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Geocentricity, or modern geocentrism - request for possible refutations

  1. Feb 17, 2009 #1

    I'm currenltly engaged in a debate - primarily with young-earth creationists (YECs) - about modern geocentrism. They are defending the position of Gerardus Bouw. I need some help from anyone out there who has expertise in orbits or in this debate in particular.

    Bouw's web site is here:

    http://www.geocentricity.com" [Broken]

    The basic argument is that because general relativity (GR) is based on relative motion, then it is as valid to adopt the geocentric frame of reference as it is to adopt the helocentric (or acentric) one.

    Bouw's site, and my opponents, specifically use this quotation from Einstein to support their claim that the earth is fixed and non-rotating:

    I remember a good set of rebuttals to these claims at a web site called Catholic Outlook, run by Gary Hoge. The rebuttals show how satellite ground tracks make the geocentric argument hard to defend. The Internet archive has links here:

    Catholic Outlook: Topics: Geocentrism
    http://web.archive.org/web/20040803175044/catholicoutlook.com/geocentrism.php" [Broken]

    In addition to presenting Hoge's side, my basic response has been that if GR supports either coordinate system with equal justification, then neither can be chosen as the real or true coordinate system, so how is this a win for geocentrism. Their response is that even a draw is a win for geocentrism because most modern people think that geocentrism "lost" centuries ago. They also further propose something called "GR+", a new system with exactly one favored reference frame - the static earth.

    I am having some trouble pinning down my opponents on some of the issues involved, such as what "fixed" means in the context of a static earth (does it appear at rest from all reference frames, and how is that even possible?), how the motions of geostationary satellites (see Hoge) are explained in geocentrism, and so on.

    I'm not a math or physics expert but would be willing to do or learn some math if it will help with my argument. I just need to know what would be most effective (short of learning the math of GR in a short timespan - I know that is too tall an order).

    There is also a good set of user comments posted at this link, in which one of the commenters presents several critical questions about the geocentric argument. One of the best is about the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite:

    The commenter athemax writes:

    Several other good questions are asked by this user on that page, but I don't want to make this initial post too long, so I will post them later if needed. Also, I find some of this tricky, because Bouw's argument assumes that the entire universe is rotating around the earth once per day (which must account for the earth's yearly orbit as well as its daily rotation), somehow carrying the entire contents of the universe with it (embedded in quantum foam so that the bodies beyond Jupiter don't have to move faster than light). That may sound crazy to some, but I want to know of any point-by-point physics or logical refutations of this argument if any exist.

    I think Bouw appeals to Mach's principle, so I want to know whether Bouw is actually wrong on the physics and if so, why is he wrong. One thing I have not been able to get out of my opponents is, if the earth is made of the same elements as the other bodies in the solar system, why does it remain fixed while the other bodies are carried around embedded in the quantum foam? How can the earth resist the same forces if it is made of the same stuff?

    I understand that some may think this argument is a pointless waste of time, but that's why I posted this topic to the debunking area. Presumably, people here are more willing to engage in debates that others think are pointless. I will bring my debate with the YECs to a close, though, if there really is no way of proving that the modern geocentric argument is wrong. But I suspect that there is a flaw, either in the physics or in the logic, of the arguments of my YEC opponents, and I do not want to end my side of the debate if I have a chance of winning it. And the last thing I want to do is back myself into a corner trying to refute something that may actually be true, or at least mathematically acceptable.

    I'm happy to provide more detail on the arguments if necessary. That includes quoting or summarizing Gerardus Bouw's arguments for modern geocentrism, which I think are the ones that YECs consider the strongest. (Some of you may not want to ready his 160-page book on the topic.)

    Thanks in advance for any help.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 17, 2009 #2


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    If we consider Earth as the center of the Universe, distant stars will be moving at velocities greater than the speed of light.
  4. Feb 17, 2009 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    I don't know if Evo wants to allow this, but there is no unexplained phenomenon to address, and we don't discuss fringe/crackpot theories in S&D.
  5. Feb 17, 2009 #4
    The biggest problem here is that a geocentric view requires us to invent fictitious forces in order to make the planets travel in the strange paths that they take from the earth's reference frame. Physicists commonly do this when we want to work in a particular reference frame for convenience's sake. When we wish to work in the earth's rest frame, we invent such forces as the Coriolis force to compensate for the fact that we're working in a noninertial reference frame. But we don't believe that the Coriolis force arises from any fundamental particle interaction the way gravity and electromagnetism do. That's the problem with believing that the earth is the center of the Solar System. The extra forces involved can't be explained in terms of the four known forces. The ancients ran into this problem and invented epicycles to solve the dilemma. Today we know the relationship between force and acceleration (Newton's Second Law), and this makes a geocentric view almost impossible.

