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No. 253 "Vital Articles on Science/Creation" July 1994
Geocentricity and Creation
by Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D.*
Copyright (c) 1994 by I.C.R.
All Rights Reserved
* Dr. Aardsma is Assistant Professor of Astro/Geophysics at ICR.
1. What is geocentricity?
Geocentricity is a conceptual model of the form of the universe which
makes three basic assertions about the nature of the earth and its
relationship to the rest of the universe. These are:
a. the earth is the center of the universe,
b. the earth is fixed (i.e., immobile) in space, and
c. the earth is unique and special compared to all other heavenly
2. What is the history of geocentricity?
The teaching of geocentricity can be traced in western thought at
least back to Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). Aristotle argued, for example,
that the reason why all bodies fall to the ground is because they seek
their natural place at the center of the universe which coincides with
the center of the earth.
A geocentric model of the universe seems first to have been formalized
by Ptolemy, the famous Greek astronomer who lived in Alexandria around
A.D. 130. Ptolemy's model envisioned each planet moving in a small
circle, the center of which moved along a large circular orbit about the
earth. This model was generally accepted until Copernicus published his
heliocentric model in 1543.
The heliocentric view pictures the sun as motionless at the center of
the solar system with all the planets, including the earth, in motion
around it. Copernicus' heliocentric model, because it used circles to
describe the orbits of the planets about the sun instead of ellipses,
was as clumsy and inaccurate as Ptolemy's geocentric model. However, it
was conceptually simpler. It quickly gained acceptance, though not
without considerable controversy. The conflict between these two views
came to a head in the well-known trial of Galileo by the Inquisition in
Starting from a heliocentric viewpoint, Kepler (1571-1630) was able to
formulate laws of planetary motion which accurately described the orbits
of the planets for the first time. Newton (1643-1727) was then able to
explain why Kepler's laws worked based upon his famous law of gravity.
This tremendous progress in understanding resulted in almost universal
acceptance of heliocentric and rejection of geocentricity.
3. What does modern science say about geocentricity?
Many attempts were made to prove that heliocentric was true and
geocentricity was false, right up until the early 1900's. All such
attempts were unsuccessful. The most well-known of these is the
Michelson-Morley experiment which was designed to measure the change in
the speed of light, due to the assumed motion of the earth through
space, when measured in different directions on the earth's surface. The
failure of this experiment to detect any significant change played an
important role in the acceptance of Einstein's theory of special
The theory of special relativity holds as a basic assumption
that the speed of light will always be the same everywhere in the
universe irrespective of the relative motion of the source of the light
and the observer. The ability of special relativity to successfully
explain many non-intuitive physical phenomena which are manifested by
atomic particles when moving at speeds greater than about one-tenth the
speed of light seems to corroborate this assumption. Thus, the failure
of the Michelson-Morley experiment (and all other experiments of similar
intent) to detect any motion of the earth through space is understood by
modem science in terms of relativity rather than geocentricity.
Einstein's theory of general relativity adds further to the debate. It
asserts that it is impossible for a human observer to determine whether
any material body is in a state of absolute rest (i.e., immobile in
space). It claims that only motion of two material bodies relative to
one another can be physically detected. According to this theory the
geocentric and heliocentric viewpoints are equally valid representations
of reality, and it makes no sense whatsoever scientifically to speak of
one as being true and the other false. This shift in emphasis from an
either-or argument to a synthesis and acceptance of both viewpoints is
summed up by the well-known astronomer, Fred Hoyle, as follows:
The relation of the two pictures [geocentricity and
heliocentricity] is reduced to a mere coordinate transformation
and it is the main tenet of the Einstein theory that any two ways
of looking at the world which are related to each other by a
coordinate transformation are entirely equivalent from a physical
point of view.... Today we cannot say that the Copernican theory
is 'right' and the Ptolemaic theory 'wrong' in any meaningful
Relativity is the theory which is accepted as the correct one by the
great majority of scientists at present. However, many science teachers
and textbooks are not aware of this, and it is not uncommon to find
heliocentric taught as the progressive and 'obviously true" theory
4. What does the Bible teach about geocentricity?
To learn what the Bible teaches regarding geocentricity, it is necessary
to consider separately the three basic assertions of uniqueness,
centrality, and fixity mentioned above since the composite "theory of
geocentricity" is nowhere mentioned in the Bible.
The assertion that the earth is unique and special (item "c" above)
is clearly and unequivocally taught in the first chapter of Genesis.
