What every schoolgirl should know

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 2 (Summer 1997), Letters, Letters, Volume 5

Sir,—The article ‘The Hue and Cry of Heresy’ by Philip McGuinness (HI4.4, Winter 1996), while interesting, was fundamentally flawed. Theauthor invites the reader to ‘dig deeper into the science and societyin which Newton was embedded, and one is allowed…a fascinatinginsight into the use and abuse of science by ideologues…’. As one whohas done this I searched in vain to find justification for the greatest‘scientific-philosophical conclusion’ of them all,Copernicanism/heliocentrism. Newton without Copernicanism is likeGalileo without Copernicanism, or the Catholic Church without theBible. ‘Every schoolgirl has heard the story of Newton and the apple’,yes, but every schoolgirl has only been taught a biased, obscurantistscience. While every schoolgirl will tell you Newton ‘discovered’ thatgravity was a ‘pulling’ force which pulls the apple to the ground intrue Aristotelian fashion, geocentrist science would offer analternative: that gravity is a ‘pushing’ force which pushes the appleto the ground.
I defy any schoolgirl to find such investigation in science, inscientific textbooks anywhere. Why has science ignored a theory whichis every bit as credible as Newton’s? The answer of course is thatNewton’s theory was Copernican and anti-biblical, and Swiss physicist,George Le Sage (1724-1803), for example, was geocentrist. ‘Newton’smechanics—as developed in Principia (1687)—revolutionised science’. Ishould say they did, because from that moment onwards science became aphilosophy, a one-way interpretation of experiment in favour ofCopernicanism/heliocentrism.
Let me demonstrate this perversion of true science by the authorhimself. Pantheism or ether? Toland preferred Bruno’s pantheism whileNewton insisted on a medium for celestial movements (why Aquinas’sangels were not included puzzles me). Thus ether or no ether? To solvethis problem Philip McGuinness cites the 1887 Michelson and Morleyexperiment which set out to prove the existence (or not) of ether. WhatMr McGuinness failed to say was that this experiment was to use thepresumed motion of the earth, as it sped at 67,000 mph through theether, to find (or not) ether impediment to the velocity of one of thesplit beams of light:

In the event no difference was discernible, thus disproving the etherhypothesis: it has become known as ‘the most famousexperiment-that-failed’.

Objective science would of course recognise a second interpretationof the Michelson/Morley experiment: that the earth was not moving. Butphilosophically the earth was presumed to move thanks to the acceptanceof Newton’s theory. But the hard fact is that Newton proved nothing ofthe sort. ‘Saving the appearance’ of gravity proves nothing and Aquinasand Aristotle would have laughed their sides off at the idea that itdid. Neither did Bradley in 1726, with his discovery of stellaraberration, nor did Bessel in 1838 with his discovery of stellarparallax. These ‘proofs’ for Copernicanism/ heliocentrism were butinterpreting the phenomenon to suit their philosophy when an objectiveexamination will show the same discoveries can also be accounted for bygeocentrism.
Now when science operates such bias it ceases to be science.Irishman Fitzgerald and Lorentz tried to account for the one-sidedinterpretation of the Michelson/Morley experiment, not to account forthe missing ether but to save Copernicanism, that stick used to beatthe Rome of the seventeenth century. There would be no return to thatother interpretation of the Michelson/  Morley test, traditionalgeocentrism. Any study of their work will show absurd ad hocs .Einstein was eventually allowed to plagiarise all the crazy ad hocswhen proposing his Special Theory of Relativity in 1905. This theoryhas been falsified many times, recently by Irishman A.G. Kelly with hisA New Theory on the Behaviour of Light (1996).
But with true science compromised to guarantee the Copernicanheresy, and the world now philosophically Copernican, especially theCatholic Church itself under Pope John Paul II, articles such as this,written in good faith I accept, will keep the masses indoctrinated. Thelast thing that will be given an airing is the truth, for few have thelove for truth that will overcome bias and prejudice. I offer thisletter as true history, as relevant to History Ireland asanywhere.—Yours etc.,

82 Breamor Road
Dublin 14

Author’s reply

My article was meant to discuss themes in the history of ideas in thelate-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries; Mr O’Hanlon, bycontrast, is concerned with what he calls ‘Copernicanism’. Firstly,Nikolaus Copernicus died in 1543, some 150 years before the perioddiscussed in my article. It is therefore unsurprising that Mr O’Hanlon‘searched in vain to find…Copernicanism/heliocentrism’. Secondly, tocreate a personal ideology (‘Copernicanism’) out of the scientific workof one person betrays a complete misunderstanding of how science works.New theories and ideas become widely accepted among scientists throughcriticism and corroboration by experimental evidence. When such atheory becomes generally accepted, it is also ‘depersonalised’, i.e. ithas become part of scientific knowledge belonging to all of us. In myarticle I use the term ‘Newtonians’ but I am not referring to peoplewho believed in Newton’s science; rather, this term refers toideologues who attempted to construct a social and political orderbased on Newton’s philosophical speculations, which did not alwaysfollow from his scientific achievements. I welcome Mr O’Hanlon’sraising of the ‘geocentric’ [planets and sun orbit Earth] versus‘heliocentric’ [planets orbit the sun] debate. He is, of course,correct in  stating that an equally valid interpretation of the‘non-result’ of the Michelson/Morley experiment is that the Earth isnot moving (relative to the ether). However, to jump to this conclusionis to completely ignore the great scientific achievements ofCopernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei and IsaacNewton. Copernicus’ idea that the solar system was heliocentric wasrejected by many astronomers because the available astronomicalobservations did not support it. Thanks to superb observations byBrahe, Kepler was able to derive his three laws of planetary motion,which Newton later interpreted in terms of gravitational attractionbetween objects. While Copernicus didn’t explain much more than wasalready explained, his heliocentric hypothesis had elegance unlike thegeocentric model. The genius of Kepler was to show that planetsdescribed elliptical orbits around the sun (Copernicus suggestedcircular orbits). Sending spacecraft from Earth to Mars, Jupiter andother planets is obvious proof of the success of the heliocentric viewof the solar system. Beauty is not just the preserve of artists: theachievements of these scientists are beautiful testaments to both thehuman mind and nature.
Mr O’Hanlon’s description of gravity as ‘a pushing force’ isinnovative. Gravity is an attractive force. This begs the question:what (or who) is doing the pushing? The mass of the Earth ‘pulls’ thesun towards it, just as the sun pulls the Earth towards it. In fact,both sun and Earth rotate around a point called the ‘centre of mass’which—because of the huge mass of the sun relative to Earth (the sun isabout 300,000 times heavier than Earth)—is located very near the centreof the sun (If both were equal in mass, the centre of mass would behalf-way between the two). Mr O’Hanlon offers his letter ‘as truehistory’. Alas, I fear that his arguments are both unhistorical andunscientific.—Yours etc.,
Dept. of Physics
Queen’s University


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