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Geocentrism and Creation
Danny R. Faulkner
Some creationists believe that
the scientific assault on the Bible did not begin with biological evolution, but
with the acceptance of the heliocentric (or more properly, geokinetic) theory
centuries ago. These people believe that the Bible clearly states that the Earth
does not move, and hence the only acceptable Biblical cosmology is a geocentric
one. Modern geocentrists use both Biblical and scientific arguments for their
case. We examine these arguments, and find them poorly founded. The Scriptural
passages quoted do not address cosmology. Some geocentrists draw distinctions
that do not exist in the original autographs or even in translations. In short,
the Bible is neither geocentric nor heliocentric. While geocentrists present
some interesting scientific results, their scientific arguments are often based
upon improper understanding of theories and data. Much of their case is based
upon a misunderstanding of general relativity and the rejection of that theory.
While geocentrists are well intended, their presence among recent creationists
produces an easy object of ridicule by our critics.
Many critics of creationists attempt to malign by suggesting that what
creationists teach is akin to belief in a flat Earth. This attack is easy to
refute, because the Bible does not teach that the Earth is flat, and virtually
no one in the history of the church taught this. In fact, the belief in a flat
Earth is a 19th century myth that was concocted to discredit critics of
Darwinism. The supposed lesson of this myth was that the Church got it wrong
before, so the Church has a chance to redeem itself by getting it right on the
issue of evolution. This false lesson has been indelibly impressed upon common
However, the Church did support the wrong side of a scientific issue four
centuries ago. That issue was the question of whether the Sun went around the
Earth (geocentrism) or if the Earth went around the Sun (heliocentrism, which
could be called geokinetism since the Sun is not regarded as the centre of the
universe either, as discussed below). Being based upon real history,
creationists in theory could be accused of repeating this mistake by rejecting
Alas, there are recent creationists in the world today who are geocentrists.
They teach that the rejection of God's Word did not begin with Darwin's theory
of biological evolution or even with Hutton and Lyell's geological
uniformitarianism. Instead, they argue that the scientific rebellion against God
began much earlier with heliocentrism.
Many evolutionist claim that disbelief in evolution is like disbelief that the
Earth goes round the Sun. The obvious flaw is that the latter is repeatable and
observable while the former is not. But geocentrists give evolutionists a
target, so then it behoves the creation community to have a ready response.
So far, there have been few critiques of geocentrism in the creation literature.
One example is Don DeYoung's defence of geokineticism in Creation magazine,
where he presented some scientific arguments against a rigid geocentric view.(1)
DeYoung has also debated a geocentrist called Martin Selbrede.(2)
Another is Aardsma's ICR Impact article, where he points out something well
known to high-school physics students, but apparently not to bibliosceptics -
that it's valid to describe motion from any reference frame, although an
inertial one usually makes the mathematics simpler.(3) But there are many times
when the Earth is a convenient reference frame; i.e. at some point we all use
the geocentric model in one sense. For instance, a planetarium is a geocentric
model. Calculation of rising, transiting, and setting of various celestial
objects is calculated geocentrically. There are numerous other examples. Since
modern astronomers often use an Earth-centred reference frame, it's unfair and
anti-scientific to criticise the Bible for doing the same.
But this is hardly the issue, and the use of the geocentric model under these
circumstances hardly makes one a geocentrist. I'm using the term to describe
those who claim that the Earth is the only valid reference frame and oppose the
use of any other reference frame. What we need is an examination of the claims
of such geocentric creationists to see if there is any merit to what they claim.
The claims will fall into three broad areas: 1) the Biblical issues 2)
historical record and 3) scientific evidence.
Perhaps the best-known geocentrist in the world today is Gerardus Bouw, who has
been a professor at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio for many years. He is
founder and director of the Association for Biblical Astronomy, as well as
editor of Biblical Astronomer. Both are organs for geocentrism. To distinguish
modern geocentrism from ancient geocentrism, Bouw has coined the term
'geocentricity' for the former. Bouw has a Ph.D. in astronomy from Case Western
Reserve University, so he certainly is in a position to know and understand the
issues and literature involved. Given Bouw's stature as the chief champion of
geocentricity, we will use his book by the same name as the primary source on
the topic.(4) A much lesser source is a book by Marshall Hall.(5) This book is
poorly written, and thus will not be treated as a primary source for discussing
modern geocentrism. However, Hall's claims is examined in a separate book review
in this issue (pp. 36-37).
