Sunday, May 9, 2010

Geocentrism is not dead!

The web site

has a link to a video where some creationists in the UK – they actually call themselves creationists – say that they can absolutely falsify evolution. Their argument? They can prove that the universe is geocentric. The creationist argument used in this particular video relates to the Michelson – Morley experiment. As the video states, that is “the most famous non-result in scientific history”.

It is, of course, completely ludicrous to believe that the universe is geocentric. But the video is interesting for two reasons.

First, I think that it is a good example of the sorts of arguments that creationists are fond of. The Michelson – Morley experiment had unexpected results (or more accurately, a lack of results) that surprised scientists. While it is a fairly well-known experiment, it’s likely that 90% or more of the general population has never heard of it. I first heard of it during a college physics class. Not many people take college physics classes.

Of course the vast majority of people do know that mainstream science overwhelmingly believes that the universe – as well as the solar system – is NOT geocentric. Even elementary school science classes talk about the Earth rotating on its axis every 24 hours and revolving around the sun every 365-1/4 days.

But, if you want to make an argument that will impress a relatively unsophisticated audience, do this:

  1. Describe an experiment with results that surprised scientists.
  2. Point out that this shows that scientists don’t know everything.
  3. Claim that the fact that scientists don’t know everything shows that they are wrong about geocentrism.

The Michelson-Morley experiment actually showed that there is no ‘aether’ – a weightless medium through which light propagates. But most people haven’t heard of the ‘aether’ either. (Hey, that rhymes!)

Unsophisticated people end up saying, “Hey! We should teach the controversy!”

At this point you’d expect common sense to kick in. The Michelson-Morley experiment took place in 1887. That’s 123 years ago. If it confirmed geocentrism, wouldn’t someone have noticed over all that time? After all – even so many years later - it is surely still the case that science rejects geocentrism. How can that be the case if this experiment so long ago showed otherwise?

It seems to me that, if we had never heard of that experiment, our common sense would tell us that while it is interesting, we should look into it a little more. Maybe a Google search would work or you could check it out on Wikipedia. People who would simply accept such a claim at face value are the same sort of people who would buy the Brooklyn Bridge from a stranger.

As we’ve discussed, a scientific consensus doesn’t prove anything. The scientific consensus before the Michelson-Morley experiment was that an aether existed. That was wrong.

But surely a strong consensus indicates that there must be SOME evidence supporting that consensus. So shouldn’t a rational person be a bit skeptical about individual experiments – especially ones performed long ago – that supposedly falsify some widely-held scientific hypothesis?


For some reason, creationists don’t do that. Creationists who claim that “There is NO evidence supporting evolution” are necessarily totally deluding themselves. Evolution may be wrong (though I surely don’t think that it is). But it is impossible to believe that there is NO evidence supporting evolution!

But, of course, a second question from this video is very obvious:

How could geocentrism falsify evolution?

Hopefully some creationist can answer this question. Note that I don’t expect anyone to actually believe that geocentrism is true. Instead I’m asking that IF geocentrism was true, how would that falsify evolution?

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