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Intellectual Gymnastics

R. S. Martin

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Got myself tangled up with another fundy--from the UK in this case. A guy working on his PhD. Here's the correspondence:


Hello James Hannam,


I read your article Refuting the Myth That Jesus Never Existed. I am disappointed at your false charges regarding the Jesus Mythologists, the ridicule with which you dismiss the arguments you imagine we have, and the shallowness of your discussion. To refute something you must discuss it point by point, and you must prove that you have a solid, defensible position against opponents. You raise points but you do not discuss them; you dismiss them as not worthy of rational discussion.


Also, in order to refute something you need to be sure that you are refuting something that exists. The arguments you think you are refuting are not the arguments Jesus Mythologists bring against the Historical Jesus Hypothesis. It may be that you are a professor with a PhD from a top seminary of the world. I sat under the instruction of such a professor. He would agree with the arguments you are making. This does not make them correct or accurate.


The Christians are not in the habit of listening to the skeptics. By their sheer volume of numbers they can make it necessary for us to keep our silence. For example, I was the only atheist in a class of about twenty Christians. The professor was a Christian. I was studying Christian theology at a Christian seminary. The power imbalance was so extreme that it would have been suicide for me to "fight to the death" any Jesus question. It would also have been indecent and disrespectful of me to push it for its own sake, considering that I was at a Christian school by choice.


I understand that I am the second atheist he had in his class. He may well write a book on how he successfully refuted his atheist students' questions about Jesus. I cannot (and will not) burn his books but my failure to burn his books does not make his books true. He did not refute my questions or position. I stopped pushing the question because: 1. It was stupid to keep pushing when I could see he would not give up. 2. It was indecent and disrespectful to keep pushing for its own sake considering that I had chosen to study theology in his school, and that I had come to my own conclusions.


I hereby give you the opportunity to know the truth--that the arguments you claim we have are not the arguments we do have. Whether or not you accept this fact remains to be seen.


R. S. Martin


Hello R.S. Martin,


The Jesus Myth has been refuted many times over. It won't die because it is a conspiracy theory and there are always people who will believe them. Refutations here:






You sound like a bright chap so you might consider why all non-Christian historians reject the Jesus Myth as well. Not even Richard Dawkins could bring himself to support it. It is an internet fad and not worth anyone's time. Sorry, I know it is annoying when no one takes your hobby horse seriously, but you should realise why not. Incidently, the idea I don't listen to sceptics won't wash. Just look at my writing and you'll see I've almost certainly read more atheist literature than you have.


Best wishes




My Reply:


<you might consider why all non-Christian historians reject the Jesus Myth as well.>


They don't. Read Tom Harpur and his sources. Inquire as to the reason for Bart Ehrman's deconversion. Explain my conviction that the Jesus story was a myth before I encountered the idea anywhere. The sources you give are Christian sources--from your own website if I remember correctly. Respected researchers use a wide variety of sources, including sources with which they disagree very strongly. You need to enquire of other sources.


<Not even Richard Dawkins could bring himself to support it.>


This is a very strange thing to say in the same breath as the above statement. If you have done your research, you will know that Richard Dawkins is not a historian by any stretch of the imagination. He is a biologist. How could he be expected to know enough about the details of the research of the historical Jesus to support or refute any specific argument around it?


James, you want us skeptics to take you seriously? When and if you prove yourself capable of accurate research and intelligent discussion we will respect and take you seriously; we may not agree with you but we will respect you and take you seriously. Until then, it is impossible to rate you other than we rate most fundies--incapable of rational thought.


<It is an internet fad and not worth anyone's time.>


When and if you do your research you will see that it is not just "an internet fad." It is a conviction that directs the lives of very many people throughout the world.


<Just look at my writing and you'll see I've almost certainly read more atheist literature than you have.>


Please inform me what and how much atheist literature I have read.


For your information, I am looking for quality Christian websites to list in my Index of Sources. At first glance, I was so impressed with the scholarly appearance of your page about refuting the Jesus myth that I listed it. I was sure you had some really good arguments that we exChristians might want to pick apart and consider, especially people who are at the questioning stage. However, after reading a paragraph or two I had to remove it from my list. Most Christian sites are "quality" only insofar as they promote the faith. They do not make intelligent, scholarly arguments.