Early in his book Bouw quotes
the atheist Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970) and the supposedly agnostic(6)
Augustus De Morgan (1806 - 1871) on the supposed geocentric nature of the
Bible.(7) The appropriateness of quoting these two gentlemen apparently never
occurred to Bouw. Since when did two mathematical logicians become authorities
in Biblical exegesis (like most bibliosceptics, they were ignorant of Biblical
languages and historical context(8))? Being antagonistic toward the Bible and
Christianity, both(6) of these men had a vested interest in discrediting the
Bible. What better way to do this than for them to falsely claim that the Bible
says things that are patently not true? This straw man technique is a very
common strategy in attacking the Bible. A good example is the supposedly
incorrect value of pi in 1 Kings 7:23-24 and 2 Chronicles 4:2, a topic that Bouw
addresses very well.(9)
Bouw does quote(10) an anonymous evangelical source on the geocentric nature of
the Bible, but one must ask if that is indeed what Scripture teaches. There are
few Biblical texts that in any way even remotely address the heliocentric /
geocentric question. In each instance there is considerable doubt as to whether
cosmology is the issue. Some of these verses are in the poetic books, such as
the Psalms. It is poor practice to build any teaching or doctrine solely or
primarily upon passages from the poetic books, thought they can amplify concepts
clearly taught elsewhere. It is also important not to base doctrines upon any
passage that at best only remotely addresses an issue. That is, if cosmology is
clearly not the point of a passage, then extracting a cosmological meaning can
be very dangerous.
The Galileo Canard
In the middle ages and well
into the Renaissance, the Roman Catholic Church did teach geocentrism, but was
that based upon the Bible? The Church's response to Galileo (1564 - 1642) was
primarily from the works of Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) and other ancient Greek
philosophers. It was Augustine (AD 354 - 430), Thomas Aquinas (1224 - 1274) and
others who 'baptized ' the work of these pagans and termed them 'pre_Christian
Christians'. This mingling of pagan science and the Bible was a fundamental
error for which the Church eventually paid a tremendous price.
Confusion persists to today in that nearly every textbook that discusses the
Galileo affair claims that it was a matter of religion vs. science, when it
actually was a matter of science vs science. Unfortunately, Church leaders
interpreted certain Biblical passages as geocentric to bolster the argument for
what science of the day was claiming. This mistake is identical to those today
who interpret the Bible to support things such as the big bang, billions of
years, or biological evolution.(11) Therefore, any evangelical Christian
misinformed of this history who opines that the Bible is geocentric is hardly
any more credible a source on this topic than an atheist or agnostic.
Flat Earth Myth
In his second chapter Bouw
discusses the allegation that the Bible teaches that the Earth is flat. His
refutation is good,(12) except that he apparently accepts the notion that
through the Middle Ages belief in a flat Earth was common, which is simply not
true. The historian Russell demolished this idea,(13) and I have written on this
as well.(14) This includes the urban myth that Columbus was a lonely voice for a
round Earth, invented by Washington Irving in his 1828 book The Life and Voyages
of Christopher Columbus, a self-confessed mixture of fact and fiction.
Biblical Support for
In the second chapter, Bouw
also develops what he considers a Biblical model of the Earth's structure.(15)
Others would legitimately question the soundness of his Biblical argument here.
Much of this model and what follows in the next chapter is based upon a
distinction of the words 'world' and 'Earth' in the KJV. While this distinction
is generally true, it is not obvious that the distinction is universal, and it
is the original languages of Scripture that matter, not any translation.
