Mike Flynn Continues His Ongoing Campaign to Educate Us…

…about all this science stuff we thought we knew about, but really just parrot because some priestly figure in a lab coat told us so.

Today, he points out that that not  one person in a thousand could actually explain how we know heliocentrism is true and could not, if our lives depended on it, describe why heliocentrism would have been controversial to scientists qua scientists.  So he cautions smug moderns against our cozy conviction that our ancestors were stoopid.

Before you laugh at your ancestors, TOF invites you to prove that the earth is, contrary to your senses, in wild and careening double motion: spinning like a top and whipping around the sun without (somehow) leaving the Moon and Air behind, and without everyone stumbling around like dunkards.  You are not allowed to appeal to authority or to the success of NASA, or suchlike things.  You’ve got eyeballs and armillaries, and that’s pretty much it.  Go. TOF will wait here.

He then goes on to sketch the very reasonable arguments put forward in favor of a stationary earth and how it was that the scientific community chipped away at this till the Ptolemaic system was overturned.  Very interesting stuff.

But…GALILEO! Yeah, funny thing about that. Turns out pretty much everything you know is wrong, if you are one of those suckers who think the lesson of Galileo is Bold Empirical Thinker vs. Obscurantist Church Afraid of and at War with Science for Centuries.

Flynn then continues his tour de force history of how we all came to know what we know about the rotational earth and heliocentric solar system here. Extra bonus: You find out that the Planet Vulcan originated with early attempts to explain sun spots. I hope he writes a book on this stuff one of these days. He’s a natural-born science educator and he gives a perspective seldom provided by the “Our Ancestors Were Stoopid” crowd that dominate so much pop sci writing and TV.

After this, we move on to the opening moves of the conflict between Galileo and… a bunch of  people who didn’t like him for various reasons–and the Church’s typically cool-headed response to the teapot tempest.

For me, it reminds me once again that a huge number of the Intellect Worshippers who babble about science vs. religion are really just adherents of a religious system of faith in trusted authority figures whom they blindly believe with no more actual understanding than a Sicilian peasant who trusts Padre when he tells her the Host is the Body of Christ.  Stop the average internet atheist in mid-prattle about Galileo as “proof” of the Church’s ancient hatred of science and ask him to describe how we actually know heliocentism to be a better model than Ptolemaism and you will get not an explanation of the evidence, but a recitation of faith in the people who proved it.  That’s what “It’s the consensus of the sciences” means.

Now I have no special problem with people who lack competence in a particular scientific field trusting those who do.  We all function that way when we trust that our car mechanic knows what he’s doing and we don’t.  We do it in a thousand ways.  But it’s a bit rich when Intellect Worshippers then turn around and condemn Catholics for having faith while the Intellect Worshipper allegedly relies on “reason” alone.  Nope.  The Intellect Worshipper is every bit as reliant on faith in a thousand ways.  Only his immense pride very often makes him too stupid to even realize it.  To do science at all you have to make an unproved and unprovable act of faith the the universe makes sense and that the human intellect can comprehend it.

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  • Raymond

    Nice straw man you have there…be a shame if something happened to it…

    • chezami

      Quit whining and go read Flynn. Jolly fun stuff.

    • jaybird1951

      Explain in detail why he used a ‘straw man’ argument instead of sounding snarky.

  • MarylandBill

    It always amazes me how many people are ignorant of both the actual history and the actual proof of the Heliocentric model of the Solar System. A few months ago, we brought my kids to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and were told by one of the staff manning an exhibit (I assume he was a volunteer) that Galileo had proven that the Sun was the center of the Solar System. I am not sure what he thought of me when I pointed out that it wasn’t proven for another couple hundred years. My wife redirected me before I could get into a real debate…

  • Silverback

    I don’t think it is a correct assumption that Mr. Flynn’s ingornace of very basic science is universal. If people are are not curious about the wonders of the natureal worldthen yes, they may not be able to prove the earth orbits the sun.
    Unfortunately for Mr. Flynn, science ahs advanced signficantly since the time of Galilleo. In 2004 and 2012, for example, transits of Venus could be observed through very binoculars, allowing for easy calcualtions of the distance from the earth to the sun using sophmore level geometry. Of course, there’s even an app to allow for comaprative observations
    The transit of Venus is not in itself proof of heliocentricism. It is, howver, very difficult to explain in a geocentric geometry. But when combined with Foucalt’s pendulum, another nifty science experiment that can be done in your back yard to demonstrate earth’s rotation, heliocentric geometry satisfies all observations far ebtter than a geocentric model–too bad for Sugenis.
    So yeah–a straw man. Flynn’s scientific ignorance is not universal.
    By why the need to tear down science to build up religion? I don’t read ancient Greek, Hebrew or Armharic. Under Flynn’s logic, I cannot prove that the book I hold entitled “The Holy Bible” is in fact a bible at all. It must be a comedy of errors to watch an apparently fictional atheist not be able to prove earthly rotation while a Catholic can’t even prove the English Bible is actually a Bible.

