Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Established 500 years ago by observations

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist professor Jerry Coyne writes:
Dear Yiddish Girl,
Regardless of what “we Jews believe” — and I consider myself a secular Jew — you’re simply wrong about the Sun going around the Earth. The truth about that, which is the reverse, was established 500 years ago by observations, and only those blinded by adherence to ancient books of fiction could think otherwise. —Professor Ceiling Katz
As a matter of historical accuracy, this is not correct. Observations never established that the Earth went around the Sun, and early XX century relativity proved that such establishment was impossible.

Heliocentrism was proposed in ancient Greece over 2000 years ago, and by Copernicus in 1543. It became generally accepted in the 17th century based on theory, not observation. Proof that the Earth was not an inertial frame and that it moved relative to the distant stars did not come until much later.

Here is a new paper on 18th century Catholic scholarship:
The general prohibition of books advocating heliocentric theory put many progressive Jesuits in a difficult position. One of the most prominent Jesuit scientists of the 18th century, Rogerius Boscovich, was in particularly affected by conflicts between a beautifully simple theory of gravity by Newton, his Jesuit peripatetic education, Church doctrine and the lack of crucial experimental evidence for the motion of the Earth. I present the development of Boscovich's ideas prior to the lifting of the ban, and his retrospective considerations in later writings. These show that Boscovich's acceptance of the motion of the Earth was primarily driven by the existence of a working physical theory that also explained the motion of the Earth, and the lack of a consistent theory that supported any variation of a geocentric system.
So Newton had a heliocentric theory that was a lot more persuasive than any geocentric theory, but the observational evidence was more recnt.

Coyne also mocks the idea of a Biblical Adam and Eve, but again does not give science to back up his view. The academics have redefined hominid to include apes, to emphasize that humans and apes are all the same. But if we define human in a way that distinguishes us from apes, then there must have been a first human. It seems possible that there were two crucial genes that made us human, and a first Adam had one and mated with a first Eve with the other. Or perhaps there was a first Adam and Eve that made sudden progress in some non-genetic way, such as discovering tools or language or moral responsibility.

Admittedly a more gradualist view seems much more likely, with each generation barely distinguishable from the one before. And no one is going to dig up bones for Adam and Eve, so evidence for them will be very difficult.

The Bible itself is somewhat ambiguous about whether there were other people around with Adam and Eve, and most Bible students do not take a strictly literal interpretation.

I really don't mind Coyne and others launching scientific attacks on religious beliefs. I just think that they should get the science and the facts right. If science has ruled out certain religious views of Adam and Eve, I would like to see the explanation, with cites to the scientific literature.

Update: Coyne backtracks here, and asks readers whether the Earth goes around the Sun.

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