the solar system [NGC]
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 18:31:27 +0200
From: Matthias Sant'Ana
Reply-To: The GREYtalk Discussion List
I know this is NGC, but I'd like to disagree with Jay Hafner in his "copernican revolution" argument, repeated below:
>I remember learning how _complicated_ the equations were for figuring out the Ptolemeic system of the universe (the earth is the center and the _stars_
>_and_ planets revolve around it). The system was wrong and completely
>simplified when Copernicus let the truth out... Wasn't he flamed at the
>stake from the 'church' too?
There is no doubt how difficult it was to describe the solar system and it's
irregularities with the eliptic or circular orbits that composed the ptolemaic (sp) model. The system was wrong, as was Copernicus' BTW, but it was by far a more elegant model (mathematically less complex...) and it gave out the same general mechanical results from a earth-centered perspective. If he wanted to determine where mars would be in a certain moment, he could do that as well as any other system, including Copernicus'.
The fact is that these men were nominalists. They believed that if god could do anything, it was not very wrong to create imaginary models that could simplify calculus, no matter how absurd they might be in a metaphysical sense (in those days) or in a strictly scientific astronomy (in our days). They were not concerned with describing reality in itself, but only with determining precisely the position of stars as regards our point-of-view. They were not doing choices on metaphysics, but on geometry and mathematics, and not because they opposed the churches totalitarian opinions about the universe, which they in fact endorsed, since they accepted that God could establish a universe under whichever laws He chose.
Copernicus was condemned, as is frequently the case when one wants to persecute a certain ideology, because of an imputed ideology. The church said he held a certain view, despite the fact that he might not have defended that view at all. But then again this is just guessing, since the records of his judgement are still held in secrecy by the vatican (they were supposed to be disclosed soon, though...). I think it was Burke (don't recall his first name now..., but he's an historian of science who had privileged access to church archives in the Gregorian Institute at Rome) who
said that it was equally probable that he was condemned because certain of his thesis in physics implied that the miracle of transubstanciation (sp) of bread in to the body of the Christ during eucharistics could not occur. That was a dogma much dearer to the church than the relative position of the stars and planets... This is just to say that what we really know about Copernicus, and his trial, is very much tainted by revisionary interpretation of the rennaissance and posterior periods, where everything held to be true by the Church should be considered nonsense and everything held to be true by the newly emancipated commercial aristocracy is true...
That's all I had to say. Just for the record, I agree otherwise with everything Mr. Jay Hafner said about AD&D. I'm quite traditionalist myself, and stick mostly to the rules, but one issue that was never really adressed by the AD&D system was the distinction between things that are innate because of culture, and those that are racially or biologically innate. It's easier to understand why dwarves are more resistant to magic because of their constitution than understanding why elves, even if they are not proficient with a sword or bow, get a +1 on it... it's the same question with armor wearing elven F/MU... and so on...
Flames or comments?