Does the sun really revolve around the earth?
Thamalu M. Piyadigama
There are several things we learn from primary school in our young age that are almost taken for granted without much questioning. The most amazing things out of those are that the earth is a globe and that the sun does not rotate around the earth but it is the earth which rotates around the sun. These two ideas are the initial persuasion that makes us believe in science over everything else - our own experience, religion, etc.
￼Today most of the people believe that the earth rotates round the sun and take it to be an unbreakable absolute truth; a fact. “Earth goes around the sun. It’s generally accepted, scientifically proved and observed.” This is the attitude of the majority of the population. This is where our fundamental education has directed us to. We have no doubt that the earth goes around the sun.
Hereby, I like to question you. What was the evidence they provided you to make you believe this idea? Remember. Remember the time you were in grade one. What was the evidence given? Our teachers gave us a lot of evidence to support that the earth is a globe. However, during our entire school career, we were not provided with any evidence by out teachers to the claim that the earth goes around the sun. It is just stated and taken for granted. What a pity. The strongest of beliefs people get from elementary science education is persuaded with no evidence at all. This is in contrast to how the educated people usually denounce the religious for believing in invisible gods without ‘sensory’ evidence. Can we say that the educated differ from those who believe in gods without providing sensory evidence?
Domination of Western science in education and all spheres of modern life have made it the newest religion. Someone can argue that there are structural differences between Western Science and religions. Here, I do not want to go that far. However, there is a term, you may have heard that goes as ‘science in popular culture’. I reckon science in popular culture is completely a religion. Primary and secondary education, popular books, TV programmes and science fiction are some elements of science in popular culture. It does not consist of experimentation or mathematics in deep. When we consider the Sri Lankan situation most of the ‘educated’ people in media are only dealing with this popular culture. In this popular culture, the way that scientific ideas are persuaded upon the general public is not through reasoning. It is done through just institutional domination, marketing strategies and psychological tricks. Therefore, most of thoes who disbelieve in supernatural phenomena for the sake of science only does so because it is against the ‘new religion’ they are following.
It’s time to get back to the topic. Does the earth really rotate around the sun? Here the most important word in the above statement is ‘really’. When we say the sun does not go around the earth, it means that what we observe every day is just an illusion. What we observe is dependent on how we move. Therefore, when we consider a set of observers looking at a moving object they may observe different motions. Then, all these motions cannot be the ‘real’ motion. If there exits any real motion, only one of those observations can be correct. Others are just illusions. We, who live on the earth sees the sun going around the earth while an observer on the sun see the earth going around the sun. Different observers may see different motions. The problem is, out of these motions which one is the ‘real’ motion.
Newton tried to answer this question. He said real motion is the motion with respect to empty space. In other words, the empty space is in absolute rest. Therefore ‘real’ motion is the motion with respect to the empty space. When you hear this idea you will feel that finally Newton successfully solved the problem of what would be the real motion. We, at first glance, tend to think Newton is correct and that the empty space is in absolute rest. But when we carefully analyze, we see that Newton’s argument is wrong. Think that you are moving with respect to empty space. Then the empty space should move with respect to you in the opposite direction. What! Empty space moves. There is nothing in the empty space to move. Therefore empty space can neither move nor be in rest in the ordinary sense. There is nothing called moving with respect to an empty space. This argument, originally made by the acclaimed Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach debunked Newton and his physics. Later Albert Einstein constructed his physics saying that there is no absolute motion. In other words there is no any ‘real motion’. Every observer is equal.
According to Einstein’s theory the sun going around the earth and the earth going around the sun are two observations. None is more real, more correct or more preferable over the other. This quote is from one of Einstein’s books.
“The struggle, so violent in the early days of science, between the views of Ptolemy and Copernicus would then be quite meaningless. Either C.S. (Coordinate System) could be used with equal justification.
(The Evolution of Physics - A. Einstein, L. Infeld page 224)”
Here Ptolemy’s idea was that the sun goes around the earth while Copernicus said the earth goes around the sun.
Therefore the two ideas; the sun going around earth and the earth going around the sun are just two observations. None is better than the other.