Einstein v the Church v Galileo?

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This guy was wrong.

This guy was wrong.

Once upon a time, physicists considered all motion to take place against a fixed backdrop – call it what you will, but “ether” seems to be a popular term. Thinking about physical objects and their movement in this way, plenty of people believed that there was an absolute reference point for motion. For example, if two spheres (call them A and B) became closer together, then it means that A moved closer to B while B remained still, or B moved closer to A while A remained still, or as a third possibility, that A and B both moved against the backdrop of “ether” like floating balls on the surface of a swimming pool, closer together.

Because of this way of thinking, Galileo found himself in a real pickle with the church when he expounded on his theory of planetary motion. He contended that – as objective fact – the earth travels around the Sun, whereas members of the clergy contended that – as objective fact – the sun travels around the earth. The conflict between Galileo and the church is often retold, frequently for the sake of demonstrating some inexorable conflict between science and religion, and always told as a reminder of how the church got it wrong, and Galileo got it right.

As a Christian and also as a person who didn’t want to offend Catholic rulers, Galileo was in a bit of a quandry. In the Bible, in Joshua chapter 10, a miracle occurs where the sun stands still, making the day longer. Yet according to Galileo, the sun didn’t even travel around the earth, so it would be the earth, rather than the sun, which would need to stand still in order to make a day longer.

Galileo’s solution was as follows:

[A]lthough Scripture can indeed not err, nevertheless some of its interpreters and expositors may sometimes err in various ways, one of which may be very serious and quite frequent, [that is,] when they would base themselves always on the literal meaning of words. For in that way there would appear to be [in the Bible] not only various contradictions, but even grave heresies and blasphemies, since it would be necessary to give God feet and hands and eyes, and no less corporeal and human feelings, like wrath, regret, and hatred, or sometimes even forgetfulness of things gone by and ignorance of the future. Hence, just as in the Scriptures are founf many propositions which, as to the bare senses of the words, have an appearance different from the truth, but were so put to accommodate the incapacity of the common people, so, for those few who deserve to be separated from the herd, it is necessary that wise expositors should produce the true senses and give particular reasons why they were offered in those words.

[Letter of 21 December, 1613 to Benedetto Castelli, in S. Drake, Letter to Castelli, in Galileo at Work: His Scientific Biography, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978, 224)

Galileo went on to say that in disputes about complex scientific matters that are far from the biblical message of salvation, we should look to science to give us the literal truth of the matter, because, as he says above, Scripture is often much less than literal in such things, so as to be easily received by simple folk.

The point I want to drive home is that Galileo clearly thought that the view held by those clergy who opposed him (namely that the sun travels around the earth) was literally false, and that his view (that the earth travels around the sun) was literally true.

Had there been no advances in physics over the last couple of centuries, I would have to agree with Galileo. Because there have been major advances in physics over that time, I cannot. Galileo was wrong. He was excusably wrong because of the time in which he lived, but he was wrong nonetheless. It will be at once obvious that the position of both Galileo and his clerical dissenters takes for granted the view of motion that I outlined at the start of this article: All motion has a fixed reference point; it happens against a backdrop against which it can be objectively measured. This view is no longer a tenable one, largely thanks to the work of Albert Einstein on special relativity. Without going into mind numbing detail, here’s a simple summary:

In formulating his theory, Einstein dismissed the concept of the “ether,” and with it the “idea of absolute rest.” Prior to the generation of Einstein’s theory of special relativity, physicists had understood motion to occur against a backdrop of absolute rest (the “ether”), with this backdrop acting as a reference point for all motion. In dismissing the concept of this backdrop, Einstein called for a reconsideration of all motion. According to his theory, all motion is relative and every concept that incorporates space and time must be considered in relative terms. This means that there is no constant point of reference against which to measure motion. Measurement of motion is never absolute, but relative to a given position in space and time. Returning to Galileo’s cannonball, Einstein considered this: the cannonball falling from the mast of the ship would appear to an observer standing on the deck of that ship as though it dropped straight down; however, to an observer standing on the shore, the cannonball would appear to follow a curved trajectory on its way to the base of the mast. Which trajectory did the ball actually follow? According to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, the answer is, both—and neither. Each observer’s observation is valid in its own reference frame, yet each is no more than an artifact of the measurement, or observation, undertaken by the observer.

SOURCE

[added comment: Click the link to read more, but the above description applies generally to all space, to the “ether” theory, and hence has application to all motion that occurs in space, notwithstanding any more specialised focus within the theory of special relativity.]

This new (well, new at the time, anyway) view of physics reduces Galileo’s claim about which view is literally correct, his or the church’s, to rubble. If Einstein is correct, then Galileo was wrong to say that it is objectively true that the earth moves around the sun, and that it is objectively false that the sun moves around the earth. Which – if either – of those to claims is correct depends wholly on the observational perspective. An observer on the earth will correctly report that the sun travels around the earth (or stated differently, relative to the earth, the sun travels around it), and a sun dweller (!!!) will correctly report that the earth travels around the sun. Neither is incorrect, but if one accuses the other of being objectively mistaken while he himself is objectively correct, he is simply wrong (as was Galileo). This is not a defence of the Church’s claim, as obviously the principle applies to both views equally.

All this changes, of course, if there is a priveleged point from which the sun-earth relationshiop is supposed to be viewed from. Should there exist such a designated “viewing platform,” the question could be settled once and for all. If, for example, it turned out that the earth is the priveleged spot from which the relationship is meant to be observed, then the church was right all along, and a hack job has been done on the Galileo trial.

So go ahead – keep using the Galileo case to show what silly scientific conclusions theologians come to – that is, if you’re happy to push your view of physics back half a century.

EDIT: See part two HERE.

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  • Ken November 5, 2009, 11:01 am

    Galileo-Church affair, downplay the wrongs done and to excuse the Church. But this is the first time I have seen Einstein dragged into it.

    You have it all wrong. In no way did Einstein disagree with a heliocentric solar system. Quite the opposite, his ideas supported it.

    The problem is that you have appealed to Special relativity – which applies to bodies in uniform motion – not orbiting planets. In contrast general relativity covers acceleration/gravity and shows that this distortion of space/time by a large mass (the sun) will cause a smaller mass to rotate in orbit. General relativity does not allow you to choose the Church’s position over Galileo’s – no matter where you are.

    We should recognise that this conflict was not about a particular theory of geocentricity or heliocentricity and who was right or wrong. Like all scientists (all honest people) Galileo was sometimes wrong (influence of tides for example). Many ideas in science are wrong (see Most ideas in science are wrong) – and because of the way science works we find that out.

    The Church was wrong on this point – again not the problem. The real problem is that they declared that they couldn’t be wrong – and punished Galileo for daring to suggest they were.

    The sentence declared that his heresy was that “that one may hold and defend as probable an opinion after it has been declared and defined contrary to Holy Scripture.”

    For this he was imprisoned for the rest of his life and his book Dialogue of Galileo Galilei banned for 200 years. Only recently has the Catholic Church apologised for this behaviour.

    And this (not any mistakes of heliocentricity) is what is behind the religion-science conflict. While the attitude expressed in that sentencing survives there will continue to be a conflict. And every time religious apologists claim a special knowledge of reality they are feeding that conflict. Religion should learn its place.

    In this International year of Astronomy when we are celebrating Galileo’s contributions of humanity we should not allow this history to be distorted. Or the names of other great scientists used in this distortion.

  • Ken November 5, 2009, 11:03 am

    Sorry – first line missing:
    “There seems to be a current religious apologetics fashion to rewrite the history of the “

  • Glenn November 5, 2009, 12:14 pm

    Ken, I think you’re looking for something that aint there. You suggested that I was trying to “excuse the Church.”

    Would you care to point out where I did this? The church was wrong in a similar way that Galileo was wrong. While you’re at it, I note your comment about people re-writing the Galileo affair, so it would be helpful if you could show which parts I’ve re-written, as I don’t see where I have misreported anything. Thanks.

    Secondly, you say that the issue was the church’s view that it could not be wrong. Well, that’s an issue, but as anyone can see, it’s not the issue that this blog post is about. This blog entry is about whether or not Galileo was objectively right, which is a different issue altogether.

    Thirdly, you equate “all scientists” with “all honest people.” That made me laugh. Thanks for that. Experience has emphatically shown me that those who see themselves as scientists are as prone to anyone else to partisanship and the practice of intellectual dishonesty.

    Fourthly, it looks to me like you’re suggesting that in fact there is an absolute reference point by which we can say that the sun does not move around the earth (ether, a backdrop against which all motion happens, call it what you will). If you do not think this, then your objection to my claim about Galileo being wrong would not make sense, so you must mean this.

    If this is your view, can you tell me where that reference point is? Which point in space is it? Or what is this backdrop?

    Thanks.

  • Glenn November 5, 2009, 12:30 pm

    One more thing, Ken. I am just a little bit surprised that you say you’ve literally never seen Einstein’s views appealed to here. As I browse around at modern discussions on geocrentricism/heliocentricism, Einstein’s views are always present. Here’s one example, but Google it a little before replying. Perhaps this subject is just new to you, which is why, as you say, you’ve never heard of this connection before.

    Cheers.

  • Matt November 5, 2009, 1:39 pm

    The Church was wrong on this point – again not the problem. The real problem is that they declared that they couldn’t be wrong – and punished Galileo for daring to suggest they were.

    Actually the Church did not say they “couldn’t be wrong” in fact Cardinal Bellemare stated that if adequate proof could be provided he would grant that the position he held was mistaken. His point was that the Theological and Scientific consensus of the day supported Geocentricism ( which it did) and so until adequate proof was forthcoming Galileo should teach Heliocentricism as a hypothesis but not as true.

    Galileo did not prove it, as you note his proof from the tides was wrong.

    I am not condoning the Churches actions, simply pointing out that the facts are not as simple as you and others make out.

  • Ken November 5, 2009, 2:16 pm

    Glenn – you have confused the lack of a unique coordinate system for the earth (the Copernican principle that the earth is not unique) with the rotation of the earth around the sun. These do not negate each other at all (however you interpret the Wikipedia article).

    However, it’s interesting that you claim Einsteinian support for geocentricity because that ignores general relativity – gravitation/acceleration.

    Of course, if you really are sure that Einstein didn’t accept heliocentricity – a link to a quote from him is required. That is so far out of touch with General relativity I prefer to believe my own understandings until evidence is presented.

    Could you provide links to a credible theistic justification for the use of Einstein here? All I can find are pretty uninformed comments – and those don’t back up your claim.

    But if religious apologists are using Einstein this way I certainly wish to know about it. It should be nipped in the bud – and you should want to do that. This sort of thing makes Christianity look stupid.

    I don’t know how you got “you equate all scientists with all honest people” from my comment. I certainly don’t think that. But the scientific process does work to overcome the effect of subjectivity, ideology and preconceived belief because it uses verification against reality. Reality keeps us honest. (As well as the social nature of science.)

    Matt – you need to read the actual text of the Inquisition’s sentence. The facts are not as simple as you guys make out – and you cover up the important ones.

