Why Impossible?

“Impossible!”, the enraged reader will exclaim. I ask: “Why impossible?” That is what we see every cloudless night, hence logic cannot fault such a contingency, and weighing the pros and contras there are sound data and common sense arguments favouring it. Allow me the time to tick off a baker’s dozen of the most salient among those.

1. Do not overlook the fact that the heliocentric interregnum, still adhered to in an astronomically not up-to-date view, is actually a mare’s nest of the past. In truth the choice is between Tycho Brahe and Einstein -Galileo, et al., are played out. On the one hand we can opt for a geocentric Universe, strongly intimating a Divine Designer; on the other hand we may prefer a megaevolutionary scheme. That is for a creation, maybe or maybe not, beginning with a Big Bang, leading to a cosmos in which the Earth is a non-entity, and on which we are the still far from perfect product of blind chance. For me, I repeat, the choice is not difficult I am sure that I am not an offspring of a tree-climbing monkey.

2. There is one consideration, echoing through and lingering behind all the pages of this essay: instinctively to objectify any extra-terrestrial event against a background taken to be at rest is to misjudge it. From kindergarten on we may have been trained – better: brainwashed! – to do this. But to parrot the ubiquitous: “The Earth goes around the Sun” is even on Galilean premises, let alone Einsteinian ones, an aphorism without truth content. Only when preceded by a conditional subordinate clause it should be considered seriously. Even then, to be sure, it does not rise above a wishful hypothetical level, but at least makes clear what it means to mean. That is: “Provided you allow that in principle in spatiality we can find a spot guaranteed and proven to be at rest, together with the Sun also solidly at rest, then I predict that we shall see that the Earth goes around the Sun”. But…do I have to repeat the philosophical and, more directly, logical objections against that statement? Apart from the scientifically unattainable certainties, semantics already dispatches the argument as an act of begging the question. Who can define “rest” without referring to “motion”? Or talk about “motion” without presupposing “rest”? Indeed: relativity is king unless we somehow somewhere find three points demonstrably at rest. Searching as we may, not even one of these points we shall ever find – it is a certainty as old as the hills. Archimedes of old (287-212 B.C.) did not utter a profound new insight when he asked for a firm spot to stand on that would enable him to move the Earth. The first members of the human race pondering the problem will have realized the quandary. In concreto we cannot even kick a football absolutely across a field unless we have first made sure that the field is absolutely at rest. In abstracto it is easy to declare that we are corkscrewing through space at a velocity of hundreds of kilometers per second. To make good that contention is a different story, and to assume the supra-spatial stance it presupposes leads us astray.

However tiresome it may have become: since ever and again without much ado this stance is assumed in all astronomical discourse, debate, and dissertation, I want to show its absurdity and tainted origin from yet a different, historical perspective. The fallacy is an old Greek one from which, it seems to me, Aristotle wisely shied away. As C.S. Lewis puts it: the Stagyrite’s standpoint, “the timidity, the hushed voice, is characteristic of the best Paganism”.(79) Above his Primum Mobile he never postulates himself – whatever is there is of such a kind as not to occupy space, nor thus time affect it. And during the first thousand years of the Christian era, whatever the slips of many a pedantic individual, Aristotle’s modest doctrine spoke “loud and jubilant”.(80) It is Gerbert of Reims, Pope Sylvester 11(999-1003), to whom a Dutch philosopher and historian, F. de Graaff – rightly I think -imputes the first moves leading to the emergency of the post-Copernican mind set. “Modern science, of which Gerbert is possible the most important founder, is not delineated by more factual knowledge, not by a more accurate observation, not by a broader and deeper insight than the old sciences knew. No, modern science only means a new relation to reality. The old knowledge understood the immediate relation with the creation, the new science only knows the abstract relation. Its principle is: the creation is by means of its representation reduced to a recognizable and useful object… The goal of modern science is to be master of all that exists. The representation that serves as a means to accomplish this is not an extract of reality but only an image that man projects on reality.”(81) That is: it brushes aside Russell’s Reminder that a man cannot, and in science should not, arrogate a metaphysical viewpoint spuriously allowing him to become a bystander viewing the Universe against a background at rest. Or to borrow out of context a Pauline phrase: man cannot take a seat in the temple of God.

As said: to do this will lead us astray, and a Canadian who did not, as his national anthem enjoined him to do “stand on guard”, considered himself beaten when he was not beaten at all. Seven years ago in a debate following my reading of a geocentric paper at a Christian College at Amersfoort, the Netherlands, an opponent succeeded in keeping the audience and me chained to his pseudo-supernatural viewpoint of objectifying the cosmos. He won the disputation hands down. Since then I have had to wrestle with this “objective” approach countless times. Often interested experts as well as laymen have driven me so handsomely almost into a corner that only in the nick of time I realized how they were seducing me to go “outside” creation for a better look.(82)

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