Which is central, the Sun or the Earth?

Discussion in 'Natural Revelation and God's Creation' started by JennyG, Nov 1, 2009.

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  1. JennyG

    JennyG Puritan Board Graduate

    I'm interested to know what everyone thinks, because besides being a fascinating subject in itself, this seems to me to be of serious cultural and spiritual importance. The universal mental picture of Earth as peripheral and insignificant, one of the obscurest among a myriad inhabited planets, must have done more to undermine the Biblical world-view than almost anything else except biological evolution (to which it's closely related).

    This isn't intended as a question for scientists, and I don't mean to start a technical discussion of the scientific evidence for or against. As a non-scientist, I have to approach it differently.

    My starting point is just the fact that there IS scientific evidence for geocentricity. Who even knew that?? It seems to be a remarkably well-kept secret as far as the average layman is concerned.
    I have only now discovered (for eg) that for the purpose of predicting eclipses and so on, the geocentric model and the heliocentric fit equally well with observational evidence. It's just that this fact gets no publicity: not surprisingly when for any serious astronomer to suggest that the evidence points to geocentricity would mean the instant loss of all academic credibility (it's exactly the same with Young Earth Creationism). There are many who do think so, but their views are not going to make headlines any time soon.

    However (this is the crux) if there is "good enough" scientific support for both positions without demonstrable consensus, - shouldn't Christians be looking to the Bible to tell us which is the true model?
    - and surely Scripture on balance asserts geocentricity much more unambiguously than it could possibly be said to assert the contrary.
    Besides, Earth is undeniably the spiritual centre of all things, so failing extraordinarily conclusive counter-evidence, one would naturally expect it also to be physically central (as is in fact powerfully implied in the account of Creation week).
    Finally, as soon as I question how come in that case heliocentricity could have gained universal credence - I know the answer.
  2. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    I just want to point out that whatever answer you give in regard to the solar system, you also have to think of the position of our solar system within the universe.
  3. JennyG

    JennyG Puritan Board Graduate

    Sure - same answer, basically, I think!
  4. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    I'd say 'neither'. God is central.


    Such as mental picture leads to good theology, not bad. The error most modern men hold is not that they are insignificant in comparison with God and his creation, but that they are important and the universe rotates around them, not its creator.
  5. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    Genesis 1:16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.

    Notice this geocentric bias or perspective in the creation narrative. Though dwarfed by stars the earth and moon are given top billing in this account. The stars are almost an after-thought from the narrator’s point of view.

    EJ Young brings this out beautifully in his IN THE BEGINNING commentary on Genesis 1-3.

    We say the sky is up; "up" from what? From our terrestrial space-time view.
  6. JennyG

    JennyG Puritan Board Graduate

    God is central of course....but not in a physical sense.
    I think that's a slightly misleading way of putting it.
    If modern men see the earth as (physically) peripheral, what that leads to in practice is the inference that God's purposes, which as the scriptures make plain centre upon it, are discounted. That's different from the egoism of the individual soul which sees itself (not literally) as the centre of the universe
  7. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    Motion is relative to the observer. The Earth is the center for those of us who are observing the stars from Earth. For the rest of the space cadets, it's wherever they happen to be standing at the moment.

    Heliocentricity is only useful to those trying to track movement in the relatively small group of heavenly bodies called the Solar System.
  8. VaughanRSmith

    VaughanRSmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    The Bible doesn't offer a specific cosmological scheme (in the way that it does for creation, etc.), and to argue that it does opens you up to some pretty odd things. It's ok to be a 6-day creationist and still believe in literary genres and metaphors, in my opinion.
  9. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    1. What do you mean by "central"? The average (or instantaneous?) center of mass of the solar system? The point about which the objects of the solar system rotate? The most important part of the solar system?

    If the latter, then it certainly depends upon the context of the discussion. From a physics/cosmological perspective, the sun is the most massive and therefore the most important part of the solar system. Without it, the planets wouldn't be in the ordered structure that they are. From a theological perspective, on the other hand, God's redemptive plan is centered on Earth.

    Mathematically, if I'm not mistaken, the heliocentric theory is simpler than the geocentric theory. While both "work", the simpler of the two is clearly the more desirable, per Occam's Razor.