    Enough of this whitewashing.

  • Ken November 5, 2009, 3:30 pm

    Glenn – on reading the post and comments I wish to make 2 points of clarification,

    1: re Einstein. You herself say: “This view is no longer a tenable one, largely thanks to the work of Albert Einstein on special relativity. “ This is important. You specifically refer to Special Relativity – and your argument is based only on that. Special Relativity considers only bodies in uniform motion.

    It does not consider bodies under acceleration. It doesn’t consider gravity. It is not relevant to the geocentric/heliocentric argument.

    This is where Einstein’s later work – General Relativity – comes in. You have confused the two. From my internet search I find a few examples of others who have done that. But do you want to be associated with Brownback (Heliocentrism is an Atheist Doctrine).

    General Relativity clearly supports heliocentricism – Special Relativity is not relevant.

    2: Scientists and honesty. I can now see why you may have jumped to the misunderstanding you did. I wrote: “Like all scientists (all honest people) Galileo was sometimes wrong ” when I should have written “Like all scientists (like all honest people) Galileo was sometimes wrong”. Sorry for that. But, maybe Freudian slips on my part – and yours for the uncharitable interpretation.

    Clearly I was making the point that we are all wrong from time to time. Honest people are able to admit that.

    There is a lesson here relevant to your blog post declaring with reference to Galileo “This guy was wrong.” When on this issue he was so obviously correct.

  • Glenn November 5, 2009, 4:17 pm

    Ken, you have now misrepresented me in an obvious way: “Of course, if you really are sure that Einstein didn’t accept heliocentricity”

    Can you supply a quote from me where I said that Einstein didn’t accept Heliocentricity? Please, I will be careful not to misrepresent you, but I ask that you do likewise. This is not the first time you have said this.

    I can’t see that you’re writing in good faith until you a) stop misrepresenting people, and b) actually address my posts before asking me to address further questions from you, as though you think my questions to you don’t matter but your questions carry great importance. It’s impolite to ignore my questions, and then ask new uestions of me. Here’s a starter: please answer this question that I posted to your earlier:
    Fourthly, it looks to me like you’re suggesting that in fact there is an absolute reference point by which we can say that the sun does not move around the earth (ether, a backdrop against which all motion happens, call it what you will). If you do not think this, then your objection to my claim about Galileo being wrong would not make sense, so you must mean this.

    If this is your view, can you tell me where that reference point is? Which point in space is it? Or what is this backdrop?

    Thanking you in advance, Ken. I’d really like your answer to be specific.

  • Matt November 5, 2009, 4:33 pm

    Ken

    I am basing what I say on what Cardinal Bellemare ( of the Inquisition) wrote in explaining how the Inquisition came to the conclusion they did.

    The Inquisition did appeal to the scientific consensus as a reason in its statement from memory.

  • Matt November 5, 2009, 4:41 pm

    Could you provide links to a credible theistic justification for the use of Einstein here? All I can find are pretty uninformed comments – and those don’t back up your claim.

    From an article you told me a few days ago on MandM that you had read.

    “Consider even such an assured result as that the earth revolves around the sun and rotates on its axis. According to the usual interpretations of current relativity theory, there is no privileged frame of reference, no frame at absolute rest. But if that is true, then it isn’t even clear what it means to say that in fact, contrary to Copernicus, the earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa. That’s true in some frames of reference, but not in others; and in principle (apart from matters of convenience, and the like) there is no more to be said for the former than for the latter.

    It might be replied that at least Copernicus is controverted in that lie held that there is a frame at absolute rest, which we now know is false. But the usual interpretations of relativity theory are not themselves supported by knock-down drag-out arguments. One can also interpret relativity theory as nothing more than a recipe for translation from one frame of reference to another, so taken it makes no pronouncements on the question whether there is a frame at absolute rest. So taken, the claim that there is such a frame is quite consistent with it; perhaps the frame at absolute rest is given by the way God sees things. (And hence it could be, so far as knock-down drag-out demonstration goes, that the earth is the center of the universe after all!)”

  • Ken November 5, 2009, 5:11 pm

    Glenn – reference points are irrelevant. You are still thinking of Special Relativity – which does not apply to rotating, accelerating bodies, to gravitation. Only bodies in uniform motion.

    Answer me this. Did you not refer to Special Relativity? Is that not different to General Relativity? Do you think that the earth is undergoing uniform motion, has no gravitation, not in a gravitational field and not accelerating??

    It’s all really quite simple. You have misunderstood or confused the issue. On this matter Galileo was, and still is, correct. We do live in a heliocentric solar system. The earth does orbit the sun.

    Can you honestly think otherwise?

    Matt – I don’t know what you are talking about. Give a reference for the article. It seems very confused talking about frames of reference and then the earth revolving around the sun. Nothing about gravitation/acceleration.

    Or are you replying to Glenn?

  • Ken November 5, 2009, 5:20 pm

    To be specific – I do not suggest an absolute reference point at all. There is no justification for saying the earth is the centre of the universe, or the sun is the centre of the universe. But this is all quite irrelevant to the question of the earth orbiting the sun – which is what we usually mean when we talk about heliocentricity today – and with reference to Galileo.

    (Perhaps you using a different interpretation or definition of heliocentricity. I just can’t understand why you are asserting the things you are).

    Now I have specifically answered your question. At least do me the honour of seriously reading what I have said and answering mine.

    And are you going to insist that Galileo was wrong in his assertion that the earth orbited the sun?

  • Glenn November 5, 2009, 5:45 pm

    Ken, if you say that the question of a reference point is not relevant in asking whether the earth goes around the sun or vice versa, then you are just wrong. It is clearly relevant to ask which reference point we are asking about. You are attributing a confusion to me that I do not have here. This is not subtle or tricky. It is big and plain and I don’t know why you don’t see it.

    You are now being unreasonable in asking me to “seriously read” what you wrote. I made it clear that I was putting that on hold until you actually provided an answer. And your answer – which you have only just now given – is that there is no absolute reference point from which to observe the movement of the earth and the sun. Although you don’t like it, I take this as a concession of the whole argument here, combined with an unwillignness to give the appearance of conceding anything at all.

    It is no good giving the rhetorical impression of stamping your feet, using bold text and insisting that I answer you. As I told you already, I will do so after you answer the question already put to you, which you now have. I was unwilling to do so before because I was waiting for an overdue answer from you. As you have now decided to answer, I am now prepared to answer you as I said I would. I do this in spite of you refusing to substantiate your claims about what I think Einstein said (if you ever feel like owning up to it, you could just concede that I never claimed that Einstein rejected heliocentrism).

    I now turn to your complaint that I referred to special relativity. You say in passing that general relativity supports heliocentrism (presumably by which you mean the claim that it’s false that the sun goes around the earth). That claim wasn’t substantiated at all, so I’ll ignore it.

    However, you may find the following helpful:

    Michael Fowler of the University of Virginia (physics), had this to say in his article on “Special Relativity”:

    Just as Galileo had asserted that observing gnats, fish and dripping bottles, throwing things and generally jumping around would not help you to find out if you were in a room at rest or moving at a steady velocity, Einstein added that no kind of observation at all, even measuring the speed of light across your room to any accuracy you like, would help find out if your room was “really at rest”. This implies, of course, that the concept of being “at rest” is meaningless. If Einstein is right, there is no natural rest-frame in the universe. Naturally, there can be no “aether”, no thin transparent jelly filling space and vibrating with light waves, because if there were, it would provide the natural rest frame, and affect the speed of light as measured in other moving inertial frames as discussed above.
    SOURCE

    There appear to be enough reputable looking sources that tie this concept to special relativity to assure me that I am not mistaken in thinking that they are closely related.

    HOWEVER, it’s possible that I have incorrectly followed the lead of short pieces like this (i.e. misconstrued how they were applying their terms), and I am happy to concede that because it makes no difference to any conclusion I have drawn. The result is the same. It is not the name of the theory to which this concept belongs that matters, it is the concept itself. Please don’t miss this concession, or the follow up point – that it actually doesn’t matter, because it is the concept that matters rather than the theory to which the concept attaches.

    Ken, you will dislike me saying this, but I say it earnestly. Please get some perspective and be less emotive here. Your first comment was absolutely ridden with hasty claims – not the least being claims about what I think so-and-so believed. Yet now, after all of your objections (a possible labelling issue aside), my original blog post survives every one of your attempted critiques. What’s apalling (to me, at least) is that you will walk away from this encounter thinking that you have been the defender of science here!

  • Ken November 5, 2009, 6:08 pm

    Your quote is again referring to Special Relativity – not applicable to an accelerating body. Clearly you don’t understand this and your ego won’t allow you to rethink your arguments.

    But think about it. Will you honestly assert that we canno tell the difference between orbiting the sun or the sun orbiting the earth? Do you honestly believe that Galileo was wrong in this matter?

    I guess your answer must be yes to both questions because you stick by your post which actally aims Galileo was wrong.

    As I said – this sort of silliness gives religion a bad name. And such claims are actually the cause of science – religion conflict.

    Next you will be telling us that Darwin was wrong!

  • Rob November 5, 2009, 6:42 pm

    You guys may wish to look up this quote from Lawrence Krauss (a rather popular atheist and physicist)…

    http://manawatu.christian-apologetics.org/is-science-up-for-grabs/

    The energy of empty space that isn’t sero (Lawrence Krauss)

    “The new results are either telling us that all of science is wrong and we’re the center of the universe, or maybe the data is [s]imply (sic) incorrect, or maybe it’s telling us there’s something weird about the microwave background results and that maybe, maybe there’s something wrong with our theories on the larger scales. (Lawrence Krauss)

  • Rob November 5, 2009, 7:40 pm

    Hey, just to stick a spanner in the works…..

    http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=WDjJIww337EC&pg=PA151&dq=%22Astronomy+on+the+personal+computer%22+%22general+description+of+the+lunar+orbit%22&lr=&ei=NnLySsGRDI7CkATSh_m9Aw#v=onepage&q=&f=false

    Second paragraph:

    “…The moon may thus be described as following an elliptical orbit around the sun…”

    See, it all depends upon your frame of reference 🙂

    IIRC, strictly speaking, the earth does not orbit the sun, or at least the exact center of the sun. Rather, it orbits the center of mass of both objects which will be slightly off the center of the sun 🙂 (assuming a two body system).

  • Glenn November 5, 2009, 8:50 pm

    Ken says “Your quote is again referring to Special Relativity – not applicable to an accelerating body. Clearly you don’t understand this and your ego won’t allow you to rethink your arguments.”

    This is so ironic it’s just becoming strange. Ken – It was I who explicitly announced to you that the quote that I was about to give came from an article called “special relativity,” and then I produced a quote that does not conform to the restriction you gave. I was excusing my possibly erroneous use of that term on the grounds that plenty of other people use it the same way. Why would you complain on the grounds that the article is about special relativity?

