Puny Humans, Vast Universe

Given that Cosmos is busy regurgitating the myth of the War on Science by the Evil Catholic Church of Evilness (on the one hand) and Bob Sungenis is just about to embarrass the Faith with a movie on geocentrism that even his own attorney calls “fringe science“, I thought it might be fun to revisit one of most mysterious arguments trotted out by the fundamentalist mystics of physicalism (both Christian and atheist): the notion that the physical size of the universe or the physical location of the earth has some sort of spiritual significance.  Here’s a piece I wrote some years ago for Catholic Answers magazine.

  • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

    Yeah, that argument has always mystified me, especially since in most human societies, the size of the house seems to be directly proportional to the importance of the inhabitant, not his unimportance.

    Also, all these hard-headed rationalists have no clue how big the universe has to be in order to support the most minor life.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Flat earthers always concentrate on their fringe science arguments. I want to see one of them answer a history question for me:
    .
    How did Magellan sail around a flat Earth? Was it a huge conspiracy by the Illuminati?

    • Dave G.

      Easy. He got lost. :)

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      Yup. They killed him in the Philippines so he wouldn’t discover the truth.

    • Francisco J Castellanos

      Yes it was (a conspiracy). And all those Jesuit scientists at the Vatican Observatory must be in it too. They are all part of the Reptilian Illuminati. It is true, I saw it on YouTube.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        Whoa. I thought the Reptile Lords were a totally separate threat. I didn’t realize the Illuminati had infiltrated them as well. Looks like I need to up my Youtube watching. Where are the hardcore investigative skills of Jesse “the Body” Ventura when you need them?

        • RedMeg1990

          I, for one, welcome our Reptilian Illuminati Overlords.

          • Mark S. (not for Shea)

            Tastes like chicken.

          • Francisco J Castellanos

            Then, you must be a Jesuit…;-).

        • Francisco J Castellanos

          Here you go bro. Proof of the Jesuits-Reptilian Axis:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n91N10OI3tU

    • MarylandBill

      One could develop maps of a flat earth that would allow an circumnavigation of the globe. That being said, flat earthers are extremely resistant to the most compelling evidence. Put them in a space ship in orbit of the Earth and they would find a way of explaining it away.

  • מיכאל השר של היהודים

    Shea,
    Do you belive that all existance had only one beginning?

    • chezami

      Do you mean do I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible”? If so, yes.

      • מיכאל השר של היהודים

        Hmm, so you don’t think that Jesus created the universe?
        “Holy Mary Mother of God”
        And tell me what that means to you “invisible?”

        • Catholic Fast Food Worker

          מיכאל השר של היהודים
          Christ Jesus is the Eternal Word (Logos) of G-d made Flesh (Gospel of John). All things in the universe/existence were created through the Eternal Word of G-d (aka Jesus). In Christ, the Creator of all existence/universe becomes Man in order to reconcile humanity to Himself, out of Love; this is the Mystery of the Incarnation.
          The Mother of Christ Jesus plays a significant role in this Mystery of Incarnation. G-d chose this poor Jewish girl (out of all the women throughout history, some wealthy queens, others spoiled modern brat actresses) for this central event of God dwelling (*making His Tent*) among us. Mary is the Ark of the New Everlasting Covenant; from her womb, the Eternal Word of God (that spoke through the Prophets & was manifest in the Commandments & throughout creation) was made flesh. Her son is the one & only *Begotten* Son of G-d. In her the Holy Trinity of G-d was first revealed at the Annunciation. Look up the meaning of Mary’s Greek title “Theotokos”. May Emmanuel be with you always, my friend, shalom Aleichem!

          • מיכאל השר של היהודים

            Are you Roman Catholic?

            • Catholic Fast Food Worker

              מיכאל השר של היהודים
              I am a Catholic Christian. I belong to a Roman Rite Diocese but I frequently attend a Maronite Catholic church. Our Holy Catholic Church is large & diverse & one. We have Eastern Catholics who use Christ Jesus’s Aramaic/Syriac Arabic (Maronites), Melkite & Coptic Catholics, Syro-Malabar Catholics in India (dating to St. Thomas Apostle), Latin, vernacular, Anglo-Roman, Byzantine Greek-speaking Catholics, Ukrainians, you name it, we’ve got it. But all in union with the Bishop of Rome (pope), the Successor to St. Peter the Apostle. Rome is where both Saints Peter (the Rock appointed by Christ) & Paul (appointed for Gentiles) the Apostles were martyred; it was & is the center of Christianity. Later, Constantine created the “New Rome” (Nova Roma) in Byzantium (Constantinople/Istanbul), when in 1054 the Church of “New Rome” officially split from true Rome, so in this sense, even the schimastic Eastern orthodox Christians are “Roman” Lower-case catholics even though later (after Constantine) Eastern orthodox decided to be associated only as Greeks.

