Note: This paper was first published as one among my Reference Pages a few years ago to contradict the Argument of motion proposed by Thomas Aquinas, an Italian Friar (1225 – 1274). as one among his Cosmological arguments in proof of the existence of God. .
Aquinas’s argument of Motion that needed a Prime Mover (and hence the Biblical God) no doubt was based on the Aristotelian notion of the sun going around the earth, not the other way around. The argument presupposed that rest was the fundamental state, motion had to be forced – just as you would need to make move your teenaged son out of bed after a late night of Rock with his friends.
On Argument of Motion. That motion existed was obvious enough, but what caused that motion was not clear. Bible, Quran, and the Hindu scriptures (including the ancient Vedas) stated what was seemingly obvious to human senses – Earth is static, firmly in place (rendered even more firm by the mountains as per Quran), and the celestial objects like the Sun, moon and the stars moved around it to give it bright light in the day, passable light at night.
Aristotle (384-322 BC), in his voluminous work Physics (wherefrom for the principal and elementary form of science got its name), implied that Rest is the rule, Motion is caused by impetus. The heaviest objects in the universe – earth and water according to him – settled at the center, others- the air, sun, moon and the stars moved around it under a certain impetus. What about a projectile such as a stone let go with great impetus from hand or a catapult that continues its motion after the impetus is withdrawn? Aristotle presumably imagined a prime mover behind it.
Subsequent to the victory of Islam over vast areas of central and South Asia which extended to Spain other parts of Europe, Arab and Persian scientists and philosophers applied their minds to the theories of Earth and sky that went beyond Allah’s theories of a stationary earth and moving celestial bodies (while ensuring that there was no direct confrontation with the words of Allah.) Thus, the foremost among them, Avicenna (Ibn Cina), modified certain views of Aristotle on motion of bodies, yet contradicted Aristotle with his idea of self-motion(mayl). Al Baruni (973-1048) virtually stumbled upon the Newton’s second law of Motion; Hibat Allah Abu’l-Barakat al-Baghdaadi (1080–1165) proposed that a constant force applied on an object caused acceleration, not a constant speed. None of these great findings impressed the Christian theologians till well into the 17th century.
We do not know much about Aristarchus, who lived in 270 BC, who proposed a different concept. His works are lost, but Archimedes (287 – c. 212 BC), one of the greatest known classical scientists and mathematician (nonetheless a geo-centrist) ridiculed, tongue-in-cheek, the Heliocentric (Sun is in the centre) view of Aristarchus thus:
“His hypotheses are that the fixed stars and the sun remain unmoved, that the earth revolves about the sun on the circumference of a circle, the sun lying in the middle of the orbit, and that the sphere of the fixed stars, situated about the same center as the sun, is so great that the circle in which he supposes the earth to revolve bears such a proportion to the distance of the fixed stars as the center of the sphere bears to its surface.”
(Archimedes, “The Sand Reckoner”)
It’s an irony that we know more about Archimedes than about Aristarchus.
Indian mathematician –Scientist Aryabhata (476–550)AD) showed that earth was spinning around its axis; he almost precisely computed its circumference and the speed of rotation. Aryabhata explained relative motion thus
“Just as a man moving forward in a boat sees the stationary objects on either side of the river moving backward, so are the stationary stars seen by people at Lanka (on the equator) as moving precisesly towards the West. That is how it appears that the entire gamut of stars and planets appear to move as if by a wind, thus rising and setting.
( Chapter Gola, Verses 9 and 10, Aryabhatiya – University of Chicago Press, 1930.)
Though Aryabhata showed that the earth spun on its own axis, he still held that it was the sun that moved around the spinning earth. Aryabhata’s findings made little impact on the West even after Al Baruni translated his Aryabhatiya, meaning the work of Aryabhata. His students and peers, even those who studied his mathematical concepts and threories in astronomy, were embarrassed by his theory of a rotating earth.
Ironically, it was Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 –1543), a Catholic priest, who first defined the celestial motions to be Heliocentric – centred on the sun. Copernicus escaped burning on the stakes by not publishing his book till death came calling, and, in any case, did not get as much notice or create half as much sensation as did Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642), born 21 years after Copernicus was buried, who made the earth-shattering and godless statement that it was really the earth that moved around the sun. He had a newly invented telescope to prove the point. Being a friend of the Pope for whom he had done astronomic work before, Galileo too escaped a full-blooded inquisition which would have led to his burning at the stakes, after his limbs were broken on the latest invention of a breaking wheel. Instead, he spent the rest of his life in house arrest.
Pope John Paul II (1920-2005; Papacy 1978-2005) in 1992 confessed that punishing Galileo was wrong and pronounced an apology for the mistake. Two years later in 1994 Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI – born 1927; papacy 2005-2013) publicly decried this apology, endorsing the statement of Quantum physicist-Philosopher but unpredictable maverick Paul Feyerabend (1924- 1994) tha
The church at the time of Galileo was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo’s doctrine. Its verdict against Galileo was rational and just, and revisionism can be legitimized solely for motives of political opportunism.