    But seriously Ken, to have you now at this stage complaining about people’s ego not allowing them to concede things is just not plausible. I mean come on, let’s review:

    1. You entered this thread claiming that I was excusing the church. This was false, and I called you on it, asking for evidence. You fell silent. No evidence, and no admission of error.
    2. Twice you then accused me of attempting to claim that Einstein was opposed to heliocentrism. More than once I asked you to substantiate or retract, but you were silent. No evidence and no concession.
    3. You declared that the issue was the Church’s belief that it could never ever be wrong about this. When Matt showed evidence that the church asserted that it was open to evidence and would reconsider if sufficient evidence was given, you brushed it off.
    4. You suggested that because your personally aren’t experienced with people appealing to Einstein’s ideas in connection with the idea of a reference point and its implications for geocentrism, it must be rare or unusual for this appeal to be made (arrogance extraodinaire!), yet when I pointed out that the examples are there and gave one, noting an easy way to find more, you brushed such facts off as examples of whackos.
    5. Even after Matt showed that in an article that you are familiar with (according to you), this connection is spelt out, you remained steadfast in your suggestion that the connection is a fringe idea.
    6. After you finally (finally!) agreed to answer my initial question to you, I replied to your charge that I was appealing to a theory on a another subject. I did this in two ways: I quoted a physicist who makes a connection between special relativity and the more general thesis that there is “no natural rest-frame in the universe.” Secondly, I conceded the possibility that this and other sources could be mistaken and also that I could be reading this statement as a feature of special relativity when it isn’t, but I reminded you that the idea, rather than the theory to which it attaches, is the important thing.

    And then you – in the most ironic turn of events I’ve seen in some time – say that I am refusing to concede anything because of my ego.

    Ken, you came in flailing wildly, uttering numerous falsehoods, and each time you’ve been corrected, you’ve fallen silent, hoping the claim in question would just go away, rather than having to admit a mistake. By contrast, the very first time I replied to your comment about relativity (after you replied to my first questions to you), I conceded the possibility of error, but explained the limits of what that error would mean.

    Please consider showing a little more humility.

  • Ken November 5, 2009, 9:47 pm

    OK, Glenn, you refuse to answer my questions. Perhaps you don’t feel confident of the position you have put youself in.

    But I can go on your declaration in your post that Galileo was wrong. And we have your use of special relativity – which applies to bodies in uniform motion – justifying a claim that one cannot specify that the earth orbits the sun. That Galileo was wrong to claim it does – just ad wrong as the church to claim it did not.

    So I can quote you on that.

    It’s just that this position is so silly I was trying to get you to confirm it. I just couldn’t believe that a sensible person could use that argument.

    But I guess people get themselves into that position when they start with a preconceived idea and them try to change realit to fit in with it.

  • Glenn November 5, 2009, 11:35 pm

    Ken, I’ve addressed your questions. I think your pretence to the contrary has become dishonest.

    Equally dishonest is your new pretence that I never conceded anything in regard to special relativity, and your suggestion that you are free to quote me sans that concession. You are being dishonest. You are being anything but fair or “scientific.” I am sure you must be able to see this.

    Should you “quote” me in the manner you have described, you will, of course, be lying, and you will be indicating your willingness to be descibed as such. Suit youraself, it’s your reputation. Choose to avoid the questions that reveal your errors, and choose to ignore answers given. That, it seems, is how Ken Perott wishes to be known. As much as it would benefit you for me to remove your comments so as to cover your tracks, I will, in fact, refer to them when people want an example of Ken being dishonest.

    Thanks for taking part.

  • Ken November 5, 2009, 11:42 pm

    OK, Glenn. Can I ask that you not remove your post and the comment below the image claiming Galileo was wrong?

    Of I bother quoting you the quotes will
    be taken from that.

    My interest is only as an example of how religious apologists actually promote conflict with sciene by
    misrepresenting sciene and the history of science. There seems to be a real rash
    of this at the ment regarding Galileo – 3 local blogs at last count.

  • Glenn November 5, 2009, 11:50 pm

    Ken you’re admitting that you’ll quote from a comment of mine about special relativity, and remain silent about a comment in that same thread about the correctness of the use of that term ansd the possibility that it is not the correct term to use, as well as the reason for so using it as explained. Simply amazing. I don’t think I’ve actually encountered a blogger with less intellectual integrity than that, and I’m glad it’s on record.

    Does that method represent your normal level of honesty?

  • Glenn November 6, 2009, 7:44 am

    Wow, I just cam across this gem from Ken: “[R]eligion may “work” for many people. After all they seek a community and acceptance – not truth.” That’s right, not only are they (according to one person) mistaken in their truth claims, but they aren’t even seeking tuth in the first place.

    The picture is more or less fully formed now: Intentional misrepresentation is normal for some (well, for Ken, anyway). A true icon of dishonesty.

  • Sandra November 6, 2009, 9:12 am

    OK, outsider’s perspective here: I dont know Ken, but woah, got an axe to grind Ken?

    Reading through this article, it seems pretty unobjectionable: The dispute in Galileo’s age presupposed a certain view of how motion in space ought to be viewed: fixed backdrop and all that, but this view of space and movement has been reviewed largely thanks to Einstein (and let’s at least agree that he did reject the old view of space and motion in exactly the way Glenn noted, because he did).

    What is to object to here? Getting knickers in a twist over whether this is the claim of special relativity or not, or throwing in a handful of misrepresentations just to spice things up (and Ken, they are pretty obvious, as is your refusal to even acknowledge them) suggests that you just have to find a gnat to strain at – you’re somehow, for some reason, motivated to find something to take issue with. That’s my take on it, anyway (could be wrong, but I gotta call ’em as I see ’em).

    Glenn, I’d still be a little uncomfortable saying that I “reject” heliocrentism, although I suspect this is not because of any disagreement with what you say. It’s just that people are likely to assume that if you reject heliocentrism, you must embrace geocentrism, or some other kind of “centrism.” But yes, I know, that’s the fault of the person doing the assuming. 🙂

  • Ken November 6, 2009, 11:04 am

    Sandra – You have identified a problem with Glenn’s analysis in that it has led him to assert something you intuitively know is not true.

    However, if you are interested in further discussion of this I will probably be writing another post at Open Parachute dealing with the current history denial going on around the Galileo-Church affair. There is already an article there – Blaming the victim.

    Although Matt was quite coy with his quote it is one taken from Plantinga (he loves to quote this guy). His use of Einstein and special relativity is absolute rubbish – as you have intuitively picked up.

    It needs countering. But here is not the place to do it. I am far more used to the vigorous debate we have in science where anger is rare and people are respected. We really need that to make progress.

  • Sandra November 6, 2009, 11:53 am

    Ken, you said: “Sandra – You have identified a problem with Glenn’s analysis in that it has led him to assert something you intuitively know is not true.”

    All I can say is: Oh my gosh, I can sympathise with Glenn’s complaints! In the very first sentence that you have directed toward me, Ken, you misrepresented what I said. I really hope this was an accident!

    You’ve said that I intuitively know thats omething Glenn says isn’t true – but I said know such thing. You’ve said that I think the connection between Glenn’s stance on “no reference point” and Einstein is utter rubbish. I didn’t say this.

    I think I’ll pass on the invite to your site if this is what I can expect to find. Anger may be rare with you (I can’t tell, I don’t even know you), but you’re being anything but fair, coolheaded and rational, I can tell you!

    Incidentally, this is a blog. Why can’t you discuss it here, and why are you inviting me to have this disucssion at your blog instead. Is this about website traffic?

  • Glenn November 6, 2009, 12:15 pm

    Welcome Sandra. At least someone got the point 🙂

    I see you’ve met Ken. Well, we do leave the door open. For obvious reasons I sympathise, but I don’t think you should be expecting a concession of misrepresentation any time soon. Ken is an occasional visitor, and there’s an unfortunate pattern of emotional reactions of an anti-religious (rather than pro-scientific) nature. I’m sure I’ve said as much to Ken before. Feel free to visit often!

  • Ken November 6, 2009, 1:45 pm

    Sandra – of course my reference to your identification of a problem with Glenn’s argument was to your comment “I’d still be a little uncomfortable saying that I “reject” heliocrentism, ”

    But you knew that, didn’t you?

    And it should also be obvious that Glenn’s anger problems are the reason that such subjects can’t be discussed here. (Although, I am beginning to suspect that there is also a personality factor involved his attitude towards me specifically).

    Anyway, you are welcome to involve yourself in any discussion arising from my analysis of Plantinga’s mistake.

  • Sandra November 6, 2009, 2:31 pm

    Ken, I can’t believe you. If you make a habit of being the jackass you are being now, I can imagine why people have a personality issue with you. Simply incredible.

    Glenn has been more than reasonable with you here, and you’ve fully earned the negative descriptions of your behavior. I think I’ll pass on your advertisements for your site, thanks. Farewell.

  • Bob November 6, 2009, 6:00 pm

    Reading Ken’s comments is enough to decide that his writing is just not worth reading.

  • Nick November 9, 2009, 9:37 am

    On the contrary Bob. It seems to me that Glen has mixed up frames of references in regards to special relativity with absolute cartesian co-ordinates.

    Of course if you take as your centre point a particular arbitrary point in the solar system, then this changes your perspective with regard to the motion of the sun, planets and moons. What you find though is that regardless of he point you choose, you cannot consistently explain the motion of the objects in the solar system without a heliocentric model. Attempts to do this resulted in all sorts of strange misshapen models such as the epicycles in the Ptolemaic systems.

    Further to this, Galileo, Newton and Einstein’s explanations of gravity do not work if you do not accept a heliocentric model. This is the whole point.

    Trying to say otherwise at this point in the game, really does nothing other than expose the lack of quality of the reasoning involved.

  • Ken November 9, 2009, 1:22 pm

    Good point Nick.

    Special Relativity, proposed by Einstein in 1905, was more than just about relativity of motion and points of reference (as is sued in Glenn’s argument).

    However, it did formalise the relativity concepts of previous scientists like Newton and Galileo himself.

    So, it is a bit rich to attempt to use Galilean relativity to argue that Galileo was wrong about heliocentricity!

  • ropata November 9, 2009, 1:42 pm

  • Glenn November 9, 2009, 3:18 pm

    Ken, you claim that I have said that special relativity was about nothing other than “relativity of motion and points of reference.” In fact I said no such thing. Surprise surprise, Ken is saying untrue things about me. That’s new!

  • Ken November 9, 2009, 4:23 pm

    No Glenn – Just that it was the only part of Special Relativity you based your argument on. And that part can be attributed to Galileo.

    Come on – if you used the speed of light or incorporation of time into spacetime – point out where you did it. The only relativity I can see in your argument is that proposed by Galileo.

  • Glenn November 9, 2009, 4:31 pm

    Ken, “come on.” You said that Einstein’s theory “was more than just about relativity of motion and points of reference (as is sued in Glenn’s argument).”

    This is manifestly false. Have a very close read of what you said. Maybe you misspoke, used words that you didn’t mean to? Said something you now reject? I don’t know, but as it stands, it’s just one more in a long line of falsehoods by you. You have displayed a pattern, and it isn’t a flattering one.

