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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Missouri Synod 1898: Copernican science questioned; Part 16a

      This continues from Part 15, a series on Copernicanism and Geocentricity (see Intro & Contents in Part 1) in response to a letter from a young person ("Josh") who asked if I believed Geocentricity ... and did not ridicule me in his question.
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      My study continually went back and forth, between science and theology, between earlier times and more recent times.  Now I go back to the old (German) Missouri Synod in the 19th century and 2 more examples of its teachings from those who were not C.F.W. Walther or J.C.W. Lindemann.  Both of these examples were pointed out by Pastor F. E. Pasche in his books to show his Missouri Synod what its teaching had been and what it must continually be.
      In 1898, well after Walther's passing in 1887, the editors of the theological journal Lehre und Wehre, Franz Pieper and George Stoeckhardt, included a report delivered at one of the synod's conferences.  The report was authored by "W.M", a person I have not been able to identify.  This essay is similar to the pamphlet by J.C.W. Lindemann in that it deals with the scientists who continually want to make Copernicanism an objective truth, even when the science cannot prove it.  It contains several sections that quote from British scientists.
Translation by BackToLuther from Lehre und Wehre vol. 44, Nov. 1898, pgs 328-334
Highlighting, hyperlinks, text in brackets [ ] are mine.

"Proof that the recent research in the field of science has in no case overturned articles of faith, but confirmed them in each case."
(A conference paper by W. M. Sent by resolution.)
2. The relationship of the individual heavenly bodies to each other.
This section concerns the Copernican system.  Is this system proved to be the truth?  Almost all the world accepts this today and does not know what to do with the people who are too "narrow-minded" or "stubborn" in order to also accept it.
But now we have with Copernicanism just another example of this kind of formation of scientific dogmas. Only the [page 329] theory is asserted first and afterwards they search for the proofs of it. Copernicus himself had also regarded his system only as a theory, which also Chambers's Encyclopædia admits. The advocates of the Copernican idea are mostly imitators.  How many even among those who write the popular manuals on astronomy, have probably investigated the matter thoroughly?   Who is probably among the laity who would be a Copernican of conviction due to an independent examination?
But let us here examine the Copernican system in some detail.  It is not difficult for the unprejudiced person to realize how weak the proofs for it are appointed.
According to the theory, the earth should rotate about its axis.  Is this really proven by the evidence, so that any other assumption would absolutely have to be rejected?  Let us hear what it says, a professor of astronomy. (Elements of Astronomy by Robert Stawell Ball, L. L. D., F. R. S., Andrews Professor of Astronomy in the University of Dublin, Royal Astronomer of Ireland. D. Appleton & Co., N. Y., 1880). He writes literally: “The apparent diurnal motion of the heavens might be, no doubt, explained by the hypothesis that the celestial bodies were all attached to the interior surface of a colossal globe, of which the earth was the centre, and that this globe revolved around one of its diameters once in every sidereal day. There is, however, another method of explaining the diurnal motion which demands our careful attention. The earth itself is, as we have seen, an isolate body in the universe, and is attached to no other body. What is there then to prevent the earth being actually in motion? . . .
