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Episode 162 - Geocentrism, Take 2

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Recap: Young-Earth creationists who are not geocentrists - those who accept the Copernican Revolution so far as Earth's place in the universe - have a vested interest in combatting some forms of pseudoscience, including geocentrism. In this episode, I lay out some of their more convincing arguments against geocentrism and point out that their methods of argument are very similar to scientists, which leads one to wonder about hoe much cognitive dissonance one mind can hold.

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Episode Summary

Claim: The basic claim for this episode is that Earth is at the very least the center of the solar system, if not the universe. The term comes from geo meaning Earth, and centrism for center. You may be thinking that this sounds like episode 78 where I covered geocentrism. Or, you may be thinking that this sounds like episode 152 where I covered how young-Earth creationists were debunking flat Earth ideas. In fact, this is a mishmash of the two, where I'm going to use the same young-Earth creationism website, Creation Ministries International (CMI), and go through THEIR arguments against geocentrism, and discuss.

Motivation

For those who may not remember five months back, or are new listeners, I want to briefly rehash why I think a young-Earth creationism website would try to debunk geocentrism. I think the fundamental reason is that they recognize people use what they consider a literal reading of the Christian Bible and use that to infer geocentrism. But, CMI recognizes that there are just some ideas that so fundamentally and obviously conflict with the most basic of observational science these days that it's obvious geocentrism is wrong. And, if people CMI is trying to convince the Christian Bible is real see people using that same book as evidence for geocentrism, they'll lose a potential convert before they've even started.

My own motivation for doing this kind of episode is to demonstrate, perhaps, a "lighter side" of skepticism. Too often are skeptics themselves drawn into a situation where a person or group of people are so wrong so many times that we wouldn't believe them even if they said the sky were blue. I think it's important to show that at least some people on the other side of the issues are able to have very intelligent and reasoned arguments on the side of reality.

What I'm Covering

CMI wrote two main articles about geocentrism. The first is a very, very lengthy article from February 2015 by Robert Carter and Jonathan Sarfati entitled, "Why the Universe does not revolve around the Earth" and subtitle, "Refuting absolute geocentrism." They followed that article with a shorter one in September 2016, only attributed to Robert Carter, entitled, "Refuting absolute geocentrism" and the subtitle, "Refutation of our detractors."

A large part of the first article is devoted to history, while only maybe the last quarter or third is under the heading, "Supporting Evidence (or, why the earth cannot be at the absolute center)." What I'm going to do in this episode is briefly go through some of their original arguments and then go through their refutations of refutations. In reading through both articles, the refutes of the four arguments I'm going to talk about from the original article are really not that interesting or meaningful, so I'm going to skip them.

Argument 1: Speed of Objects in the Universe

CMI's first line of evidence I'm going to discus is speed of objects in the universe. This is actually one that I never thought of but is quite ingenious, if I do say so myself. They provide a few examples, and I'm going to start with the last one first.

Geostationary satellites are satellites that are at a constant position above Earth's surface. A geostationary satellite works because any position above Earth requires the satellite to move at a certain speed to maintain that orbit. Close in, you move quickly, farther out, you can move slower. There's a sweet spot where you move at just the same speed Earth rotates, and therefore maintain your position. It's something any classical mechanics student will calculate, and it's 35,786 km (22,236 miles) above Earth's equator. If you do the calculation yourself, remember to factor in Earth's own radius to get distance from center versus surface.

But, geostationary satellites can't work in a geocentric universe. For it to work, somehow, the satellite has to just be placed there, and then never move. Somehow maintaining its position, like magic.

Another example they gave deals with any object - including sending space probes - beyond Neptune. Remember that in geocentrism, the entire universe is moving around Earth. That means that an object in the sky at Neptune's distance or farther, still has to move all the way around Earth in one day. The CMI article points out that the orbit of Neptune - the distance it would have to travel to go around the Earth, at its distance from Earth, in one day - is more than one light-day long. Meaning Neptune, and everything beyond Neptune, have to travel faster than light.