    Notice how this works – I’m merely talking about your errors without attempting to psychonalayse. Try it sometime. 🙂

  • Ken November 9, 2009, 5:09 pm

    Oh well, there’s no getting through. You are obviously out of your dpeth and are being manipulative to aovid the issues.

    However, I think I have made my point – and in a bit more detail at Einstein on Galileo’s contribution.

  • Glenn November 9, 2009, 6:13 pm

    Absolutely astounding arrogance. I have yet again documented a claim on your part that is false, and you stubbornly refuse to admit it. This speaks volumes.

  • Bob November 9, 2009, 9:54 pm

    1. I don’t think this article is saying heliocentrism is wrong or geocentrism is right.

    2. Galileo was wrong to insist that his theory was true when at the time he could not provide sufficient proof.

    3. Galileo claimed approval by the Church for his entire work, and that was simply false

    4. From Wikipedia about Heliocentrism:

    The thinking that the heliocentric view was also not true in a strict sense was achieved in steps. That the Sun was not the center of the universe, but one of innumerable stars, … Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, the status of the Sun as merely one star among many became increasingly obvious. By the 20th century, even before the discovery that there are many galaxies, it was no longer an issue.

    Even if the discussion is limited to the solar system, the sun is not at the geometric center of any planet’s orbit, but rather at one focus of the elliptical orbit.

  • Glenn November 9, 2009, 10:28 pm

    Bob, yeah it’s technically true that the Sun’s not the centre of any planet’s circular orbit given literal ond objective heliocentrism (it’s the “objective” that this blog post questioned) since those orbits are not eliptical, that wasn’t really the point. The point is that once you remove the concept of the ether and everything that it implies, we end up unable to say, in any objective sense, that with the earth and the sun, one travels around the other and that the converse is false.

    A number of sources connect the rejection of the ether and the claim about fixed reference points to Einstein and his theory as noted above (something that Ken has an issue with, but I’m not to blame), so I have merely noted that connection that other people draw. But whether that connection is right is hardly the point. But I’m sure you can see that Bob – unlike some. 🙂

  • ropata November 10, 2009, 12:04 am

    But Glenn, the Earth still orbits the Sun no matter what reference frame you’re in.

    So go ahead – keep using the Galileo case to show what silly scientific conclusions theologians come to – that is, if you’re happy to push your view of physics back half a century.
    This is why I thought you were making a theological point (by implication), that theology provides better scientific conclusions than established sciences.

    I am all for good theology and good science, but this post is more to do with church politics and weird semantics than either of these.

    I’ve added some more comments on this at Open Parachute.

  • Nick November 10, 2009, 6:17 am

    Hi Glenn,

    Ken has pointed this out more correctly than I, but you don’t seem to be listening to him.

    You said:

    It will be at once obvious that the position of both Galileo and his clerical dissenters takes for granted the view of motion that I outlined at the start of this article: All motion has a fixed reference point; it happens against a backdrop against which it can be objectively measured. This view is no longer a tenable one, largely thanks to the work of Albert Einstein on special relativity. Without going into mind numbing detail, here’s a simple summary:

    You are wrong. It was Galileo himself who discards the view of a fixed reference point, not Einstein. As I understand it, Einstein’s special relativity is rejecting the view of objective time for all reference frames. It does this by postulating a fixed speed of light for all reference frames. This has nothing at all to do with heliocentricism.

    I would suggest the following reading on Galilean relativity (this is part of an introduction to special relativity):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_special_relativity#Reference_frames_and_Galilean_relativity:_a_classical_prelude

  • Nick November 10, 2009, 7:07 am

    @Bob. It seems to me that this article is saying exactly that heliocentrism is false. Sure, Glenn has tacked the word objective on the front, but that does not change anything. And he is flat out wrong.

    The planets orbit the sun in any frame of reference you choose, because of gravity, their movement relative to the place of rest you have chosen is not relavent. This was what Galileo was getting at.

    And you are wrong about Galileo insisting on something without proof. One of the main things that Galileo is celebrated for is actually that he was the first person to advance rigourous mathematical arguments based on evidence. He was the one presenting an argument with evidence, not the church. This is the whole point here. An argument from authority does not have any standing against an argument from evidence. Have a look at the following link for more details http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei#Scientific_methods

    Now, this does not mean that he was right about everything (Ken pointed out the issue with the tides), but this is how knowledge is gained. Propose a hypothesis, look for the evidence etc.. etc… etc… Where the church went wrong here is by believing that something was true without requiring evidence/justification, and then punishing people who disagreed with them. However, Glenn thinks that this approach is justified in some cases, you might want to ask him about epistemic externalism one day, but I am not going there again:-)

  • Glenn November 10, 2009, 7:53 am

    “It seems to me that this article is saying exactly that heliocentrism is false. Sure, Glenn has tacked the word objective on the front, but that does not change anything.”

    That is not correct. It changes much. To say that heliocentrism is false is to say that no matter what, it is false. To say that it is incorrect to claim that heliocentrism is “objectively” true and that other views are “objectively” false is to say that from all perspectives it is false.

    Hopefully you now see this.

    Oh, and Nick, you characterise epistemic externalism as “believing that something was true without requiring evidence/justification, and then punishing people who disagreed with them.”

    This is one way to cast doubt over anything you say, I’ll grant.

  • Glenn November 10, 2009, 8:00 am

    Nick, you say: “Ken has pointed this out more correctly than I, but you don’t seem to be listening to him.” But you then go on to say that it’s not Einstein’s special relativity theory that I should be referencing.

    When it comes to honesty, you have clearly learned from your master (I refer to Ken, of course). What is the one thing that I actually conceded? (Not listening, am I?)

    So sure, just claim that I’m not “listening.” Whatever falsehoods help your rhetoric.

  • Nick November 10, 2009, 10:28 am

    Maybe I wasn’t very precise with my sentence there Glenn. Here, I will correct it for you:

    “believing that something was true without requiring evidence/justification” without the punishment bit.

  • Nick November 10, 2009, 10:37 am

    As far as you other comments are concerned here Glenn, I must admit that I don’t really understand what you have written.

    Perhaps if I explain my point in another way. Your reference to frames of reference and in particular Special relativity has nothing to do with the planets going around the sun. As I have said, the planets go around the sun whether you want to look at this from one frame of reference or (objectively) across many, they still go around the sun.

    And by the way, what is with your last post? It is almost incoherent. You seem to be taking this all as some sort of personal attack. I am not attacking you. I am just disagreeing with your post and pointing out where I think you are wrong.

  • Shawn November 10, 2009, 11:40 am

    “believing that something was true without requiring evidence/justification”

    Much of modernist “science” has little to do with evidenceand often a great deal to do with ignoring it. It is a mass of theories piled on assumptions piled upon more assumptions piled on yet more assumptions. The assumptions themselves arise both from the darkened minds of the unregenerate children of Satan and are based on lies, the false worldviews of secularism and naturalism.

    As for punishment, in many places questioning the assumptions of modernist “science” can get your career killed and your education ended.

  • Glenn November 10, 2009, 11:50 am

    Nick, I have taken nothing personally. When I commented on the honesty issue, it was not because I am upset or feel attacked. It was merely about honesty, not feelings. It was certainly coherent english, and makes fine sense.

    Regarding your other recent post: I acknowledge your repeat of your position. Stating one’s position isn’t an argument, but if you want acknowledgement for stating your view, you have it.

    I hope you also realise what I have conceded in regard to special relativity. I have granted – and clearly so – that it could be an error to connect a rejection of the idea of ether and the issue of privileged observers with special relativity, but as I have explained, the concept is the issue, rather than whether or not it belongs to the theory of SR. I have also noted, however, that I have connected the two because many others appear to do so, including people who know much more than I. The more I look, the more I see it said.

    In spite of this concession, the actual point I made at the outset appears to be unscathed. All the genuine objections I have seen appear to be peripheral ones (e.g. “That wasn’t Einstein, it was Galileo himself!”)

  • Ken November 10, 2009, 2:46 pm

    Shawn – your comment is a real gem – and perhaps reveals some of the thinking behind Glenn’s mistake.

    I have taken the liberty of copying over your middle paragraph to the comments on my blog post Einstein on Galileo’s contribution. It deserves wider attention.

  • Nick November 10, 2009, 6:42 pm

    @Glenn. Perhaps my english comprehension level is decreasing living in a non english speaking country, but I don’t really see what your concession above has to do with it. On the other hand, I am quite happy to put special relativity to the side. Lets talk just about “objective heliocentrism” using different frames of reference.

    You said:
    This new (well, new at the time, anyway) view of physics reduces Galileo’s claim about which view is literally correct, his or the church’s, to rubble. If Einstein is correct, then Galileo was wrong to say that it is objectively true that the earth moves around the sun, and that it is objectively false that the sun moves around the earth. Which – if either – of those to claims is correct depends wholly on the observational perspective. An observer on the earth will correctly report that the sun travels around the earth (or stated differently, relative to the earth, the sun travels around it), and a sun dweller (!!!) will correctly report that the earth travels around the sun. Neither is incorrect, but if one accuses the other of being objectively mistaken while he himself is objectively correct, he is simply wrong (as was Galileo). This is not a defence of the Church’s claim, as obviously the principle applies to both views equally.

    This is not correct. Galilelo knew all about different frames of reference, having invented the concept (see Galilean relativity again). This does not matter. The planets go around the sun no matter your chosen reference frame. So, the planets go around the sun “objectively”. This is the whole point. In other words. Galilelo was observing the movement of he planets from the reference frame of the earth at rest. The Ptolemaic system was an attempt to understand the motion of the planets and sun from the context of one reference frame, earth at rest. It is the Ptolemaic system that is not objectively true across different reference points. Galileo was saying, look, lets take a reference point neutral point of view, then what makes the most sense regarding the motion of the planets, sun etc..

    I can’t see your argument against this.

  • Glenn November 10, 2009, 9:10 pm

    Ken, again – why seek the facts? Just assume that whatever Shawn said is my view. Same old, honesty just isn’t your thing.

    Nick, you (and Ken) seem to think that if Galileo knew in principle that there is not ether, no absolute backdrop to what happens in space (as I have been putting it), no fixed “frame of reference” as your prefer to put it, then it is impossible that he could have been wrong to think that the heliocentric model was objectively true and any alternative was objectively false. But this is false. It is possible for a person to hold both those views. It just means that there’s a tension within one’s belief set.

    I understand that people might resist a geoncentric model (a model I do not say is true) because it is incredibly complicated. It has (taking into account the motion of all the planets) many different shaped orbits around the earth, and it would be simpler to say that all the planets orbited around one thing, the sun, because that involves positing only one uniform orbit for all the planets, and it appears less contrived. I agree. But that is obviously not the point.

    The problem is absolutely not that I cannot understand what you’re presenting. What I see is that it is not an adequate argument to show that heliocentrism = objectively true, geocentrism = objectively false.

    This may (or may not) be ken’s unfortunate influence rubbing off on you, but I hope it can be seen that every time I have seen a point that I recognise as fair (like the doubt over whether or not the connection between Einstein’s theory and this argument is as I claimed), I concede it without delay. I’d like it if others were as forthright (this is Ken’s principle weakness, in my view). For example, earlier you said that my “objectively” qualifier changes nothing. I trust you can now see how that qualifier is essential, and changes much.

