Several hundred years ago, geocentrism was accepted Church doctrine. When Copernicus publi
Several hundred years ago, geocentrism was accepted Church doctrine.
When Copernicus published his thoery in "De Revolutionibus Orbeum
Coelestium" (1543), he was more at fear from disfavor from religious
officials than from other scientists. Since the book was published
just after his death, a publisher added a preface to the book claiming
it was "just a suggestion out of convenience", and not a real thoery.
This publisher did NOT claim authorship of this preface, implicitly
attributing it to Copernicus.
One of the arguements against Copernicus' theory was that it was no more
accurate than Ptolomaic geocentric theory; this was because Copernicus
also believe that all planets moved in circles about the central body,
and thus various fudges were required to get predictions even close to
the observed positions.
Furthermore, from the scientific viewpoint, Copernican theory predicts
stellar parallax, or the change in apparent positions of the stars, due
to the moving earth. This was searched for by Tycho Brahe (1546-1599),
with the most precise and systematic measurements of his time, with no
success. It is now recognized that, despite the ingenuity of his
approach, Brahe still did not have the precision necessary to observe
From more oppostion on the dogmatic front, Gallileo Galilei (1564-1642)
had several bits of support for the Copernican theory. Among these are
1) observation of the phases of Venus, which is almost impossible to
explain in a geocentric model, and 2) observation of moons of Jupiter,
which shows that the earth is not a unique center of revolution in the
universe. However, Galileo's evidence was dismissed out of hand by
Church officials becuase the telescope was considered to be the 'tool
of the devil', and thus any evidence gained thereby must a-priori be
When Kepler (1571-1630) finally showed that the solar system can be
very well modeled by using heliocentricity along with elliptical orbits
for the planets, his work was also banned by the Church officials.
So, in short, acceptance of the Copernican view was more stronly
hindered by religious dogmatism than by scientific conservatism, and
most scientist, e.g. Brahe, had very good scientific reasons indeed
for rejecting the theory: it made a prediction of an observation he
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank