The Discarded Image…or is it? – Part Three

As discussed last time, modern geocentrism is a widely held belief that many people may not even be aware exists. Unlike in ancient times, when such beliefs were commonly accepted by the religious and irreligious alike, today such models are held for primarily religious reasons.  Geocentrism is deduced from a certain set of presuppositions regarding the interpretation of scriptures, rather than induced from examining the phenomena of the physical world. These phenomena must then either be reinterpreted or ignored in order to “preserve the appearances” of the model.

Fortunately, YEC organizations such as Answers in Genesis the Institute for Creation Research explicitly deny strict geocentrism.  What does the adjective “strict” mean, however? It refers specifically to the Ptolemaic system discredited by Copernicus and Galileo.  This leaves the door open, then, for a more common form of contemporary geocentrism, which could most easily be described as “relative geocentrism”.  This theory posits that Einstein’s theory for general relativity provides scientific justification for a viewpoint in which the Earth was created first and the rest of the cosmos later created around it. Take the following comments posited by Dr. Gerrald Aardsma:

Many attempts were made to prove that heliocentricity was true and geocentricity was false, right up until the early 1900’s. All such attempts were unsuccessful….Einstein’s theory of general relativity adds further to the debate….According to this theory the geocentric and heliocentric viewpoints are equally valid representations of reality, and it makes no sense whatsoever scientifically to speak of one as being true and the other false.

Looking over available literature online, using general relativity to support a special “location” for the Earth is a fairly common approach. There are many problems with this, scientific and otherwise, of which I will only mention a few. First, the notion that every point in the universe can be viewed as “center” (explained in very simple terms here) supports neither geocentrism or heliocentrism in any useful sense. For example, once man set foot on the moon, for Neil Armstrong the moon became the center of the universe. Does this mean that the earth began to rotate around the moon from his perspective? This seems to me to be more of an intellectual “trick” which has little spiritual or intellectual value. It certainly is not a model of cosmology that bears any relation to cosmologies of the ancient world. Presenting this viewpoint to an ancient Hebrew would have likely made them question your sanity, and it seems disingenuous in terms of providing an interpretation of particular scriptures. Beyond this, are young earth creationists really willing to accept all of the scientific implications of general relativity as well as the scientific premises, processes, and peer review which led to its formulation and acceptance? 

Regardless, even though major YEC organizations refute strict geocentrism and point out that a belief in a young earth does not logically necessitate placing a fixed earth at the center of the cosmos, why do so many people still believe that the sun revolves around the earth? I would suggest that the concordist approach to scriptural interpretation advocated by young earth creationists gives no logical reason to interpret scriptures such as Psalm 93:1 in anything other than a literal manner similar to that taken through most of Christian history. In other words, the evidence for interpreting this verse metaphorically does not come from Scripture itself, but from empirical science which demonstrates that the Earth in fact does move. Is it any wonder that many would view a YEC organization as being logically inconsistent with its own principles regarding which scriptures it allows science to “speak” into, and choose instead to simply take the Bible at the plain, surface level of the text, rejecting science in the process? In this case, relative geocentrism provides a facile pseudo-scientific justification for religious beliefs.

Even more interesting than “relative geocentrism” is the new battle to reclaim the concept of a geographic “center” which places man at the physical center of the cosmos. This is known as galactocentrism, which rejects most contemporary astrophysics for a model with the Milky Way at the physical center of the universe.  This theory has been given a great deal of press and support by both AiG and ICR.  The basic theory, as advocated by Dr. Russell Humphreys, states that the remainder of galaxies in the universe are located in a superstructure (perhaps including “evenly spaced spherical shells” reminiscent of the Medieval model) that rotates around us, and that quantizing the red shifts of entire galaxies produces supporting data.  At this point, our location at the “center” becomes an important theological point once again. In a March 17, 2003 article since removed from ICR’s website, it was claimed that the dipole structure of cosmic background radiation is related to a cosmic axis centered on the Earth. Despite numerous scientific studies which could be said to have demonstrably falsified the galactocentric model, this new attempt to place humanity at the physical center of the cosmos seems to enjoy increasing support within the YEC community.

I am left with the feeling that all of this is a bit of a rabbit trail into a bizarre, non-falsifiable, anti-scientific cul-de-sac. My friends who are atheists will probably take this as more evidence of how insane Christians really are. The whole issue of modern geocentrism (or its contemporary cousin galactocentrism) is unfortunate, as it associates Christianity with anti-intellectualism, an anti-scientific mindset, and a denial of the physical world which borders on the Gnostic. The continued propagation of these ideas not only provides a justification for non-theists to dismiss considerations of Christianity outright, but is most likely a contributing factor in many young Christians’ abandonment of the faith when confronted with divergent viewpoints which provide a more rigorous explanation of physical reality. In my final discussion of this issue, I will give the reasons why I believe that the modern geocentric model is nonsense from my standpoint as a Christian layperson.

Other entries in this series:  part one     part two    part four

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