Sunday, January 24, 2010
Image from: http://www.physics.miami.edu/huerta/class/mls603
For centuries after Copurnicus developed the sun centered cosmology (as opposed to the Aristotlian earth centered one) scientists could not prove that it existed as such but instead had to 'believe' it. First, the idea was for all practical purposes immeasurable in 1543. The tools simply didn't exist to prove it one correct. Second, it more than clashed with the existing idea of the universe- it negated it. Everything that was known about the world up to that time reinforced the earth-centered universe. Finally, Copurnicus had most of the science wrong. Slowly, first Galileo then Kepler, the science was massaged and corrected.
Scientists and philosophers following Copurnicus, first had to believe it was correct, before they could even prove it; today our cosmologies are not that different. Much of what we believe about the universe we can not prove and the corresponding conceptions (then there are multiple cosmologies) of world over-reaches our science. Because no one single theory summarizes the universe into one singular idea, the elastic "Big Theory - relativism - Big Theory" revolution is in mid cycle. Many relativistic, small theories, solve localized problems. The question on which one to believe is not less of a problem now then it was in 1543.