Will Darwin be this century's Galileo?

Props to the lovely and talented Drain Bead for sparking this in my head whilest we were dropping science, so to speak…

The thought that the Earth (and man) was NOT the center of the universe was not met with glee by many religious folks at the time.

What I don’t know is whether the era had its version of Creation Scientists who tried digging up their own evidence or refuting the evidence of the heretics. An internet search was inconclusive about that, though I did find a bunch of Catholic appologetica saying that the whole problem is anti-Ctholic propaganda. Anybody who has futher Dopage on this, please do share with the class.

In any event, it seems obvious to me that at least some, if not a vast majority, of Christians at the time seemed to think that the Bible spoke of Earth being at the center of the universe.

It is equally obvious to me that, in spite of what Christians thought the Bible said, the universe did not (and does not) behave in that manner.

Yet, in spite of the fact that nary a word of the good book has changed in this time, and in spite of the fact that the Earth is still not even the center of this solar system, let alone the universe, at some point in history, the two supposedly conflicting thoughts merged and the conflict was no more.

When did this change take place?

Since Christianity was able to adapt to this, will we see a day in the future where even the Bible literalists are able to accept evolution?

Consider that there are still sects out there who say that evolution is wrong, medicine is wrong and handling snakes that will only bite the wicked is right, yet I don’t think there’s a single group of Christians out there who steadfastly continue to have faith that the earth is not the literal center of the universe and the sun revolves around our planet.

So time was able to change that Biblical perception and reconcile the passages of the book with the realities that scientific study revealed… Is there hope for the Creationists? If not now, in a few decades or so?

No. Then they wouldn’t be Bible literalists anymore.

(I should mention, though, that the Earth is at the center of the Universe give or take a few miles – but, yes, it does orbit the sun, if that is what you mean. :wally)

Not hope that they’ll change their beliefs. This debate has been going on since the 1860s. What is thirty-odd more years?

First, welcome back Satan. :slight_smile:

Second, post industrialization era science has not been around for very long compared to recorded history. Much of that history is based on the misunderstanding of the universe rather than our current understanding of it. Is it such a surprise that many people still hang on to the traditions and practices of their ancestors? Most generations are dragged forward kicking and screaming by their successors. How many times have you heard the phrase, “Kids these days!..”. Fact is, beliefs change, practices and traditions evolve. Sometimes not as quick as we’d like them to but that’s a lot to ask in one life time. We should be comforted by the fact that current science and knowledge is accelerating at a fairly rappid pace and we do stand a good chance of seeing some very progressive changes in religious thought in our lifetime. But not by everyone. Some people will live out their lives without changing their beliefs, but that too is part of progress and evolution.

So to answer your question, barring any imminent discoveries that actually prove devine creation, the faithful among us will one day come around to believing that evolution is perhaps a part of god’s design and that the universe is endeed much older than young earth believers claim. The atheists among us will probably remain a step or two ahead of this conclusion.

An ironic aspect is that there is nothing fundamentally wrong about placing a stationary reference frame on the earth and measuring the motion of everything else with respect to it.

It’s just that the math gets much harder (ie. Mars has a nice elliptical orbit around the sun, but if you track its “orbit” around the earth you get a wicked cycloidal path).

And, of course, if you are looking at it from a physics perspective the path of Mars is dominated by the gravity of the sun and only slightly affected by Earth’s gravity.

The lesson that I take from this is that we have to make the math for defending creationism much harder. :slight_smile:

Satan, Satan, Satan…there’s a group of Christians out there who steadfastly continue to have faith in just about anything.

Well, that’s just great, Mike. Here I am defending Cleveland on another thread, and you have to post a link to that site, run by a person in Cleveland. And, to add insult to injurry, I know him. He teaches computer science at my alma mater.


That site is a joke, right? Men are more angular which is why they like trigonometry, while women like needlepoint? “What must I forget next?” Converted from atheism (atheist due to evolution??) by a Duane Gish tract??

The King James Version: If it was good enough for Paul, it is good enough for me.
(This guy is kidding, right, Phil?)

MEBuckner, thank you for that link.

I think…

Actually, I am keeping it handy. The next time someone starts a discussion about how Creationism has some evidence, I plan on directing them to this site.