    On another note, I read a wildly speculative Scientific American article which was trying to get away from the fact that the Earth seemed to be central to the universe. I'm still not sure why. :)

    edit: I almost forgot. The Bible isn't a science book, so it doesn't usually help to use it like one.
  10. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    No, I don't think that God meant for us to perceive the earth as being central. Most of the time God speaks in a language in which we can understand and relate. For God to speak to us using examples of a distant galaxy which we are not even aware of would be counteractive to our learn. He brings lessons down to our understandable level. That doesn't make it wrong but it doesn't make science either. For example, God states in the Bible that the sun rises and sets. He states it this way for our (or more to the point those ppl before us) understanding. We can actually see the sun setting or rising. Is it wrong to say this? No, but does it confirm what science really is? No. We know that the earth rotates and that's what makes the sun look like it is setting or rising. So just bc God speaks in a way which seems to confirm geocentricity does not mean that it is. It only means that God is speaking to us "where we are". God speaks about the earth with more emphasis bc this is where His ppl live.....we don't live on the sun. Our galaxy could be the centralized galaxy no one on this side of heaven will ever know. But certainly the earth is not centralized. The earth along with the other planets revolve around the sun not the other way around. :2cents:
  11. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist Staff Member

    The Earth orbits the sun.

    Sorry folks.

    And it has NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING to do with its significance.
  12. Montanablue

    Montanablue Puritan Board Doctor

    I thought this thread was a joke. Then I read it.

    Oh dear.
  13. JennyG

    JennyG Puritan Board Graduate

    but why would someone like me believe that?
    I look up, and I see all the heavenly bodies go round. Nothing in God's word contradicts that impression. Rather, it tends to confirm it.
    I had a good education, but it included very little science so I'm forced to go by authority where scientific subjects are concerned.
    You say the Earth goes round the sun, but a Bible-believing astronomer like Gerhardus Bouw says not. He's as well qualified to judge as the next astronomer, plus it's blindingly obvious why he doesn't get general agreement.
    I use Scripture to decide, and conclude that when Joshua told the sun, not the earth, to stand still, that was what he meant!

    -----Added 11/1/2009 at 03:26:08 EST-----

    I set out my logical steps as clearly as I could....can you explain which one is "oh dear" ?!:p
  14. Montanablue

    Montanablue Puritan Board Doctor

    Jenny, you say that you are not well educated in science. Fair enough, but when it comes to a question like this, you really ought to educate yourself before making assertions. If not, you'll simply repeat the errors that the Roman Church made in the early 1600s. I don't think any Reformed teachers would say that we are meant to take everything in the Bible absolutely literally - some things are metaphors. For instance, in Psalm 8 there is a reference to the "paths of the sea" (in vs. 3, I think?). Obviously, this doesn't mean that there are literal walking paths through the sea. The psalmist is referencing currents.

    I would encourage you to read the the history of the Catholic church's suppression of heliocentrism - it may be easier to see the problems with an absolutely literal interpretation of all scripture if you read it in a historic perspective. Perhaps others could recommend some books or readings on how we interpret the Bible - knowing that it is all God-inspired, but also recognizing that there are metaphors, poetic language etc.

    I don't say this to be mean, so please don't take it that way. I'm just concerned that your rejection of heliocentrism based on a few Bible veses may point to a larger issue with the way that you read Scripture.
  15. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist Staff Member

    Was Julius Caesar actually a real person?

    Will the drug that the doctor prescribes for your stomach pain relieve your symptoms?

    We have to take a lot of stuff on authority. If you don't want to, then that's fine. Don't. Be willfully ignorant, if that is what you wish to do. But don't disdain taking things on authority - since you are doing just that with Mr. Bouw's opinions. You are just as guilty of taking his word as anyone else is who happens to take mine, or that of any other scientist.

    I as a Bible-believing physicist say that Bouw is wrong. He is misunderstanding Scripture in that Scripture writes from the point of view of man. Scripture does NOT demand that the Sun orbits the earth, despite what woodenly-literal readers want to make it say.

    Does Bouw believe the Earth is flat and has four corners? If not, why not?

    Does he believe that God has wings, and arms, and fingers?

    Does he believe that Jesus Christ is a wooden door?

    Despite what Bouw says there is NO scientific evidence that the Sun orbits the Earth. It just isn't there. The evidence that the Earth orbits the sun is so overwhelming as to be totally unquestionable. The byzantine and frankly ridiculous things that would have to occur for a geocentric model of the solar system to work out - the things that have to be explained away are far more than one could ever hope to explain. The simple matter of the fact is that the Earth orbits the Sun, as do all the other planets. There is no scientific or Biblical reason to insist on geocentrism. By stridently taking the position he does, Bouw is the kind of "scientist" that brings unnecessary reproach to Christians who are scientists. The reason he does not garner broad agreement is because he is flat out wrong. The evidence cannot support his 'scientific conclusions'.

