Saturday, November 29, 2008
Why did the refutation of the Ptolemaic system by Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo and others raise uncomfortable questions about theology?
The Ptolemaic system was the belief that all the celestial bodies (the sun, moon, planets, stars, etc.) revolved around the earth in what were called spheres and that each was represented by an orb (a planet). The farthest out sphere was that of heaven, and as such, somewhat marked heaven as a place on the galactic map. With the discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo observational evidence was given to support the theory that the earth and all other "heavenly orbs" were in fact revolving around the sun (helio-centricity). This claim, were it to replace the one of Ptolemy, would go to disprove the idea of heaven as a place. It would almost be as if the church were "losing it's rights" to heaven. Furthermore the idea that earth were the center of the universe stands to reason with the bibles human-centered account of time. Finally, since these discoveries were scientific it would go to disprove the highly scholastic claims of theologians. All in all, the church was not happy with these ideas (mainly out of fear for its own safety) and thus labeled them as herecy.