    • chezami

      You didn’t actually read a word, did you?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Mr. Silverback explains very nicely why it took 150 years for the geomobile theory to be accepted. No one had built Foucault’s pendulum yet, let alone observed stellar parallax. He does not explain why the pendulum proves the two motions of the Earth — in fact, it only proves one motion, and not heliocentricity — but he ought to know that empirical proofs were available earlier than Foucault: stellar aberration (Bradley, 1728), Coriolis effects (Guglielmini, 1789-92), stellar parallax (Calandrelli, 1806). The problem is that none of these — nor the concepts of inertia, universal gravitation, etc. — were known in the 17th century, and that is the century being discussed in the links.

      Kepler’s Rudolphine Tables were not available until 1627, and Gassendi observed a transit of Mercury on 7 Nov 1631. Horrocks observed a transit of Venus in 1639; but these things did not become generally known until the 1660s. The phases of Venus and the transit of Mercury are perfectly explicable using the geostationary Tychonic model, as well as the one-motion Ursine model. They disproved only the Ptolemaic model and the Gilbertian model. Direct empirical evidence of the Earth’s dual motion came with the detection of Coriolis effects (for diurnal rotation) and stellar parallax (for annual revolution).

      I am pleased that Mr. Silverback knows that Foucault’s pendulum proves the Earth’s rotation, though I don’t know whether he has simply been told that it does or he knows why it does. Even today many people could not tell you even that much. Oddly, he fails to mention stellar parallax, which is the Big Enchilada of geomobile models. But one does wish for a greater historical consciousness on his part. Most scientific paradigm shifts require about a century or so to move from “silly notion overturning the wisdom of the ages” to “standard model.”

      I get the distinct impression that Mr. Silverback is reacting against something he thinks I must have said in theory rather than the empirical evidence of what I wrote in fact. He evidently thinks I was “tearing down science” and “building up religion” — though it’s hard to see how one can do both — yet the posts linked to make little mention of religion as such.

  • Silverback

    Yes, the whole point is that ordinary people today have access to things like binoculars and pendulums and pendulums and access to Newton’s laws to demonstrate to their satisfaction that the earth revolves around the sun.

    ManyardBill had already gone all pedantic on stellar parallax so there was no need to expand on that point, or so I thought. Nor did I see a need to review every single scientific advance since Gallileo confirming heliocentricism. I was responding to the assertion was that ordinary people [and atheists made of straw] could not demonstrate some general science made here: “TOF invites you to prove that the earth is, contrary to your senses, in wild and careening double motion. Go. TOF will wait here.”

    I pointed out that a Venus transit is a pretty simple way to demonstrate heliocentric models are probably correct. That appears to be undisputed. You also concede Focault’s pendulum. I am not impressed by your long winded dissertation on scientific advances. I suggest that people other than yourself know more than you are willing top give credit for.

    Mark Shea, extrapolates into the strawman. “For me, it reminds me once again that a huge number of the Intellect Worshippers who babble about science vs. religion are really just adherents of a religious system of faith in trusted authority figures whom they blindly believe with no more actual understanding than a Sicilian peasant who trusts Padre when he tells her the Host is the Body of Christ.”

    This is an uncharitable broad brush effort to denigrate science at the expense of religion because “gosh Scientists are Believers too.” There was nothing wrong with the work of 17th century scientists or even Euclid. Their work was superb. Our own work is also superb. I’m sure future work will be even better and many new discoveries await. I wish there was a better understanding of science–especially among religious apologists.

    • chezami

      F for reading comprehension.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      I’m not sure you understand the purpose of the posts to which Mr. Shea linked. Did you read them? They were not to claim that the Earth is stationary, but to show (in the first inst.) why the dual motion of the Earth was not evident to the scientists of the 17th century. These people are often derided as Stoopid by Late Moderns for not perceiving these motions immediately upon their bald assertion. Hence, you were enjoined from using anything modern: “You’ve got eyeballs and armillaries, and that’s pretty much it,” as it says in that portion of the quote which you omitted from your version of it.

      It is still my contention that your ordinary man-on-the-street, your lawyers and politicians, your shopkeepers and ballplayers, your policemen and felonious police-sought, et al. will readily acknowledge that the Earth has a dual motion, but will be unable to explain how to prove it. This may be important if it is precisely the lawyers and politicians you must convince.

      Your citation of the transit of Venus is a case in point, an example of the logical fallacy “Asserting the Consequent.” It is indeed predicted by the Keplerian model, but it is also predicted by the Copernican model (with all its epicycles and polycentrism) and by the Tychonic and Ursine models as well. So, as evidence it does establish geomobility. The sad fact of the matter is that Galileo never did get the necessary evidence and put forth proofs like the path of the sunspots or the ocean tides that were either indiscriminate or flat-out bogus.

  • MainlineP

    1Corinthians 13:12. (KJV) “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known”. As Christians, whether Protestant or RC or Orthodox, we grasp the profound truths of both God and cosmology in an imperfect way, burdened by our human weakness. We have science and research to tell us much, and it is folly to set up a false conflict between faith and science, as SOME of our fundamentalist friends do. If your point is that atheists are often smug, insufferable bores with a superiority complex, take it from this mainline Prot, you Catholics have that right.

  • Chesire11

    Thanks for bring his site up on your blog. I have been having a good deal of fun poking through the articles over there.