              • מיכאל השר של היהודים

                Very good, I’m a fully Confirmed Roman Catholic Christian myself. However we are still suffering from many heresies that have infiltrated our Church, such as the Nestorian heresy and from the Monophyisites. Do you regard the Apostle’s Creed to be authetic and the first Creed of the Christian faith?
                Are you aware of the Nestrorian heresy and what it was that Nestorius taught?

          • מיכאל השר של היהודים

            We true Chrisians are saying “Theotokos” not “Christotokos.”

  • markinator

    It’s a good thing you penned that pieces for “Catholic Answers”. It would not have been printed in “Correct Answers.” However, you may be partially correct in that Cosmos is outing the Catholic church for its obvious transgressions against science. There are valid reasons for Copernicus being deathly afraid of the church’s reaction to his discovery of our heliocentric existence. He put off publication until after his death. Now, if this is all a myth, people from that long ago were convinced that the church would squash you for heresy.

    • chezami

      You are stunningly ignorant. Copernicus was not afraid of the Church’s reaction to heliocentrism. Try learning real history and not the cartoons circulated among Gnu Atheists. You embarrass yourself.

      • markinator

        You discount my assertion, with nothing. Real history tells the true story of the catholic church — Copernicus’ fear of church ignorant dogma, Galileo, and especially the burning of the Library at Alexandria. Catholic bishops traveled throughout central America, destroying the written histories of other cultures that they deemed to be “full of the devil”. Calling me ignorant is one thing, yet the ignorance of most persons subscribing to such snake oil is exponentially worse.

        • chezami

          Let a fellow atheist instruct you if you are too dumb to go find the information yourself: There was no burning of the Library at Alexandria. You believe a myth: http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2009/05/agora-and-hypatia-hollywood-strikes.html

          As to Copernicus and Galileo: Learn real history. Start here: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-great-ptolemaic-smackdown.html Read the whole series. You are, I repeat, stunningly ignorant and credulous. Learn to be more skeptical of the myths you are spoon fed.

          • markinator

            The myths to which you refer are all sourced from the “christian history” perspective. The catholic church is desperate to have people believe they didn’t deliberately destroy a library that was being maintained by Jews.They blame it first on a ship that was nearby that had caught fire. If you consider yourself a fellow atheist, then you should also heed your own advice. To actually take the time to peruse the christian apologists lame excuses is to further spiral into their mindsets, which I have no desire to do. Also, a “fellow” atheist isn’t as condescending as you. I repeat, not nearly as condescending as you.

            • chezami

              Uh, no. They are based on things called “documents”. Your myth is based on a need to believe what you want to believe.

              • markinator

                http://www.catholic.com/blog/jon-sorensen/burning-down-the-house-a-christian-conspiracy

                This is from catholic.com. If there’s a better official catholic website, let me know. In this link, you’ll get to read how the apologist author attempt to discredit the encyclopedic entries stating destruction by fire by christians, by saying that the “primary source evidence” refutes those valid entries. The problem is that he does not cite the primary source evidence. We know the primary source isn’t the bible, so what is it? It’s non-existent. Furthermore, pagans at the time would have absolutely no vested interest nor any advantage in destruction of such a library. But the catholics at the time were indeed destroying evidence of other cultures as fast as they could. Who do you choose to believe?

            • Noah Doyle

              ” The catholic church…deliberately destroy[ed] a library that was being maintained by Jews.They
              blame it first on a ship that was nearby that had caught fire.”

              Citations, please. From primary sources, preferably. Secondary sources that cite primary sources, if necessary.

              “To actually take the time to peruse the christian apologists lame excuses is to further spiral into their mindsets, which I have no desire to do.”

              That’s odd, usually we’re the ones accused of sticking our fingers in our ears when presented with evidence we don’t like, singing ‘la la la can’t hear you’.

