Friday, March 07, 2008

Yea, the world is established; it shall never be moved.




I was absolutely stunned. This is 2008 right? Thats what I thought until I was at the regular coffee hour at my parish after Mass and someone brought up Geocentrism as a serious topic. Let me give you some background.

As a "Presbyterian" church that had a decidedly Evangelical/Slightly-Fundamentalist Youth Program, we had been exposed to a whole range of scientific theories. We were shown videos and had lessons about how man walked with the dinosaurs and how the earth was really only 6000 years old. Top that with the notion that in my younger days I went around trying to convince people (very few) of this. It kind of stuck into my head for a few years and eventually vanished as I got on with high school and college. So I wasn't unfamiliar with Geocentrism per say...

For those unfamiliar, Geocentrism is the theory that the Earth is stationary and the solar system, nay, the entire universe, revolves around it. Before I go any further, lest I sound demeaning, it is important to note that the people who believe these theories are extremely faithful and well meaning people. They have real reasons to adopt this theory and as strange as it may seem to the modern hearer, the arguments to make you doubt Heliocentrism sound more convincing as they go along. I respectfully disagree with Geocentrism and respectfully think its wrong. That doesn't mean they don't make some good points worthy of some thought...

Moving forward . . .

It all began as we were drinking our coffee and tea (I'm off coffee for lent, remember?). They all know I'm a convert and so we were talking about some Protestant TV show someone else saw about Creation and Evolution. All's fine there until I mentioned the videos and how I was taught the Earth was only 6000 years old, when a gentleman at the table says "Well, thats true!" I didn't even know what to say. He began to explain that Heliocentrism is all just theory and nobody really knows and we don't have the actual technology to really tell if we are going around the Sun or its the other way around. We only rely on what other people tell us they believe is going on and it just represents their pagan world view. In other words, Heliocentrism is a matter of faith. At that point I was in stunned silence. Someone else chimed in with another point, mainly in agreement with the first. Then the Bible verses came out. There was mention of the fact the Bible says the sun rises and sets, which indicates IT as the mover and not the Earth. Okay. But I explained this was allegorical and not to be taken as a literal meaning, written from a human perspective.

"But then you are messing with the Holy Spirit."

At this point I realized I was in the midst of several Biblical literalists. I did not know the Catholic Church had any of them. In fact, being a Biblical literalist is not Catholic and to my knowledge never has been. Now, my Douay-Rheims reprinted from the 1700/1800s does have a table of dates in the back referring to "Anno Mundi" and "Anno Domini" (Year of the World and Year of Our Lord" so at some point it is true that the Church was cool with the 6000 year theory. But in the 1800s the Pope allowed Heliocentric theory books to be published. So all this kind of went away eventually.

But they didn't just use the Bible as a reference but also Saints and Fathers of the Church. Here is a sampling I found on the ScriptureCatholic.com:

Clement of Rome: the Creator, long-suffering, merciful, the sustainer, the benefactor, ordaining love of men, counselling purity, immortal and making immortal, incomparable, dwelling in the souls of the good, that cannot be contained and yet is contained, who has fixed the great world as a centre in space, who has spread out the heavens and solidified the earth (Homily II, Ch XLV)

Geocentrists are correct in a couple things. First is that us regular non-scientist types put our faith in more learned people that us to figure stuff out. We believe them. Its like Global Warming. Some people believe it and others do not (like the founder of the Weather Channel...does not). But really we have no idea and we lemmings pretty much believe whatever we're told by someone claiming to be an expert or a scientist or whatever. Its true.

Second they make this point. If you have two objects floating in space and they are getting closer...which one is moving and how can you tell? How can you tell motion if there is no fixed point of reference? Hrm . . .

The alternative though is to doubt EVERYTHING we are told until we, individually, can prove it otherwise. We can't function like that. Nobody would ever be able to study history or science because we could never personally prove that history itself exists, and we don't live long enough to re-invent or re-discover every scientific theory on a personal level. It is all faith. All of it.

As an aside, it is worth noting that an atheist would use this exact argument against the existence of God. You can't prove 100% to me that God exists. Well no, I can't, its a matter of faith. Its a matter of faith that I can reason with you as you can reason and show me little pictures of planets in different spots in the sky on different days and tell me we're on moving together. You can show me closeups of the little lights in the sky, I still have to buy your theory. Right?

So they have that much going for their argument. However what this all boils down to is whether or not Heliocentrism holds up under a reasonable doubt microscope. I believe it does. If we look at other solar systems we clearly see (or do we? and who is we?) other planets going around their suns. We have other planets around us and they are also moving around our sun. To me that's a good enough theory.

And you know what? It doesn't really make a bit of difference to my faith whether Helio- or Geocentrism is the truth. But it absolutely does if you are a Biblical literalist.

So honestly God Bless all the Geocentrists and Heliocentrists alike. I am not a literalist, but I do take the Bible literally, which is in line with the Catholic Church. That means if the Bible says it is raining Cats and Dogs then its pouring outside. But when it says the Red Sea parts with walls of water on both sides of the Israelites...then there were walls of water on both sides..etc.

I'm going to end this now but I would love to hear some experiences with Geocentrism. I would even love to hear from people who hold the view as their belief. I didn't write this to be condescending at all, just to document my experience.

Peace.

3 comments:

Moonshadow said...

Heliocentrism is all just theory and nobody really knows and we don't have the actual technology to really tell ...

The agnosticism that goes along with post-modernism is just too convenient sometimes, isn't it?

I would wager that Catholics holding this view have been influenced by evangelical fundamentalists at some point.

I have no idea why it's so important to some Christians that the Bible be accurate in terms of science and history.

I blogged a long-winded citation of some church documents on the biblical account of creation here. Among them, the PBC document was authored, of course, by Pope Benedict when he was at the CDF.

Tim said...

wow... just... wow...

quickbeamoffangorn said...

"There was mention of the fact the Bible says the sun rises and sets, which indicates IT as the mover and not the Earth. Okay. But I explained this was allegorical and not to be taken as a literal meaning, written from a human perspective."

QB: Correct, but you can take it literally as viewed from the author on earth. We don't say that the earth sets in the east, everyone would think your a loon, but that is what literally happens when viewed from space. The bible is instructive for morals, it's not a science book.

"But in the 1800s the Pope allowed Heliocentric theory books to be published. So all this kind of went away eventually."

Actually the church always allowed heliocentric THEORY (as opposed to Imperical fact).

I wrote in my blog on Galileo vs. the Pope B16 here, might be on some help.

An excellent book entitled "The Sun in the church" is a dry but interesting read (astronomy is a hobby of mine).http://www.math.nus.edu.sg/aslaksen/teaching/heilbron.html


http://quickbeamoffangorn.wordpress.com/2008/01/17/galileo-vs-pope-benedict-xvi-or-university-minority-suspends-free-speech/

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton