Re: Copernicus: simply science?

From: Moorad Alexanian (
Date: Mon Aug 06 2001 - 10:33:32 EDT

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    Dear Ted,

    All the examples you give are instances where scientific discoveries have
    been used to make other than scientific statements. It is important to keep
    them apart whenever possible. If we were to know all the science there is to
    be known, I am not sure that we could we would know all that there is to be
    known about man.

    Take care,


    -----Original Message-----
    From: Ted Davis <>
    To: <>
    Date: Monday, August 06, 2001 10:06 AM
    Subject: Copernicus: simply science?

    >I beg to differ with Moorad. Copernicus did indeed offer a scientific
    >"discovery"--a new, highly detailed hypothesis to explain celestial
    >appearances without equants (though with lots of epicycles)--but his
    >discovery was hardly one confined to astronomy, or even more broadly to
    >science generally. Thomas Kuhn's The Copernican Revolution illustrates
    >quite well what was involved. Moving the earth *did* wreak havoc with
    >traditional ideas in many fields, incl. theology (it was almost universally
    >thought, e.g., that the Bible prohibits this idea). The question on the
    >table, was whether Copernicanism upset human dignity, and the point I made
    >was simply that moving the earth out of the center was not understood in
    >this way at the time.
    >However, to offer just one further example, the fact that accepting
    >heliocentrism forced one to accept a universe of immense size (at least
    >times in radius larger than traditionally thought)--since annual parallax
    >could not then be seen, and thus the stars had to be so much farther
    >away--did cause some consternation. Thus, two of Descartes' prominent
    >correspondents (Princess Elizabeth of the Palatinate and Queen Christina of
    >Sweden) worried about whether God could still find us, if the world were
    >infinite in size, and even Pascal expressed anxieties about the vastness of
    >space. These worries may perhaps underlie the modern myth about devaluing
    >humans, though of course they express a quite different concern.
    >Ted Davis

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