    That's fine. Take it as you will and ignore the clear evidence that denies the geocentric concept. The fact that the Sun appears to move in the sky does not mean it actually is moving around the Earth. You speak as though your "using Scripture to decide" is something that I am not doing. That is totally offensive. You are making accusations that I don't think you truly wish to make if you think about it.

    What you are doing is not "using Scripture to decide" but using Scripture inappropriately. You are forcing Scripture to do something it isn't meant to do. It is sufficient to teach what it is meant to teach - it is NOT sufficient to teach what it is NOT attempting to teach. Just because Joshua told the sun to stand still and it did does not mean that the way it occurred was for God to stop it from moving. Whatever occurred at that point was a miraculous work of God and how it occurred is irrelevant. Whether God stopped the Sun moving about the Earth or whether God stopped the Earth spinning on its axis - or in some other way suspended the normal operation of things - is totally irrelevant. God did it. It is recorded to have happened. We believe it because Scripture is an infallible record of the truth. However, it is also written from the perspective of men.

    Joshua had no clue about the real workings of the universe - and had no clue about the reason the Sun appears to move in the sky. However, he spoke as he understood things - and wanted the day to last longer - so he commanded the sun and moon to stand still. God honored that prayer by causing them to, in effect, stand still. How he did it was beyond Joshua's understanding. However, he honored that, and made what Joshua wanted to occur come to pass.

    The fact that the Earth orbits the sun belies NONE of this. It does not shake our confidence in Scripture, nor does it negate ANYTHING that Scripture teaches. We MUST read Scripture as Scripture is written, by whom it was written, and in terms of what it is to teach - that God almighty made this miraculous thing happen.
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  16. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Very nice post, Todd.
  17. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Wasn't the geocentric view largely expounded by Aristotle, then enforced as truth by the Roman church in the middle ages?
  18. Montanablue

    Montanablue Puritan Board Doctor

    Yes. The idea of a geocentric earth actually originated from the Greek philosophers - Aristotle and Ptolemy particularly. The Roman Church latched onto the idea and in typical style decided to persecute anyone that disagreed with them. Chinese philosophers also embraced geocentrism. (Who knew that mandatory world history class would ever come in handy!)
  19. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Todd, I think you're misreading Jenny here. She is acknowledging that not having the scientific expertise to figure it out for herself, she, like most of us, is accepting authority. So she can't be condemned for inconsistency in that regard. The authority who's convinced her happens to disagree with you and yours, but that's no reason to make accusations of wilful ignorance, etc.

    [Moderator]Ladies and Gentlemen, it would be very sad if we couldn't civilly discuss an issue of the relationship of science and Scripture. If you can't write without acting as though the other side is insane or deliberately unfaithful to Scripture, please refrain from posting altogether.[/Moderator]
  20. JennyG

    JennyG Puritan Board Graduate

    I don't think that was quite it, but I would have to look it up. All that stuff about Galileo is less straightforward than it seems.
    Dear me, I seem to have put my foot in it somewhat.
    Todd, did you really feel I was offensive?
    It was the last thing I would ever have intended, so please forgive me if so.
    I can't reply properly now though, I have an early start tomorrow.
    Hope some more people may have thoughts to contribute while I'm asleep.
    Will any one dare agree though....?:D

    -----Added 11/1/2009 at 04:10:56 EST-----

    Thanks, Ruben!
    That's what I was going to try saying tomorrow. Goodnight, God bless, thank you :)
  21. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    I learned that much from reading Wikipedia on the subject. :D
  22. Montanablue

    Montanablue Puritan Board Doctor

    Oh. Guess it was a waste of credit hours after all. :lol:
  23. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Rueben, what if the authority who convinced her isn't an authority? Is this one of those subjects that everyone's opinion counts equally? "I think the government brought down the two towers" " I think the world will end as we know it because of Y2K" "I think that the Septuagint is a myth" "I think that Saddam used WMD on US troops" " I think that unicorns exist".

    Isn't there a case for systematic, logical thinking in Christendom?
  24. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    "Dr. Gerardus D. Bouw also accepts the King James Bible as the inspired word of God for the English-speaking people." http://creationwiki.org/Gerardus_Bouw

    Ooohhh.... that explains it. :D

    (no offense KJVO's. :p)

    He does seem to have a PhD in astronomy from Case Western, so that might count for something.
  25. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Senior

    There is an entire association of geocentric astronomers and physicists world wide, including PhDs at Universities, and I am not sure they are all Christians either. Some, as with Intelligent Design, start with observation and not the bible. This is not as simple to brush off as Todd implies.

