Apart from the intricate structure of Medieval cosmology, geocentrism was the default position for much of the ancient world, including the ancient Hebrews. One of the most fascinating aspects of geocentrism is that it has never entirely died out. When looking for some pictures (such as the one here) to include in a class presentation, I was surprised by some of the current support for the theory I found, and not just from fringe nutcases such as this or this. I think it is fair to say that such support starts with certain religious presuppositions regarding the interpretation of scripture, rather than from any scientific examination of the universe we actually live in. The type of logic used to justify a literal rather than contextual understanding of the Bible in support of a Geocentric universe is rightly rejected by nearly everyone I’ve ever met, although many young earth creationists (YEC) are vehement that the method of metaphorically interpreting verses in a culturally appropriate context (such as 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 93:1, and Psalm 104:5) should only be applied to those passages which appear to support a geocentric cosmology. Following the geocentric rabbit hole, however, led to some bizarre places within the YEC subculture.
Skeptical? I would guess that even many friends who are sympathetic to young earth doctrine would raise their eyebrows at the idea that many people (some of them quite influential in Christian circles) still consider geocentrism a viable theory. But consider the stunning statement from Conservapedia’s article on geocentrism:
“Since the advent of relativity theory in the early 1900s, the laws of physics have been written in covariant equations, meaning that they are equally valid in any frame. Heliocentric and geocentric theories are both used today, depending on which allows more convenient calculations.” (emphasis mine)
Beyond the questionable use of the Theory of Relativity (and the odd cherry-picking of which modern scientific theories to believe in), who exactly is using geocentric theories? (or heliocentric theories, for that matter!) And why are these theories only “considered to be profoundly mistaken”?
Or take this entry from CreationWiki on geocentricity:
Biblical creationists generally view the creation of the cosmos as an Earth-centered event, and the space beyond our world created simply to “declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). Therefore, it is largely assumed the Earth is at the relative center of the cosmos.
Largely assumed by whom? According to a Gallup poll from about ten years ago, nearly one in five Americans believe that the sun revolves around the Earth. So far from being a fringe issue, this is an important problem that needs discussion. This is a worldview issue as much as it is a discussion of scientific illiteracy. I find it hard to believe that 18% of the American population has never heard of the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun. It seems more likely that people simply choose not to believe. Given that polls consistently show that around 40% of the American public believes in a young earth, it is a fair assumption that due to their religious underpinnings a strong correlation exists between the two beliefs, and that nearly half of those who believe in Young Earth Creationism also adhere to tenets of Geocentrism. With this in mind, what do the major organizations promoting young earth doctrines have to say about this phenomenon? Do they advocate for at least a basic level of scientific understanding on this issue? I will discuss this question next time.