While that's one problem, it gets worse. Let's say it's possible. What about sending a probe beyond Neptune? If we just shot the probe from Earth and aimed, suddenly we have to accelerate it faster than the speed of light to catch up to these objects. Meaning, that not only does the probe have to travel to get to the distance that these objects are, but the probe has to get up to the same velocity as that object so that it has any chance of seeing it for more than a tiny fraction of a second.

A third example in the CMI article is the moon. In a heliocentric model, the moon orbits Earth in about a month, but in a geocentric model, it orbits Earth in about 25 hours. We know how far away the moon is so we can calculate how fast it would have to move under either model. We also know how fast the Apollo craft were launched from Earth. They never would have gotten to the moon, never would have been able to match its speed, if we lived in a geocentric universe.

Argument 2: Wobbles

A second argument is another one I really like, not only in its simplicity, but its stupidity under a geocentrism model.

We know that after a large Earthquake, something that's rotating changes. What I mean is that we can look at and precisely measure star positions and the time it takes stars to reach certain positions in the sky before and after large earthquakes, and they're different. Under a heliocentric model, the earthquake has affected Earth's rotation rate. The effect is only at the scale of milliseconds or less, but it's noticeable with modern equipment. But under geocentrism, the earthquake -- as in, a rumbling of our planet -- has instead caused the entire rotation of every object in the universe to be altered slightly.

Which do you think is more likely?

Argument 3: Equatorial Bulges

Another type of argument that CMI made is that Earth's equatorial bulge is explained the same way as other planets with bulges: rotation. For example, if you look at Jupiter even with decent binoculars, you can tell that it has a large bulge at its equator: It's not spherical. Saturn, too, and Uranus, Neptune, even Mars, and Earth have equatorial bulges. The Sun does not, an it takes weeks to rotate once -- actually, different parts of the sun rotate at different speeds, but the fastest still takes weeks. Mercury also doesn't have an equatorial bulge, but it takes about three months to rotate once. Pluto doesn't have a bulge either, but it takes 6.8 days to rotate.

So, all reasonably fast rotators in the solar system have equatorial bulges. Under geocentrism, you then have to argue that Earth is somehow special and its bulge is due to a completely different mechanism than every other body's.

I personally don't care for this one as much as others because the whole idea of geocentrism is one case of special pleading after another, so this idea of Earth being special for yet another reason isn't a barrier to them.

Argument 4: Coriolis Force

The final argument from the original article I'm going to address ties in nicely with last episode: Coriolis Force.

Just like the previous argument about equatorial bulges, we see the effects of Coriolis Force on other planetary bodies like Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Mars. We can see giant storms in the atmospheres of these bodies and see that they rotate exactly as you would predict from Coriolis Forces. So we know they work.

But, in geocentrism, Earth is stationary. It doesn't move through space, it doesn't rotate on its axis. So then, why do we see the effect of Coriolis forces on Earth when Coriolis forces only exist on a rotating body?

(Additional) Argument 5: Gravitational Mass

In the second article, going over some of the claims made by CMI's detractors, one of the first is gravity. I love CMI's header for the claim. It starts out with, "Sadly, we saw multiple examples of a failure to understand basic science." Pot, meet kettle.

My snide aside aside, geocentrists had come back to CMI and said, since gravity only acts at the speed of light (though some geocentrists say it has infinite velocity), how can planets "know" to stay in orbit?!

The answer is quite simple. Let's take "now." Right now, the knowledge that the sun is where it is is going to take about 8.3 minutes to get to Earth. But, that doesn't mean that Earth can do whatever it likes for the next 8.3 minutes. Because 8.3 minutes ago, the sun also told Earth where it is through gravity, propagating at the speed of light. And 8.3 minutes before that. And all the time between.

It's not like the clock starts on gravity propagation at the moment the geocentrist asks their question.

A similar claim that geocentrists brought up was, how should planets and other bodies allegedly in orbit around the sun not fall into the sun? The answer is their velocity in their orbit. They're moving at the right speed parallel to the surface of the sun at each moment to counter-balance the speed with which they would fall into the sun. And, they don't need engines strapped to their butts to keep it up because of Newton's First Law: Objects maintain their velocity unless acted on by an external force. With nothing to slow the planet down in our current solar system, the planets maintain their orbits.

