One of the age-old questions of astronomy is whether the solar system is geocentric (earth-centered) or heliocentric (sun-centered). Since childhood, many people (if not all) have been taught that the earth rotates on its axis and also revolves around the sun (heliocentric model). The book ‘Galileo was wrong, the church was right’, however, seeks to challenge this notion by showing how there is no evidence to support the heliocentric model. It aims to discredit (or rather bring some uncertainty into) the evidence supporting the claim that that the earth revolves around the sun while also proffering evidence to support the geocentric model.
One of the reasons proffered by the authors is that there is no evidence to support the claim that the earth is in motion. The support for the heliocentric model was led credence by the fact that various scientists conducted experiments showing that the earth was in motion. None of these experiments, however, had a positive result leading many renowned scientists including Albert Einstein, Henri Poincare, and Wolfgang Pauli to assert that earth’s motion cannot be detected by any optical experiment (Sungenis & Bennett, 2013).
What is unreasonable about the geocentric argument is its claim that the earth is motionless, and that all the galaxies revolve around theearth. Firstly, if the universe moves around the earth once a day, it would imply that the stars and the galaxies revolve around the earth. These stars and galaxies are, however, many light years away and would thus have to race around the earth at a speed faster than light, which is highly improbable (Sungenis & Bennett, 2013). Secondly, those favoring geocentricity fail to account for Chandler’s wobble. This is the phenomenon where the earth’s rotation is not smooth. Support of the geocentric model would lead us to assume that the stars and galaxies wobble in almost perfect synchronicity even though they are millions of light-years apart. Additionally, scientists have established that the earth is composed of the same matter as other interplanetary rockets, meaning that it is no different from other planets. If the other planets are in motion, therefore, what makes earth so special as to be still? In light of the above, there is no credible evidence to conclude that geocentricity is a proper science.
Supporters of egocentricity today based their argument not on fact supporting their system but on religious belief and the annihilation of the heliocentric system, mostly by utilizing the theory of relativity. Those using relativity state that all experiments have failed to show that earth is in motion, and thus it can only be assumed that earth is still.
Utilizing the theory of relativity to bolster geocentricity, however, fails in two rights. Firstly, it is widely held in relativity that there is no one true frame, and hence relativity cannot also support geocentricity (Sungenis & Bennett, 2013). The option here would be to dismiss the theory of relativity, but geocentrism cannot do that since relativity is one of the most tested and solid ideas of science, and dismissing it would be dismissing science itself. As such, the same theory that dismisses heliocentricism also dismisses egocentricity.
There are two other physical phenomena that geocentrism has not been able to answer; that of Venus and that of Jupiter’s moons. The fact that a crescent Venus is always huge and a full Venus is always small is something the geocentric model has failed to answer (Hildreth). Additionally, it can be observed that Jupiter has four moons which rotate around Jupiter and not around Earth (Siegel, 2010).
Muslim belief supports the geocentric view in that the sun moves around the earth and at night it goes top its resting place. According to the Qur’an, the sun has a rising and resting place. It rises in the east, goes high, and then goes to its resting place at night. It also has a course similar to that of the moon (which follows it in orbit). Numerous Muslim astronomers and Hadiths also affirm to the geocentric nature of the Qur’an, even though these astronomers had serious doubts about the Earth’s apparent immobility (Saliba, 1994). Later scholars held the belief that the motion of the heavens was due to the motion of the Earth, but none of these scholars made a paradigm shift towards heliocentrism.
As a student of astronomy, however, I do not concur with either the geocentric or heliocentric systems. As explained above, geocentrism is filled with many flaws, but neither is heliocentrism perfect. Firstly, basing on the theory of relatively (an accepted and proven science) there is no one true system. Secondly, when studying other galaxies scientists use a galactic coordinate system based not on the sun but on the Milky Way, since using the sun as a reference point would prove cumbersome (Plait, 2010). Each of these systems cannot be utilized in isolation or give perfect coordinates. It is thus difficult to prove which of the two models is right since we can never truly find out which of the two bodies, if any, are at rest in the ether. Our observation of the motion of one is in relative reference to the other, hence there can be no clear answer. Our belief on which system to use is thus a matter of philosophical ideology, but none would be perfect.
Hildreth, S. (n.d.). Geocentric vs. Heliocentric Theory Comparison Study Sheet Sample Answers & Comments. Retrieved from chabotcollege.edu:
Plait, P. (2010, September 14). Geocentrism? Seriously?
Saliba, G. (1994). A History of Arabic Astronomy: Planetary Theories During the Golden Age of Islam. New York: New York University Press.
Siegel, E. (2010, September 13). Geocentrism: Was Galileo Wrong?
Sungenis, R. A., & Bennett, R. J. (2013). Galileo was Wrong, the Church was Right: The Evidence from Modern Science. Pennsylvania: Catholic Apologetics International Publishing, Inc.