R. S. Martin


To exC folks here:


I must say I am impressed with the intuitive insight he gains from his Holy Spirit. Calls me a "bright chap" for crying out loud! I think a "chap" is an arrogant young male who thinks he knows more than he probably does. Or maybe "chap" is not young and not arrogant, but I think "chap" is always male. I am intentionally using initials these days to see what difference it makes when people don't know my gender. This is the first response I get that explicitly assumes I am male.


An omniscient God/Holy Spirit would obviously not misinform his precious child (James Hannam in this case) about the gender of his correspondent. If the Holy Spirit is so delinquent as to tell him that he is corresponding with a male when in fact he is corresponding with a female, how many other things might this Holy Spirt get wrong???


It occurred to rub his nose in this but on the other hand, this is quite a gem straight from the Labratory of Life and I might not want to throw my gems to the pigs because they are sure to get them yukkie.

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"chap" merely means he thinks he's you're a man... Hell's teeth Ruby, I call you lot here chaps. From his POV the role of women is well defined (1 Tim 2 and Titus)


As to the rest; it depends on which type of 'scholar' he is... he's certainly not a Robert M. Price one... has he read "Deconstructing Jesus"?

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"chap" merely means he thinks he's you're a man... Hell's teeth Ruby, I call you lot here chaps. From his POV the role of women is well defined (1 Tim 2 and Titus)


This has me guessing what you might mean but my guess is it's positive.


As to the rest; it depends on which type of 'scholar' he is... he's certainly not a Robert M. Price one... has he read "Deconstructing Jesus"?


Gramps, your question sent me searching the website where I "met" the guy. Here's a gem:


Here you will find my writings on faith, science, history and philosophy as well as loads of annotated links and book reviews. The aim of Bede's Library is show how a person from a scientific background came to Christianity and has had his faith strengthened rather than weakened by argument and reason. It is intended for anyone who is interested in these subjects and wants to see
how having faith does not mean sacrificing intellectual integrity

FROM: http://www.bede.org.uk; emphasis added.


I see. No wonder he takes offense at my challenges. I am challenging his very scholarship, his intellectual expertise--the very thing he set out to prove he hasn't lost. I suggest he never had it to begin with. He's so focused on ridiculing nonreligious people rather than debating rationally.

I know I saw the name of his school earlier and I'm still looking for it. But here's a page of stuff I cannot believe. He claims to have done research that proves that Colunmbus and contemporaries (including the church) knew the earth was round; that the flat earth theory is a myth; that the question of Columbus's day was the size of the earth rather than its shape. Any science buff on here care to comment on the credibility of such a claim?


This page might give you some idea on what this man has read. But it gets tricky. A guy by the name of Christopher Price also posts on the same website. So I don't know who wrote this particular book. It mentions quite a bit on Earl Doherty.


What really confuses me about this website is that the homepage is for a Catholic Church in California. If I remember correctly, the name of the school James Hannom says he's studying at is Cambridge. Does that make sense? Is it part of Oxford? His website ends with uk.

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Here it is! I found it!

God's Philosophers
is written by a historian with degrees in physics and history from Oxford and London universities. The author is completing his PhD thesis on the history of science at the University of Cambridge. It is based on the author's own research as well as highly regarded academic work by the world's leading historians of medieval science such as David Lindberg, Edward Grant, William A Wallace, Alan Debus, John North, Lynn Thorndike, Anneliese Maior and Lynn White. This is the first history of medieval science intended for the lay reader and makes available the exciting developments in modern scholarship.



That address leaves me still more confused. I guess he's studying in England. Some of his website addresses are built on this http://www.bede.org.uk, which seems to be built on the website of the Catholic church in California. But this address has his own name dot com. And on the bede.org.uk another person also posts. Usually I can figure out how websites work when I explore but I can see no rhym or reason to this pattern. Is this the virtual version of the enmeshed personality of fundyism?

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If I can find my copy of Judas.exe (it sits on one of my archive drives) I'll drop it on to my machine and see what it says about the architecture :)

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Has Judas figured out the archetecture of this weird website?


This guy it crap! Not sure if that is an okay thing to say about a human being. He has not yet responded to any of my challenges. I remembered something. He tells me in his letter that no nonChristian historians have been able to prove the Jesus Myth. BUT on one of his websites he openly denigrates one of the people who dares to disagree with him: Acharya S. Here it is:

- Acharya S: Makes Freke and Gandy look like serious scholars. Really, really, silly and unintentionally quite funny.