'... it cannot be moved'
Bouw quotes part of Psalm 93:1
from the KJV, '... the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved'.(16)
He claims that 'stablish' is the proper translation as opposed to 'establish',
that is used in most modern translations. He states that the former word means
to stabilize, while the latter means to set up. However, none of the English
dictionaries (including the Oxford) I consulted support this distinction. All of
the dictionaries revealed that 'stablish' is an archaic variation of
'establish'. Bouw further alleges that this subtle distinction is also present
in the Hebrew. This is patently not true, as can be demonstrated with Strong's
Concordance.(17) The Hebrew word used in Psalm 93:1 is kûwn, which is translated
as 'stablish', 'stablished', and 'stablisheth' only one time each outside of
Psalm 93:1. The same word is translated as 'establish', or 'established', 58
times elsewhere in the KJV. A closely related Hebrew word, qûwm is translated 'stablish'
three times and as 'establish' or 'established' 28 times in the KJV. Indeed kûwn
appears twice in 2 Samuel 7:12-13, but is rendered 'establish' and 'stablish' in
the same passage. Thus the distinction that Bouw claims in these two words does
not exist in either Hebrew or English.
Bouw uses this unfounded distinction to draw some questionable meaning from 1
Chronicles 16:30 and Psalm 96:10,(18) where the word 'establish' is used in the
These passages declare that the world is not to be moved, from which Bouw
concludes that the world does not move.
This is fallacious. The Hebrew word for 'moved' (mowt) is in the niphal stem,
which often refers to the passive voice, as indeed it does here. This is
reflected in the English translations - to be moved or not to be moved suggests
the action of an external or causative agent to bring about change in position,
but does not exclude the possibility of motion apart from an external agent.
Bouw frequently chides those who disagree with him on Biblical passages that
speak of the rising of the Sun by claiming that they accuse God of being a poor
communicator. Therefore, we may apply Bouw's standard to his own work: the Lord
could have rendered these passages to read, '... the world does not move', if
that is what He intended. As is, these passages are hardly geocentric.
It is important to note that the same Hebrew word for 'moved' (môwt) in the same
niphal stem is used in Psalm 16:8, 'I shall not be moved'. Presumably even Bouw
wouldn't accuse God of poor communication if he didn't believe that the Bible
taught that the Psalmist was rooted to one spot! Rather, the passage teaches
that he would not stray from the path that God had set for him. If that's so,
then it's impossible to deny that 'the world ... cannot be moved' could mean
that Earth will not stray from the precise orbital and rotational pattern God
has set for it.
In both 1 Chronicles 16:30 and Psalm 96:10, the word 'shall' appears, which Bouw
obviously and correctly takes as an imperative. However, the next passage that
he discusses, Psalm 104:5,(19) reads, ' ... laid the foundations of the Earth
that it should not be removed forever'.
Bouw notes that the word 'should' is a conditional that does not necessarily
reflect things as they are. While it is true that many people today use the word
'should' in this sense, this is not the correct and original meaning of the word
(the usual intended meaning when many people say 'should' is better conveyed by
the word 'ought'). The word 'should' actually is the past tense of 'shall', and
as such has the same imperative meaning that that word has. Here Bouw makes much
ado about the dictionary meaning of the word 'remove', but he is very selective
in the use of the dictionary, as he apparently did not bother to consult the
meaning of the word 'should'. As an aside, the words for 'shall' and 'should'
are understood but absent in Hebrew and were inserted into English to make the
passages intelligible. As such, the choice of when, where, and which word to
insert is a matter of preference or sense of the translator, and ought never be
used as the basis for any doctrine.
Sunrise and Sunset
Much of the case for
geocentrism relies upon many Biblical passages that refer to sunrise and sunset.
Geocentrists argue that since the Bible is inspired of God, then when He chose
to use such terminology, the Lord must mean that the Sun moves. By this
reasoning , virtually all astronomers and astronomical books and magazines are
geocentric, because 'sunrise' and 'sunset' is exactly the language that such
sources use. Anyone who has spent much time watching the sky can testify that
each day the Sun, moon, planets, and most stars do rise, move across the sky,
and then set. Such observation and description do not at all address what
actually causes this motion. However, the geocentrists will have none of it,
insisting that language and usage must conform to their standards. For instance,
Bouw has suggested the words, 'tosun' and 'fromsun'(20) for sunrise and sunset
to better acknowledge what heliocentrists mean. It is extremely unlikely that
these words will catch on, because the terms sunrise and sunset work so well.