We may suppose that the celestial sphere is revolving around the earth from east to west, while the earth is at rest; or we may suppose that the celestial sphere is at rest, and that the earth is revolving from west to east, and thus produces the apparent motion. Which of these two solutions are we to adopt? We shall see hereafter that many of the celestial bodies are vastly larger than the earth, that they are situated at very great distances from the earth, and that some of these distances are very much greater than others. It therefore seems much more reasonable to suppose that the earth, which is a comparatively small body, should be in a condition of rotation rather than that the vast fabric of the universe should all be moving round the earth once every day. Astronomers, therefore, now universally admit that the true explanation of the apparent diurnal motion of the heavens is to be found in the fact that the earth revolves on its axis once every sidereal day from west to east. “A remarkable confirmation of this conclusion is presented by the shape of the earth.” (pgs. 74–76.) [page 330]
So far our authority, the professor of Astronomy at the University of Dublin and Royal Astronomer of Ireland.  We cannot help but ask: Is that all you can muster for the theory?  So there declared openly by a luminary of this "queen of the sciences" that one can well explain the movements of the heavenly bodies quite in one way or the other. The Astronomy decides for the rotation of the Earth, becauseindeed, because this assumption is rather credible given the long distances of the celestial bodies and their far surpassing size to the "little" Earth.  Now, we later come to speak to these "sizes" and distances. They are the wide coat with which today's astronomy wraps everything in affectionate love and covers what does not pass the light of examination.  And we will see well enough what to think. The fact that the discovered flattening of the Earth's poles was a "strange" confirmation of the rotation of the earth, however, is quite correct, as far as the "strange" is concerned.  Namely, it is very strange that the earth should be flattened as a result of its rotation at the poles which by the way is still only better to be proved while in other celestial bodies (e.g. the sun), which also rotate, it is not the case. (The most careful observations have not afforded reliable indications of any ellipticity in the figure of the sun." The same author, l. c, p. 185.)
Our informant conceals the arguments that are otherwise probably still needed and which are based on the experiments with [Foucault] pendulums etc. Why?
We now move from the contemplation of the daily rotation of the earth to the annual revolution, to see whether the proofs for Copernicanism are better.  I will again let astronomer Ball speak for himself.  He writes ibid, p 189: "It is equally easy to explain the apparent movements of the sun by the hypothesis that the sun is at rest in the focus, and that the earth moves around the sun in an ellipse, or by the hypothesis that the earth is at rest in the focus and that the sun moves round the earth in an ellipse. It is indeed easy to see that on either supposition the law of the description of equal areas in equal times will be fulfilled. To decide which of these two hypotheses we shall accept we must introduce other considerations."  So one can explain the annual movements of the heavenly bodies equally well according to both assumptions. Where is the exclusive right of Copernicanism?
But perhaps our astronomer feels that he requires serious reasons to forces us to let them leave Copernicanism under two theories. These are the “other considerations” that should decide which of the two hypotheses we must assume: 1. The sun is so powerful because it is larger than the earth, therefore it is natural that the earth  around the sun goes rather than vice versa.  2. The [page 331] other planets, Venus, Mercury etc., are proven to revolve around the sun; this analogy suggests that the earth does equally the same.  3. “The beautiful phenomenon, known as the aberration of light” which “would be wholly inconsistent with the hypothesis that the sun revolves around the earth.”  4. “The theory of universal gravitation affords so satisfactory an explanation of many most remarkable phenomena connected with the motions of the heavenly bodies, that not a doubt can remain of its truth in the mind of any person capable of understanding the subject. Yet the theory of universal gravitation is indissolubly connected with and identified with the theory that the earth revolves around the sun.”
This is also again everything what one has to bring forward.  Also here finally everything comes down again to the “massive size” and “distance” of other celestial bodies, the reason drawn from the analogy of other planets (which is precisely what is to be proved that the Earth is a planet like Mercury etc.); and the reason taken here is from the laws of attraction (which indeed are also only theory, supported by proof of induction, as is clear from the words of the author himself).  The information listed, even if they find them correct, is not proof; at best, they are only reasons of possibility or probability.  But before we come to the discussion of those sizes and distances with which so much pleasure is had because so much can be hidden behind them, the attention must be drawn to one that overthrows the whole theory of the annual orbit of the earth, what has already made for the Copernicans many a headache.
