Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An Answer for MegaSage007

I have an answer to a challenge raised about three weeks ago, albeit indirectly, by a youtube user named MegaSage007 (Personal Website Redirect), which was directed largely to atheists. As a former agnostic atheist myself, and seeing as the question wandered into one of my favourite disciplines (astrophysics), I thought I'd take some time while I eat my ham sandwich to speak to his statement.

The video in question was CHALLENGING ALL ATHIESTS: 2012 (sic - Youtube Direct Link), in which he challenged atheists to produce drawings of the "cosmic bodies" relative to earth's position, for each of the four seasons (presumably at the equinoxes and solstices), with the fundamental assumption of the model being that the Earth was the centre of the system - a theory known as the geocentric model. The last great attempt at this was, of course, in the sixteenth century by Tycho Brahe, whose model was flawed in lacking accuracy in predicting planetary positions over time.

Perhaps not surprisingly, humanity has gone back and forth on the arrangement of the bodies in the heavens before, shifting from a geocentric model such as the one I described above, to a heliocentric model such as the one we use today. Aristarchus of Samos, the greek philosopher, was the first known scholar to conceive a heliocentric system. Hundreds of years later, an Islamic scholar named al-Shatir founded a mathematically-complete heliocentric model surprisingly similar by the one developed by Copernicus even later still. The heliocentric model has become the standard model taught in educational facilities of esteem and used by real astrophysicists to predict the paths and positions of the celestial bodies.

The main objection to the heliocentric model is that it is counter-intuitive. MegaSage007's videos highlight this in a number of quaint an humorous ways. You see the sun process across the sky and you see that it is going around the earth. I, knowing the math and understanding the geometry, stand on the surface of the earth, seeing the sun as a fixed point and myself as rotating toward/away from it around the earth's rotational axis. Is it counter-intuitive? Certainly. That's why science doesn't use intuition, but observation, measurement, experimentation, and calculation. The heliocentric model has stood on its merits for centuries. There has not been a viable geocentric model with the same predictive accuracy, and models which have come close have assumed invisible peri-orbital points such as equants which are geometrically convenient but realistically non-demonstrable.

It is ultimately a question of predictive utility - testability, if you like. Using either model, I should be able to accurately predict the position of the planets in the night sky on any given future or past date, which can then be compared to the record or the future event, and should correlate nicely, as it does with the standard model.

My contention is that, despite the strong declarative in his videos, MegaSage007 is mistaken about geocentric models being superior. His source material, while being an excellent moral foundation, has proven scientifically inconsistent more than once. Rather than doing his work for me, I challenge him to present a predictively complete geocentric model and tell me the position of of Jupiter in the night sky on June 25, 2012, at midnight, from any viewing location within New Brunswick.  I will make a similar prediction using the free heliocentric modelling software suite known as Celestia (which is a very cool piece of digital kit). On that date (my birthday), I will take a measurement using a digitally-controlled telescope, have an uninvolved third party compare the accuracy of each prediction to the measured value, and inform us of the more accurate option. If MegaSage007's model, which should be demonstrable, succeeds in predicting the date with greater or equal accuracy to the heliocentric model, I will gladly take the time to study an alternative astronomy.

As a courtesy to MegaSage007, I will be forwarding a link to this post to him. He is notoriously uninvolved with responses and commentary, but it is more fair than assuming he will not answer.

Edit: Unfortunately, it is impossible to contact him, as I should have feared. He cannot receive links in video comments, nor does he allow messages to his private inbox on YouTube from non-contacts. Listing no email at either his personal website or at YouTube, I have no alternative other than to hope this post comes up if he ever google-searches his screen name.

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