The attempted coining of these new words demonstrates the desperate attempt to
argue the point here. Quoting Bouw:
Either God meant what
he wrote or he did not mean what he wrote and would, presumably, revise
his original writing as well as write differently if he were to write
No, He would not, because there
is probably not a language now or ever inexistence that has simple expressions
that concisely and accurately describes the heliocentric rising and setting of
the Sun. Why do we need such expressions when the ones that we now possess work
so well and are understood in all cultures?
Elsewhere Bouw suggests that those who disagree with him are virtually accusing
God of being a bad communicator or grammarian. Of course, we do not. However,
Bouw has painted himself into a corner: if Bouw is wrong, then he is the one who
has made this accusation against our Creator. What he misses is that cosmology
is not being addressed at all in these passages. This extremely literal approach
to the Bible is reverently intended, but it badly misses the mark. At some
points it almost reads as a parody (and sadly it's not much different from those
Bouw makes a similarly poor
case for his Biblical model for space. Light is a wave. All waves require a
medium. For instance, sound waves travel in air and water waves obviously use
water as a medium. What is the medium in which light travels, given that light
apparently can travel through empty space? In classical physics the medium for
light is called the 'ether' or 'aether'. However, modern physics takes a
different approach, which will not be discussed here.(22) Bouw maintains that
modern physics is in error, and that the classical aether indeed does exist. He
further insists that the firmament first mentioned in Genesis 1:6 is to be
equated with the aether, going so far as to claim that the firmament is God's
chosen name for the aether.
Physics aside for the moment, is this good exegesis? Hardly. First, there is a
problem with the use of the word 'firmament' in the King James Version. The
Hebrew word is raqiya', which is a noun that comes from a verb that means to
beat out as into a thin sheet. Gold is a good example of this process. Gold is
so malleable that hammers and other tools can be used to flatten and stretch the
metal into very thin sheets that can be applied to objects to gild them. The
question is, what property or properties are intended by the word raqiya'? If
one wants to get across the hardness of the object, usually a metal, being
beaten out, then 'firmament' may not be a bad translation.
However, what if the intended property is the stretched out nature of the
raqiya' rather than hardness? This is consistent with the terminology of Psalm
104:2, which speaks of the stretching out of the heavens, though admittedly the
Hebrew word used there for heaven is shamayim. However, Genesis 1:8 explicitly
states that God called the firmament (raqiya')
heaven(s) (shamayim). Therefore, there is contextual Biblical evidence for
equating these two Hebrew words, at least in some cases. If the stretched out
nature of the raqiya' is what is intended, then 'firmament' is a bad
translation, while 'expanse' used in many modern translations is very good.
How did the KJV come to use
'firmament'? The Septuagint rendered raqiya' as stereoma, which gives the
meaning of something very hard. This was an obvious incorporation of Greek
cosmology current at the time of the Septuagint translation. That cosmology had
the Earth surrounded by a hard crystalline sphere upon which were suspended the
stars. In the Vulgate, Jerome followed the lead of the Septuagint and used the
Latin equivalent firmamentum. The KJV translators merely anglicized this.
There are at least two ironies
in Bouw's insistence of the correctness of the word firmament. The first is that
Bouw severely criticizes both the Vulgate and the Septuagint as being terrible
translations, going as far as to express doubt that the Septuagint even existed
before the New Testament.(23) The second is that Bouw completely trashes ancient
Greek philosophy, but blindly accepts the heavy influence of the same ancient
Greek science on this point.
A second problem with Bouw's equating the raqiya' (firmament) with the aether is
how the firmament is further discussed in the creation account. The first
appearance of the word is on Day Two of Creation Week when the waters were
separated above and below and with the firmament between. On Day Four, the Sun,
moon, and stars were set in the firmament. On Day Five, birds were made to fly
in the firmament. It is quite a stretch to conclude that the firmament must be
all of space or even any stuff that may fill space. The most obvious conclusion
is that the raqiya' is the Earth's atmosphere or the sky. If this is true, then
much of Bouw's case is destroyed.