- Acharya S: For those who cannot believe how dreadful her book is, there is more here.

That comes from here.


Acharya posts her pic on TruthBeKnown. His disdain for her gender is so obvious here. The males who wrote similar books receive some credit for their efforts.


Whoa! lookit what I found. James Hannam has a thin skin. He has a batch of Yahoo groups but specifies:


This group is intended for discussion and feedback relating to the work of James Hannam including his forthcoming book, God's Philosophers (http://www.jameshannam.com), Bede's Library (http://www.bede.org.uk) and the blog, Bede's Journal (http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/). While this remit is interpreted widely, this group is not intended to become a forum for general debate. For example, we do not argue the rights and wrongs of the Christian faith.


That's at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/religionandscience, emphasis added.


Big boy cry? Big boy not take what he gives other? Apparently not. It's quite okay for him to openly denigrate and ridicule people who disagree with him. It is NOT okay to challenge HIS precious god....boy oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy........


Here's the kid's email address as posted on website: bede@bede.org.uk I guess he takes his name from the Anglican St. Bede. I'm feeling disgusted enough to suggest we all spam his email. Probably not a good idea but his kind needs to be gotten rid of somehow--other than via bombs.

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I've not found it yet! I tend to stick old PC hard drives into USB enclosures as 'archive' since I'm too idle to pull stuff down... ;)


Key word in that sentence 'idle' :fdevil:

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I confronted Big Boy with his misinformation thus:


You tell me no nonChristian proves that Jesus is a myth. Yet on your own website about refuting the Jesus myth you list Acharya S and her book the Christ Conspiracy, along with a batch of others. Apparently you are aware of some powerful and thorough-going scholars who have refuted the Historical Jesus Hypothesis. You reject them but you have no basis for your arguments.


You mention in your letter that "all" nonchristian historians say it's a conspiracy. That is shoddy scholarship on your part. Also, your misogyny shows big time. Misogyny went out of style before you were born. You are using an especially ugly form.


Apparently you have not even read Pagan Christ. You are like the man who has no enemies because he kills all his enemies. Just because you deny the existence of the people who disagree with you does not annihilate them. James, there is a powerful movement out there refuting the Historical Jesus Hypothesis. The wise man will look at the foundation of his faith. The foolish will continue to build on the sands of superstition. You appear like one of the more foolish kids out there. And no, I am not buying your book. The way you've lied to me through your teeth, there's no way I can ever trust anything you say.


So you think the medieval popes knew the earth was round??? Are you in science or in theology? Or neither? You have not yet answered my previous questions. Maybe your only existence is virtual. One of these days we'll know.



To the folks here:


Big Boy is having problems. He is now moving into bully mode:


Dear Mr Martin,

I would not have dreamed of so insulting your intelligence by assuming that you thought either Harpur or Acharya S were 'scholars' or 'historians'. The fact you take these people seriously means our exchange must now end.

Best wishes



Will "Mr." Martin "submit"? Possibly. But Ms. Martin is another story. It fails to occur to him that he's dealing with Ms. Martin. She replies:


Dear Sir,


Several items:


1. You label a biologist of your own country, Richard Dawkins, a historian.

2. You disregard the credentials of North American scholars like Acharya S and Tom Harpur.

3. You thereby disobey a cardinal command of your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ when he says not to bury your talents. IF you have submitted your PhD, as you claim, and IF you are studying at an accredited university as you claim, then you have training in critical thinking to fairly evaluate the work of your opponents. You prove in both your online writing and in your letters to me that you do not apply this talent. Thus, you disobey Jesus' command to use your talent. Would you appear before the judgment seat of God without the talent multiplied and increased? "You slothful and wicked servant!." he will say to you, "Depart from me into outer darkness."


Is this what you want?


By the way, you have proved that the Holy Spirit is totally incapable of informing you correctly of hidden things. You would not exhibit such misogyny and arrogance if the Holy Spirit had correctly informed you of all hidden things and prevented you from making grievous errors of presumption. Your responses to me prove that the Holy Spirit is either totally incapable of such, completely irresponsible, or nonexistent. And if the Holy Spirit is nonexistent, then by extension, so is the God whom you think you serve. For that reason there will be no judgment seat for you to face, no hell or outer darkness for God to send you to, nor a heaven to reward your faithfulness with. When you die you will be as dead as a dog. Death is the end for me, for you, for all other sentient beings.