    • Alexander S Anderson

      I would like to assure you that you and everything you stand for are all very evil, and I can back up this assertion with some facts I made up. Take that!

      • markinator

        Yes, I am very evil. You must be really intelligent.

        • Alexander S Anderson

          I’m not sure the facts entirely support your observation, but I will allow it.

    • Noah Doyle

      ” obvious transgressions against science”

      Science is a procedure, a method of information gathering and evaluation. It’s not a belief system or a moral code. That’s like saying ‘transgressions against cooking’. One can perform science badly, just as one can cook badly, but it’s hardly a moral failing. There’s no ‘ought’ there, only ‘is’.

      Science is also an invention of the Church – that Creation is measurable and can be subject to experiment was a basic tenet of medieval natural philosophy, and the quadrivium included astronomy.

      Copernicus did not ‘discover our heliocentric existence’. His model was even more complex than Ptolemy’s (which is saying something – Copernicus had Luna on a double epicycle!) not because he made any significant new observation of astronomical behavior, but because he really wanted perfect Platonic circles. He was encouraged to publish by Cardinal von Schonburg and Bishop Giese – not nobodies in the Church of the 15th century. There is no evidence that he feared the Church’s reaction, and plenty of evidence that he feared the ridicule of his fellow astronomers.

      • markinator

        This ridicule that you think Copernicus may have feared from his fellow astronomers is purely speculative. The evidence available to us now strongly suggests that he indeed feared the church and its ill-found authority. Science does not care if you believe it or not, and it certainly is no invention of the church. Even today, the church’s social efforts hamper medical science when their religious tenets trump basic medical procedures.

        • Alexander S Anderson

          What evidence? Also, does the fact that Copernicus modeled the universe as heliocentric not for any scientific reason but because of Neoplatonic woo matter? Fire is a nobler element than Earth, it must be central! SCIENCE!

        • Alypius

          “Fear of the reaction of ecclesiastical authorities was probably the least of the reasons why he delayed publishing his book. The most important reasons for the delay was that the larger work required both astronomical observations and intricate mathematical proofs.”
          from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Copernicus: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/copernicus/

        • chezami

          You remain doggedly ignorant. Here, try some, you know, facts and stuff:

          “His reputation was such that as early as 1514 the Lateran Council, convoked by Leo X, asked through Bishop Paul of Fossombrone, for his opinion on the reform of the ecclesiastical calendar. His answer was, that the length of the year and of the months and the motions of the sun and moon were not yet sufficiently known to attempt a reform. The incident, however, spurred him on as he himself writes to Paul III, to make more accurate observations; and these actually served, seventy years later, as a basis for the working out of the Gregorian calendar.

          Twenty-five years after his university career, he had finished his great work, at least in his own mind, but hesitated a long time, whether to publish it or to imitate the Pythagoreans, who transmitted the mysteries of their philosophy only orally to their own disciples for fear of exposing them to the contempt of the multitude. His friends who had become interested in the new theory prevailed on him to write at least an abstract for them, manuscript copies of which have been discovered in Vienna (1873) and Stockholm (1878). In this commentary Copernicus stated his theory in the form of seven axioms, reserving the mathematical part for the Principal work. This was in 1531, or twelve years before his death. From this on the doctrine of the heliocentric system began to spread. In 1533 Albert Widmanstadt lectured before Pope Clement VII on the Copernican solar system. His reward consisted in a Greek codex which is preserved in the State library of Munich. Three years later Copernicus was urged by Cardinal Schonberg, then Archbishop of Capua, in a letter, dated at Rome, 1 November, 1536, to publish his discovery, or at least to have a copy made at the cardinal’s expense. But all the urging of friends was in vain, until a younger man was providentially sent to his side.

