Thursday, 5 February 2015

Pablo de Felipe: SC: "Ancient Christian Ideas on Flat Earth and the Antipodeans in Early Modern Scientific Debate"Part of the Workshop:"Anthropology - the Role of Early Christian Thought in a Perennial Debate"

It was Copernicus himself who realized the potential science and faith conflict that his astronomy could trigger. 
For a defence of the Copernican cosmology, and to discourage theological criticisms, a good strategy was to refer to a precedent of Christian theology getting it really wrong on a clear scientific topic, and even better if it was on a cosmological-related topic.
Up to the 16th century there were plenty of precedents on philosophy and faith polemics regarding general issues that affected theology as the eternity of the world and the nature of the soul, or even, closer to what we could consider today as science, the animated/divine nature of heavenly bodies. However, these were not good examples, as they were more philosophical/theological issues not adequate for a scientific/mathematical approach at the time, and most likely Copernicus shared the standard Christian solution to them.
So the perfect precedent became that of Lactantius' denial of the sphericity of the Earth, who nobody took seriously. Soon, his parallel denial of the existence of antipodeans, which was also found in a major Church Father like Augustine, was also used by Copernicans.
Here we will discuss both, the evolution of the references to these two topics during the next century and also their precedents, as Copernicus did not ‘re-discover' himself these debates in the Ancient Church. In fact, they had already been discussed as examples of Ancient Christian mistakes on science and faith for over a century, in relation with the new 15th century geographical discoveries.

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