|The divine comedy|
If the Earth can't be the centre of the universe, the Bible being wrong yet again, then couldn't our very own Milky Way galaxy be somehow special and at the centre of everything? Such pressing concerns of Creationists are addressed by Galactocentricity. Russell Humphreys (born 1942) proposed this hypothesis to preserve an exalted position of humanity in the universe, because the idea that the most important of a set of objects (even if we assume that any of the objects is more important than the others) doesn't need to be positioned in the middle is apparently too hard a concept for some people to grasp. Creationists seek to counter the mediocrity principle and a related concept called the Copernican principle that regard humans as unimportant in the grand scheme of things (which is odd, when the self-same creationists accuse scientists and atheists of arrogance).
Heliocentric galactocentrism, a similar-sounding, but slightly different idea, proposed the Solar System (note the upper-case letters!) as the centre of the galaxy. (Harlow Shapley disproved this notion in 1918.) Creationists have prudently skipped this step, but unwittingly demonstrate the God of the gaps principle with Galactocentricity. CreationWiki is one of the many wackjob groups supporting it. Stay tuned, by 2023 we may have "Superclustercentricity". And should we discover other universes, ours might be declared as the Truly Special One, This Time For Real™.
The centre of newfangled geometry
Once upon a time, the Holy See in Rome was considered the centre of the world. But idealistically special things no longer need to also have a special location. Neither heart nor brain is at the centre of the body, and Rome is not in fact located at the Earth's core, either. Unbeknownst to creationists, geometry moved on since the cracking advances of Euclid ca. 300 BCE. The newfangled Non-Euclidean geometry makes it possible that objects have neither centres, nor edges — a discovery which already upset the Christian mythology hundreds of years ago. A map-like flat earth has clear directions, "above the sky" for a heaven to where Jesus could have ascended, and a hell beneath the surface. It can also feature a central city like Rome located like a hub of a wheel. However, none of this is possible (aside from the subterranean Hell, we suppose) on a spherical earth, which obeys Non-Euclidean geometry. "Above" the clouds becomes the realm of satellites and the International Space Station — not angels — and the great expanse of outer space. And "below" becomes Earth's core, as unpleasant as hell, yet exists physically. It has the perplexing property that if one could drill deep enough, they would eventually quarry out somewhere on the opposite side of the planet. And no city on the surface can be central any more.
The Milky Way cannot be the centre of the universe in much the same way that Rome cannot be the centre of the world on a curved surface, where the end of any route eventually meets its starting point. Physicists are comfortable with multiple dimensions, which can also be curved and intertwined, leaving everyone else unable to make heads or tails of the situation.[note 1] In some models, like M-theory, the number of dimensions can even go up to eleven. For the sake of illustration, imagine two dimensions X and Y which can be curved and form a globe, as it is the case with our planet. They become a part of a higher third dimension. In a similar way, the four dimensions known to us (space + time) can be curved and form a sphere too, and be seated into a higher fifth dimension. Travelling in any direction in the universe would eventually always lead back home[note 2], just as it is when travelling in any direction on our planet — leaving no centre. The universe is also expanding since the Big Bang. This is like inflating a balloon or growing a planet, which would move the "cities" apart from each other. Cosmologists observe this expansion as a red shift.
Since virtually every literally interpreted biblical story has fallen apart already – Adam and Eve, Noah's Flood, geocentrism – it is surprising that Christians still break out in cold sweat over such passages as Genesis 1:14:
“”And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
When God claimed he created two lights, He obviously wasn't entirely honest, as every interpretation makes no sense. In one reading he created only one starlight – a byproduct of nuclear fusion – that makes both the Sun (which is a star) and other stars shine. And stars and moon(s) are sometimes visible during the day. Any divide in different "kinds" of light falls apart.
The Moon is not even a light source, but merely reflects the star/sunlight. Moons and stars cannot be made of the same type of light, according to the Bible, while excluding the sun, which is a star.
Photons are only "one kind" of light and aren't bothered by Earth's rotation and position among celestial bodies, and as such photons don't care whether it is day or night when they hit the retina of an observer.
Obviously, when He cut corners, as God did so often in his not-so-intelligent-design, he made only one light to enjoy a lazy afternoon – but who could blame him. Everyone longs for the weekened at day four in a workweek. Genesis is not very good to establish Galactocentricity.
Support of the hypothesis
Russell Humphreys promotes a fringe hypothesis in cosmology called the redshift quantization to support this fringe hypothesis of Galactocentricity. That is adequate and proportional to the fringe position of humans in the galaxy. But not only doesn't his take not substantiate the desired biblical conclusions of a specialness of humans, it is also just another "hypothesis" few take seriously[note 3]
Even with Galactocentricity, the sun remains central to our solar system (rather than the Earth), and it is not even central in the Milky Way. Earth is at least 91.40 million miles away from the sun, and the solar system is about 25,000–28,000 light years away from the centre of the Milky Way. That makes us about 146,962,500,000,000,000 miles away from the supposed important centre of everything. Even if the Milky Way was the centre of the universe — and that is a big if — humans clearly have no special place in it.
Further, the Milky Way itself is at home in the Laniakea Supercluster, together with no small number of 100,000 other galaxies. and there are many more such superclusters. According to estimates, about 100 billion galaxies, each housing on average about 100 billion suns occupy our observable universe.
In light of this, God perhaps allowed himself to get carried away just a little with this task.
But in reality, one does not want to be located at or near the center of a galaxy: it is inhospitable there, with extremely high levels of radiation and very strong gravitational tides, plus right at the center is an enormous black hole, which we clearly don't want to be near. Just as there is a habitable zone for solar systems, there is also a habitable zone for galaxies.
The Shapley Attractor
Evidence disproving this can be shown in the Shapley Attractor. The Shapley Attractor is an structure of over 8000 galaxies that completely dwarfs the Great Attractor, which previously held this record. Another aspect of the Shapley Attractor: it's named this because ALL GALAXIES CLOSE TO THE MILKY WAY are slowly heading towards it. As debate has occurred about why it's so big, one theory has popped up. The Shapley Attractor may not be anything; it could just be the gravitational point of convergence. This means that unless the mass of the universe is quite unevenly distributed, the Shapley Attractor is at or near the center of the universe. However, the only way this could succeed is if the Big Crunch, a quite unlikely scenario, ends up playing out, so there isn't much to worry about. Regardless, this leaves the very likely chance that the center of the universe is just void. So no, the Earth is not the center of the universe, nor is the Sun, or the Milky Way, or the Local Group, or the Laniakea Supercluster.
Re-centering your worldview
“”Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
|—Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1994|
- Where is the centre of the unverse?
- See the Wikipedia article on History of the center of the Universe.
- Carl Sagan created a very helpful analogy in his book Cosmos that uses the image of a two-dimensional being from a two-dimensional universe trying and failing to comprehend our three-dimensional existence.
- This may not be the case, as studies of the cosmic microwave background suggest the 'Verse could even be infinite
- Of course they tend to be Creationists.
- Our Galaxy is the Center of the Universe, ‘Quantized’ Redshifts Show, Journal of Creation 16(2):95–104, 2002, Russell Humphreys. See Section 7, "The cosmos is galactocentric".
- Despite the obviousness of the supreme importance, for example, of South Dakota as containing the geographic center of the United States.
- See the Wikipedia article on Harlow Shapley.
- Up to eleven. Where can you go from there?
- Where is the centre of the universe?
- Earth's new address: 'Solar System, Milky Way, Laniakea' in Nature
- The Dipole Repeller. Note how there's also a "Repeller", which coincides with a void in the distribution of galaxies