My favorite part was the very first paragraph of its Credo:

It certainly runs in line with the Creationist view, but it also shows right there that no amount of evidence will prove people otherwise when they just know that an ancient book of parables and morality plays somehow is a science textbook. ME, care to see if anyone thinks it’s a cookbook and auto maintenance guide while you’re providing these cites? :slight_smile:

np: Ministry, “Jesus Built My Hot-Rod”

It’s another thread, but why don’t these morons realize that since even the thickest biography would not be able to encapsulate a mere mortal, why is it that a single text can tell us all about an omnipotent God and all that He created (let alone all that will come)?

:confused: I just had the horribly paranoid notion that they all might be putting us on.

What if they get home and say “… and, honey, you should have seen what happened when I suggested I’ve never actually seen anything evolve – he almost had a conniption. Or, ha, ha, went ‘ape shit’ – pardon my french. Wait till I tell the other guys in the bio-anthropology department.”


Rather late getting in on this…

A good book on the subject is Science Deified, Science Defied: The Historical Significance of Science in Western Culture by Richard Olson. I had another one…lost it, forgot the title. Both from a course at UNC-Greensboro, History of Scientific Thought in the West. Bit of a hike from Raleigh Satan, but if you ever get the chance, great course by a great instructor.

As far as the Renaissance version of creation scientists…sure they existed. They also had the advantage of a non-magical cosmological system that seemed to work pretty well. Ptolemy, among others, had devised a geocentric system that was pretty accurate at predicting planetary motion (including that confounding retrograde motion), predicting eclipses, setting the calendar, that sort of thing. In fact, it was more accurate that what Copernicus initially came up with; Kepler had to tweak the Copernican model a great deal before it was as accurate a predictor of heavenly events as the Ptolemaic system. Of course the Ptolemaic model was not a perfect predictor, and it did have to get quite complicated, what with eccentric circles, epicycles, and deferents. A very simple Java applet showing how Ptolemy explained retrograde motion can be found here.
So, the - what should we call them - geocentrists had a pretty good system, based on what was then the best science of the day, and conceived by some of the best minds of the day. It wasn’t like they were trying to stick to some far-fetched tale involving magical happenings. To those who said “Look here, I think the sun is the center of the planetary orbits - come examine the model I’ve constructed” they would answer in kind “I assert that the earth is at the center - come look at my model, and lets compare how accurately our models match what we observe”. While the Copernican model would prove more accurate, it was up against sophisticated competition in matching model to observation. Also, heliocentrists were not all completely sold on the idea by pure reason, astronomy, and mathematics alone. Kepler himself said

While the Catholic Church, among other denominations, rightly bears criticism for intellectual oppression surrounding the heliocentric theory, the motivations were as much political and social as theological. The Aristotelian model of geocentrism was hierarchical and thought to be reflected in the social and political order. Just as each sphere in the Aristotelian model held sway over the sphere below it, and was beholden to the sphere above it, so too was the social and political structure in our world. The Copernican system undermined the notion of hierarchical structure and could be used to promote a more “democratic” attitude, both in social/political contexts, and in the context that all humans were in direct communion with God: just as all the planets and heavenly bodies become equals orbiting the sun, so do all men become equal.

It is also interesting to note that there was not universality in the Catholic Church’s condemnation of Galileo, his trial being perhaps the most often mentioned example of intellectual oppression by the Church. There was a divide between the more scientifically-oriented and liberal Jesuits and the Dominicans. The Jesuits were studying and teaching at least the technical details of Copernican astronomy, if not accepting the theory fully; the Church’s calendar revision of 1586 was also based on the Copernican model. The Dominicans held sway in their effort to have Galileo brought before the Inquisition, and the Jesuits went right on studying and teaching Copernican astronomy.

As far as when the change in world views took place…hard to say. It took place at different times for different groups - astronomers, mathematicians, scientists in general, the educated in general, the literate in general etc. It was a profound change in the accepted world view, but in a sense only a change in the physical world view. People could still look upon their relationship with their God as special. Although the earth may not be the center of all things physically, humans were still the paramount of creation - created specifically, purposefully, apart from all other things (…I’m lacking the right words). With evolution thrown in the mix, it gets a bit dicey. Again like the planets in the competing Aristotelian/Copernican models, we are not of a special order apart from others but just another product of a process (which may, who knows, have beenstarted by God). In short, the problem for many who have difficulty accepting evolution is that it removes the necessity of God in our lives, and removes the action and influence of God intervening in our lives when God id reduced to God the Blind Watchmaker (to borrow from Dawkins). Since evolution may never be proven to the satisfaction of those who are uncomfortable with it (in the sense of “look here, I’ll do this demonstration and you’ll see evolution occur right before your eyes in the next ten minutes”), I suspect there will always be a not insignificant group of well-meaning and otherwise rational and well educated doubters (although I do wonder just how some of our local fundamentalist farmers explain the development of pesticide-resistant pests in a growing season or two).

