Copernicus was wrong?

From: Ted Davis (
Date: Sun Aug 05 2001 - 22:34:30 EDT

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    Glenn Morton writes (correctly) that Copernicus is usually credited with
    moving humans out of the center. However, as I have noted in other forums
    several times, this very common notion is very wrong. In short, Copernicus
    did not move humanity from the center--because we were never there! Ptolemy
    and others since antiquity were well aware of the earth's approximate size
    and shape, and medieval intellectuals were fully aware that we are a very
    significant 4000 miles from the "center" of the universe. Furthermore, it
    was not desireable to be in the center at all, for that's where hell was
    thought to be. This feature of Copernicanism--moving humanity away from the
    center--did not bother people at the time; what bothered them was the
    ridiculous claim that the earth is moving.

    The myth that Copernicus assaulted human dignity may have been invented by
    Freud, as part of a selve-serving idea that Copernicus moved us out of the
    center, Darwin reduced our uniqueness, and he (Freud) had assaulted our
    rationality. I say "may have been," b/c I am not confident this part of
    the story is right. But I'm confident the first paragraph is right.

    Ted Davis

    Edward B. Davis
    Professor of the History of Science
    Messiah College
    Grantham, PA 17027
    717-766-2511 (voice)
    717-691-6002 (fax)

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