Just a tip: If you want people to respect you, you need to start by showing respect to others. You can start by treating them as equals, whether or not you agree with them, rather than ridiculing them.


R. S. Martin


For the folks here who don't know: Tom Harpur has a PhD every bit as legitimate as our Big Boy. It so happens that Harpur got his from the University of Toronto rather than from Oxford and it may be that Oxfordians consider Toronto a backwoods colonial shack not worthy of recognition, at least, insecure wimps like Big Boy. Acharya S makes no secret of her Native roots and of her gender. Two fatal strikes against her. Strike three and you're out--she exposes Jesus for who he is: a myth. All Big Boy is left with is bullying. All his evidence is wiped clean away right out from under him. He has nothing to stand on and he knows it. Otherwise, why would he resort to bullying???


I forget how I found him. Maybe I was googling for stuff to post on my website or something, and his came up. And well, for a person whose mission in life it is to fight fundamentalist religion, I guess it makes sense to take him on. He ridicules his opponents. As an educated person (if indeed he is educated) he should know how to debate rather than ridicule, but he doesn't. He can bully and ridicule. That's all he knows how to do, it seems. So like our North American fundies.

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OK.. dug out the stuff I used in my days as an old Troll Fighter.


Judas says...




has the following on his site


Main page links to:


bedejornal.blogspot.com (his blog)

bede.org.uk (His apologist site)


Taking apart the bede.org.uk site


the only primary unique link is to ChristianCADRE.org ( Christian Colligation of Apologetics Debate Research & Evangelism)


Now, these lads are pretty much the usual piss poor apologetics site, replete with a 'Addressing the Questions of Skeptics' page Usual mix of poor scholarship, half truths, special pleading and outright lies. A reasonably read Ex-C could rip their sources apart without a sweat. An ill informed 'skeptic' would be back footed...


Looking at the structure of Hannam's site, it's amateurish rather than baroque...

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BTW, reading the stuff that passes for 'science' I think my IQ has dropped...


"The Right Universe


Not only do we live in a universe having the right chemistry to support life, and on a planet with the right environment for life, the basic forces in our universe are just right. Without the precise balance which exists among these forces, life would be impossible anywhere in our universe.


There are just four basic forces presently known to mankind: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. The balances between these forces are precise, making possible life as we know it. Consider the delicate balance between gravity and the expansion speed of our universe. Since the 1920s it has been known that our universe is expanding, apparently from an event known as the "Big Bang" which occurred some 15 to 20 billion years ago. Whether our universe will expand forever or eventually collapse is still debated among cosmologists. In either case, the actual density of matter in our universe is within a factor of ten of the so-called critical density, the point of exact balance between permanent expansion and eventual contraction. But to be so close to this critical density after some 20 billion years of expansion, there must have been precise tuning in the earliest moments of the Big Bang. At 10 to the minus 43 seconds after the Big Bang, for instance--the so-called Planck time--the density must have been equal to the critical density to one part in 10 to the 60. If it had been ever so slightly higher, the universe would have collapsed quickly and there would have been no opportunity for life to form. On the other hand, had the density been ever so slightly smaller, the universe would have expanded rapidly and no galaxies, stars or planets would have formed. Again, no life. Thus, life is the result of fine tuning the density of matter-energy at the Planck time to one part in 10 to the 60!8


Life depends on a number of the heavier chemical elements, especially carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, but only hydrogen, helium and a few of the very lightest elements are formed in the Big Bang itself. The rest are formed inside stars. The strong and weak nuclear forces control how stars operate. If the strong force were weaker than it is, there would be no life. If it were only 50% weaker, not even iron and carbon would be stable. Even if the strong force were only 5% weaker, the element deuterium would not exist, and stars could not burn as they do. On the other hand, if the strong force were only 5% stronger, the diproton would be stable and stars would burn catastrophically. The strong interaction has to be just the right amount to have stable stars and stable elements for life chemistry.


