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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Copernican Litany

One of the commonest cliches in the fabricating theories business is the Copernican litany:

  • Copernicus dethroned the Earth from the center of the universe.

  • Darwin dethroned humanity from the goal of life.

  • Marx dethroned the bourgeouise from setting social standards.

  • Nietzsche dethroned traditional morality.

  • Freud dethroned the conscious mind.

etc. etc.

The above is usually used to claim that a new theory (with no actual evidence behind it) should be accepted simply because it fits into the above series. This has included theories postulating extraterrestrial intelligence, the Malthusian type of environmentalism, artificial intelligence, multiculturalism, and even the otherwise semiplausible Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics. (You can see a recent example here: “With humankind reduced to absolute cosmic insignificance, our descent from the center of the world is now complete.”)

This style of reasoning is particularly preposterous because there are only two data points with real evidence (Copernicus and Darwin) in it. The other examples cited are taken seriously only because they fit the supposed pattern.

To make matters worse, in some ways Copernicus and Darwin led to opposite conclusions. The end result of the Copernican revolution was the theory that, on a large enough scale, all places are the same. The end result of the Darwinian revolution was the theory that, on a large enough scale, all times are different.

The proper response to any idea that is defended using the Copernican litany should be ridicule: “When are you going to come up with real evidence?”

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