If Copernicus Lived Today

Beyond Their Time and Institution

Copernicus
Copernicus
Socrates
Socrates
Alfred Wegener
Alfred Wegener
If Jesus were Republican....
If Jesus were Republican....

Imagine If You Will...

Religion, education, science, government – all such institutions and entities have different ideologies on how to live life. Yet as most people can attest, disparity often exists between the ideology of the institution and the practice of the institution. To begin with, take the religion Christianity. Mainstream American Christianity preaches family values and is known most for its stance on abortion and gay marriage. Yet countless stories show a failing to live the family values being preached (although there are the exceptions).

Science would have us distrust anything that cannot be proven. And this seems fine until you look into history and see how scienctists have not always practiced distrust of their own preconceived notions. For instance, when Alfred Wegener proposed his theory about continental drift and Pangea, the scientific community greatly doubted his claims. It contrasted with their own preconceived ideas. Issac Newton also is recorded as struggling with the ideas of absolute space and absolute time when his research indicated otherwise. He thought absolute time and space had to exist because God was absolute, a preconceived notion of his day. Another scientist didn’t want to believe planets traveled in an ellipse because he thought traveling in a circle was the more perfect path -- and this despite evidence to the contrary. Even today, the scientific community seems more intent on presenting evolution as an iron-clad fact. Granted, this might be fueled in part by the counterargument of creationism, but scientists only discredit themselves if they don’t maintain some skepticism. If anyone should be known for distrusting preconceived ideas, it should be scientists. Yet so often, scientific findings are presented as Gospel truth, sans skepticism. So science in itself seems another kind of ideology of how to see the world.

Yet just as science and religion have their own ideology, so does education. The ideology of education that exists is that achieving top grades and graduating from college will lead to a successful career. Really? I guess Einstein, Bill Gates and Will Smith can not be judged as being successful then as Einstein failed and dropped out, Bill Gates is known for dropping out of school and even Will Smith gave up his shot at a prestigious education in favor of another trade. And as most teachers will be more than happy to point out, people get paid more money to throw around a ball, fix cars and act than they do to provide the alleged “tools for success.”

So where does this leave the modern day Copernicus and what does that have to do with people who can’t tell a star from a light pointing to another galaxy? Just this: regardless of whatever institution one subscribes to, a healthy dose of skepticism is needed of that institution. It is especially needed as history has proven again and again the fallibility of all such institutions. Science, for instance, was once used to “prove” how African Americans were truly the inferior race.

To better illustrate the point, let’s draw up some examples, beginning with the ever famous philosopher Socrates. Socrates was notorious for questioning the authorities of his day. Plato and history record that he was eventually charged with corrupting the youth and, when choosing between death or exile, he chose death by poison. Yet while Socrates was told by the institutions of his day how to think, he thought beyond them and consequently the world still accords his words as being worthy of being studied.

Another example that is especially poignant is that of Jesus. Imagine for a minute that you are following this discussion on the premise that he really lived and the bit of material we have concerning him is valid. You will note that he was raised Jewish and doubtlessly surrounded by the cultural do's and don’ts of his religion. Yet he still manages to see beyond the ideology and practices of his religion: he interacts with (and heals, if you believe the miracles) lepers, tax collectors and other people of questionable reputation (big no no's even today for, ironically, the mainstream group of people claiming faith in him). Jesus also runs into trouble a lot with the Pharisees in regard to healing on the Sabbath. So I guess he wasn’t so keen on their interpretation. Yet he provides another example of seeing beyond the preconceived ideas of his culture.

What does all this have to do with Copernicus? Simply that despite the mainstream teaching and ideology of his time, Copernicus found a way to see outside of his time and outside of the preconceived ideas of the institutions that contributed to the general pool of knowledge. The idea behind Copernicus being alive today is not to state again an old discovery but to strive for a truer understanding of the world even if it means going against what one institution says is an established, unquestionable understanding. For Copernicus to be alive today, society is required to be more flexible where it might be more rigid concerning the established dogma it promotes.

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