          It was George Joachim Rheticus who quitted his chair of mathematics in Wittenberg in order to spend two years at the feet of the new master (1539-41). Hardly ten weeks after his arrival in Frauenburg he sent a “First Narration” of the new solar system to his scientific friend Schöner in Nuremberg, in the form of a letter of sixty-six pages, which was soon after printed in Danzig (1540) and Basle (1541). Rheticus next obtained for publication the manuscript of a preliminary chapter of the great work on plane and spherical trigonometry. Finally Copernicus, feeling the weight of his sixty-eight years, yielded, as he writes to *****Paul III*****, to the entreaties of Cardinal Schonberg, of Bishop Giese of Culm, and of other learned men to surrender his manuscripts for publication. Bishop Giese charged Rheticus, as the ablest disciple of the great master, with the task of editing the work. The intention of the latter was to take the manuscript to Wittenberg and have it published at the university but owing to the hostility prevailing there(*) against the Copernican system, only the chapter on trigonometry was printed (1542). The two copies of the “First Narration” and of the treatise on trigonometry, which Rheticus presented to his friend Dr. Gasser, then practising medicine in Feldkirch, may be seen in the Vatican Library (Palat. IV, 585) Rheticus then turned to Schöner in Nuremberg, who, together with Osiander, accepted the charge and engaged the printing-house of Petreius in the same city. In the meanwhile Rheticus tried to resume his chair in Wittenberg, but on account of his Copernican views had to resign (1542) and turned to Leipzig (1543). He was thus prevented from giving his personal attention to the edition, nor was the author himself able to superintend it. Copernicus became paralyzed on the right side and weakened in memory and mind many days before his death. The first copy of the “Six Books on the Revolutions of the Celestial Orbits” was handed to him the very day he died. Fortunately for him, he could not see what Osiander had done. This reformer, knowing the attitude of Luther and Melanchthon against the heliocentric system, introduced the word “Hypothesis” on the title page, and without adding his own name, replaced the preface of Copernicus by another strongly contrasting in spirit with that of Copernicus. The preface of Osiander warns the reader not to expect anything certain from astronomy, nor to accept its hypothesis as true, ne stultior ab hac disciplinâ discedat, quam accesserit. The dedication to Pope Paul III was, however, retained, and the text of the work remained intact, as was ascertained later when access was had to the original manuscript, now in the family library of the Counts Nostitz in Prague.

          Opposition was first raised against the Copernican system by Protestant theologians for Biblical reasons and strange to say it has continued, at least sporadically, to our own days. A list of many of their Pamphlets is enumerated by Beckmann. On the Catholic side opposition only commenced seventy-three years later, when it was occasioned by Galileo.(**) On 5 March, 1616, the work of Copernicus was forbidden by the Congregation of the Index “until corrected”, and in 1620 these corrections were indicated. Nine sentences, by which the heliocentric system was represented as certain, had to be either omitted or changed. This done, the reading of the book was allowed. In 1758 the book of Copernicus disappeared from the revised Index of Benedict XIV. New editions were issued in Basle (1566) by Rheticus; in Amsterdam (1617) by Müller of Göttingen, in Warsaw (1854) an edition de luxe with Polish translation and the real preface of Copernicus; and the latest (5th) in Torun (1873) by the Copernicus Society, on the four hundredth anniversary of the author’s birthday, with all the corrections of the text, made by Copernicus, given as foot-notes. A monument by Thorwaldsen was erected to Copernicus in Warsaw (1830), and another by Tieck at Torun (1853). Rheticus, Clavius, and others called Copernicus the second Ptolemy, and his book the second “Almagest.” His genius appears in the fact that he grasped the truth centuries before it could be proved. If he had precursors they are to be compared to those of Columbus. What is most significant in the character of Copernicus is this, that while he did not shrink from demolishing a scientific system consecrated by a thousand years’ universal acceptance, he set his face against the reformers of religion.”

          Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/catholic_church_lets_copernicus_out_of_hell

        • Noah Doyle

          No, it wasn’t speculative, at all. He snipes at them in the introduction to De Revolutionibus. As for fearing the Church, what evidence is there? The entreaties from Bishops, Cardinals and the Pope to publish his new system? The Church did not think Copernicism to be heretical, just rash – and not capable of making theological statements. The Protestants objected to it on directly theological grounds, but that’s not the Church.

          What’s an ‘ill-found authority’?

          I worry about what science cares about, as much as I worry about what cooking cares about – that is, not at all. Again, it’s a testing procedure for natural philosophy, not a belief system. It has no function of ‘caring’.

          You should read James Hannam’s The Genesis Of Science – a rather good popular-level book. There was one institution in Europe doing anything close to science – the Church. (Outside of Europe there were some similar activities, but they foundered on their cultures, where European Christendom embraced and encouraged science.)

          As far as Catholic religious tenets trumping basic medical procedures, which ones, specifically?


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