Cardinal Ratzinger, who in 2013 abdicated as Pope had thus called one of the few noblest known Popes, John Paul II, as a political opportunist for admitting that the earth revolved around the sun, not the other way round as suggested in the Bible. The church hates to confess.
Science now tells us that Motion is the law; state of rest is one of perception. When you come back from a hard day’s work, sit on your chair in the balcony swigging cold beer or hot coffee, you are moving a little faster than 1,600 kilometers an hour, 460 meters a second, round earth’s axis , like a bacterium on a bowling ball spinning while running on a curved lane with no pins in sight. That speed applies to you if your house is anywhere not far from the equator. If you were in Helsinki sitting near the fireplace waiting for the appearance of the sun three months hence, you’d still be spinning though at a lesser (tangential) speed. Whether in Alaska or Ecuador, you are simultaneously moving at a velocity of 30 kilometres per second on a wide arc down a circular celestial bowling lane around the sun with no pins to knock down – unless and unexpected meteor comes in the way. If you could make 11.2 kilometres per second more, you could breakaway from earth’s gravitational pull and shoot off like an arrow shot into the sky.
In the thirteenth century, there was no way Thomas Aquinas could perceive these motions. He based his arguments on the perceived but illusory motion of the sun and partly real motion of the moon and, if he was patient enough, the almost imperceptible movement of the stars. There was no way he knew that he, his monastery, his altar and his library were all in perpetual motion.
Supposing you are sitting in a train that moves at 60 kilometers per hour. That is 1 kilometer per minute, about 16 meters per second. Now let us say you toss a ball vertically up; the ball falls back from a height just short of touching the ceiling of the train – say a meter-and-a-half overhead. It comes down just as vertically into the palm of your hand. The bounce back probably takes a little more than a second. You have by then moved 16 meters with the train from the spot when you tossed the ball up. So, without your seeing it, the ball has travelled 16 meters forward along with you, while also moving vertically three meters up and down. If the ball had not moved horizontally with you, it would fall on the head of the dowager sitting 16 metres several rows behind and get you into serious trouble. You do not, however, see the horizontal motion. A person standing on the kerb, assuming your train has a long enough glass window for her to see through, would see the ball moving in a parabolic arch. So don’t trust your eyes. Seeing is not believing. This example, by the way, owes itself to Einstein.
Supposing the devil or your God himself forced the earth to stop. You would be jerked into a terrible westward motion, much worse than you would if were were to apply a sudden break while driving at high speed on a highway. Since the air around you would move too, you might face no friction from the air, only with the ground you’re sitting on. You’d find yourself shooting towards the Sun with the earth at an ever increasing speed, and you will incinerate – unless the earth gets back into spin and finds a new equilibrium in a lower orbit – giving you (if you are still alive) a hotter climate or something worse. The vengeful God of the Bible, who dictated to Moses the following lines obviously did not know the basic laws of what is supposed to be his own creation:
Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and moon, you also, over the Vale of Aijalon’. And the sun stood still, and the moon halted, till the people had vengeance on their enemies.” (Joshua 10:12-13)
(A similar occurrence is made to happen in Mahabharata, the epic war of Hinduism. Here Krishna, being somewhat wiser than the Judaic-Christian God, does not try and stop the sun. Instead, he makes an artificial eclipse to make the gullible enemies think that the sun had set (after which battle must not continue), and Krishna’s favorite side wins the battle of the day).
Inside you blood circulates, heart palpitates, lungs expand and squeeze, cells move and change, inside all of them molecules, electrons, protons, neutrons are all in motion unless the temperature falls to an impossible nothing -272 degrees Celsius or 0 degree Kalvin when all molecular motions would come to a stop. Even Bose-Einstein Condensate, first proposed by Sateyndranath Bose (1894 –1974) could cool to a temperature very near absolute zero, but NEVER absolute Zero.
Even before Penzias (Arno Allen Penzias, born 1933) and Wilson (Robert Woodrow Wilson, born 1936) established the (previously predicted) of Cosmological Microwave Background Radiation CMBR in 1965, Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), presumably following the finding of Swiss scientist Charles Guillaume (1861- 1938) 30 years before, calculated that the minimum temperature at inter-stellar space would be 3.18o Kalvin. Unlike ancient Greeks – of whom Aristotle is one – who believed that the higher you went in the sky hotter it got, (recall the tragedy of Icarus in Greek mythology) outer space is frigid cold, but not absolute zero. Since absolute zero temperature is not a possibility, molecules will remain in motion, however slow. If you could hear all the wave motions that are happening around you, there would be enough commotion to shatter your tympanic membranes. Motion is a natural; it needs no prime mover. An absolute static state, like absolute zero, is not a possibility.
