Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Geocentric Universe - Part 4

The Church and Cosmology

The Christian church held sway over Europe throughout the middle ages. To the church the Earth was full of sinfulness which directly opposed the holiness of the heavenly realm. The invasion by the Crusades of Jerusalem and rediscovery of many of the former Greek teachings especially that of Aristotle helped strengthen the geocentric model. This viewpoint took much from Theory of Forms by Plato. The church adopted a lot of Plato’s and Aristotle’s ideas but they could not accept the finite universe proposed by Aristotle. Instead the church proposed that the universe was unlimited so it would match their view point of God as an unlimited being not bound to any one place. This view of the universe made it virtually impossible for the church to accept any heliocentric model.
  
Cosmology Reborn

 The geocentric model would dominate within cosmology until the arrival of several of sciences true giants. It would take the publication of De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium in 1543 by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543). This book was not well received. For many years it was overlooked and had not made much impact on the beliefs within Europe. Since this model proposed by Copernicus of a heliocentric system opposed the Church’s view it would be assumed that they would have greatly condemned such a publication. But it would take more than 60 years for the Church to respond to this book in any true authoritative way.

This response came about due to the work of Galileo (1564 – 1642). He had made many great discoveries with the aid of the telescope (the design of which he improved). He discovered the moons around Jupiter and the phases of Venus. Galileo displayed remarkable abilities for his scientific method, for him observation and mathematical explanation was central to science.  His writings proved to be controversial in which he made the pope at the time out to be a fool. The Church decided to silence Galileo and warn him that he could not defend or speak in favour of the Copernican system.

Galileo called before the pope and forced to recant his beliefs.
It is said he responded before he left  "Eppur si muove" (still it moves).

Another nail in the coffin of the geocentric model was hammered in by Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630). Kepler was a gifted mathematician who worked briefly with Tycho Brahe prior to his death. Kepler inherited Brahe’s extensive observational data from which he formulated his theory on the elliptical orbits of the planets. Here for the first time a model was put forward which proved to be more accurate than that of Ptolemy.




This era in Europe would help usher in a new revolution in science. Again the natural world and mathematics were united. This would end the domination of Aristotle and geocentric model of Ptolemy.

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