    I've heard about Gerardus Bouw before, and there are a couple of other issues. He defends his position from the Bible, and misuses various passages of Scripture to accomplish this (the Catholic Church used the same passages in the Galileo trial). If you're interested, you may try questioning whether your opponents' interpretations agree with the Biblical authors' original intent.
  6. Feb 18, 2009 #5
    I have heard this objection before. But the way geocentrists claim to get around it is that they say the entire universe, including the space itself, is rotating around the earth. So no particular body is exceeding the speed of light in its local area of space. (Someone else correct me if I am wrong in this summary of the geocentrist position.)

    Having said that, are there other physical effects we should see, such as changes in the light we see from distant objects, if they are rotating around the earth each day?

  7. Feb 18, 2009 #6
    we're not only not geocentric, we're not heliocentric, either. our star is moving through the galaxy.
  8. Feb 18, 2009 #7

    Thanks. I do agree that the geocentrism of people such as Bouw is really based on a belief that the Bible teaches geocentrism. So for them, geocentrism must be true because if geocentrism is false, then the Bible is inaccurate. I think this is a kind of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_consequences" [Broken]fallacy.

    But I am curious to know whether there is a physical way to disprove geocentrism or whether the whole exercise is futile. Again, I am not an expert in this material, so please correct or teach me as needed.

    For example, what about the concept of a barycenter? As I understand it, in Newtonian gravitation, two bodies such as the Earth and the Moon, or the Earth and the Sun, both orbit a common point called a barycenter. Wikipedia has http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_of_mass#Barycenter_in_astronomy". In every case, both bodies are moving, not just one.

    How do geocentrists explain this? Also, is this the same in general relativity? Does GR have barycenters?

    Also, given that both bodies in a binary system are supposed to move with respect to each other, is there any accuracy to claiming that one of them is absolutely fixed? For example, is it possible for an experiment like the following to distinguish between "hard geocentrism" (for lack of a better term) and the "soft geocentrism" of GR?:

    1. If it is true that the Earth and the Moon, for example, orbit a common barycenter, then there should be detectable changes is the distance between the Earth and the Moon, since both are wobbling with respect to each other. Can we measure this distance over time (several months) using laser ranging?

    2. Can we simlutaneously measure the distance from Earth to some other body - perhaps the SOHO satellite that is always between the Earth and the Sun? I'm not sure what that distance should be over time, but my proposal is to use it as a comparison with the Earth-Moon distance.

    3. If the Earth is truly fixed and motionless, then what we think is the wobble between the Earth and the Moon is really due to some combination of motions of the Moon and the rotating universe. Maybe it's all one or the other, but none of the wobble can come from the Earth.

    4. If none of the wobble can come from the Earth, then is there some relationship between the Earth-Moon distance and the Earth-SOHO distance? It's possible that there is no relationship, in which case I don't think this experiment could be conclusive.

    5. But what if there is such a relationship - for example, suppose it can be shown that by holding the Earth as fixed (as claimed by geocentrists) that the Earth is getting closer to SOHO and the Moon at the same time when SOHO and the Moon are on opposite sides of the Earth. In that case, the geocentrist claim would imply something like: the Earth is fixed, yet it is getting closer to two objects on opposite sides of itself at the same time.

    I know I am not explaining this well, and perhaps a picture is better.

    SOHO ---+--- DES ---+--- EARTH ---+--- DEM ---+--- MOON

    DES = the distance from the Earth to SOHO
    DEM = the distance from the Earth to the Moon

    Maybe this experiment can be better done with geostationary satellites or planets. Do you know if any such experiment is plausible?

    Also, here are some other questions from that blog I quoted in my first post:

    Are these objections unsurmountable for geocentrists, or will they simply claim that some other kind of force accounts for the observation?

    Thanks again,
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Feb 18, 2009 #8

    D H

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    That is not a valid objection. Per general relativity all reference frames are equally valid, including one with origin at the center of the Earth and rotating with the Earth. So what's wrong with geocentricism?