  • Nick November 10, 2009, 9:18 pm

    You might also want to consider one of the primary pieces of evidence against the Ptolemaic system. The phases of Venus. Again, this has nothing to with the frame of reference, instead this evidence speaks to the relative positions/movements of the objects in question (sun and planets).

    Here is a link to some more information about the phases of venus. Guess who first made these observations? Galileo again:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phases_of_Venus#History

  • Nick November 10, 2009, 9:25 pm

    People do not just reject the Ptolemaic system because of it’s complexity. They reject it because the evidence shows that it is false. See the above mention of phases of Venus. We do not require Occam’s razor for this.

    It seems to me that you have some sort of problem when it comes to comparing differing hypotheses about something. This is perhaps the blind spot I alluded to in our past discussion about epistemic externalism. It seems that you discount the role/value of evidence when it comes to knowledge.

  • Glenn November 10, 2009, 9:36 pm

    Nick, I see little similarity between this and the epistemology discussion.

    In this case extended discussions into Ptolemny are unfamiliar territory. It’s not to do with my belief about the role of evidence. I haven’t even advocated the ideas of Ptolemny, yet here I am (apparently) being lumbered with them. In fact, in my earlier comment about the shapes of orbits, I clearly rejected his model as one that could be true even from an earth reference point. See, this is what I mean when I complain about the way people reply to me. I really am not to blame for the way people (a very small number of people, all centred around one man and his blog) misrepresent what I am advocating! When I talked about a model being resisted because of its complexity, I was not talking about Ptolemny’s model. I made that plain. Check the comment again.

    As I read the page on the phases of Venus, I developed this sinking feeling: Oh no, this guy (you) still doesn’t even know what I’m saying. Is my english THAT bad? He thinks THIS obvious thing that I would clearly accept and which fits right in with everything that I have said is going to rebut anything I said?

    In the case of externalism, you were a fish out of water. It wasn’t even a disagreement in degree. That you now characterise that discussion as you do further confirms this. Here’s how bad it is: I am almost certain that you’re an externalist. I agree that it’s best not to go back there. You were seriously just not connecting to the issues, and nothing productive could come from trying to persuade you on that one unless you went away and invest a good chunk of time learning broadly about epistemology, with all respect.

  • Nick November 10, 2009, 9:50 pm

    Wow. I will try again then.

    You said:
    The problem is absolutely not that I cannot understand what you’re presenting. What I see is that it is not an adequate argument to show that heliocentrism = objectively true, geocentrism = objectively false.

    You might want to further define what you mean by objectively true then, perhaps this will help me understand you. If you mean 100% certain truth, then that is obviously not the case, science and evidence does not provide 100% certainties.

    Based on your post(s), I have understood this to mean objectively true regardless of the frame of reference taken. In other words true for all frames of references. Please correct me if I am wrong about this.

  • Ken November 10, 2009, 10:09 pm

    I think, Nick, that you won’t make progress with Glenn. He is stonewalling and using the old anger tactic to confuse the issue. There is alps a bit of what Dennett call deepities going on.

    The fact is that the only other people who appear to support Glenn’s poition are Bob (who obviosly doesn’t understand it) and Plantinga (whose footnote was very garbled). Even Matt backed off – and no one else is coming out to defend Glenn.

    There are certainly no reputable scientific sources Glenn can find to support his claim that Galileo was wrong on this issue.

    I think it is clear that Glenn has got in over his head and rather than admit his mistake is choosing to bluster. This might be the way philophers of religion behave – but there is no professional integrity in it.

    To blame me and his blog for his problems
    also lacks integrity. It’s got nothing to do with me. Glenn is demonstratably wrong in his claim about Galileo, he would still be wrong if I and my blog didn’t exist. He still wouldn’t find any reputable allies on this particular claim.

  • Glenn November 10, 2009, 10:14 pm

    Ken, you’re becoming increasingly absurd. This is not Dr Phil.

  • Glenn November 10, 2009, 10:22 pm

    Nick, sure, that sounds like what I mean by “objectively.”

    What you referred to – the phases of Venus, just do not and never could show that what I am saying is untrue.

    From every single possible frame of reference, Ptolemny was wrong if he proposed the earth in the middle, and then against the blackboard of space, that pre-existing canvas against which motion can be measured, all other planets and stars proceeding in circular/eliptical orbits around the earth at the centre.

    That view would be objectively false, and pretty much everyone knows it (goodness, even among modern advocates of geocentrism you’d probably be unlikely to find anyone who thinks that).

    What I’m suggesting is clearly unlike that. If earth is treated as the observer’s point then everything is correctly observed moving around the earth, but as I explained earlier, not in orbits that are the same shape.

    Tell you what. I will draw you a picture. Don’t reply to this comment yet. I will make a picture and then include it into this comment. Then hopefully you will see why I have said that the barrier to this view is not objective falsehood, but complexity as a model.

    *goes away to make a picture*

    EDIT: OK, I’m back. Here’s the picture:
    two views of objects travelling around the earth
    The LEFT hand side depicts Ptolemny’s view, wherein everything orbits the earth as shown [this sentence has been corrected. It wrongly said “right”]. Clearly, this is nothing like what I have suggested, and his view is shattered by evidence (such as the phases of Venus, as you rightly note, which says nothing in the least about anything I’ve said).

    The right hand side presents a model devoid of privileged reference points (i.e. no place is deemed the “correct” place from which to observe things: not the earth, not the moon, not the sun, not some other place, watching the earth and the sun, no place). It shows the earth (since were are asking what is true from the perspective of an earthdweller – a perspective that is not better or worse than any other) in the middle, and the movements of other bodies. See the clear difference.

    OK, some of those are premade shapes in my graphics program, and there wouldn’t actually be star shaped paths. I’ve crudely drawn in the path of a planet which, relative to the position of some other sun, is orbitng that sun (that’s really hard to do with a mouse pointer!).

    What you will now see is that the reason this model would be rejected is not that it falls afoul of the evidence – on the contrary, it accords perfectly with all the evidence ever discovered. The problem is it’s incredible complexity as a model. But observationally, since there’s no fixed backdrop against which motion should be observed, no canvas of the universe, it is observationally identical with Galileo’s model.

  • Bob November 10, 2009, 10:57 pm

    Fred Hoyle wrote:
    The relation of the two pictures [geocentricity and heliocentricity] is reduced to a mere coordinate transformation and it is the main tenet of the Einstein theory that any two ways of looking at the world which are related to each other by a coordinate transformation are entirely equivalent from a physical point of view. (Hoyle, 1973, p. 78)

  • Glenn November 10, 2009, 11:01 pm

    Bob, thanks for that. But then, Hoyle was probably influenced by Plantinga. 😉

    Since Hoyle’s claim is the exact same one that I am making, surely Ken must now say that Hoyle is in over his head, he doesn’t udnerstand the issue, he lacks integrity, he has blustered, he isn’t reputable and so forth.

    See how a little humility could have softened this blow Ken? Lesson learned, I hope. Given the list of falsehoods on your part that have been corrected but which you have gone coy about and chosen not to concede (even in this comments section on this blog entry), I’m not holding out hope that you’ll return and acknoeledge this, but we will see.

    Incidentally Bob, what’s the source for that quote? It’s a handy concise one.

  • Nick November 11, 2009, 12:03 am

    Ok. Then I will put the Ptolemaic system also to one side.

    You said:
    The right hand side presents a model devoid of privileged reference points (i.e. no place is deemed the “correct” place from which to observe things: not the earth, not the moon, not the sun, not some other place, watching the earth and the sun, no place). It shows the earth (since were are asking what is true from the perspective of an earthdweller – a perspective that is not better or worse than any other) in the middle, and the movements of other bodies. See the clear difference.

    I assume that you meant “left side” above, and this was just a typing error.

    It seems to me that you are now confusing 2 dimensional representations of 3 dimensional models.

    Your left side drawing is not an accurate 2d representation of what the orbits of the sun and planets look like from all reference points. You cannot meaningfully represent this in a 2d drawing. The only way you can do this is with a 3d model that can then be viewed from all reference points.

    Heres a youtube movie of the motion of solar system objects taken from a range of different reference frames.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbPkdBJUhyc&NR=1

    The movement of the planets, sun and moons in relation to each other is exactly the same from all frames of reference. Sure, the 2 dimensional view you have on this from any particular reference point is completely different. You will get no argument from me there.

    But, what is your point? How could you say that Galilelos support of Heliocentrism is not obectively true?
    What do you mean when you say:
    What you will now see is that the reason this model would be rejected is not that it falls afoul of the evidence – ont he contrary, it accords perfectly with all the evidence ever discovered. The problem is it’s incredible complexity as a model.
    What/which model are you talking about here?

  • Nick November 11, 2009, 12:11 am

    @Bob. just plugged your quote into Google. A quick look at the top 3 results leads me directly back to the creation institute and to books about biblical creation stories.

    These are not credible sources of scientific knowledge. This is where you are going wrong.

  • Glenn November 11, 2009, 12:11 am

    No Nick, I meant the right hand side. The left hand side is Ptolemny’s view. I meant the right. if the remainder of your post proceeded on the assumption that this was an error on my part, then you were using the wrong picture and you need to have another go. None of the above actually works towards a rebuttal of what I’ve said.

  • Glenn November 11, 2009, 12:12 am

    Nick – wait, what? You reject Hoyle because creationists quote him? You cannot be serious. You know who Fred Hoyle is, right?

  • Glenn November 11, 2009, 12:22 am

    Bob, never mind, I found the source. Fred Hoyle, Nicholas Copernicus: An Essay on his life and work (Harper and Row, 1973).

    Nick (and anyone else reading), see the quote from Hoyle as used here, and see also the comment from Ellis.

  • Bob November 11, 2009, 12:41 am

    I didn’t get my quote from creation website. I got it from some online encyclopedia when searching for heliocentrism.

    Wikipedia also has this to say:

    Modern use of geocentric and heliocentric

    In modern calculations, the origin and orientation of a coordinate system often have to be selected, for practical reasons, and in such systems the origin in the mass, solar mass or the center of mass of the solar system are frequently selected. However, such selection of coordinates has only practical implications and not philosophical or physical ones.

    Which is in the same effect as what Hoyle said (it also references Hoyle although his quite isn’t featured). And this is also what Glenn is pointing out in his article here.

    I’m not a scientist nor scholar, and even I get it the first time I read Glenn’s post! And I didn’t know anything about this before I read Glenn’s post! I was intrigued by this revelation so I read more about this topic.

    I hope you two (Nick and Ken) get it after this many comments. I see Ken is already pretty quite here 🙂

  • Nick November 11, 2009, 12:57 am

    @Glen You also said>The right hand side depicts Ptolemny’s view, wherein everything orbits the earth as shown. Clearly, this is nothing like what I have suggested, and his view is shattered by evidence (such as the phases of Venus, as you rightly note, which says nothing in the least about anything I’ve said).