The various issues briefly discussed here are just a few of the many examples of
how poorly Bouw handles Biblical matters. But these key issues are enough for
readers to question Bouw's credibility on Biblical matters and his insistence
that the Bible is geocentric.
Bouw claims that heliocentrism
has led to all sorts of moral degeneracy.(24) The example he discusses is
astrology. This is a bizarre assertion, given that astrology flourished for
millennia before the heliocentric theory became popular, and seems to have
decreased where heliocentrism has flourished. Ironically, the dominant
geocentric theory of history, the Ptolemaic system, was devised primarily as a
tool to calculate planetary positions in the past and future as an aid for
Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630)
Kepler comes under great
criticism by the geocentrists because of the great role that he played in the
acceptance of the heliocentric model. Some of this criticism is quite strained.
He is blasted for having dabbled in astrology, although it was common and, as
shown, hardly confined to heliocentrists. He is also blasted for his supposed
anti-Biblical beliefs(25) as well as the insinuation that Kepler was dishonest
in his co-authoring the work of Tycho Brahe (1546 - 1601) after he had died.(26)
This latter charge includes a hint of a plagiarism charge, even though a few
pages earlier Bouw stated at the time this was an acceptable practice.(27) Bouw
concludes that Kepler was not a Christian,(26) which places him at odds
with many other creationists who claim that Kepler was indeed a Christian. For
instance, Morris included a section on Kepler.(28) In addition, Morris listed
Copernicus (1473 - 1543), Galileo, and Tycho at the conclusion of the chapter
that briefly discussed Kepler as examples of people, though while they may have
not have been true believers in Christ, at the very least were theistic
creationists. Bouw rejects all, save Tycho, as Christians.(26)
Bouw goes to great lengths to
salvage the reputation of Tycho, whose cosmology he and modern geocentrists
advocate. That is, other planets orbited the Sun, and the Sun and its retinue
orbited the Earth. While admitting Tycho's well--known faults and failing during
most of his life, he claims without documentation that in the last year of his
life some who worked with Tycho noticed a change in his life.(29) Bouw concludes
that this was salvation, though he has absolutely no evidence for this.
Bouw blasts the heliocentrists of four centuries ago as being ungodly and
insinuates that it was their ungodliness that motivated their acceptance of the
heliocentric theory. However, by Bouw's own account of the events of Tycho's
life, his rejection of heliocentricity and the suggestion of his alternate
Tychonian cosmology far predated Tycho's alleged conversion. Thus the model
favoured by modern geocentrists was hatched in the mind of an unregenerate man,
even granting Bouw's own revisionist historiography. Therefore, modern
geocentrists teach that the heliocentric model is wrong
because ungodly men originated it, but fail to apply the same standard to their
favoured geocentric theory.
While Bouw finds little or no
fault in Tycho, he relentlessly finds fault with every heliocentrist. For
instance, Bouw takes a swipe at Copernicus' mathematical skills by noting that
the best mathematicians of his day were consumed with the laborious task of
calculating horoscopes. According to Bouw, Copernicus had the time to spend
investigating alternate cosmological models, because Copernicus was not gifted
enough to be in demand for astrological calculations.(30) With Bouw, Copernicus
cannot win - if he head done horoscopes, Bouw would have castigated him as a
mystic dabbling in the occult; but since he did not do horoscopes, it was
because Copernicus was a poor mathematician.