The matter is this.  According to the inflexible theory, the earth describes under the fixed stars a course of 41,000,000 miles in diameter. Thereafter, the fixed stars would now but also assume a different position to the earth at different seasons; you would have to see them at a different angle in different seasons.  If a fixed star does not change its location, but if the Earth itself changed its position 41,000,000 miles in six months, its attitude towards the fixed star changed by 41,000,000 miles, nevertheless, the star would have to apparently stand at these different times at another place (not to be confused with daily position change), that means, as one puts it in astronomy, there would have to be found parallax of the fixed stars. But that is not the case.  Now though however, one will confess to have found parallax only from some fixed stars; but they are even with the best instruments so tiny – barely a half second is the largest angle – that none of this is to be held, particularly if one yet takes into consideration the months which even now, indeed, now more than ever make the calculations uncertain.  More on this later.  One sees that Copernicanism has gotten on a nasty cliff.  [page 332]  But they found a way out.  They set up namely the assertion that fixed stars are removed so infinitely far from the Earth, that with this distance the Earth's orbit is like a point.  Indeed, a considerable point that the diameter of which measures only 41,000,000 miles.  But really, this one states in all seriousness and talks of it as if it is completely something natural.  One hardly believe his eyes when one reads the ease with which the astronomers ignore the former difficulty.  So writes e.g. Ball on page 193 [sic 194] calmly: “As the whole dimensions of the orbit of the earth are quite insignificant compared with the distances of the stars, the direction of the axis of rotation of the earth points always to the same point on the celestial sphere, i. e., to the point we have already determined as the celestial pole.”
Of course, now there must surely be at least attempts to prove this assertion by the colossal distances.  And what are the proofs? Of course, to calculate distances from Earth.  And all the calculations of the distances of the stars and planets are based on calculating the distance of the Sun from the Earth.  So first it must be found. This is not a simple thing. It must also here be found initially the parallax of the sun. But as Mr. Ball tells us on page 225 of his work: “There is one great difference between the parallax of the sun and the parallax of the moon. The former is so small a quantity as only to be detected by the most careful observations, while the latter is of very considerable amount, being in fact about 400 times greater than that of the sun.”  One avails himself therefore of artificial means in his discovery attempts.  The most popular, though as Ball says not the most reliable, is the opportunity of a passageway of Venus.  Let us hear what Chambers's Encyclopædia says about this: “The mean distance of the sun from the earth, as recently estimated and corrected by Mr. Hind from Le Verrier's determination of the solar parallax, is 91,328,600 miles. The determination of this distance has always been considered the noblest problem of astronomy, chiefly because upon this measure depends every other measure of dimension in astronomy excepting those relating to the moon. The dimensions of the sun and of every planet and satellite, and the distances of stars whose parallaxes are known, can none of them be determined without knowing our distance from the sun, and as the above recent determination gives this distance by nearly 4,000,000 of miles less than the hitherto received measure, it may be well to point out the probable cause of this discrepancy. . . . In proceeding to explain the method adopted for determining the sun’s distance, it is assumed that the relative distances of the earth and the planet Venus [page 333] from the sun is known, and that these are as 100 to 72.  The orbits of both planets being approximately circular, when Venus is between the earth and the sun, her distance from the earth will therefore on this scale be expressed by 28.”   Then, at a Venus transit from two different, distant points of the Earth from the different position of Venus on the solar disc observed (one observes the time difference, when the planet at the same place is seen by the different observation points).  Then from it one calculates the angle that this distance has on the Sun to the Earth, and with the aid of this angle is determined by the ratio indicated the angle which the earth's radius to the Sun maintains.
We consider now: hereafter rests calculating the distance of the sun and then all the other celestial bodies, and also the calculation of its dimensions – in short, the whole theory of the enormous expansion of the world system on the assumption of the relative distance between the Sun, Venus and Earth. And that is called science, in which one is to say of the Bible revoco!
Though Ball gives the method in his book a little bit differently, he also operates with "if we assume" etc.