    First of all both models work for predictions such as retrograde motion of planets, ecclipses, etc. The geocentric one has the other planets orbiting sun, and all that goes around the earth. Yes the helio is simpler, but simple does not mean right.

    The main thing that geocentrists center on is the Michaelson-Morley experiments. When we measure waves in the electromagnetic spectrum such as radar waves for example, if we move towards the source or away from the source we either subtract or add our velocity to measure the speed of the wave. With sound waves (not in the EM spectrum) you experience this as the ambulance siren sounding higher or lower as it speeds to and from you. With radar you can figure out if the attack submarine is coming towwards you or away from you.

    Now lots of EM waves are measured this way- radio, X-rays, etc. Velocities are added and subtracted when the observer is moving. If you want Occam's razor simple, this is simple.

    So, scientists did these very clever set ups to record the light coming from a distant star. During half the year we are supposedly hurling towards the star as we orbit the sun, and the other half of the year we are moving away from the star. So measure the difference of the speed of the light in each direction to figure out the speed of rotation.

    One problem- they kept getting a zero value. The earth was not moving. They did this again (I think Sagnac was the other experimenter) and the earth's speed always comes out zero. This was a big problem and even the secular textbooks will freely admit what a huge problem it was.

    Along came Einstein the alleged great genius who asked us to lay aside Occam's simple razor, and the known laws of physics applying to the electromagnetic spectrum, and realize that visible light will measure the same to any observer whether you are speeding towards it, away, or standing still. And thus heliocentricity was saved.

    I am no astronomer or physicist, but I have read enough by those who are, men of top level education and brains, to know that there is a strong scientific community that rejects both Einstein's theory of relativity and heliocentricity and they have plenty of fine math and physics backing them up. This isn't just one maverick guy saying this.

    They cover everything you might be thinking of like the focault pendulum, satellites, the speed of the sun and stars daily around the earth ( the stars are nowhere as far away as you have been told) and all kinds of stuff.

    I'll go on record as saying that all this exegesis about how God said things to accommodate our perspective seems stretched to me. And certainly not simple.
  26. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I can allow that science might work with a variety of models and it would be unscientific to be dogmatic on a point for which there can only be limited evidence and experimentation. OTOH, the Bible provides one, and only one model, and that is the geocentric model, and the Bible is true in all it says. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God."
  27. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    #1: The Doppler effect is a shift in the frequency of the radiation, which is different than its velocity.

    #2: The Michelson-Morley experiment was set up to detect the presence of a luminiferous aether--and it failed, miserably. It doesn't have to do with measuring the speed of light coming from a distant star, but the speed of the hypothetical aether wind caused by the Earth moving through the aether at high velocities. See the Wikipedia page here: Michelson?Morley experiment - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    -----Added 11/1/2009 at 05:31:17 EST-----

    But the Bible doesn't explicitly provide a geocentric model; it's implicitly derived from linguistic expressions. Like I've said before, the Bible isn't a science textbook, intended to provide us with a model of the universe. We shouldn't treat it as such.

    -----Added 11/1/2009 at 05:33:17 EST-----

    The same argument can--and has been--made about evolutionary biology/cosmology. It's a weak argument at best.
  28. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Fascinating how quickly scientific questions can turn people into Bible experts. The miracle in Joshua is not a linguistic expression. The sun stood still. It is history!
  29. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    Well, think about it. If the Bible had said "The earth stood still", how impressive would that be? :)

    The point of the Bible was not to provide a cosmological model on a 21st-century level. It was to explain God's power, and it does so in such a way that it's understandable both to cultures with a geocentric cosmology and a heliocentric one. Saying "The sun stood still" gives a dramatic picture of what went on that is immediately and intuitively understandable by everyone, regardless of their level of scientific knowledge.
  30. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    For the geocentrists:

    I'm curious as to what you make of such things as the Hubble telescope, space missions, and other such things. It just seems to me that Biblical geocentrism, like the Biblical case for a flat earth, is rooted in a hermaneutic that may not be justified.

    For example, if I, a heliocentrist, say that watched a sunset with someone, does it follow from that that I mean that I saw the sun move? No, it just means that I'm describing the way things appear.
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