    Simple: It's an incredibly stupid choice of reference frames for describing physics anywhere but the Earth (including its atmosphere). Just because it is a valid choice does not mean it is the only choice (or a very smart choice). The author of this crackpot website makes the incredible leap from the validity of a rotating, Earth-centered frame to the presumption that this frame is the only valid frame.

    The author uses fallacies galore to make this leap. Just to name a couple, "There are a number of observations and experimental results which indicate that: 1. We are in a central location; 2. We are not moving"

    Re point number 1: Every point in the universe can be viewed as the center of the universe. Better stated: The universe has no center.

    Re point number 2: Wrong. What observations? Certainly not observations of other objects in our solar system (everything is moving with respect to everything else), observations of nearby stars (proper motion), observations of remote stars (redshift), or observations of the CMBR. The anisotropies in the CMBR tell us a lot about the motion of our galaxy, our galactic cluster, and even larger structures. To arrive at those pretty pictures of a nearly uniform CMBR astronomers have to remove the effects of motion from the raw readings.
  10. Feb 18, 2009 #9
  11. Feb 20, 2009 #10
    The question is "not even wrong", as they say. It's like saying, which latitude and longitude coordinates are the center of the surface of the earth. What does that question even mean? Just asking it presupposes a faulty view of the shape of space.
  12. Feb 22, 2009 #11
    Yes, I understand that this is the case, but I want to be able to articulate why the question is "not even wrong."

    The point of the cartoon posted by NeoDevin is well taken. But I have seen books such as https://www.amazon.com/dp/0195132025/?tag=pfamazon01-20 by Julian B. Barbour, that seem to spend a lot of time discussing these issues. But the whole issue is still confusing to me, because I'm having trouble separating the legitimate points of discussion from the crank arguments. I assume most readers here don't think Barbour's book is a waste of time, so perhaps someone can explain (if they've read the book) what Barbour is discussing and whether it has any bearing on the debate I'm having with the YECs.

    As I mentioned before, I want to determine whether my YEC opponents are engaging in a meaningless debate, and what makes it meaningless. Part of the answer is that Einstein said the argument was meaningless according to GR, but my opponents are claiming that Bouw is somehow improving upon GR with a new system called "GR+":

    Basically, my current rebuttal to their arguments is that if either CS can be used with equal justification, then this is not a win for geocentrism. Yet they insist that a draw, so to speak, is as good as win because the mainstream teaching is that geocentrism is wrong.

    I, naturally, see things differently. To me, even if we accept the geocentrist argument that the geocentric CS is equally valid to the heliocentric (or acentric) CS, that still doesn't make the geocentric CS better or the only true CS. I don't even understand how the geocentric CS can be the only true one in any meaningful way. For example, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VWM0XswwGg". There are clearly CS positions from which the earth is rotating, so I have no idea how geocentrists know that the geocentric CS is favored or absolutely true.

    I know I am probably preaching to the converted here, but I'm looking for some specific ways to rebut the geocentrist position that a draw (using GR) is a win. The analogy to latitude/longitude of the center of the surface of the Earth is a good start. But I'm wondering if there is anything more - maybe even things like the carousel point-of-view regarding SOHO, or possibly the Earth's magnetic field - that might in fact reveal that the Earth is really rotating and that the universe is not rotating around us.

    Thanks again,
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  13. Feb 22, 2009 #12

    D H

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    That is exactly correct. A geocentric viewpoint (and a rotating one, too boot) is equally valid to a heliocentric frame from the perspective of general relativity. To make the leap from that point of view that it is the only "true" frame takes a lot of obfuscation. Lying, if you want to use an Anglo-Saxon word.

    Which viewpoint is "better"? It depends upon the problem being investigated. An example where an Earth-fixed frame is "better": meteorology. Just try to model the Earth's atmosphere from a heliocentric point of view, or even an Earth-centered inertial frame. As far as I know, *all* meteorological modeling is done from the perspective of an Earth-fixed frame.

    One must of course incorporate fictitious forces into the equations of motion. Those fictitious forces seem very real to an observer on the surface of the Earth. They are a very useful fiction. That cyclones rotate counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere but clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere is a direct consequence of the Coriolis effect.

    In introducing those fictitious forces, there is an implicit acknowledgment that there exist some frame (an inertial frame) in which those fictitious forces vanish. They are a fiction, and a fiction only. The apparent superluminal velocities of the stars that arise in an Earth-fixed frame are pure fiction, and in this case, the fiction is not useful at all. In fact, it just gets in the way.

