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.
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"
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