From astrophysicist Paul Sutter at LiveScience:
1) What we now call science, philosophy and theology were all mixed up together.
2) Early (proto-)scientists made claims and arguments that would sound totally bananas today.
I’ll leave Copernicus’ motivations to another article, but he did indeed publish a book in 1543 detailing his new cosmology with the sun at the center of the universe. While it did have some advantages over the en vogue geocentric model (like neatly explaining the precession of planetary orbits and requiring fewer circles-within-circles), it did have weaknesses (how, exactly, does something like the Earth move?), and the reaction among the literate community — including the Catholic clergy — was neither hostile nor supportive. At the time, the cosmology of Copernicus simply wasn’t very compelling. More.
And Kepler, who straightened out the mess to a great extent, was an astrologer.
This bears repeating: It is not true that our forebears in science shunned facts. More often, the sets of facts they were dealing with were much messier than pop science today usually portrays them to be.
Put another way, they did not have a set of Right Answers they were refusing to accept. They had people like Copernicus who happened to turn out to be right. And any number of others who turned out to be wrong. It’s to our ancestors’ credit that they managed as well as they did.
See also: It’s amazing how much good science started out as mistakes… Scerri: Rather than a hyper-intellectual, alien activity practiced by a remote priesthood, science is hit and miss, the ever-changing product of less-than-brilliant people, just like every other human activity.
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