RE: Copernicus: simply science?

From: Vandergraaf, Chuck (
Date: Mon Aug 06 2001 - 11:54:56 EDT

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    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?

    Chuck Vandergraaf

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Ted Davis []
    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.

    Ted Davis

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