A few decades after the death of Copernicus, the situation had not changed much,
so it is not surprising that such a good mathematician as Kepler spent a good
deal of time calculating horoscopes. Apparently it has never occurred to Bouw
that the reason that Tycho was available to pursue astronomical measurements
rather than produce horoscopes may have been the same reason that he claimed
that Copernicus had time to pursue other matters. Indeed, late in life, Tycho
realized that he was not the best mathematician around and needed help in making
sense of his observations. This caused Tycho to seek the best mathematician
available, who happened to be Kepler. The simultaneous sycophantic treatment of
Tycho and harsh criticism of heliocentrists exposes some the logical flaws in
Another criticism of Copernicus is that he opined that the 10,000 epicycles
required to make the motions of the Sun, moon, planets, and stars was an
'unseemly' large number and 'unworthy' of the Creator.(31) Bouw takes Copernicus
to task for failing to notice that the obvious flaw in his reasoning was the
assumption that heavenly bodies must move in circles. However, the model under
scrutiny at the time was the Ptolemaic model, thus this error came from the
philosophical musings of the ancient Greeks, not from Copernicus. Copernicus
merely discussed the only geocentric model of his day (the Tychonian model was
still more than a half-century away). How Bouw can level this charge at a
heliocentrist rather than at geocentrists where it properly belongs boggles the
mind. It is as if the modern geocentrists wilfully ignore the Ptolemaic model.
Indeed, that model is barely mentioned in Bouw's book.
Heliocentrist vs Geocentrist
Another example of Bouw's poor
logic is the observation that '... the first heliocentrists were pagans who did
not hold the Bible in high esteem'.(32) While this statement is technically
true, it plants a very false and misleading impression. Such a statement plants
in the minds of many people that the near converse is true, that is, that the
first geocentrists were not pagans and held the Bible in high esteem. Of course
this is nonsense. Virtually all that we know of ancient science and cosmology
comes from the Greeks. Most of them were geocentrists. All of them were pagans.
Claudius Ptolemy (fl. AD 127 - 145), who is credited with the longest-lived
geocentric model of all time, was a pagan. By Bouw's own 'reasoning' (leaving
aside the blatant genetic fallacy), geocentrism should be rejected, because it
has a long pagan history.
Of course, Bouw would respond that the Bible is explicitly geocentric.(33) Since
much of the Old Testament predates many of the secular sources, Bouw would claim
that the earliest geocentrists were not pagan. But this begs the question - most
of the quotes used to support the geocentricity of the Bible are from fellow
geocentrists or from bibliosceptics. Nearly all Bible-believing heliocentrists
think that the Bible is neither geocentric nor heliocentric, but Bouw holds
their opinions on the matter in low regard.
As another example of Bouw's
poor logic, consider that at several locations Bouw states that the heliocentric
theory came to be accepted in the seventeenth century without any proof. Here
Bouw weeks to be arguing against the legitimacy of heliocentricity, because it
was prematurely accepted before there was any evidence. Yet, he also admits that
by 1650 there was no solid proof for or against either the heliocentric or
Tychonian models.(26) Therefore, by Bouw's standard we should reject both models
in favour of the Ptolemaic model or some other alternative, but of course Bouw
insists that only the heliocentric model be subjected to such scrutiny. This
sort of double standard is common in geocentric arguments.
Bouw blasts the perceived arrogance of Kepler,(34) all the while overlooking or
forgiving similar misgivings in Tycho. Ad hominem attacks are common in modern
geocentric literature as well. As an example, Bouw spends some time trashing
Kepler for alleged witchcraft and dabbling in the occult.(34) Even Kepler's
mother and other family members are brought into the discussion. Bouw mentions
that Marshall Hall, a fellow geocentrist, has speculated that Kepler my have
poisoned Tycho.(35) It's a shame that two of the most prominent geocentriscists
feel that they need to resort to baseless inflammatory accusations.
Galileo also comes under fire
for his role in establishing the heliocentric model. While he did not invent the
telescope, Galileo was apparently the first to put the telescope to use
observing celestial objects. He found a number of things in the sky that ran
counter to what the church, parroting ancient Greek ideas, said. Examples are
the craters on the moon and spots on the Sun. Greek philosophers had reasoned
that the moon and Sun, as celestial objects, had to be perfect. As such, they
ought to have been free from blemishes such as craters and spots.
Galileo also claimed evidence for the heliocentric theory in his discoveries.