One considers generally what is to be considered for everything with such calculations to the correction of any observations, the rotation of the earth, its annual locomotion with an assumed speed of eighteen miles per second, twice the variation in the earth's axis, the movement of the planet itself, the progression of the Sun, the refraction of rays by the atmosphere, the perturbations by attraction, the aberration of light, the by no means mathematical accuracy in the measurement of the Earth's diameter.  In addition the mistakes and inaccuracies to which the observations are subjected by the perfection never to be reached of the instruments.  On these “errors of judgment and of workmanship and of eccentricity” Ball has his own chapter. What reliance is there in all this then on the final result of an angle of seven or eight seconds?  Therefore also the calculations of the distance from the sun vary. Previously, one accepted it as over 95,000,000 miles, now we have become a little more modest and merely assume 91,000,000 miles.
With this uncertain distance of the sun from the earth as a base, so we determined distances, sizes, etc. of all other celestial bodies, and calculate the prodigious dimensions out of which, as we have seen, are the welcome means to make Copernicanism probable.
But we have to come back to one. It is what Ball calls “the beautiful phenomenon of the aberration of light".  Ah yes, theoretical astronomers are now seemingly in ecstasy with this [page 334] wonderful discovery, which has helped them out of all trouble in their theory.  Ball indeed says of it, it "would be wholly inconsistent with the hypothesis, that the sun revolves around the earth.”  And Chambers's Encyclopædia says this theory of Bradley "furnishes the only direct and conclusive proof we have of the earth's annual motion”. (Art. Astronomy, p 799 [1888 ed. Vol. 1, pg 373]) What is it with that?
The English astronomer Bradley found an annual apparent motion of the stars in a circle of about 40" diameter in the opposite direction to the circle that would describe a possible parallax.  This phenomenon was a mystery to him until he came to the happy idea, to explain this as an optical illusion caused by the fact that the light of the stars need a long time to come to us due to their immense distance, so that when we see the star, it is a light sent from about a quarter year earlier and so it appears to us in another place due to the advancement of the earth, as it would appear when a light hits us without delay.  Note also this assumption is based from the outset on the condition of the immense distance.  But even apart from that, what compels us then to accept this phenomenon as the only correct explanation that the Earth moves under the stars?  Why should this phenomenon not have other causes?
But Bradley continued his observations and what did he find yet another cycle of the fixed stars which is taking place in eighteen years and above.  This phenomenon has been attributed to a variation in the Earth's axis, so that we now have two such fluctuations.  Why, since one must now accept such an immense number of all kinds of movements of the Earth and the celestial bodies, also couldn't this observed annual movement of the fixed stars, if it is really fact, have other than the specified cause?
And this theory would be a proof, indeed, “the only direct and decisive proof” of the annual orbit of the Earth?  How can one say that: “The Copernican system is truth and a triumph of the spirit”!
Our result: The Copernican system is nothing less than proven; all efforts of science cannot call into question in the least the biblical view of the relation of the heavenly bodies to each other, on the contrary, what has been found, only helps to confirm that the Scripture in such matters is the truth and that they also in no way accommodate themselves to the misconceptions of man.

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      I wish that I could find out who the author "W.M." was so that I could give him more honor.  He appears to have a firm grasp of the science of his day, and probably is somewhat updated from that of J.C.W. Lindemann.  A reader of today might assume that the science in this essay is hopelessly outdated, but I believe that would be a mistake.  Many of the same defenses are discussed and used by Dr. Gerardus Bouw, an Astronomy PhD scientist of today.   Technical terms such as "aberration of light", (Foucault) pendulums, flattening of the Earth's poles, parallax, universal gravitation, etc. are addressed.
      Just a few years after this essay was published, a crack appeared in the fortress of Missouri against Copernicanism.  And it was Pastor Pasche who would warn against this.  I will cover this in a later blog post on Pasche.
      I will leave the technical field and move on to another essayist that Pastor Pasche pointed out from the old (German) Missouri Synod, another one who was not among those mentioned up to this point.  This one comes from an even earlier time, during Walther's tenure... in 1878... in Part 16b.