The weak nuclear force is important too. All but the lightest elements are formed inside stars as they grow old. Were it not for the weak force, these elements would remain trapped inside the stars and be of no use for life. But when a star has used up its fuel, it begins to collapse, becoming very hot inside and producing large numbers of neutrinos. The neutrinos cause the star to explode and scatter its heavy elements through space. These elements later become part of the next generation of stars, forming planets which accompany such stars. As a result, the earth has the heavy elements so necessary for life. If the weak force were much smaller than it is, the neutrinos would escape quietly, the star would not explode, and the heavy elements would stay inside. If the weak force were much stronger, the neutrinos themselves would not be able to escape from the star, we would again have no explosion and no heavy elements would escape. So if the weak force were much different than it is, there would be no heavy elements outside the stars.


Consider one more crucial balance. Gravity is much weaker than electromagnetism (by 37 powers of 10), yet gravity dominates in the realm of astronomical distances. Why is this, since both are long-distance forces? The reason is that the positive and negative electromagnetic charges occur in equal numbers, so that at large distances they cancel each other out. But why should they occur in equal numbers? Scientists don't know. The main negative charge is the electron, a very small particle compared to the proton, the main positive charge. In modern cosmological theory, as the universe cooled down from the Big Bang, protons would have "frozen out" much earlier than electrons, and there is no obvious reason why the two should be equal in number.9 In fact, the numbers of electrons and protons left over must have been the same to within one part in 10 to the 37th power. If this had not happened, our universe would be dominated by electromagnetism instead of gravity, and there would be no life as we know it.


In summary, it appears that very slight changes in the strength or balance of these forces gives a universe which will not support any life we can imagine. What are we to make of this? The simplest explanation is that we live in a designed universe."


There is so much nonsense, and a priori assumption in that I'll leave it to the interested to take it apart... Whole essay link The references are pretty much all debunked jokes too... and someone PAID for that... There are times I think I've lived too fucking long...

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Thanks for all that information. Your opinions are appreciated.


I clicked on the link to that essay and looked at the website for the school where he got his PhD. Here is part of their advertizing on how good they are:


Biblical Seminary provides a variety of classes and learning experiences for adult learners. The can be applied to degree programs should the student become interested in pursuing a specific degree.

My typing isn't great so maybe that is why it bugs me but it sure bugs me when a school professing to be qualified to hand out PhDs cannot spell the word "they" or "these," whichever they intended. I've been asking my own prof whether the school's grading system prepared me for more advanced schooling in competetive schools. He said he thinks his own personal grading system does so. He made no claims beyond that. I am afraid if I saw this kind of sloppy typo on their homepage I would give it some more really serious thought.


Another thing I don't like about this school is that in order to know whether or not I qualify for them I have to fill out a form and submit it. All the schools I have looked at with any amount of serious interest always indicate the necessary qualifications upfront. That allows me to decide whether it's worth my effort, whether I am interested. This school even asks the male/female question as part of the qualifying process. And the check box for female is way down below whereas the checkbox for males is right next to the question. Maybe that has to do with the way my computer screen is enlarged to accommodate my low vision. All the same, this is very much a "not-my-type" school when it screens for gender. I get the feeling they are more concerned about controling thought than providing quality education and training students in critical thinking.


Regarding the essay you linked. I just don't get it. The guy's degree is in theology. What does he think he is doing writing on science???? He cannot be expected to know what he is writing about. Yet he pretends to be an authority. It's totally ridiculous. But this is what we are up against in our fight against fundamentalist religion. Education does not cut it! And the other guy seems to be in science and is writing on philosophers. Know-it-alls supreme.


As to the site address. I guess St. Bede a common saint that perhaps a number of people and organizations call themselves after.

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  • 2 years later...
Guest Himself

While googling on the myth of the flat earth myth this site was included. The question was asked:


He [Dr. Hannam] claims to have done research that proves that Colunmbus and contemporaries (including the church) knew the earth was round; that the flat earth theory is a myth; that the question of Columbus's day was the size of the earth rather than its shape. Any science buff on here care to comment on the credibility of such a claim?


It is not a scientific question, but an historical question. Dr. Hannam is correct. Historians of science are agreed on this point. It was known not only to Columbus' contemporaries, but throughout the Middle Ages back to antiquity. The flat earth myth was invented -- so far as historians can determine -- by Washington Irving, and promulgated by William Whewell in the early 1800s. However, prior to this it was not included in attacks on the Church. Voltaire and the other Enlightened criticized the Scholastics for placing too much credence on Aristotle, and Aristotle's On the heavens included the famous proofs that the earth was a sphere.


