The Boasted Accuracy of Modern Astronomy Exposed
(Continuing our examination of modern astronomy.)
By Thos. Geo. Ferguson
The Science of Theoretical Astronomy makes a boast of its accuracy, and as it is best to “ prove all things ” a few of their statements shall be put to the test to see if they have any right to the claims they make, viz:— “ that Astronomy is the most exact of all sciences.”
Sir Robt. Ball tells us in his Story o f the Heavens, p. 510 (1893 E d .) We:
“ can determine the place of a planet with such precision that it is certainly not one second of arc wrong,” and he goes on to explain that “ a foot rule placed at a distance of 40 miles subtends an angle of a second, and it is surely a delicate achievement to measure the place of a planet, and feel confident that no error greater than this can have intruded into our result.”
The accuracy they vaunt so loud speedily disappears when the statements of two or three of the most “ eminent astronomers ” are compared with each other ! For instance, if we start with the problem which nearly all modern astronomers agree is the most important throughout the whole range of astronomy, viz :— The sun’s distance from the earth, we shall see what diversity of opinion (absolute contradictions— E d.) exist amongst them, so much so, that hardly any two of them agree about it. The late Mr. Proctor stated it was 91,500,000 miles, but Sir R. Ball gives it as 92,700,000. Surely a difference of 1,200,000 miles is not the “ precision ” Sir R. Ball speaks of in his work from which I have quoted ?
Again these distances differ very considerably from those given by other “ eminent astronomers” :— Copernicus gave it as 3,391,200miles; Kepler, 12,376,800 ; Newton (1st guess) 28,000,000; Newton (2nd guess) 84,000,000; Herschel, 95,000,000; Gould, 96,000,000; Cassini, 112,000,000; Mayer, 184,000,000.
Mr. Proctor in the opening remarks of his book The Sun, says :— “ The determination of the sun’s distance is not only an important problem of general astronomy but, it may be regarded as the very foundation of all our researches.”
How very far from accuracy must that science be which has such an uncertain foundation ? If modern astronomy depends upon the accuracy of the sun’s distance from the earth, then we are justified in saying that it is built on a sandy foundation, for, as we have seen, the astronomer’s theories about it, are against themselves.
Let us now glance at their theories about the planets, and I trust the reader will, from their own text books, compare the diameters and distances as given by the most “ eminent astronomers.” I shall only give one instance as a sample. Saturn’s mean distance from the sun, as given in Sir R. Ball’ s Story of the Heavens, is 884,000,000 miles, and the diameter 71,000 miles. Prof. Lockyer gives its distance as 880,000,000 miles; a difference of 4,000,000 miles. Prof. Olmsted gives Saturn’ s distance from the sun as 890,000,000 miles, and the diameter of Saturn as 79,000 miles. Others could be quoted equally at variance. Where, we ask, is the accuracy of this “most exact of sciences?”
No doubt some will say, “Well, how do the astronomers foretell the Eclipses, etc., so accurately?” This is done by cycles. The Chinese for thousands of years have been able to predict the various Solar and Lunar Eclipses, and do so now, in spite of their disbelief in the theories of Newton and Copernicus. Thomas Keith in his “Treatise on the use of the globes” says:— “The Cycle of the moon is said to have been discovered by Meton, an Athenian, B.C. 433,” when, of course, the globular theory was not dreamt of. After a period of 18.6 years, the moon recommences precisely the same spiral path around the earth in relation to the sun, and so the Eclipse of the moon, which takes place on September 29th, will again occur in 18.6 years. We find in no other science (save perhaps Geology) such differences of opinion and such opposite statements existing amongst its professors, as among those of modern astronomy. Algebra, Arithmetic, Euclid or Geometry, may be called exact sciences, but certainly not modern theoretical astronomy.
That there are difficulties in connection with natural phenomena is not doubted, and that there are good men in the ranks who support these theories we do not deny, but we are prepared to show that at the outset assumption is called Fact, and consequently a multitude of errors have crept in which it is the duty of every lover of truth to warn people against and to expose. We may be thought to be fault finders, and had better be so-called than let falsehood reign and permeate society without an attempt to excise it. All we ask is that everything stated may be brought to the test of practical facts and common sense, then the truth will soon be evident. We have but very briefly touched this subject, but sufficient, we hope, to cause our readers to think, and to examine the matter for themselves.