Re: Hyers' Article - Cods Wallop

From: Denyse O'Leary <>
Date: Wed Feb 25 2004 - 09:17:08 EST

  Thanks, Ted and Jim, for valuable information.

Did you know that the province of Saskatchewan
in Canada features land that is so flat that the
same effect can be observed as on the ocean? Put
that in your trivia file.

More seriously, we should consider that language
  represents what people experience, not
necessarily what they think is happening.

We refer to sunrise and sunset, despite what we
know about the solar system. Most people's
mental image of geography is based on flat maps,
even though they know that the earth is a sphere.

In other words, each observer takes himself as
the point of reference and his own recollections
as the basis of further learning. Language
reflects this fact.

Thus, my question to Ted is, can we assume that
people thought that the earth was flat or that
the sun rose and set simply because they used
language that implied this?

Maybe they did think that, of course, but I
would want to look for actual teachings on the
subject, to be sure.

After all, if a future archaeologist had only
current English usage to go on, and no
information about science, he would have to
conclude that we were all geocentrists, wouldn't
he? Yet the opposite would be true.


Ted Davis wrote:
>>>>"Jim Armstrong" <> 02/24/04 11:19PM >>>writes:
> It was only a couple of weeks ago when I stood at the Hotel del
> Coronado (just visiting!) and looked as small boats partially
> disappeared over the horizon. In light of that, it's a little hard to
> believe that at least some of the folks familiar with the seas (even the
> big inland ones) might not have some sense of curvature. Curvature of
> the heavens above would be an easier conjecture, but I'll bet that a
> curved earth was not a hard sell to some mariners and other sea-savvy
> folks. It might be a harder leap to a spherical Earth. I don't think it
> is a slam dunk that a flat earth was the universal holding. Admittedly
> just a speculation, though. But, have you been to the seashore lately?
> Ted responds:
> This is one of the pieces of evidence that led the Greeks, ca. 400 BC, to
> conclude that the earth is in fact a sphere. Other evidence from their
> travels included the fact that different stars become visible/invisible as
> one moves significantly north/south. The earth's shadow is round when the
> moon passes through it, and that was decisive for Aristotle and others.
> It is unclear (at least to me) when the Hebrews and other cultures drew
> similar conclusions. But for the whole period of Christian history,
> educated western minds have known not only that the earth is spherical, but
> that it is roughly 18-25K miles in circumference (Ptolemy took the lower
> value, Eratosthenes the upper value). Columbus liked the lower value also;
> his argument with Spanish scholars concerned this particular detail rather
> than the legendary (and false) claim that the earth is round rather than
> flat.
> One can find hardly any exceptions to what I wrote in the first sentence of
> the previous paragraph, perhaps half a dozen in two millenia. Two of them
> (one is Kosmas) have been much celebrated by advocates of the "warfare"
> thesis of science and religion, as if two out of several thousand writers
> are representative of a religious tradition.
> But (again) I don't know precisely when the Hebrews came to view the earth
> as spherical, though I imagine it was during the intertestamental period.
> ted

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Received on Wed Feb 25 09:04:17 2004

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