The medievals invented the university -- and the curriculum was almost exclusively logic, reason, and natural philosophy (heavy on the study of Aristotle). To matriculate in the graduate schools of theology, law, and medicine you had to master this curriculum. This had the fascinating consequence that every medieval theologian had been first trained as a scientist.


In any case, the sphericity of the earth was mentioned by the Venerable Bede in the Early Middle Ages, by Isidore of Seville, and others. Aquinas referred to it in passing in the first Question of his Summa theologica as an illustration of another point. (He was trying to establish that religious truths could be known by reason as well as by revelation and pointed to the sphericity of the earth as an example of a truth that could be known in two different ways: by mathematics and by physics.) Most famously, John of Sacrobosco in his treatise On the sphere. As for the commoners, in the popular "science fiction" book the Travels of Sir Henry Mandeville, Sir Henry travels around the world; and also, we have sermons preached by popular itinerant monks that refer in passing to the earth as a sphere.


So the flat earth myth does not pass the giggle test.


Pierre d'Ailly, a theologian and natural philosopher, wrote a popular book, Ymago mundi [image of the world] and in it he propagated a calculation error that had been made by al-Farghani six hundred years earlier by which the earth's circumference was only 20,400 miles and puts India not too far west of the Pillars of Hercules. Columbus' copy of this is in Seville, Spain, and is heavily annotated. Further, his son's biography mentions how his father, while navigator of a tradeship from the Basque country to Iceland, stopped in Galway; and there his father saw the local marvel: a pair of strange corpses that had washed ashore in an odd canoe. They were likely Inuit or Beothuk blown out to sea in a storm; but it reinforced Columbus' notion that India was not unreachably far. A galleon might make it where a canoe had not.


An important history lesson: our predecessors were not, by and large, fools.


I hope this helps with your question.

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While googling on the myth of the flat earth myth this site was included. The question was asked:


So the flat earth myth does not pass the giggle test.


An important history lesson: our predecessors were not, by and large, fools.


I hope this helps with your question.

This is an old thread, but your post suggests that there never was a time when the earth was considered flat.


I am aware of the ancient Greek scientists work and the medieval level of knowledge, but I wonder if you would say that the societies of the ancient middle east believed that the earth was flat? Or, more specifically, the Hebrews?


I have seen religion criticised more for the Heliocentric theory than the flat earth theory. And rightly so.


From Wikipedia:


Various cultures have had conceptions of a flat Earth, including ancient Babylon, Ancient Egypt, pre-Classical Greece and pre-17th century China. This view contrasts with the realization first recorded around the 4th century BC by natural philosophers of Classical Greece that the Earth is spherical. The false belief that medieval Christianity believed in a flat earth has been referred to as The Myth of the Flat Earth.[1] In 1945, it was listed by the Historical Association (of Britain) as the second of 20 in a pamphlet on common errors in history.
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Guest Himself

Topologically, a sphere is locally flat. :-D


And the alluvial plains of Mesopotamia, Egypt, northern China are pretty dang flat. It was a reasonable hypothesis, given the data.


So, too was geocentrism. See Aristotle. All the evidence was in favor of it. There was no evidence for heliocentrism and plenty of objections, which Aristotle listed. Aristarchus proposed that the sun went around a central fire, an unseen and unseeable body which the sun reflected like a mirror onto the earth. Somehow, moderns got the idea that Aristarchus "discovered" heliocentrism. But the Pythagorean reasoning was that a) fire was nobler than earth and B) the center was more important than the edge; therefore c) the central fire was in the center and the sun nearby and the earth went around them. The other planets were not mentioned -- and remember that they were not even imagined as earthlike bodies.


In the Middle Ages, some folks began to wonder. Jean Buridan considered the question and answered all of Aristotle's objections to the earth's motion except two: the paradox of the arrow and the lack of parallax in the fixed stars. His pupil, Oresme, answered the arrow and expressed the principle of relativity, declaring that an observer attached to the sphere of the stars would see the earth turn while an observer fixed to the earth would see the stellar sphere turn. He did not think there was any empirical way to tell which was true and so he went with Ockham's Razor and the stationary earth. The simplest reason why the sun seems to move is that the sun does move.


