Newton, Apples, and Planetary Motion

Do you believe that the Earth is moving around the Sun once a year?  Do you believe that all the other planets in our system orbit the Sun?  How certain are you of this and where does that certainty come from?

Chances are that your certainty comes from being taught in school that the sun-centered solar system is well established science. But what does “well established science” mean?  How does something become “well established”? How does science know what it claims to know? From where does science get its certainty?  And why did we only develop that certainty in the last few hundred years after observing the motion of planets in the sky for the last ten thousand years?  What changed in our thinking that took us from the prosecution of Galileo for supporting that notion to a dead certainty about it only 100 years later?

An alarming number of people who accept the scientific certainty of planetary motion without question reject the scientific certainty of biological evolution and human induced climate change.  Those same people might be surprised to learn that science uses the exact same methodology to develop certainty in all of these theories.

Apple and Finch.  They might seem like an unlikely pairing, but they are icons for two of the most creative and visionary inductive leaps in science. Whether by flash of inspiration or by long deliberation, they changed the way we understand the universe and the life we see within it.

The apple is iconic for Isaac Newton’s inductive leap, realizing that the force that pulls things to the ground is the same force that keeps planets tethered to the Sun.   And the finch is iconic for Darwin’s inductive leap, realizing that the same process that produces diversity in the beaks of island bound finches is the same process that produced the entire diversity of life from a single ancient life form population.

Newton did not invent inductive logic or mathematics but managed to combine them in a novel way allowing him to see into the hidden causes that guided the motion of planets.  Through this new method, Newton established the basis for all of classical physics which created an explosion in scientific productivity not seen in the previous millennia as others followed his lead.  It’s not surprising that by Darwin’s time Newton’s methodology was well established.  Darwin formulated his theory of evolution along the same lines of logic which allowing him to peer into life’s hidden mysteries as well.

I set up this website with the goal in mind to demonstrate in various ways how the theory of evolution is as well evidenced and confirmed as any of our well established scientific theories.

I have been involved in science and engineering since probably before you were born. I am interested in writing about science, its conceptions and misconceptions.

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