The plain sense of the creation account is that all other heavenly
bodies were not even brought into existence until the fourth day of
creation. Thus, God had already created the earth, separated the waters
above and below the atmosphere, formed the earth into continents and
oceans, and brought forth vegetation upon the earth before He paused to
create the solar system, the Milky Way, and all of the other material
bodies in the universe. It is very clear that the creation of the earth
was distinct from that of any other heavenly body.
The Biblical doctrine of the uniqueness of the earth is strongly
supported by modern space exploration. In particular, every effort by
scientists to demonstrate that life does or possibly could exist on
other planets in our solar system has so far failed. Such efforts have
only served to underscore how different the earth is in this regard from
all other heavenly bodies which we have been able to study. While the
earth teems with life, elsewhere space appears to be only barren and
incredibly hostile to life. The earth gives every indication that it was
specially designed for life, and it is unique in this regard.
In contrast to the bountiful evidence in the Bible which teaches that
the earth is special, nowhere is it taught that the earth is the center
of the universe (item "a" above). In fact, the Bible provides no
explicit teaching on any questions relating to the form of the universe.
We are not told, for example, whether the universe is finite or
infinite, and no explicit statement can be found to help us know whether
space is flat or curved. This is the type of information we would need
to deduce whether the earth is at the center of the universe or if it
even makes sense to say that the universe has a center. On matters
relating to the physical form of the universe, the Bible is mute.
This leaves the more controversial assertion (item "b" above) that the
earth is motionless in space to be discussed.
In fact, the Bible contains no explicit teaching on this matter
either. Nowhere does the Bible set about to deal explicitly with the
question of whether the earth is moving through space or not. To be
sure, one can fashion implicit arguments for an immobile earth from the
Bible, but in no instance do the Bible verses used to accomplish this
goal rest in a context of an overall discussion of the physical form of
Evidently, while the physical form of the universe is an interesting
scientific issue, it is not of very great importance Biblically. The
lack of explicit Biblical teaching on this whole matter makes it
impossible to call any conceptual model of the form of the universe "the
5. What is the role of geocentricity in creationism?
The Biblical status of the doctrine of creation contrasts sharply
with that of geocentricity. The Bible opens with the explicit
declaration: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,"
and Genesis I goes on to outline in detail the doctrine of creation.
While it is impossible to _find_ any definitive teaching in the Bible on
the physical form of the universe, it is impossible to miss the explicit
teaching in the Bible that the world was supernaturally created by God,
for it permeates Scripture.
Geocentricity and creationism am really separate matters. Because of
the contrast in the way the Bible deals with these two issues, I believe
that attempts to link geocentricity and creationism are ill-founded.
6. What can we learn of general importance from the geocentricity-
Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from the history of
geocentricity is in connection with the question, "What role should
scientific discovery play in the interpretation of the Bible?" It is
surely ironic to see the incident of Galileo's trial before the
Inquisition paraded as a supposedly unarguable illustration of the
"mistake' recent-creationists make when they insist on a literal,
supernatural, six-day creation and fail to yield to modern scientific
views of how the universe came to be. "After all," we hear, "the
theologians said that Galileo's heliocentric viewpoint was heresy, but
now everybody knows that the theologians were wrong and Galileo was
In actual fact, as we have seen above, the current scientific
consensus is that "Today we cannot say that the Copernican theory [which
Galileo held] is 'right' and the Ptolemaic theory [which the theologians
held] 'wrong' in any meaningful physical sense."
The generally overlooked lesson here is that scientific theories do
not provide a very secure basis from which to interpret Scripture. In
the course of the last five hundred years the weight of scientific
consensus has rested in turn with each of three different theories about
the form of the universe: first geocentricity, then heliocentric, and
This is the way it is with scientific theories-they come and go. But
the Word of God endures forever. Let us be immovable in upholding what
the Bible clearly teaches.
1. Fred Hoyle, _Nicolaus Copernicus_. London: Heinemann Educational
Books Ltd., 1973, p. 78.
Bouw, D. "The Bible and Geocentricity." _Bulletin of the Tychonian
Society_, no. 41, January, 1987, pp. 22-25. (A more recent work by
Bouw is: _Geocentricity_. Cleveland: Association for Biblical
Hoyle, Fred. _Nicolaus Copernicus_. London: Heinemann Educational Books
Reichenbach, Hans. _From Copernicus to Einstein_. New York: Dover
Publications, Inc., 1980.
Ronan, Colin Alistair. "Copernicus," _The New Encyclopedia Britannica_.
15th ed. XVI, pp. 814-815.
This "Impact" was converted to ASCII, for BBS use,
from the original formatted desktop article.
Comments regarding typographical errors
in the above material are appreciated.
Don Barber, ICR Systems Administrator
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