Posts Tagged 'Kepler'

Galileo’s vain ambition

Galileo’s Dialogue concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), which argues for the superiority of the heliocentric Copernican over the geocentric Ptolemaic system, is a classic straw man argument. By 1632, astronomers had all but abandoned the Ptolemaic system, which had become untenable in the light of the evidence from telescopes for more than 20 years, which showed, for example, that Mercury and Venus orbited the sun. By that late stage, the majority of astronomers had adopted the geo-heliocentric model, such as that of Tycho Brahe, which had all the planets (other than earth) orbiting the sun, and the sun and the moon in orbit around the earth. Adapted to include a rotating earth, it was indistinguishable from the Copernican system on the basis of empirical observations of our ‘solar system’ from the vantage point of a terrestrial observer.

The Tychonic system was still highly regarded until the end of the seventeenth century when Newton’s discovery of principles of gravitation, and their application to the solar system, caused it to be abandoned as an explanation of reality, though it continues to this day as an elegant method for generating the terrestrial observer’s view of the motions of heavenly bodies in our solar system, for example in planetarium projectors.

So, Galileo was incapable of making a case in favour of Copernican heliocentrism over against the majority view of Tychonic geo-heliocentrism based on observation of the sun, moon and planets, and he could not do so based on physical principles as he rejected the idea of gravitation beyond the earth’s atmosphere and had never bothered to read up on Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, which had been sitting on his bookshelf for over 20 years. He also believed that no practicable terrestrial experiments could establish whether the earth was in motion, for he says in his foreword “all experiments practicable upon the earth are insufficient measures for proving its mobility, since they are indifferently adaptable to an earth in motion or at rest.” Thus he deliberately contrived to make his case using the artifice of a straw man argument, with not even a mention of the then chiefest of the world systems, the Tychonic model.

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Hawking’s Grand Delusion (Part III)


[Read Part I and Part II for background]

Stephen Hawking is doubtless a very intelligent man, but in his most recent book The Grand Design (surely a title that is supposed to be ironic) he has shown that even the most intelligent of scientists can write like a fool, and this monograph will become a classic for that very reason. He followed up his inanities in an interview on Larry King Live on September 10, 2010. It is now evident to all (if anyone was hitherto in any doubt) that Hawking’s brilliance is in a very narrow field indeed, apart from which he gropes and stumbles like a drunken man. Early in his book he announces

Philosophy is dead. It has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly in physics. As a result scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.

As William Lane Craig has remarked, such a verdict is

not merely condescending, but also…outrageously naïve. The man who claims to have no need of philosophy is the one most apt to be fooled by it.

Indeed, Hawking and his sidekick Mlodinow proceed to show just how ignorant they are of philosophy, theology, the philosophy of science, the history of philosophy, the history of science, and general science itself. In the Larry King Live show Hawking was asked who his hero was, and why, to which he responded:

Galileo, the first modern scientist who realized the importance of observation.

Well, you can have who you like as your hero, of course, but the historical claim about Galileo is utter rot. He couldn’t hold a candle to the likes of Kepler, for one. Galileo was a second-rate scientist in the main, who continued to his dying day to deny gravitational force as constraining bodies to rotate around the sun, clinging to an Aristotelian idea that celestial bodies ‘naturally’ moved in ‘perfect’ circles because they were not acted upon by a centripetal force, and he refused to accept Kepler’s careful observations and tabulated data that planets were subject to gravitational pull and moved in ellipses. He likewise refused to believe that the sun and moon caused the tides, as Kepler showed, because he denied extraterrestrial gravity. Apart from his last work, under house arrest, on mechanics, the myth of Galileo’s supposed greatness is the deliberate invention of atheists, communists and other anti-Christians, who have cunningly warped history since the nineteenth century to promote a ‘conflict thesis’. Mighty interesting that Hawking, who has built his reputation on pushing cosmic gravity into the absurd, without observational corroboration, should have as his hero one who denied extraterrestrial gravity and who often espoused dogma over meticulous observation.

But if philosophy is dead, it is dead only in the mind of Stephen Hawking, where it was delivered stillborn, or smothered at birth. As someone has said, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And if ‘scientific’ conjecture is all Hawking has by way of explanation, it does the crudest of jobs, riding roughshod over and mangling all understanding, rationality and logic, so that he ends up making puerile statements unworthy of an intelligent man. Just as, by definition, ‘Intelligent Design’ is not a scientific hypothesis because it deals with causes outside the realm on natural science, likewise a physical explanation cannot be an explanation for a metaphysical problem.

Continue reading ‘Hawking’s Grand Delusion (Part III)’