Was Copernicus right?

Mon, 17 Jun 96 09:06:00 -0400

Two comments on "Was Copernicus right?"

(1) One of the most frequently misunderstood points
about Copernicus is the alleged removal of humans from
the center of the universe. This sort of point is
inspired in many cases by Freud's statement that
Copernicus took us out of the center of the universe,
Darwin destroyed the difference between us and the animals,
and he (Freud) had shown that we are ruled actually by
our (non-rational) subconscious mind.

In fact, we weren't removed from the center because we
were never there. The center was hell, the worst place,
according to medieval theology. We were a significant
4,000 miles from there (a figure known to the medievals),
though much farther from the best place at the edge of the
world, some 80 million miles away. Metaphorically, we were
"midmost" between heaven and hell, though geographically
closer to the latter. In terms of world view, the
Copernican world was still very theocentric. It was, of
course, also anthropocentric, which may be Freud's real
point -- but as a literal statement, he was dead wrong.

(2) I would be very wary of attempts to construct a "Christian
physics, astronomy, etc.", as vs. a "Christian view of physics,
astronomy, etc." The difference is huge: whether or not the
Bible is an actual text of science, rather than a book of faith
that informs our view of science. Even Augustine warned
against the former.


Ted Davis
Assoc Prof of Science and History
Messiah College
Grantham, PA 17027
717-766-2511, ext 6840