Isaac Newton believed that God did course-correction of the universe whenever needed. Though he wrote much on the Bible and on God, he did not believe in the Trinity – a conjoined triplet phenomenon not mentioned in the Bible. He believed that the galaxies were at rest, and to make up for the gravitational calamity that this state would bring about at intermittent but definite points of time when stars and planets would pile on each other, Newton decided that God made frequent adjustments – just like you would keep stirring food in the pan to stop it from sticking to the bottom and burning up. Now we know that such an intervention is not needed. Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), arguably an agnostic who said he believed in some sort of a ‘destiny’, but not a God, discovered through his high-tech telescope of the time (1927) that the galaxies were moving apart at an incredible speed. When there is motion at a certain velocity, gravity is powerless.
To reassure ourselves that such a calamity can never occur and that on any day in future gravity would not overcome the expansion, two teams that were investigating the Supernova level of brightness (as a reference point for measuring stellar distances ) discovered in 1998 that the universe was not just expanding at a constant rate, but it was continually accelerating. Prof Saul Perlmutter (b. 1959) of the University of California, Berkeley, had been awarded half the Nobel prize, with Prof Brian Schmidt (b.1967) of the Australian National University and Prof Adam Riess (b. 1969) of Johns Hopkins University’s Space Telescope Science Institute sharing the other half. Schmidt calls himself a militant agnostic. Perlmutter and Reiss are Jews by birth, but do not appear to have found God’s hand in expanding the universe like ‘raisins while breaking bread.’ Expansion, they calculated, must have started some 5 billion years ago.
How do they know that the expansion is accelerating when it can only be computed only by integrating the readings over millions of years? Simple. They found that the closer galaxies were moving apart at greater speeds than the distant ones – which were much older- expanded at less speed.
The Big Bang.
Paradoxically, the Big Bang, which challenges the First-Cause theory, was first proposed by a Catholic Priest – Abbe Georges Lemaitre. When he submitted his mathematical proof in a science meeting in 1927, Einstein, already an authority in theoretical physics, is reported to have told him: “”Your calculations are correct, but your physics is atrocious.” Einstein, who expanded Newton’s theories on motion to a level not yet imagined, still believed that the universe as a whole was static. He had replaced Newton’s belief that God intervened to prevent a gravitational pile-up with a number he called Cosmological Constant.
A couple of years later, when Edwin Bubble (1889-1953) experimentally established that the universe was expanding, Lemaitre’s theory that the universe developed from the size of an atom found favor with scientists. Lemaitre wore his priestly attire even to science conferences, but unlike the religious pseudo-scientists of today, refused to link his religion with his scientific findings. When Pope Pius XI: (1857 – 1939; papacy 1922-1939) proposed that Lemaitre’s findings agreed with the Biblical theory of creation’ the latter politely declined to link the two. It was not, however, this priest of the scientific temper who received the most coveted recognition for his literally earth-shattering finding. George F. Smoot (b.1945), and John C. Mather (b. 1946) received their Nobel Prize for measuring the feeble light emitted 13,800,000,000 years after the Big Bang, thereby establishing that the theory had a sound footing.
Motion is a steady-state condition of things already in motion and hence needs no energy to push or pull it. Acceleration is a change in the seemingly placid condition of uniform motion; hence it does need a push (Aristotelian impetus) from behind. That push, say the cosmologists, is from the dark energy that lurks everywhere. At the moment, this is a conjuncture just like – íf that room is empty, and something is moving inside there, it must be a Ghost. Some faithful Christians jump at the idea, just as Pope John Paul II did and Pope Pius XI before him did, and suggest that the dark energy is the Dark Lord – the Voldemort of the Bible – who, but the devil himself.”
The cosmologists who have done the measurements and have published their findings for much peer acceptance are – barring Abbe Lemaitre who is dead – still alive, and are still working at honing their theories. Religion, on the other hand, has its conclusions firmly in place. A Catholic might try and squeeze the Biblical statement of Creation into the new findings, but most Protestants hold hard to the argument that Creation is only 6000 years old; Bible itself is adequate proof for them. Some also quote the proofs advanced by Aquinas without using his name. Fortunately Jews, who are the originators of the creation theory, but also have earned the well-deserved Nobel prizes most (it works out a Nobel prize winner for every 100,000 Jews – presumably more than they have medical doctors) except for a few Rabbis who need to defend the Pentateuch to make a living, have stopped defending the creation theory a long time ago.
Existence is the rule; Motion is the law. Rest is not an option. Nothing, by its very definition, is non-existent. So motion is the natural. Thus neither the universe, nor anything in it needs a prime mover. To stop the universe from its incessant motion, you might need a prime stopper. The universe never stops; hence there is no need for such a jealous and wrathful obstructionist called God.