Benjamin Long: SysAdmin, Amateur Programmer, Scientist, & Father

Why Ask Why (Part 1)

January 2nd, 2012 | Posted by benjamin.long in Uncategorized
Icelandic manuscript of the geocentric world view

The geocentric world view

Geocentricism, the belief that the earth is stationary and everything we see in the sky circles it, is a common sense conclusion when faced with the evidence gained though common & casual experience.

No one feels the earth moving beneath their feet. The sun, moon and stars all travel though the sky, as any observer alive will accept. We don’t feel the air move past us as if the earth were flying around the sun at 66,000 miles an hour. Stick your hand out your car window at only 60 mph and the wind is strong. Imagine how hard it would be blowing if we were traveling at 66 thousand miles an hour. And thats ignoring how the earth is supposedly spinning at about one thousand miles an hour. Instead, wind seems to only be affected by the weather, and the earth feels solid and immovable.

The Square & Stationary Earth

The Square & Stationary Earth

The geocentric model with it’s unmoving and stationary earth has a lot of common sense evidence to back it up.

It is also completely wrong.

All the ‘common sense’ in the world will lead you to the wrong answer. You need to dig into the data. You need to know how to think about the problem. You even need some specialized instruments so you have accurate data. Without accurate data, such viewing the phases of Venus, or timing the orbit of the planets, you don’t have anywhere to go but where your common sense leads you. You’ll stay wrong.

Of course, today most people simply accept that the earth goes around the sun because that is what they have been taught in school. However, we must remember that not that long ago, as far as history goes, these same schools were teaching geocentricism. That was the accepted knowledge. That was what everyone knew.

Teach the Controversy

Do we really want to do this?

Still everyone was wrong. They lived out their lives and died in complete ignorance of the truth about the nature or our solar system. We really can’t blame them though, or the teachers that told others this falsehood. For the most part, they did their best with the data they had. Today, there is no available excuse. At least their shouldn’t be. About 18% of people in the United States still think the sun goes around the earth rather then then other way around. Why?

Some blame might be placed on a failure of whatever educational system they went though. But do people stop learning when they get their diploma? Some do. They simply stop asking questions. They stop asking why. This effects much more then the single subject of geocentricism vs. heliocentrism. When people stop asking questions, it doesn’t make them less likely to be swayed by bad information. Instead they become more likely to be fooled by charlatans and easier to take advantage of.

The reason for this is that we as humans, for better or worse, are swayed by much more then just facts. We are emotional beings. As someone once said, ‘our prefrontal lobes are too small, our adrenal glands are too big.’ When we stop asking questions, we’re at the mercy of our emotions. Facts become outweighed by our feelings. We do stupid things to the detriment of our friends, our family, and ourselves. This flaw is known to anyone who wants to exploit it, and exploit it they do.

Follow on to part 2.

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