Here's the whopper. He says:
Just as the findings of Copernicus and the astronomers that followed him revealed that the earth is not the hub of the universe, Steno's revolution dislodged humanity from the center of our planet's history.This trope functions like a keyboard macro when journalists write about the history of science. But it's pure mythology. In pre-Copernican cosmology, the earth was not seen as the hub of the universe, but as the bottom, the place to which heavy, mutable things fall. The very center of the universe, it was supposed, was Hell -- hardly a place of privilege. This idea that the center must be the place of privilege is modernist misinterpretation of the history of science. Copernicus most assuredly did NOT "dislodge humanity" for the imagined hub of the universe. And neither, of course, did Steno. How exactly does the moment we arrive on the scene settle questions about our importance? If a bride arrives at her wedding in the last hour, even though preparations have been underway for a year, does that mean she's insignificant?
The take home lesson is this: The significance of the earth and humanity, or our insignificance, does not hinge on age or "central" location.
Friday, January 13, 2012