Three days and 540 years ago, on February 19, Nicolaus Copernicus was born. And the world changed. His life’s work on the motion of celestial objects turned reality inside out, setting the stage for the scientific revolution. The world we live in sprung from his groundbreaking propositions on how the universe operates.
Thing is, it took a hundred years for Copernicus to make an impact. His work was doubted from the start. Galileo Galilei, who had based his work on the Copernican model, was forced to retract his assumptions and apologize for them.
On the occasion of Copernicus’s birthday, let me ask you something. If someone came up to you and said, I’ve been observing the world for a while and have discovered that we’ve been going about things the wrong way, the data say we should be doing A, B, C, not X, Y, Z.
Then this guy told you something completely bonkers, like, ‘The earth revolves around the sun.’ Or, ‘We’re not the center of the universe.’
Would you give him the time of day?
Let’s make the question more relevant. Imagine for example that the world progresses in a way that takes care of business. Life expectancy is on the rise, disease is rolling back, information spreads faster and more efficiently, technology is bubbling, hard, and generally everything is moving ahead.
Then some guy comes along and says, Wait, this isn’t right. We’re progressing, but at what cost? We’re killing everything around us, including ourselves. Shouldn’t we reconsider our ways?
We, of course, dismiss him. Doomsayers are a dime a dozen and we don’t have time to waste.
But the guy insists. I have proof that what we’re doing isn’t working, he says. We ought to be making progress in a different way. The misery we’re leaving in our trail is too dark to handle. Let me show you.
We laugh at his proof. Big deal, we say. Polar ice comes and goes. Ebb and flow, baby!
He frowns. You’re in denial, he says. The facts stare you in the face but you refuse to accept them.
Amusing, we reply. But it doesn’t prove anything. Clever as the argument is, there’s no proof that we’re causing any of this. I don’t even think this is happening. The winter’s been really cold this year. Not very ‘global-warming’ now, is it?
And back to business as usual e go.
The story of Copernicus all over again.