Book Review: “Setting Aside All Authority” by Christopher M. Graney

The book “Setting Aside All Authority” comprises 10 chapters, 270 pages. The last half of the book is largely made up of two appendices: (A) the first English translation of Monsignor Francesco Ingoli’s essay to Galileo (disputing the Copernican system on the eve of the Inquisition’s condemnation of it in 1616) and (B) excerpts from the Italian Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli’s reports on his experiments with falling bodies. The book is published by the University of Notre Dame, 2015.

Cover of the book. The cover image is taken from Riccioli’s New Almagest (1651). Note the heliocentric system (top left) compared to the Tychonic hybrid geocentric system (bottom right).

The main thesis of the book challenges the notion that around the time of Galileo, and the beginning of the Copernican revolution, opponents of the heliocentric worldview, championed by Galileo, were primarily motivated by religion or dictates from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

The author, Christopher M. Graney, uses newly translated works by anti-Copernican writers of the time to demonstrate that they predominantly used scientific arguments and not religion in their opposition to the Copernican system. Graney argues that it was largely a science-versus-science debate, rather than church authority-versus-science as often incorrectly portrayed.

In the 1651, the Jesuit Giovanni Battista Riccioli published his book the New Almagest wherein he outlined 77 arguments against the Copernican system (pro-geocentrism) and 49 arguments in favour of it. Most arguments against the Copernican heliocentric system could be answered, at that time, but Riccioli, using the then available telescopic observations of the size of stars, was able to construct a powerful scientific argument that the pro-Copernican astronomers could not answer without an appeal to the greatness of God.

Graney largely uses Riccioli’s New Almagest, which argues in favour not of the Ptolemaic system but of the hybrid Tychonic system, where the Earth is immobile at the centre of the universe, the sun, the moon and the stars circle the earth; but the planets circle the sun. Riccioli built on the work of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, and built a strong scientific case against the heliocentric system, at least through the middle of the seventeenth century, which was several decades after the advent of the telescope.

The main two arguments presented in the book, both scientific, are the size of stars and the effect on falling bodies.

Falling bodies

If the earth were rotating, then a falling body should hit a point on the surface of the earth at a definite distance from a vertical line to the surface, if dropped vertically. The same argument could be made for cannon balls fired in different directions on the earth’s surface. These type of discussions and arguments carried on for a century, and even Isaac Newton got involved. What we now know as the Coriolis force, a ‘fictitious’ force, resulting from the rotation of the planet on the fired or dropped objects could not be measured with the required precision in the 17th century.

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The Fingers of God effect: Not evidence for a geocentric universe

Abstract: When looking at large scale maps of the distribution of galaxies around our position is space it may be noticed that there seem to be finger like structures of these galaxies pointing back at the earth. This is called the Fingers of God (FOG) effect.  Some creationists have attempted to use this as an argument for an absolute geocentric universe. But the FOG effect can be simply explained by reasonable assumptions on the dynamics of galaxies within their clusters. Therefore it would be very naïve to use it as evidence in support of a galactocentric universe or an absolute geocentric universe. (This article is somewhat technical. First published in the Journal of Creation 22(2):75-78, 2008; edited here.)



Highlighted in red is a galaxy cluster plotted in direction on the sky and redshift (written in units of velocity (km/s)). The FOG effect is clearly seen in redshift space. Earth is at the apex of the pie slice. The argument is that the FOG effect results only in redshift space and not in real space when the intra-cluster motions of the constituent galaxies are properly taken into account.

On occasion I have heard discussed among creationists, that considered the Fingers of God (FOG) effect as evidence for a galactocentric1 universe and some foolishly even considered it evidence in favour of a geocentric2 universe.  The phenomenon is well known and in Wikipedia it is reported.

“Redshift-space distortions are an effect in observational cosmology where the spatial distribution of galaxies appears squashed and distorted when their positions are plotted in redshift-space (i.e. as a function of their redshift) rather than in real-space (as a function of their actual distance). The effect is due to the peculiar velocities of the galaxies causing a Doppler shift in addition to the redshift caused by the cosmological expansion.”3

From this it would seem that the FOG effect results from Doppler motion of galaxies within their clusters causing a line of sight effect in redshift space4 (explained below), which produces the effect of fingers of galaxies all pointing towards the observer if plotted on a map. But if one realizes that we cannot definitively know how galaxies in the Universe are distributed without making certain assumptions, then how can one use this effect as evidence for a galactocentric universe or even a geocentric universe?

Galaxies clusters are observed with constituent galaxies numbering in the thousands. It does not seem to be unreasonable to assume that within those clusters the galaxies have random orbit trajectories, meaning they orbit around their common centre with different trajectories. Generally clusters appear to be approximately spheroidal or elliptical in shape. And they are believed to be viralised.5  If the mass of the cluster, which includes large quantities of hot intercluster gas comprising about 3 to 4 times the mass of the constituent galaxies, is in hydrodynamic equilibrium then the galaxies are mutually bound to each other. This means on the Hubble timescale or the usually stated age of the universe,6 more than ten billion of years, the cluster will not break up. Using this fact, astrophysicists estimate the dynamical mass of the cluster by either measuring the temperature of the x-ray emitting gas or calculating the dispersion7 of a number of constituent galaxies, which act as tracers. This makes the implicit assumption that the galaxy clusters have had sufficient time in the Universe to come into dynamical equilibrium. Continue reading

Review of “The Principle”

—a documentary by Rick deLano and Robert Sungenis

The Principle

A few years ago I was interviewed for this documentary “The Principle” that was to challenge the idea that the Cosmological Principle was wrong. That much I agreed with and still do. The planet Earth is in a special place in the Universe, which is not the same thing as being absolutely geocentric.

The documentary includes interviews largely with professional PhD physicists and one theologian.

I agreed to be interviewed because I believed that this subject needed to be debated and I wanted to present a biblical creationist non-geocentric point of view, which still permits our planet Earth to be in a special place in the Universe. That does not mean that it is stationary and that it is in the unique centre of the cosmos. See The Cosmological Principle and geocentrism for my opinion on geocentrism. At the time I agreed to be interviewed, I did know that the producers were geocentrists but they assured me they would present a balanced debate, where all sides were aired. Actually, I wanted to help because, maybe naïvely, I believed it could get a good strike against the cosmological principle dominating paradigm. Continue reading

The Cosmological Principle and geocentrism

You may have heard of the documentary film “The Principle” written and produced in the US by Rick deLano, which is to be released in the Spring of 2014.  It features interviews with a line-up of notable cosmologists including Michio Kaku, Lawrence Krauss, and Max Tegmark. Many are big bang cosmologists who support the standard paradigm, whose proponents hold to a worldview which assumes there is no privileged frame of reference in the Universe. Others interviewed hold to alternate cosmological worldviews, notably those who hold to the idea that the Earth is in a privileged place in the Universe.

I am interviewed in the film. Continue reading