During our talk on Nicholas Copernicus, we tried to grasp the scientific approach he took and in doing so wondered whether it was divine science or human science he immersed himself in. There are a lot of diagrams at the end of the reading that we did not talk about at all, but we were busy working on the science behind the science. (I will explore a diagram later in this protokoll.) We took an approach of figuring out why Copernicus composed his problems and ideas in this fashion and this led to an interesting conversation. I believe his thinking was a blend of the two fields suggested. Also, in this protokoll I want to discuss that division between science and philosophy that we couldn’t escape as well as well as a concept that Ethan brought forward at the end of class. Finally, I would like to demonstrate how Copernicus analyzed his Order of the Heavenly Spheres as an example of how unique his approach to science was. The idea Ethan brought that was touched upon was this concept of believing in something you cannot see, which is something that we are doing when we acknowledge certain scientific theories such as his. I want to examine how believing in scientific theories is similar to a belief in God, as you cannot see him either. God shows up a lot in our texts at Shimer, and I want to explore a unique way of putting forward one’s belief in the Lord.
Using Science to discover something that I see as this: something has a hypothesis and after the experiment is conducted evidence that proves or disproves a theory is evaluated. The theory is then adjusted or possibly discarded. I think of visual evidence for theories behind the science of something but that is not always the case such as gravity. In the case of Copernicus, there are things he believes where these kind of thought processes are present. Because Copernicus is writing his theories to the Pope, I am interested more in the belief of what you cannot see for the sake of my argument. The example given in class was you can drop a pencil and it won’t fly to the side of this classroom, it will fall straight down. So, that disproves that the room is moving although other theories we know of prove the world is actually moving. I wonder if Copernicus is willing to believe in what he cannot see in terms of science because he believes in God. That is a powerful belief, grounded in blind faith. An argument I have heard very often in relation to God is – if God is real, give me proof he exists. Does this set a certain precedent for science or am I way off base with linking these concepts? Science while you cannot see it sometimes comes with theory and math to back up a claim. While not directly visible, things such as the Earth moving can be proven. So I ask, where does the notion God come from or rather where does God come from if we cannot see him? My Catholic upbringing and continued presence in the church gives me an answer that isn’t the one I seek for this purpose. In our many of our readings God is believed in (or one is told to believe) and when questioned by a person, one is demonized, exiled, killed, or threatened with damnation. This protokoll is not calling for converting, it merely asks, is the blind faith necessary to believe in God similar to the way one thinks of theories such as the Earth being able to move?
Furthermore Copernicus links God as a presupposed being important in his theories, so can one believe in his theories but remove God from them? The discussion of the heavens or the discussion of things being spheres, could those things still be in tact while taking God away? I wonder how close believing in things we cannot see like gravity which is not in this reading connects with how one believes in the divine. Would Copernicus have different concepts (or perhaps weaker or stronger ones) if not trying to avoid offending the figure of the Catholic Church? What I am also interested in is one can deny gravity, but gravity will continue to exist without being accepted. Does God still exist if someone denies his existence? Perhaps God exists to some, even if others refute God. But it is clear with my stream of thoughts that one cannot treat God and science together as things to “believe in”.
To understand Copernicus even more, I believe we have to look at some of his work step by step. While he used the work of Plato and Ptolemy, those works were used to demonstrate how those scientists’ theories were wrong. Copernicus had a great appreciation for science that can be seen in his writing. He goes to great lengths to express what he is passionate about, and takes about Ptolemy’s theory step by step, very methodically. What he came up with after the analysis is the modern understanding of the planets that we have them today. One of Ptolemy’s theories is that if there were an empty space in space that nature would fill it. Using the planets Mercury and Venus, math, and logic Copernicus proves that this idea is wrong. He, in fact, disproves many of Ptolemy’s ideas by doing the calculations that he presents and showing that what Ptolemy believes cannot be so. Considering angles, orbits, rotation, and the paths given by Ptolemy, Copernicus is able to calculate his own measurements that still hold true today.
What is interesting is that Copernicus did not have a telescope to prove when Venus would be visible, just calculations. Galileo actually used Copernicus’s theories and with the invention of the telescope could take all these concepts that Copernicus created and actually see he was correct in his theories. He took the layout of the planets, the measurements of where Mercury and Venus were in the sky, and saw that Copernicus was right in his work. Perhaps also not being able to see his work because of lack of a telescope was blind faith. He did have facts and figures in front of him that were consistent with what scientists after him found. In conclusion, Copernicus used Divine and natural science, conceptual ideas and data to create new theories. His belief in God may have strengthened his ability to accept certain scientific notions, but the passion he had for science was also a huge driving point in his study. He never openly insults other scientists, he does one better by proving their theories wrong by using their own work, and I think that is a stroke of genius.
The idea of his work being more conceptual than gathering data was presented in class and is interesting because I challenge that idea. I believe that it was beneficial to think of big picture things such as planets and the heavens. I believe while there is a lot of conceptual thinking I believe that using others or his own data also went into the work that shaped his theories. We briefly went to the next reading to compare Galileo and Copernicus. This shows me that the blending of divine and human science helped Copernicus, but I have not read all of the other reading to say whether that reading was similar. What I can say is that Galileo had a very direct scientific method that he boasted about with his telescope. This use of technology and setting up conditions versus the data that Copernicus works with is a way to think of scientific thinkers as using different methods in the name of furthering science. Copernicus took from two kinds of scientific thought to create his theories. They were strengthened through this way of thinking. Believing in God may also have strengthened his ability to believe in theories one cannot readily see.