One of them, the rotation of the Sun, was bogus as proof of heliocentrism, as
Bouw states,(36) but it was a persuasive argument in the pre-Newtonian world
(cf. Isaac Newton 1643 - 1727 Gregorian Calendar). However, Bouw's poisoned
attitude toward all heliocentrists has prevented him from correctly discussing
two other evidences for heliocentrism. One was the discovery of four satellites,
or moons, that orbit Jupiter. Galileo used this to counter the objection to
heliocentrism that the moon would be left behind if the Earth moved. It is
obvious that Jupiter moves, and it is also obvious that its motion does not
leave behind the satellites of Jupiter. Bouw is correct that this is an argument
by analogy, but one cannot so easily dismiss this argument. The critics of
heliocentrism must explain how the motions of Jupiter and its moons and the
Earth and its moon are different.
However, Bouw misses on of the most important points of Galileo on this. The
geocentric model of Galileo's day was that all celestial objects orbited the
Earth. Here Galileo had found four celestial objects that did not directly orbit
the Earth, but instead orbited something else. The geocentrists were not willing
to give up an inch on this, because their already overly complicated Ptolemaic
model had already endured a tremendous amount of tinkering.
They feared that surrendering this would lead to the discovery of other objects
that did not orbit the Sun, which would further chip away the geocentric model.
Bouw completely misconstrues Galileo's third evidence for heliocentrism, the
phases of Venus.(37) The full set of Venereal phases can happen only if Venus
passes both in front of and behind the Sun as seen from Earth (Figure 1). The
Ptolemaic model placed Venus orbiting the Earth closer than the Sun, but always
near to the Sun as constrained by observations, but that would preclude gibbous
phases from being seen since that would require the Earth to be roughly between
the Sun and Venus. On the other hand, moving Venus' orbit beyond that of the Sun
would allow gibbous phases, but would not permit crescent phases to be seen.
Tychonian vs Ptolemaic
The Appendix contains a fuller
comparison of these two geocentric models and the Copernican one, but it's
important to point out a number of points in the main text.
Bouw suggests that the phases of Venus are a problem for the Ptolemaic model
only if one insists upon using circles, and that Galileo's argument fall flat if
ellipses are allowed. The only thing that falls flat here is Bouw's argument.
The very reason that the Ptolemaic model existed was to preserve 'perfect'
uniform circular motion, with the massive tinkering involving epicycles (circles
on circles) and even more complex extensions. The introduction of ellipses would
have destroyed the Ptolemaic model every bit as much as what Galileo was
suggesting. Bouw's defence of the status quo Ptolemaic model her and elsewhere
is puzzling. Throughout much of his book it is easy to draw the wrong conclusion
that this is the model that Bouw is defending. Bouw does correctly point out
that Galileo's argument about the phases of Venus does not distinguish between
the heliocentric and Tychonian models, but this needlessly clouds the issue
since the Tychonian model was not even being discussed at the time.
The truth of the matter is that the Tychonian model was a far less significant
contender than either the heliocentric or the Ptolemaic theories than modern
geocentrists would have us believe. The reason is that the Tychonian model was a
sort of halfway house for geocentrists. Geocentrists could hold on to a
stationary Earth while discarding virtually everything else that was in the
Ptolemaic model. Like so many other compromises, the Tychonian model failed to
satisfy many on either side. Nevertheless, Bouw does a clever slight of hand
trick. He insists that heliocentrists of four centuries ago did not offer real
proofs and further claims that they improperly attempted to shift the burden of
proof to the status quo. That is, in the absence of a real challenge to the
status quo the status quo should prevail. Bouw claims that that status quo was
geocentrism, so his favoured geocentric model, the Tychonian system, should
prevail. This is preposterous. The Tychonian system was not the status quo then;
the Ptolemaic model was. Again and again Bouw takes this sort of sloppy approach
- he argues for the Ptolemaic model and then slips his model in as a substitute.
This is most blatant when in a very late chapter in his book Bouw explicitly
discusses geocentric models. There is no heading for the Tychonian model, but
there is one for the Ptolemaic model.(38) The problem is, the discussion and
diagram clearly represent the Tychonian model.