Christian Research Institute

Why Did Heliocentrism Triumph over Geocentrism?

Though the geocentric/heliocentric debate is often posited as science versus Scripture, in reality it is science against science.

First, three centuries before Christ, Aristarchus observed the size and distance of the sun and moon and projected the only luminous object in our planetary system to be at its center. As such, he rejected geocentrism in favor of heliocentrism. Despite his calculations, the views of Aristotle—who not only embraced geocentrism but the scientifically implausible notion of an eternal universe—would hold sway for almost two more millennia.

Furthermore, on the basis of the keen observation of planetary motion, Copernicus jettisoned the geocentrism canonized by Ptolemy in favor of the heliocentrism championed by Aristarchus. Tragically, the era’s resolute bias toward ideal shapes prevented Copernicus from considering that planetary orbits might well be elliptical rather than circular. Not until Kepler in 1620 did observational data overcome that scientific prejudice.

Finally, a half century after Copernicus, Galileo—with telescope in hand—observed the phases of Venus and four moons of Jupiter, thus corroborating heliocentric sensibilities. Ironically, the observational data of Galileo was resisted by Roman churchmen who had canonized the geocentrism of ancient pagan intellectuals (Ptolemy and Aristotle).

In the end, pseudoscientific explanations wedded to pseudoscriptural elucidations are a prescription for misunderstanding both.