    So perhaps you would understand why I had trouble knowing what you were talking about.

    But that does not really matter, it does not detract from anything I said. To repeat, you are trying to produce a 2d dimensional representation of a 3d model observed from multiple reference points at one time. Of course this is not very clear or useful. If you want to do have a 2d representation, then you must choose a reference point to make it understandable.

  • Nick November 11, 2009, 1:06 am

    @Bob, without a link to the full source of your Hoyle quote, I can’t really comment. The link that Glen provides also does not provide the context of the comment. This is the problem with quote mining. Perhaps you could try understanding the point and explaining it to me in your own words eh?

    But that is besides the point. I still can’t understand what point Glenn is trying to make here. Anybody else besides Bob or Glenn understand his point? If so, perhaps you could have a crack at explaining it for me.

  • Nick November 11, 2009, 1:16 am

    @Bob. Rereading your post. You said:
    In modern calculations, the origin and orientation of a coordinate system often have to be selected, for practical reasons, and in such systems the origin in the mass, solar mass or the center of mass of the solar system are frequently selected. However, such selection of coordinates has only practical implications and not philosophical or physical ones.

    This essentially says exactly what I have been saying. The movement of the sun and planets relative to each other is not changed (i.e objective to) by the point of reference. Sure you can choose a point of reference for your co-ordinate system to do your calculations, but this does not change the relative movements of the objects in relation to each other.

    To spell it out further. The sentence “the planets go around the sun” relates to the relative motion of the planets to the sun. This phrase is still true for every point of reference, be it earth, the moon, pluto or anything else you choose.

  • Cedric Katesby November 11, 2009, 1:22 am

    The assumptions themselves arise both from the darkened minds of the unregenerate children of Satan…

    Quote of the week.
    🙂

  • Glenn November 11, 2009, 8:51 am

    Yes, I correctly referred to my model as the right hand side (you thought I meant really left, but I didn’t), but (my bad) I also referred to Ptolemny’s model as the right hand side, when it’s actually the left.

    Your point about 2d vs 3d changes nothing at all. It has no impact on anything said here. It is literally irrelevant.

  • Ken November 11, 2009, 10:44 am

    Bugger – what happened to Bob’s comments? I wanted to get a copy and also reply to him.

    Also he was quoting something from Hoyle – where is that?

  • Glenn November 11, 2009, 11:23 am

    Ken, click on “older comments” to see, well, the older comments (including Bob’s).

  • Ken November 11, 2009, 11:38 am

    Thanks Glenn – missed that.

  • Ken November 11, 2009, 12:25 pm

    Now, Bob, I can appreciate that you as you say, “didn’t know anything about this before” [reading] Glenn’s post.” However, this should have suggested to you a bit of humility and warned you to actually read a bit more deeply (there are some fabulous modern books on astronomy available) before lining up with Glenn against everyone else – including all astronomers.

    You should surely have been aware of the trap of “quote mining.” You have searched for a quote to use to support a position – and produced something out of context. I am sure if I had Hoyle’s book I could produce quotes from it to show that he accepted that the earth orbited the sun. Unfortunately I can’t find the text of that book on-line.

    This particular quote from Hoyle is commonly used by creationists and crackpot theologians to make various points. It is usually used inappropriately (much as you have used it Bob).

    You and Glenn have been confused about the use of words like geocentricism and heliocentrism – and are therefore taking quotes like this out of context.

    In the old day these were basically theological terms – Geocentricism was derived from scriptures and meant that the earth was the centre of the universe.

    As we started to use evidence rather than scripture this changed to a Heliocentric model – which considered the sun as the centre of the universe.

    More evidence, mathematics, etc., we started to accept that the sun was at the centre of the Solar System – and there was no such thing as the centre of the universe.

    In modern usage heliocentric usually means from the viewpoint of the sun, and geocentricism from the viewpoint of the earth. This is the way that Hoyle uses the terms. (Although we may also still talk about a heliocentric solar system meaning the planets orbit the sun).

    Now from Galilean relativity (later incorporated into Special relativity) it doesn’t matter what viewpoint you use and, for bodies undergoing uniform motion, one cannot say which body is moving in absolute terms. There is no such thing. We talk about relative motion. So we can determine relative motion – and we can determine when that motion changes because one or other, or both, of the bodies are accelerating (as it is if in orbit and if in a gravitational field).

    What this relativity means is that it doesn’t matter if Galileo was on the sun or the earth he would have still concluded that the earth orbited the sun.

    Now some of his evidence may have differed because of the viewpoint. Things appear to move in different directions, etc. But he would still have detected the orbiting of Jupiter’s moons. As an extra he would have detected the orbiting of our moon. He would have missed the phases of Venus (and all the other planets). So some things differ because of perspective. But the objective facts don’t change. The planets still orbit the sun. And Galileo’s observation and mathematical analysis would have produced the same conclusion.

    Hoyle’s quote is a clear support for the position I have described. Because of your preconceived position you have interpreted it wrongly. What it means is that the theological position is destroyed by relativity. We cannot say that either the earth or the sun (or anything) is at the centre of the universe. There is no such thing. But we can say, because of the mass of the objects, the gravitational fields, our measurement of the relationships between them and our detection of their acceleration (whatever our perspective) that the earth and other planets (and many other bodies in our solar system) orbit the sun.

    All this is pretty basic science which would be taught in schools.

    I think if you avoid words like heliocentricity and egocentricity and stick to the question of the relationship between the sun and the earth – which orbits which, you will be less confused.

  • Ken November 11, 2009, 12:30 pm

    Freudian slip in last sentence – I meant geocentricity, not egocentricity, although there might be something in that other word.

  • Glenn November 11, 2009, 1:11 pm

    Ken: “This particular quote from Hoyle is commonly used by creationists and crackpot theologians to make various points. It is usually used inappropriately (much as you have used it Bob).”

    Since you admit that you have never seen the book and do not know the context, it’s interesting that you claim as fact that Bob has misused Hoyle, and that Hoyle didn’t mean what he appears to mean.

    Funny, Hoyle says everything that would be necessary to express agreement what my point, yet because you are unwilling to think that a scientist could disagree with you (especially an astronomer of Hoyle’s standing), he couldn’t possibly mean what he seems to say.

    Ken, you need to re-think that method, because it rules out the possibility of learning.

  • Ken November 11, 2009, 2:07 pm

    I haven’t seen the book Glenn, either has you or Bob. To me the science in Hoyle’s statement is obvious. I think any other scientist would explain it to you in the same way.

    Ideally I would like to get the book and quote from it references to Hoyle referring to the earth orbiting the sun. Can’t do that, because the text is not available. So what about other writing of his. Most of his work was on cosmology, stellar genesis, element formation, etc. And, unfortunately, as I no longer have the subscription status I had before retirement most of his papers are only available to me as an abstract or first page. (His specific choice of journals for publication obviously don’t support Open Source).

    He’s a difficult man to get text from (although I noted that a lot of creationists sites use the quote Bob did). However, this from Evolution of Life: A Cosmic Perspective
    N. Chandra Wickramasinghe and Fred Hoyle
    where the authors refer to “resulting ejecta [from mars] orbited the sun until 13,000 years ago when it plunged into the Antarctic and remained buried there in ice until its discovery.” And “Carbonaceous chondrites can thus be thought of as fragments of biological comets that have been progressively stripped of volatiles, and within which sedimentation and compaction of microorganisms may have occurred over hundreds of orbits around the Sun.”

    Now they are on their hobby horse of panspermia – but the point is their concept of the solar system which has planets, meteors and other bodies orbiting the sun.

    I only did a brief search for “orbit” but I think it’s clear that Hoyle has the same picture of the solar system as all other astronomers today. Of the planets, meteors, asteroids, comets, etc., orbiting the sun.

    What about this though? You are the one making the claims. How about you producing a quote from Hoyle specifically referring to a denial that one can determine if the earth orbits the sun. Nothing to do with relativity – which you continue to interpret wrongly.

    OK – Hoyle is difficult to find quotes for. What about any other reputable astronomer?

    PS: Like any great scientist Hoyle had some things right and some things wrong. In my youth I would have agreed with him about the Steady State universe – not any longer. But then we have more evidence now – that’s how we learn.

    Hoyle was also known for making extreme and provocative statements which sometimes get used against science. But I have known many scientists like that. They are human after all.

    Just be aware that quote mining will usually give you the wrong take on the science. But then again – if that’s what you want, you will quote mine till you find what you want.

    Bob – do you understand my explanation of the Hoyle quote?

  • Glenn November 11, 2009, 3:57 pm

    “I only did a brief search for “orbit” but I think it’s clear that Hoyle has the same picture of the solar system as all other astronomers today”

    Not the point, Ken. The way you are replying really does suggest that you don’t quite understand what is being said to you. Are you sure you see the position I am advocating for what it is?

    Hoyle is pretty easy to find quotes for, in the following way: My local library has the book in question, and after work today I will be checking out a copy. I will get back to you and inform you of what Hoyle said and in what context. Then you can stop guessing about what he must have meant instead of what it looks like he meant.

    Watch this space.

  • Ken November 11, 2009, 4:51 pm

    “Not the point, Ken. “

    WTF is the point, then? You say Galileo was wrong – specifically about his picture of the solar system. And then you say I don’t understand!! What is there not to understand?

    How about a simple 1 or 2 sentence statement of your point. Was Galileo right or wrong about his claim that the earth orbits the sun?

    Well – we will see what you can find in the book. Specifically about the earth orbiting the sun.

  • Glenn November 11, 2009, 7:16 pm

    Ken, no need to get angry. I have been clear all along what I mean. I have been saying from the very beginning that the claim that the earth moves around the sun is no more objectively true than the view that the sun moves around the earth. I have stated that these two viewpoints would not require different observations to be made. In fact I believe I’ve even used the phrase “observationally identical.”

    That Hoyle has the same picture of the solar system as Galileo as far as observations go is, therefore, trivial and beside the point. If you don’t realise this, then you total lack of grasp on what is being said here (and also said by Hoyle) explains why you are responding as you are.

    I now hold in my hand a copy of Hoyle’s book, and as I suspected (but could not definitively claim until checking), you were wrong in your assumption about him. In fact, he meant to say exactly what Bob and I thought. That particular quote, far from being “mined” as you unfairly claimed (unfair because you admitted to not ever have read the work), is only reinforced at numerous other places int he same work, and definitely means what I have said.

    Ken, I know you will not be happy about me saying this – but given that you freely admitted to being completely unfamiliar with the connection between Einstein and this subject and given that you were absolutely confident that no reputable scholar would ever suggest the things I have suggested and (as you’ll soon see) a highly esteemed astronomer did just that, I would back of witht he hubris just a bit. You do, actually, have something to learn here. I’m not saying this to be adversarial.

    Now that I’ve had a further look at Hoyle’s work I’ve decided to writer “Part 2” to this blog where I sketch my initial argument and outline Hoyle’s strong support of it. In the meantime I’ll have a scout around and see if others have written on this too.

    Expect this new post within the next few days. Please be patient until then.