Lastly, although I am not a Catholic and don’t know the Church dogma regarding evolution, it would not surprise me one bit for the Church to see no conflict between their theology and the findings of science. Most people are not aware that one of the prime movers (if you’ll pardon an Aristotelian pun) of the Big Bang theory was a Catholic Cleric, one Georges Lemaitre

Another fascinating read is Daniel Dennet’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea
Rather more than I intended…

Shaky Jake

The scary part is, I’m fairly sure that Professor Bouw is dead serious.

Just to relate all this to the original topic of the thread, I’ve read that there were good-sized bodies of Christians in this country–conservative (Wisconsin and Missouri Synod) Lutherans–who rejected the heliocentric model of the Solar System well into the 19th and even 20th Century. Yet, such beliefs would now surely be considered crackpot even by most young Earth, six-day, hardcore Creationists. So, perhaps there’s hope yet that creationism, at least in its more ludicrous forms, will gradually be relegated to the realm of complete cranks–it will probably never completely die out; in the Age of the World Wide Web, nothing ever completely dies out. Or maybe I’m just a Pollyanna. (And perhaps I’m too sanguine as to what hardcore creationists would consider to be “obviously” crackpot, too. Maybe that’s just the next step: Once they get rid of evolution, it’s on to “equal time for Ptolemy”.)

At least he isn’t teaching astronomy.

Satan wrote:

So that’s what you kids are calling it these days.

tomndebb wrote:

“If the King’s English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me!”

But seriously, folks, even ol’ Jack Chick believes that the King James Bible is the only “true” Word of God and that all other translations are false. He explains his “reasoning” in this Chick tract. His main argument was that the Alexandrian Manuscripts, which are used as source material by most Biblical scholars, were actually the work of Satan – and only King James’ translators knew it.

As a Catholic, I am proud to announce that the Catholic Church has no official objections to evolution or any other scientific findings. On the subject of creationism vs. evolution the Church basically stated that it doesn’t really matter to them, as evolution does not rule out that God had a hand in it. Also involved in the statement was an implication that there were probably more important issues for people to argue about.

OK, maybe not that last part, but I’m sure it would have if the Church weren’t so polite :slight_smile:

I have a question on the subject of Galileo, however. A professor in college told me that the whole Galileo thing has been taken out of context. Basically, he said that Galileo had looked through his telescope, seen the moons orbiting around Jupiter and then went around saying that he had proved that the heliocentric theory was correct. The Church said, no, you’ve proved that moons orbit around Jupiter and told him to stop going around saying he’d proved something he didn’t, otherwise the Church would do nasty things to him.

This is why the Church persecuted Galileo and not Copernicus. Copernicus set forth a theory based on reason, Galileo was saying he had proved something as fact, when he hadn’t.

I also remember reading this story in some magazine, too.

For some reason, I think I’m going to have to fish up some cites for this. I’ll be back.

Ah, here we are.


Wow, tracer – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many errors in one Chick tract before. He even quotes a verse – and quotes it by the wrong number – that is supposedly right in the KJV but only because they copied a corrupted Roman Vulgate and all the other Bibles have fixed the error. But then he says it’s the other way around!!

Did the RCC actually ban the Bible? (Chick claims it is still banned!)

My head hurts.

jmullaney wrote:

I seriously doubt it’s still “banned.” My copy of The Good News Bible at home is subtitled “Catholic study edition.” If Catholic Priests didn’t want Catholics to read the bible, I can’t think of a less effective way of accomplishing such a task!

I must have fallen asleep in the class where it was explained how this would be any better than the normal way that the Galileo thing is percieved. . .

Ahem Yes, of course not.

Nice to know that it was a pleasant exile, at least. I mean they didn’t shove rusty nails into his fingers, that’s got to count for something, right?

To respond to the main thrust of the page: I don’t care if Galileo was rude. I don’t care if he was rude to the Pope. What matters is the strength of his science.

Help. . .

(Emphasis mine) I’ve fallen through the looking glass here, but wasn’t the accepted church doctrine that Galileo was “vehemently suspected of heresy” for trying to change the product of “still-born” science? Wasn’t Aristotle’s ladder of life, the unchanging ancestor of Darwin’s theory of evolution greek? Did the Chinese civilization really not discover any of the things (gunpowder, porcelain) that are attributed to them? Do people really buy this stuff?