Good morning, Ted, Moorad, and other participants in the Copernicus
While it is fascinating to follow the debate on what Copernicus may or may
not have said and what impact this may or may not have had on theology, I
think that the point that Glenn Morton was making was summarized in his
"P. S. for those who have seen a change in what I am interested in, this
topic has shown me how futile almost all else is. The energy problem must be
solved, or, like the Titanic, our presumably unsinkable economy will sink!"
I'm not quite as pessimistic as Glenn as I think there is still time to
correct the course of humanity (led by the developed world) from a headlong
rush into the black abyss of an energy-starved world. But, even if we
revisit nuclear energy as an option and build energy efficient apartments
(not homes!), the course correction will not be pleasant and, as Christians
who have been given the intellect and opportunity to be scientists and
engineers, architects and city planners, it is our task to start looking at
ways to protect the poor and the vulnerable from the effects of these
changes. If we don't do it, who will?
From: Ted Davis [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday August 06, 2001 9:02 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 1000
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.
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