  • Ken November 11, 2009, 8:45 pm

    Well, Glenn, what about quoting and referincing whY Hoyle says about the earth orbiting the sun, vice versa, or stating it I’d possible to know?

    What about the quote from Hoyle that says Galileo was wrong?

    I have already quoted Hoyle’s comments about bodies orbiting the sun. Don’t be coy. If you can quote Hoyle saying they don’t and that Galileo was therefore wrong, let us have it. The actual quote – not your interpretation or unwarranted assertion.

  • Ken November 11, 2009, 8:49 pm

    Sorry, you may have to interpret some of those words. Not easy on an iPod.

  • Glenn November 11, 2009, 9:02 pm

    Ken – as I said, there’s a new blog post on the way where I will show that Hoyle supports the position that I have been maintaining here.

    Hoyle has no need to use the phrase that you demand – “Galileo was wrong.” It’s about whether or not he supported the idea that I am expressing. I am not interested in moving the goalposts for you now, and raising the hurdle so that you can deny that I am correct about Hoyle unless he uses that exact phrase, now that it looks like you might have to eat a little crow. It can be a very self improving exercise, Ken, trust me.

    So I say again – there will be a new post on this in the next few days. I have a couple of exams next week, so I’m a busy man at present. Patience is the order of the day.

  • Ken November 11, 2009, 10:20 pm

    Glenn – the idea you were expressing was that ”
    Galileo was wrong. Specifically stated “this guy was wrong”.

    This is what I have been asking evidence from you for.

    I suspect you may just try to repeat the essence of the quote used by Bob. If that is your plan then gave a careful read of my respose to Bob. I would expect you to understand and deal with my points. After all they were made as a clarification for Bob. As I said the quote from Hoyle actually supports the argument I have been making.

    By the way – Bob. Did you understand my explanation of Hoyle’s quote?

  • Glenn November 11, 2009, 10:27 pm

    Ken, once again, it is not necessary to find the words “Galileo was wrong” in Hoyle.

    I represented Galileo’s view as the conjunction of at least two claims: 1) it is objectively true that the earth moves around the sun, AND 2) it’s objectively false that the sun moves around the earth. It is, of course, far too late now for anyone to imply that this is not the view that I called “false.” Nobody intervened, saying “no, wait, that’s not Galileo’s view.” So I am assuming that you attribute this view, the one that I call false, to Galileo. So do I. The essence of my post was to state why this view is wrong, and this exact same explanation of astronomical facts is expressed by Hoyle. Too late for goalpost shifting. Too late to attribute a different argument to me. it’s all on the record.

    And yes, this position of mine, as clearly and repeatedly expressed by myself in the original blog post and again in the comments is indeed endorsed by Hoyle.

    As for the quote from Hoyle that you commented on, you have misunderstood him, as you will see after a few days. But look – now you’re building up the dramatic tension by forcing me to remind you to be patient! Not all of us are retired, you know!

  • Ken November 11, 2009, 11:28 pm

    There is an issue of professional integrity here, Glenn.
    You did say Galileo was wrong to claim the planets orbit the sun. You claimed that this position, and the alternative sun orbiting the earth were equally wrong. That is what is at issue.

    Now you justified your poition by using a midundertsanding of Galilean relativity. I believe you are still confused in your understanding of this and that is why you cannot see what Hoyle is saying in Bob’s quote. A hint, although I have already explained it, is in appreciating how Hotle uses the tea heliocentric and geocentric as applying to the concept of a priveliged position in the universe – not to the solar system. Galilean relativity says there is no priveliged
    position.

    But this is irrelevant to the structure of the solar system which we know is composed of bodies orbiting the sun. You deny we can know that. So your task is to find a credible quite in this book saying that. Saying Galileo was wrong or that we just don’t know if the anets and other bodies in our solar syst orbit the sun.

    I have made that clear many times and stress it now so that you are aware that further attempts to create confusion over relativity as regards heliocentricity or geocentricity of the universe are going to be obvious.

  • Glenn November 12, 2009, 12:08 am

    Ken, again, you have not even read Hoyle. I can tell you that you are making an incorrect claim about what he was referring to based on how he uses terms.

    And also again, I have made my position crystal clear, and don’t need to change it. My position was, and is: Heliocentrism (your term in post 1 for the view that the earth, as an objective fact, moves around the sun and not vice versa) and geocentrism (the view that the sun, as an objective fact, moves around the earth and not vice versa are both wrong. Galileo, I have said (and nobody has corrected me), advocated the former view, and for that reason, he was wrong. Hoyle provides support for this conclusion by supporting the claim I make about the earth and the sun.

    Again, Ken: Patience. You’re like a kid full of food colouring and sugar!

  • Nick November 12, 2009, 6:29 am

    I think Ken makes a very good summary of the facts in his November 11, 2009 at 12:25 pm post, so I have nothing more to add to that.

    Glen, your point is not hard to understand. Of course you can look at things from different frames of reference, of course later knowledge gained by Newton and Einstein provides a more correct model of reality than that provided by Galileo. This is obvious.

    I don’t personally know what Galileo believed (he was a little before my time), and I have not read any of his books (a bit remiss on my part, but I have heard that he had a few constraints on his writing), but he was correct for backing an heliocentric model because that is what his evidence showed. This was major progress over what came before as it set the scene (along with his other work) for everything that came later. Imagine trying to come up with a theory of gravitation consistent with the Ptolemaic system.

    I strongly suspect that the root problem here harks back to your views on knowledge. The way that you sprinkle words such as “objectively” and “literally” around in your original post provides, I think, the key to your thinking. Example:

    The point I want to drive home is that Galileo clearly thought that the view held by those clergy who opposed him (namely that the sun travels around the earth) was literally false, and that his view (that the earth travels around the sun) was literally true.

    Your usage of the word “literally” here is the smoking gun. What exactly does “literally true” or “literally false” mean? I suspect this is related to your belief in 100% certain knowledge. Judged to this standard, then all models of reality are incorrect. Although a much better word is incomplete.

    The most obvious and often used example here is Newtonian mechanics which provides a very good approximation that is later superseded by Einstein, which provides a much better approximation. You will find that Newtonian mechanics is still used today for all sorts of calculations. But you will have heard all the before.

    The point is, there will always be some observations that are problematic when it comes to knowledge. This is also the case with general relativity (search Pioneer anomaly perhaps). This does not make the knowledge untrue, unless you define “true” as meaning 100% certain. It just means that there is some level of uncertainty.

    So how then do we handle knowledge in an uncertain universe? This seems to be something that a lot of (but not all, or only) religious people have trouble with. The answer is: We need to evaluate as best as possible the levels of (un)certainty about the knowledge when we are using it. We need to balance the risks brought about by these uncertainties when applying the knowledge, and also be clear about the context and limitations about any piece of knowledge. Last but not least, we need to also review, refine and/or correct knowledge in the light of new evidence. Does this sound familiar to you? Of course I am referring to the “scientific method” in all it’s many wonderful/messy forms. You might have heard Ken making some mention of this on his blog 🙂

    The fact is that Galileo was right to challenge the Ptolemaic system of planetary motion for the simple fact that he had better evidence for the Copernican model. The fact also is, that the church were not interested in the evidence, but were instead interested in controlling what people thought.

    This brings me to my last point. What were you actually trying to achieve with your post? Increasing knowledge definitely doesn’t seem to be your objective. It seems to me that your objective is to raise doubts about scientific knowledge in the mind’s of people who read this that don’t necessarily know better. Perhaps you feel that science is attacking your cherished beliefs, so you must defend the ramparts.

    Thats probably enough for one post. The very last thing. If anybody is reading this thread and would like to know in more detail where Glenn stands on the 100% certainty of knowledge issue, I would recommend you have a look at the following thread on Glenn’s blog:

    http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/index.php/nuts-and-bolts-what-is-knowledge/

    It’s a bit heavy going, but for entertainment value, you get to observe me “floundering like a fish out of water” or some such thing.

    PS. Good luck hitting the books….

  • Nick November 12, 2009, 7:02 am

    I forgot to mention one of the most important things about evaluating knowledge in an uncertain world. That is, how do we compare two competing hypotheses about something? The answer is: We compare and weigh the differing evidence.

    And a relevant example of this:

    Any object that orbits another can also be considered to orbit the other when looked at from the frame of reference of the other object.

    At this level, when considering the sun and the earth, you could equally validly say that the sun orbits the earth as that the earth orbits the sun, depending on your reference point.

    This changes however, when you look at the motion of the other planets (something that Galileo is famous for providing evidence of :-;)

    It is clear in this case that the other planets do not orbit the earth regardless of whether you use the sun or the earth as the reference point.

    What is also clear, is that the other planets also orbit the sun, and do so regardless of your reference point.

    We now have a clear point of difference between the two hypotheses (sun or earth centric). The fact that all the planets, including the earth appear to orbit the sun, but only the sun appears to orbit the earth (when taken from the earth ref point) is telling us something.

    It is telling us there there must be an underlying reason behind this behavior (something to do with the sun perhaps).

    Given this information, then it should be clear that taking the sun as the reference point is more correct, and that a heliocentric model has more explanatory power. In short, a heliocentric model is more correct than an earth centric model.

    Pretty much every comparison of competing hypotheses can be broken down in a similar fashion. Without the ability to compare hypotheses in this way, we could gain no knowledge. Something that any self respecting (self declared?) epistemologist should be right into I would have thought.

  • ropata November 12, 2009, 9:00 am

  • Glenn November 12, 2009, 9:28 am

    No, nick. My use of “objective” and “literal” here does not in any way, shape or form relate to my view on knowledge (externalism). I think my use of those terms is very clear.

    PS. Externalism, the view I hold, is not the view that we must experience 100% certainty in order to have knowledge. This is just a further illustration of how you misunderstand epistemology.

  • Bob November 12, 2009, 10:11 am

    “What is also clear, is that the other planets also orbit the sun, and do so regardless of your reference point. ”

    But they don’t orbit the sun. In fact the sun also moves/orbits.

  • Ken November 12, 2009, 11:12 am

    Glenn, thanks for clearly stating your position. It is exactly as I thought it was. Exactly as I have been arguing against and clearly shows the origin of the confusion in your specific definitions of heliocentricism and geocentricism.

    So your position – in your own words – is:

    “My position was, and is: Heliocentrism (your term in post 1 for the view that the earth, as an objective fact, moves around the sun and not vice versa) and geocentrism (the view that the sun, as an objective fact, moves around the earth and not vice versa are both wrong. Galileo, I have said (and nobody has corrected me), advocated the former view, and for that reason, he was wrong.”

    Hoyle’s quote actually does not support your position – because his use of the words geocentricity and heliocentricity have the normal definitions (relationship to the universe, not solar system).

    Hoyle’s quote, as for Bob with the extra as usually added by creationist and theological web sites, is:

    “The relation of the two pictures [geocentricity and heliocentricity] is reduced to a mere coordinate transformation and it is the main tenet of the Einstein theory that any two ways of looking at the world which are related to each other by a coordinate transformation are entirely equivalent from a physical point of view … . Today we cannot say that the Copernican theory is “right” and the Ptolemaic theory “wrong” in any meaningful physical sense.”

