The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

An Actual Geocentrism Conference? Are You Frakkin’ Kidding?!

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 25, 2010

You know, there are days when I think I’ve seen it all.  I think to myself: “there are some things which are just too stupid, crazy, and/or ‘out-there’ that nobody will attempt to believe & defend.”  And then something like this crosses my email inbox: an actual conference, titled “Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right”, which attempts to seriously argue for… get this… geocentrism. You know, geocentrism – the idea that the Earth is the center of the universe.  You know, geocentrism – the notion which has become, and deservedly so, synonymous with the Dark Ages & all manner of backward and nonsensical thinking.  You know, geocentrism – the completely defunct idea which even the modern Catholic Church itself has admitted as having no merit whatsoever!  Yeah, that geocentrism…

Actually, before I facepalm myself into a state of blissful unconsciousness over the incredible level of stupidity embodied by this conference, allow me to seriously address the entire question of geocentricity.  I wish to do so because of two reasons: 1) if these pseudoscientists are holding a conference, they are attempting to get more media attention and must thus be countered; and 2) it seems that a whopping 18% of people in the United States actually believe the Earth is the center of the universe (which is far too many)!  So here goes…

First off, I’m going to hit just a few major points in this post.  If you want a much more thorough treatment of this topic, go see Phil Plait’s post over at Bad Astronomy; and if you are interested in reading more about the history of geocentric models of the universe, I suggest you check out Wikipedia as a starter.

Now, let me begin by saying that if you don’t have any education at all in the topic of Earth & space science, astronomy, physics, and what-have-you that I can understand an almost blind acceptance of geocentrism for one simple reason: it certainly appears that everything in the sky moves around the Earth.  Look in the sky and you’ll see the Sun, Moon, planets, stars, etc all moving – from your frame of reference – around the Earth.

Of course, a little more thought, along with a deeper analysis of astronomical data, will show that the geocentrism as mentioned by these “Galileo Was Wrong” goofballs is totally bogus…

1) Retrograde Motion: If you watch the motion of various planets in the night sky over many nights, you’ll see that they exhibit a strange kind of behavior whereby they appear to, for a time, reverse course in the sky and retrace their steps.  This phenomenon is called retrograde motion, and it is more adequately explained by a modern heliocentric – or Sun-centered – model of the solar system that incorporates Kepler’s Laws than by that of a geocentric one.  In order to explain retrograde motion in a geocentric model, one must make reference to all manner of overly-complex & inconsistent features such as epicycles & deferents

The main problem with appealing to epicycles & deferents is that while it may explain features like retrograde motion and make reasonably accurate predictions (such as the old Ptolemaic model), it isn’t consistent with other celestial observations, such as…

2) Phases of Inner Planets: Just as the Moon goes through phases in its orbit around the Earth, the inner planets (Mercury & Venus) also go through a complete cycle of phases.  Geocentric models cannot explain this fact, one which was never really an issue in those times because then astronomers didn’t have the technology to see the phases of the inner planets.  However, after Galileo began to make telescopic observations of such phenomena in the 17th century, the heliocentric model began to trump the geocentric, because a Sun-centered solar system could actually explain these phases quite easily.  Here’s an image that illustrates why:

3) Stellar Parallax: Another nail in the coffin of geocentrism came along, again with the advent of the necessary astronomical observation technology, when in 1838 Friedrich Bessel first measured the stellar parallax of distant stars – or the apparent shift in a star’s position due to movement between observation points.  The idea is that if the Earth was indeed moving around the Sun, as in the heliocentric model, then there should be an observed stellar parallax of stars due to the fact that the Earth will be on opposite sides of such a large orbit at six month intervals… and in fact there is such a parallax observed.  Again, this is something which the heliocentric model can account for yet the geocentric model cannot. Here’s another picture which outlines the basic idea of stellar parallax:

4) Basic Physics: One reason why modern geocentrists make their mistakes is that in addition to either being unaware of the astronomical evidence outlined in #1-3 above (or blatantly ignoring it), they also tend to have a very poor knowledge of physics.  For instance, some of these folks maintain that the Earth is stationary (for reasons I’ll outline below) and thus it isn’t moving around the Sun.  A standard argument goes like this: “If the Earth really were moving around the Sun (which it would have to do at about 20 miles per second) then we’d all be flung off it due to the high speeds.”

But this argument fails in the face of basic physics, namely that of the Law of Inertia. Imagine sitting in a car that is traveling along at a roughly constant speed down the road, and further imagine that you toss a coin into the air (assuming the windows are up).  Where does the coin land?  In your hand, of course!  Feel free to confirm this fact experimentally – please do so as the passenger, btw.

The coin lands in your hand because, like all matter, it has inertia – which is the tendency to maintain its state of motion (in this case traveling along the road with the car), so as the car & you move along the road so does the coin.  Thus, it will land in your hand.  You can apply the same argument to the moving Earth, just imagine the Earth as being like the moving car and everything on the Earth as the coin.

5) Geocentrism as Biblical Literalism: Last, but not least, it seems that the motivation for modern geocentrists to hold these loony views, despite all of the evidence & science against them, is based in their particular reading of the Bible.  In other words, their particular set of religious beliefs trump all of scientific reality.  Or, to put it another way, they are engaging in some really interesting mental gymnastics to come to the conclusion of “the Bible is literally true” and retrofit all evidence (through liberal use of cherry-picking, goalpost moving, and in some cases outright lying) to jibe with their religious views.

Yes, just like Young Earth Creationists, they call themselves “Biblical literalists” and use their reading of various Bible passages to justify their pseudoscience (btw, it seems that all of these modern geocentrists are YECs, but not all YECs are geocentrists).  I must say that it is nice to see that while most YECs may reject modern evolutionary science on the basis of their “literal” interpretation of the Bible, a large number of YECs aren’t quite so far gone as to go down the rabbit hole of geocentrism.  Which, interestingly enough, begs a question: how can two different groups of people (geocentric vs. heliocentric YECs) claim two disparate “literal” readings & interpretations of Biblical scripture?  How can the two groups claim to be reading & interpreting The Truth from the Bible, yet also disagree on this topic?  Hmmm…

In any case, that’s my serious treatment of this topic, at least for now.  Who knows?  If I have some spare time, and I don’t mind exposing myself to some severely twisted logic, I might have to check out the conference for myself.  I might even live blog it – muhuwawawawa :)

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5 Responses to “An Actual Geocentrism Conference? Are You Frakkin’ Kidding?!”

  1. I couldn’t believe it web I read it too. I hope this is a joke, but I do know there are people out there who still believe this.

    Thanks for the primer. I hope I won’t need to use it in the future. Also, don’t forgett that voyager took a picture of the solar system, it clearly shows that the earth is not the center of the solar system. It’s not proof by itself, but it adds another piece to the puzzle.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Allan Algar, Matt Lowry. Matt Lowry said: An Actual Geocentrism Conference? Are You Frakkin’ Kidding?! – http://tinyurl.com/28ozzut [...]

  3. More info on our geocentric universe here:

    http://christian-wilderness.forumvi.com/t39-stationary-earth

  4. [...] couple of years ago, I had posted an article on my blog about an upcoming geocentrism conference, which was titled “Galileo Was Wrong” – in the sense [...]

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