All of Oresme's arguments were used by Copernicus, though less well expressed. But Copernicus went further and developed an alternative means of calculation. These involved about two dozen epicycles (because he insisted on circular orbits). (His text is no paragon of scientific reasoning, btw.)


The Jesuits began teaching the new math at the Roman College. Remember, astronomy was then a branch of math, not of physics. Ptolemaic astronomers had never considered their math to represent actual physical reality and no one yet saw a reason to consider the Copernican math any different. But the notion grew.


Galileo came along and was a bit more insistent. He discovered the phases of Venus, which blew Ptolemy out of the water. But Tycho Brahe came up with a revised system that "saved the appearances" [fit the data]. Mercury and Venus went around the sun, but the sun and all the rest went around the earth. Remember until Newton no one supposed that there ought to be One Ring to Bind Them. And come to that the outer planets do circle the earth.


The Church was then in a big to-do with the Protestants, who insisted on literal reading of scriptures. The Church had never so insisted. The aforesaid Oresme was a theologian and a bishop and had no trouble noting how to read scriptural passages as poetic images or as simply from the viewpoint of one "fixed to the earth." But that was then. Had Galileo been born 300 years earlier, he would have had little trouble. In fact, he would have had little trouble in any case had he not made three errors:

1) He alienated his friends, the Jesuits. Grassi had said that comets of 1618 were on hyperbolic orbits and cam from a long ways out. Galileo (who had not observed the comets due to illness) said they were emanations in the atmosphere -- and started a vicious flame war. When the crunch came, the Jesuits sat on their hands, even though Grienberger admitted that even Clavius was not far from the Copernican position himself.

2) He pontificated on theological matters in his Letter to the Grand Duchess. This, at a time when the officials were very sensitive to private readings. Galileo said nothing that Church officials had not said; it was only that as a mere mathematician he had no standing to say such things.

3) He alienated his friend, the pope. Years before, Urban has stood up for Galileo and, while he did not believe the earth was moving, he encouraged Galileo to continue investigating. Yet Galileo (probably inadvertently) put all the pope's arguments during their discussions in the mouth of the Simpleton in the Dialogue. Naturally, there is always someone willing to point out something like this, and to Urban it looked like the worst ingratitude and a deliberate insult. Hence, the trial.

The unfortunate thing, is that Galileo had no empirical proof. Years before, Cardinal Bellarmine had said that if he could show genuine proof that the earth moved, the Church would accept that and (cautiously, since the Protestants were running around with sola scriptura and literal readings) revise the way they read the passages.

Galileo worked for 20 years, found nothing, grew desperate, finally decided that the earth's rotation made the oceans slosh and thus caused the tides. Not only did everyone know that the tides had something to do with the Moon. (Aquinas had noted this long before.) But it contradicted other arguments in the book. (If the earth is spinning why don't we feel a constant east wind?)

More to the point:

1. If the earth was going around the sun, there should be observable parallax among the fixed stars. There is not. The hypothesis is falsified. (This was Aristotle and Archimedes' point of view.) Copernicus had suggested the stars were much farther away than supposed (70 million miles); but you can't save one unproven hypothesis with a second unproven hypothesis. The Greeks had based their estimates of stellar distance on their apparent brightness and diameter. It was "established, consensus science."

2. If the earth is spinning, objects at the tops of towers would have a greater eastward velocity and so would fall slightly east of the plumb line if dropped straight down. Galileo suggested this, but there is no evidence he did do. Possibly he did, found no deflection, and kept his trap shut.

Around the turn of 1800, two Italian scientists answered these objections. One discovered parallax in alpha-Lyrae; the other dropped balls from the tower of Univ. Bologna and found a minute eastward deflection. He dropped them indoors down the center of the spiral staircase so wind would not mess things up. Contacted a friend in Germany who repeated the experiment down mine shafts, finding a similar deflection. Settele incorporated these in a new edition of his Astronomy text, took the text to the Holy Office, and the Office said, Yup, that's the empirical evidence Bellarmine was asking for, and lifted the ban on teaching Copernicanism as a fact.

You gotta admit, they were consistent. That's why Huxley said that the Church had the better case.

In any event, "Our Ancestors Were Not Fools." They had darn good scientific reasons for supposing the earth was at the bottom of the world.

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