    OK, we can’t necessarily trust creationist sources and one can well ask what was deleted where the …. are. But to me it sounds correct and I agree with the meaning of it completely as representing modern scientific views.

    Now, Glenn, be aware of, for example, the Wikiperdia definitions:

    heliocentrism is the theory that the Sun is stationary and at the center of the universe.” and the Copernican principle means “the Earth is not in a central, specially favoured position” in the universe.

    And:

    the Ptolemaic principle “that the Earth is the center of the universe and other objects go around it.”

    With those clear and traditional meanings of heliocentricism, copernican, geocentricsim and ptolemaic, we can see that Einstein’s Special relativity (basically in this case Galilean relativity) applies. Neither of these positions agrees with reality because that says there is no preferred position. Everything must be considered relative. There is no centre to the universe.

    Your mistake is that you have taken that correct principle, the one that all astronomers including Hoyle agree with, and then applied it to different meanings of the words heliocentricism and geocentricism.

    You are using those words to describe models of the solar system – not the universe.

    It is really very simple and very clear. I would think that even the average science student at school could see this.

    Yes, Glenn, I have read a bit of Hoyle (so I can appreciate and understand his style) – but not this book and clearly I don’t have access to it. However, I can clearly understand what he says in these quotes. It may help that I have had some training in this sort of thing but I would have thought the meaning should be clear to anyone.

    I agree with Nick that your problems with this discussion possibly originate from your concept of knowledge which, to me, seems to conflict with scientific epistemology.

    Bob, from your most recent comment I see you still do not understand the issue. The fact that the planets and other bodies orbit the sun is accepted by all astronomers. The sun also orbits – but it orbits the Galaxy, not the earth, mars, the moon, every comet, asteroid, speck of dust. That would be stupid.

    Bob, I hope with this comment and the previous one explaining Hoyle’s quote that this is now clear to you. If not, can explain specifically what aspect you have problems with.

  • Glenn November 12, 2009, 11:19 am

    Ken, once again, it is unwise of you to make confident claims about how Hoyle uses the terms if you have not even read Hoyle. Having read the chapter in question and observed what Hoyle himself says that he is talking about, I am in a position to know that your assumption – one that you admit is not informed by having read the work in question – is just flat wrong.

    You will see this when I present the post elaborating on what Hoyle said. Don’t you think it’s best to minimise the amount of crow you’ll have to eat by waiting until you’ve seen the facts?

  • Nick November 12, 2009, 11:22 am

    Your usage of the words “objective” and “literal” seem to the the linch pins of whatever you are trying to say. What do you mean by them then?

    Do you or do you not accept that all knowledge is functionally/practically provisional?

    Can you see why a heliocentric model is more correct than a geocentric model given my previous explanation? Or are you still saying these are equally incorrect.

    Of course a general relativistic model is also more correct than a simple heliocentric model.

    The 100% certainty point was the impression I was left with after the last discussion with you. I don’t think this was something you directly said. But it certainly seems to fit with this post also. Particularly as you seem to not be able to distinguish the quality difference between an heliocentric vs a geocentric model of the solar system.

    But again, I would ask, what are you trying to achieve with your post? If as I suspect, your are trying to discredit/devalue science, then congratulations, you certainly seem to have successfully confused Bob about the orbit of the planets.

  • Glenn November 12, 2009, 11:24 am

    Oh, and Ken, in addition to the fact that I know that Hoyle meant to talk about the relationship between the earth and the sun, as a second and also sufficient rebuttal to you is to point you to what you yourself have quoted. According to you, Hoyle is saying that it’s not objectively false to claim “that the Earth is the center of the universe and other objects go around it.”

    Really Ken? Even the sun? Oh dear.

    So there are two responses: Firstly I know that Hoyle was actually talking about which goes around which: the earth, or the sun. That’s also what I was originally talking about, and have been all along.

    Secondly, if Hoyle said what you claim he said, then he was also saying that Galileo was wrong, for if the entire universe revolves around the earth, then the sun does too.

    Double fail.

  • Nick November 12, 2009, 11:45 am

    You seem to think that mining up a load of Hoyle quotes from a book that nobody else has access to is going to win you some sort beauty contest Glenn.

    Can’t you describe what you mean in your own words? Or failing that, surely in the whole big wide internet you could find some sort of reference information (including context) to link to that explains what you mean for you.

    But this is not what you really want is it? Clarity and understanding are enemies to your true purpose. Which as far as I can see is to try to and devalue Galileo’s contribution to science and humanity by dragging him down to the level of the ignorant, persecuting and dictatorial church authorities at the time.

    This sort of stuff is precisely why the concept of non overlapping magesteria does not cut it.

  • Ken November 12, 2009, 12:05 pm

    Glenn – this sounds a bit like revelation to me. “I know what God (Hoyle) thinks, take my word for it. You don’t have the access to God (Hoyle) that I have”

    No, we don’t have that book – and you can therefore put whatever words you like into his mouth (after all this is what the tele-preachers do, don’t they?).

    But you forget that scientific knowledge is available to everyone. We don’t need to rely on a specific book (scripture or revelation). That is what you must deal with.

    However, I don’t believe you can find anything in Hoyle to support you on this specific issue (he has some weird statements in other areas which theists us). And, I have already quoted from one of his papers which makes clear that he supports the view that the earth and other bodies in the solar system orbit the sun. Of course, you have ignored those specific quotes because you can’t manipulate them.

    However, it is going to be fun to see you try distorting some more extracts. Let the show begin.

    But I am not holding my breath and am willing to continue this discussion with Bob, who is the only other person supporting your viewpoint here.

  • Ken November 12, 2009, 1:13 pm

    Nick you make a valid point about the current attempts to whitewash the church, discredit Galileo and misconstrue modern science.

    This surely shows that Gould’s idea of NOMA really doesn’t hold water – nor should it be allowed to get off without criticism.

    It’s incredible the arrogance of many theists today who make scientific claims (like the current one) despite their complete lack of expertise or any attention being paid to accumulated scientific knowledge.

    I think this is basically because religion, in its more popular formats, does intrude into the area of science because it attempts to make fact claims about reality.

    (I am sure they feel we intrude into their space when we attempts to objectively investigate consciousness, morality and the evolution of religion. So conflict is inevitable).

    This is starting to piss off many scientists so there will be some sort of fight-back. Richard Dawkins normally strikes me as very much a gentleman but I have heard him get angry in a few situations Particularly when he gets some moron ring up during a radio interview to inform him there is no evidence for evolution, there is no fossil evidence, or that there are no transitional forms in fossils. (The other time has been on panels when an Islamic cleric tries to justify the death penalty for apostasy). His anger is pretty understandable.

    More scientists are now challenging the accomadationist attitude towards religion and the idea that it is somehow impolite to critique religious claims. We are actually taking off the kid gloves and starting to treat the religious as adults with claims that should undergo the same evidence requirements as any other claim about reality.

    So, I see more conflict in the future – it is a conflict that some religious people deny – but they should be honest about what is causing it.

    Another religious claim I hear lately is that science grew out of Christianity. This is a silly claim, easily shown to be untrue and culturally insensitive to Islam, the Greeks, the Indians, the Chinese, the Egyptians, the Romans, etc.

    I can see this is one that we will have to spend some time arguing about.

  • Bob November 12, 2009, 2:40 pm

    I’m a bit confused now with all the anger and hostility.

    The points that Glenn’s post is trying to make is that, scientific theory should not be taught as fact.

    Was Galileo right or wrong? Well he was right about somethings and wrong about other things. But he was wrong to claim his scientific theory as fact because in fact his scientific theory has been shown to be less than correct.

    He held heliocentrism:

    In astronomy, heliocentrism is the theory that the Sun is stationary and at the center of the universe.

    We now know this is not correct. And this means that the view that Galileo represented in his time as fact, was not so.

    This is not to discredit Galileo or any scientist, but to illustrate that no scientific theory should be taught as fact. History is littered with such examples we can learn from.

    On another note, discussion about theory vs fact is not scientific domain, but the domain of philosophy.

    “Another religious claim I hear lately is that science grew out of Christianity.”

    I think you meant modern western science? Also any reference on who made that exact claim?

    But for start, don’t forget that Galileo was a theist (religious). From Wikipedia:

    Galileo has been called the “father of modern observational astronomy,”[6] the “father of modern physics,”[7] the “father of science,”[7] and “the Father of Modern Science.”[8] Stephen Hawking says, “Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science.”[9]

  • Glenn November 12, 2009, 3:09 pm

    Ken, you’re merely lying when you imply that I am whitewashing the church. You know that I have said the church was wrong. You are lying.

    You’re also getting desparate now and further poisoning the well by suggesting that I will simply put words in Hoyle’s mouth. Your lack of patience is surprising for a grown man. Why not simply wait to see what I reproduce from Hoyle?

    Nick: “Can’t you describe what you mean in your own words?” I already have. Even Ken, obstinate though he has been, has admitted this.

    Nick, the reason that I will be using Hoyle is not because I cannot express my view. I have done so very clearly. I will be using Hoyle to show that Ken’s claim is false when he alleges that absolutely no reputable astronomer/physicist would support my position.

    It’s also premature and pre-judgmental to say that what I will be doing with Hoyle is “quote mining.” Like Ken, you actually need to see what I say about Hoyle before making this claim.

    All of this confirms that both of you are not willing to listen, as you have pre-judged all matters.

    Fine. My next post on the subject will be for the fair minded. The best thing to do at this stage is to close this thread, and you can all be patient, then observe the evidence about what Hoyle said, and comment after you’ve seen it.

  • Matt November 12, 2009, 4:40 pm

    Maybe I wasn’t very precise with my sentence there Glenn. Here, I will correct it for you:

    “believing that something was true without requiring evidence/justification” without the punishment bit.

    Then Nick, Glenn’s point would still stand because all foundationalists accept this, whether externalist or internalist. Moreover, taking the term “evidence/justification” the way Glenn meant it pretty much all coherentist systems (which are internalist) believe this too. There is almost no one in epistemology who believes that every true belief needs to be justified by an inference from another (which is how the term evidence is used in the context Glenn is refering to) and this has been pretty much established since the time of Aristotle.

    Thats the problem Nick, people like you and Ken come in, make outright false statements showing you misunderstand the basics of another field and then repeat these dogmatically.

  • Glenn November 12, 2009, 5:13 pm

    OK, as promised, I’m closing this comment thread.

    The primary reason for doing this is that people (especially Ken) are endlessly making claims that are repeats of earlier claims, and which are actually claims about Hoyle that need to be based on what Hoyle said. At this stage, I’m the only one with a copy of Hoyle’s book. In the post that I am putting together, I am including sufficient material from Hoyle to clearly demonstrate what he actually meant, so the need for speculation on Ken’s part (and the part of anyone else wishing to engage in it) will not continue.

    I’d like this discussion (when it continues after the next blog on the subject) to maintain a high level of honesty. That will mean not pretending to know what a person meant beyond what they actually said.

    Until then
    Glenn