Re: Copernicus was wrong?

From: george murphy (
Date: Mon Aug 06 2001 - 11:44:39 EDT

  • Next message: John M. Drake: "Ecology, Theology, and Judeo-Christian Environmental Ethics"

    Ted Davis wrote:

    > 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 -
            There was certainly a good deal earlier than Freud a sense of
    displacement of humanity in the wake of Copernicus' theory, & I think in a more
    important sense than those you note in your later reply to Moorad. The idea of
    a plurality of worlds and other intelligent species seemed to raise serious
    questions about the traditional belief that humanity could be the sole object of
    God's salvific work, & thus called into question the central features of the
    Christian story - cf. e.g. Thomas Paine.
    (Whether or not that traditional view was the best that could be done even in a
    pre-Copernican setting can be questioned, but that's another matter.)



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Dialogue"

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Aug 06 2001 - 11:44:21 EDT