Printed in the Warsaw Times Union September 8, 2011

under the title:

Defending the Bible

Aristotle                                                                                                                                                       Galileo 

The premier episode of the Discovery Channel show Curiosity posed the question, "Did God create the Universe?" The host, Stephen Hawking, brought up the Greek philosopher Aristarchus who proposed the idea that the earth orbits the sun and Galileo who proved it. As usual, the show couched the controversy as science versus religion. I can’t comment on Stephen Hawking’s science, but I hope it’s better than his history.

As I mentioned in some previous letters (, the Bible does not teach that the sun orbits a flat earth. The sun versus earth-centered universe controversy began centuries before Galileo or Christianity, among the ancient Greek philosophers. Aristarchus (310 B.C. – 230 B.C.) first proposed the sun-centered universe idea. The stoic philosopher Cleanthes (331 B.C. – 232 B.C.) wanted him tried for impiety. Aristarchus’ views were refuted by Hipparchus (190 B.C. – 120 B.C.) who provided a mathematical basis for his earth-centered views. Aristotle (384 B.C. – 322 B.C.) accepted the earth-centered universe, and that settled the issue for over a thousand years. Galileo’s real dispute was with Aristotle, not the Bible. Not were Aristarchus’ view "long forgotten," as the show claims. They were preserved by Archimedes (290 B.C. – 211 B.C.), -- Mr Eureka himself — who held them up to ridicule. Copernicus (1473 A.D. – 1543 A.D.) knew of Aristarchus’ views and worked out the mathematics to support the sun-centered universe (Isaac Asimov, The Stars in Their Courses, 40, 41). Galileo (1564 A.D. – 1642 A.D.) used the telescope to provide visual proof that the earth orbits the sun. The church’s mistake was accepting Aristotle’s view of the universe. The sun-centered universe was originally rejected, refuted, and ridiculed by Greek philosophers, not Bible-thumping fundamentalists.

In a free society, everything is open to criticism, even the Bible. That does not bother me. What does bother me is when people have to distort the Bible to criticize it. And if people have to distort something to criticize it, then maybe their criticisms are not valid.


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