Skipping ahead two sections in the second article, CMI pointed out many problems with the geocentrist model if they try to use gravity to keep Earth at the center of everything. Somehow, everything has to balance out perfectly to keep Earth's gravitational point at zero. That literally means that if a tiny comet moves by, that will change the balance and Earth will no longer be at the center. Yet somehow, it still is.

Same thing goes with balancing the sun. The sun is by far the dominant gravitational force on Earth, yet for us to be at the gravitational center of everything, there must be a perfect balance elsewhere. How? Where? There's simply no evidence of this, and you can't use the claim that we're balanced at the center as evidence for a missing counterweight to the sun.

Refuting the Refutes 1: Non-Newtonian Stuff

The next section addressed four examples of non-Newtonian issues raised by geocentrists. I'll just quote from the article about GPS and time dilation:

"We see that geocentrists reject time dilation in general, claiming that clocks slow down because of the mechanical effects of gravity or inertial forces. We wonder how an atomic clock (the only clocks sensitive enough to detect time dilation), that is in turn based on molecular vibrations in crystals, is subject to mechanical interference. Also, the amount of time dilation in GPS satellites is exactly the amount predicted by Einstein—before the technology to measure time dilation was available. How can anyone say “no one has detected time dilation”, as at least one prominent geocentrist does, without first rejecting the experimental results that support it?"

Again, I feel I have to point out that last sentence is a case of cognitive dissonance with young-Earth creationists' own thought process regarding the age of things.

I'm going to skip the second example and move to their third, which is redshift and blueshifted light. Specifically:

"We also saw several examples of people rejecting redshift/blueshift for calculating local motion, but nobody explained why, when we measure the absorption lines of hydrogen here on earth, those same apparent absorption lines seen in interstellar objects are shifted one way or the other? Some contradicted themselves by accepting that there is local, independent motion of stars and galaxies. But how can we “know” this without trusting the spectral line data? And what are the implications of local motion in the geocentric model? Clearly, the stars are not “fixed” in relation to one another. What then holds them in their respective places as they whirl about the earth at incredible speeds? Why do neighboring stars orbit at the same rate as distant galaxies when there is a multi-billion-fold difference in their respective distances? What causes them to orbit once a day when some are very close compared to others and nothing is fixing them in place with respect to one another? And if nearby stellar objects (those with the greatest gravitational effects impinging on the earth) have relative motion, how much of a potential effect would this have on ‘balancing’ earth at the center of the universe?"

It's a pretty good inconsistency to point out, and while it's not something you can necessarily measure easily on your own, this is an experiment that a high school science class could do.

The fourth point under the non-Newtonian claims is this: "It pains us to note that many of [the geocentrists] do not believe in the moon landings. If one has to reject so much operational science in order to explain the universe, science cannot then be used to explain the universe. So why bother to try to build a ‘scientific’ model at all? This is their greatest Achilles’ heel."

Again ... pot, meet kettle. In another section, they also complain that geocentrists cherry-picked their arguments. They wrote: "We noticed several examples of cherry picking, the act of arbitrarily picking and choosing different explanations for the same phenomenon. We also called it “stamp collecting”, which made many people mad. But it’s clearly what they are doing."

Wrap-Up

There are other arguments that CMI made and talked about, that that's about it that I think are really worth discussing in this episode. At a basic level, I hope that what you got out of this main segment is some more examples of why geocentrism doesn't make any sense and falls apart with even a small bit of critical investigation.

The second bit I hope you took from this episode is that just because you may have a belief that's significantly outside the mainstream on one thing, that does not mean that your beliefs on everything must be wholly discarded.

But third is the cognitive dissonance that must be held within the minds of the creationists at CMI. Here is how they end their second article:

"The geocentrist goes too far in rejecting sound scientific theory and data. In the end, they are left with a universe that cannot be explained scientifically. It is a mysterious universe that cannot be comprehended through direct observation and analysis, for what is true in one place cannot be true in another. Because of this, we want to encourage everyone to put on their thinking caps and realize that the geokinetic model is simply a better explanation of the facts. It satisfies multiple criteria as faithful science."

I always encourage people to put on their proverbial thinking caps. You should be doing that with what you may see on creationist websites, what you hear from me, and what you see and hear in your daily life.

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