Subject: Kepler (Re: lost in translation) Date: 15 Mar 90 05:56:46 GMT From article <1990M

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

From: djones@megatest.UUCP (Dave Jones) Newsgroups: alt.atheism Subject: Kepler (Re: lost in translation) Message-ID: <12333@goofy.megatest.UUCP> Date: 15 Mar 90 05:56:46 GMT Organization: Megatest Corporation, San Jose, Ca From article <1990Mar14.134617.23071@santra.uucp>, by (Aki Tapani Taskinen): > Would you call Kepler a blind thinker via religious creed? Kepler > was a very devout Christian, yet produced marvelous things in his > life. > Kepler (1571-1630) was a German astrologer and mathematician, who taught grade school for the state-run Church which had raised him as a child. His story marks a clear transition from the Dark Ages to the Renaissance. Indeed for much of his life, he was a "blind thinker", plagued with superstition. But he triumphed over his beliefs. His is a fantastic, heroic story. His belief was that mathematics was a universal truth that preceded God, and that God was the perfect mathematician. He knew that there were five regular polyhedrons, and that there were five planets. He reckoned that God, the perfect mathematician, had devised the heavenly spheres around the perfect solids. He worked for much of his life to substantiate that preconception. Because he could not prove his hypothesis, he decided that his observations over the years must have been faulty. He needed better instruments and more data. Finally, he asked for and received permission to go to the court of Tyco Brahe, the eccentric court astrologer. (Brahe had a gold nose, which was the result of a duel over who was the better mathematician.) Brahe was suspicious of Kepler and allowed him little information, but when Brahe died, Kepler persuaded the widow to allow him to read over the observations. Still the data would not fit. They were only off by a bit here and there, but Kepler could not ignore the discrepancies. Finally, perhaps as much a result of exhaustion as anything, Kepler agonizingly allowed himself to drop his religious beliefs just a little. For the first time, he sought any model which would fit the data, regardless of whether that model was consistent with his concepts of God and beauty. The result is the theory which today is known as "the laws of planetary motion". They were tweaked ever so slightly this century by Dr. Einstein, but in their original form they serve admirably well for such applications as putting satelites into orbit, sending men to the moon, and sending space probes to Jupiter and beyond. Because of his flight from superstition to reason, it has been said that Kepler was the last astrologer and the first astronomer. To me, he is a hero of grand proportions. To recognize that for most of your life you have been adamantly wrong, and then to abandon your old beliefs and seek the truth courageously: That is heroism.


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank