Not worthy of any serious refutation? I am aware that this will be the verdict of virtually all readers who have taken the trouble to follow me thus far in my defense of Tycho Brahe. Well, to lecture me must therefore be easy for them. Just let them present me with one astronomical observation that physically and logically gives short shift to my thesis, and I shall retract every word I have said. However, to save those readers fruitless efforts, let me – and this together with the truly prominent pundits in the fields of science and philosophy! – warn them that such an observation cannot be found. At bottom it is my implicit medieval credulity against their equally credulous faith in the scientific method. And that is a controversy not susceptible to proof, pro or contra.
Allow me, as far as provability is concerned, to summarize the whole matter. First of all: nobody can deny that at the end of the 19th century the Newtonian view of the cosmos was in dire straits, and that ultimately only Einstein rescued astronomy out of the Ptolemaic cul-de-sac into which it had reasoned itself. However, as I have shown, that great man’s ingenious theories are not only inadmissibly tainted by a metaphysical stance, but also scientifically suspect by reason of two elementary logical fallacies. From the circumstance that here on Earth we cannot detect motion relative to space it does not follow that such is nowhere possible. I note in passing that L. Essen challenges the “common view that the special theory of relativity is well supported by experimental evidence, although this may not be true of the general theory”.(132) More importantly: I consider the sad actuality that all this evidence is obtained by affirming the consequent and is therefore not in the least compelling. “If relativity is true we shall be doing this to obtain that . Here is the that, and therefore…” Fiddlesticks. There may be a quite different phenomenon behind that outcome. Last but not least, I hold that the general theory, as I have demonstrated, is in its present form untenable. Looking at the star Alpha Centauri from an Earth circling the Sun, parallax measurements and trigonometry would assure us that the two are 1.3 parsecs, or more than 4.2 light years apart. But looking from an Earth circled by the Sun, the distance turns out to be less than one twenty-fifth of that amount. Now these values cannot both be true, and the theory’s assertion that the second view is as good as the first, but not better, is consequently wrong.
The desirability of a test is thereby certainly even more stressed, because it will logically and physically settle the matter. If a suitable modification of either Hoek’s experiment performed in 1868 or that proposed by me in 1968 produces a null result, Einstein will at last be acceptably verified. For the reasoning behind these proposals is modus tollendo tollens and therefore logically binding. On the other hand: if the result will be positive and the observed interference consistent with the speed of the used apparatus, then space knows proper place and movement real rest.
Yet will it settle the matter, logically and physically?… Russell’s Caveat, re-worded in a form he would have scorned, must have the last word.
“Saving the appearances”, that is promoting a plausible guess at what we prefer, or believe to be, the truth behind the veil of the observations we are wont to call “facts” – it is a game we can all play to our hearts’ content. And astronomers, judging from their papers, enjoy it to the full.(88) However, without subsequent verification our guesses are no more than doubtable desiderata, as yet binding no one.
For this-worldly science careful testing of all theories is a sine qua non. Whether we build our models of the Universe on sacred or secular givens, our ideas remain tentative until duly verified. But even the most solid experimental affirmations and the failure of all efforts at falsification do not, I maintain, provide us with a final, a definite answer to the question how the Heavens go. Our experimental set-ups may be impeccable and our reasoning logically faultless – a not yet realized aspect of the natural world may one day come to the fore and upset our tidy schemes. It has happened time after time, and who can guarantee that it will not happen again?
Is it therefore impossible to declare any model of the cosmos truly true? Is there not any unassailable logical reasoning or physical observation compelling us to prefer in astronomy one postulate above all the other ones put forward and believed in throughout human history? No, there is not. Man sees what he wants to see, but cannot prove his view to be correct. As Meno put it to Socrates: if you do not already know which view is the true one, “even if you come right up against it, how will you know that what you have found is the thing you didn’t know?”
Socrates rebuttal of this argument is revealing: he has to fall back on “men and women who understand the truth of religion.“(133) Precisely so: only a metaphysical message from a Bystander, for Whom alone the cosmos is an object not participated in, will give short shift to an otherwise endless theorizing. I unconditionally accept such a metaphysical input – the same that Tycho Brahe decided to believe in. Assuredly nobody can possibly do more than decide what to believe. And Homo Sapiens should not forget to realize that he may not have come to whatever decision he takes uninfluenced by and independently from everything else. For his mental makeup and logical capacity he has not himself created out of nothing – he acquired it somehow from somewhere.
Let me repeat: I reject any effort to drag the Bible into court as a scientific textbook. To do that is to demean its character. However, Genesis chronicles, as many myths profess to do, how Earth and man came into existence and degenerated into their present fallen state. And this with a self-evident authority, not mincing matters. As George Roche remarks: “We may think of Genesis as fanciful, but next to all other creation myths it is as prosaic as a newspaper report“(134)
- Science and the Christian Faith
- I. Simple First-Order Test of Special Relativity