    Ask them to explain a Foucault pendulum or a ring-laser gyro.
  14. Feb 22, 2009 #13
    Thanks for this. It sounds like I need to proceed with this approach - (1) breaking apart the claim that the geocentric CS is somehow better than the other CS and (2) asking for more specific geocentric explanations of observed phenomena.

    Could you explain a little about how a ring-laser gyroscope figures in the geocentrism debate?

    Thanks once more,
  15. Feb 22, 2009 #14

    D H

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    To tell the truth, you are better off not arguing with them. NeoDevin nailed it with the cartoon he posted. Those who truly ascribes to the notion of geocentricism 400 years after this notion was thoroughly debunked are so far off the deep end of illogic that there is no arguing with them at all. Those who gives the appearance of ascribing to geocentricism (without actually believing it) are just being jerks to get a response.

    If you insist, beware that they will use outright lies plus every logical fallacy known to mankind plus a bunch of new ones to make there point. The crank website in the original post is chock full of fallacies. I picked a couple apart in post #8.

    Regarding ring laser gyros: They measure rotation with respect to a non-rotating frame. A ring laser gyro attached to a vehicle in low earth orbit holding LVLH attitude will measure a rate of one revolution per ninety minutes or so. A ring laser gyro attached to a vehicle sitting on the Moon will measure a rate of one revolution per sidereal month, not one revolution per synodic month. A ring laser gyro attached to a vehicle sitting on the Earth will measure a rate of one revolution per sidereal day -- just like a Foucault pendulum.
  16. Feb 22, 2009 #15


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    That's really the key to harp on in an argument like this. Don't get caught-up in the other arguments, they are all just noise around this central point of simply flawed logic. You can't go from 'relativity says both frames are acceptable' to 'only one frame is acceptable'. Period. The very theory that they are trying to say enables geocentricity actually denies it.
  17. Feb 23, 2009 #16
    Thanks to everyone who's responded. I will take the reference frame point as far as I can and then call the debate a win if they don't acknowledge the logical problem.

    And thanks to D H for the information on ring-laser gyroscopes.

    Thanks again,
  18. Feb 24, 2009 #17
    NeoDevin is right:
    they do not play by the rules. You can not win on this question.
    I love to discuss religion issues. But I've never won against believers(*).
    If I talk about science with religeous guys they do not understand my issues.
    If I talk about religion with religeous guys they stop talking (I do not win, it is the best I can get).
    I do prefer to discuss with them in their own grounds: religion.
    If you want some questions to ask them (attack is better than defend) just ask me.
    But I bet that you can not win them.

    (*) Also science is full of believers, and that is a problem to find better answers.
  19. Feb 26, 2009 #18
    Why assume that this is a religious debate? The motivations of the geocentrists for believing as they do are irrelevant. From what I understand about Gerardus Bouw, he's seeking to debate geocentricity on its scientific merits. It's pretty easy to demonstrate scientifically that the earth is not stationary, nor is it the center of the universe.

    Furthermore, the geocentrists are operating under the assumption that heliocentrism threatens their religious beliefs. Why validate their fear?
  20. Feb 26, 2009 #19
    http://hypertextbook.com/eworld/geocentric.shtml" [Broken] show the motivations. The religious book (Bible) is the source of 'knowledge'. It is a discussion on religion, even if the subject is Sun, Earth, Stars... . They have to stick to those words and I can not shift to scientific discussion. If I try to do a scientific discussion and the others are making a religious case no one wins. An independent judge is inacceptable.
    If I do not discuss with them they will caim injusticed (is written in the book that the true believers will be persecuted because of their faith).
    I choose to make a religious discussion (based entirely on what is written in the book) and play the game. They will stop arguing because it is worst to be beaten in their own arena.
    The bible is very good to defeat or defend any position, because it is very versatile.
    This is the main reason why hundreds of religions are based in a single book.

    How can we talk about scientific merits if science is mundane, adaptative, has its own believers, today is like this, tomorrow will be like that..., and the word of god is in a far superior plane ok knowledge, imutable, written thru thousand of years by god inspiration.

    Luckily not all believers have equal positions. The huge majority of them can separate the 'literal words' from 'general meaning' of bible and do not try to mess with science.

    Science 'To Ceasar'...and 'worship' to 'God (or /Ala/Yhave/...) ' !
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