Astronomy Intelligent Design Science

Isaac Newton and Richard Feynman on ancient sources who thought Earth is a sphere, orbiting the sun

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The reader who wrote about the geometry of the universe sends us some information about Isaac Newton’s appraisal of ancient views:

The System of the World

It was the ancient opinion of not a few, in the earliest ages of philosophy, that the fixed stars stood immoveable in the highest parts of the world; that, under the fixed stars the planets were carried about the sun; that the earth, us one of the planets, described an annual course about the sun, while by a diurnal motion it was in the mean time revolved about its own axis; and that the sun, as the common fire which served to warm the whole, was fixed in the centre of the universe. This was the philosophy taught of old by Philolaus, Aristarchus of Samos, Plato in his riper years, and the whole sect of the Pythagoreans; and this was the judgment of Anaximander, more ancient than any of them; and of that wise king of the Romans, Numa Pompilius, who, as a symbol of the figure of the world with the sun in the centre, erected a temple in honour of Vesta, of a round form, and ordained perpetual fire to be kept in the middle of it. The Egyptians were early observers of the heavens; and from them, probably, this philosophy was spread abroad among other nations; for from them it was, and the nations about them, that the Greeks, a people of themselves more addicted to the study of philology than of nature, derived their first, as well as soundest, notions of philosophy ; and in the vestal ceremonies we may yet trace the ancient spirit of the Egyptians; for …

and physicist (Nobel, 1965) Richard Feynman’s:

We shall briefly relate the story of the discovery of the law of gravitation and discuss some of its consequences, its effects on history, the mysteries that such a law entails, and some refinements of the law made by Einstein; we shall also discuss the relationships of the law to the other laws of physics. All this cannot be done in one chapter, but these subjects will be treated in due time in subsequent chapters. The story begins with the ancients observing the motions of planets among the stars, and finally deducing that they went around the sun, a fact that was rediscovered later by Copernicus. Exactly how the planets went around the sun, with exactly what motion, took a little more work to discover. In the beginning of the fifteenth century there were great debates as to whether they really went around the sun or not. – The Feynman Lectures on Physics

So, unlike modern pundits, Newton and Feynman knew a lot about the actual carefully thought-out views of ancient astronomers. But what, after all, did they really know? None of those people had smartphones.

See also: Pondering the universe’s geometry. Why would a spherical Earth be “unfathomable”? Once the Sun and the Moon were seen as spheres, whatever the universe as a whole might be like, it seems logical that Earth would be a sphere too.

One Reply to “Isaac Newton and Richard Feynman on ancient sources who thought Earth is a sphere, orbiting the sun

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    News, yes, and instructive. But, there is such a thing as narrative dominance that resists the spreading infection of warranted truth. A key element in such domination is to induce the credentialled talking classes in education and the media to swallow a crooked yardstick as their standard for straight, accurate, upright. What is genuinely such will then never conform to the crooked standard and will be dismissed. Including, the naturally straight and upright plumb line. However, as more and more realise that something is absurdly wrong, there is an opportunity for the epidemic of truth to spread. That is happening with core design thought. KF

    PS: Here is my summary on cosmology and timelines. Included, is a medieval illustration of the roundness of the earth and explanation of the celestial sphere.

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