Tycho Brahe used mathematical and scientific instruments, some of them newly invented, to correct ancient astronomical measurements. But his main tool was an aura of faithful observation. He thought he could explain the movements of the stars in an objective way, and that was his rhetorical position from which he made his observations. It is a rhetorical position, because there is no scientific basis for believing our observations are objective, no matter how mathematical they are, unless the earth is an immovable point in the center of the universe. If the earth is spinning and in motion, until we completely understand how it is moving, we wont understand our own observations. I am merely referring to Einstein’s theory of relativity: there are no unmoving points of observation, and so all of our observations are relative. If we understand the movement of the Earth (or a satellite like the moon) completely, then we can mathematically compensate for that motion to obtain objective measurements. How are we going to completely understand the movement of the Earth? By recording its movement from the point of view of the stars, of course. And how to we know what the point of view of the stars is? by recording their movements from the vantage points available to us: the Earth. You can see the circularity here. We can’t record the movement of the Earth without understanding the movement of the stars, and we can’t record the movement of the stars without understanding the movement of the Earth. Unfortunately, without records of either the Earth or the stars to begin with, we can only make guesses of understanding, and see how they match up with our faulty observations and records.

Where does that leave the shift from an Earth-centered universe a solar-system that moves in a universe with no center? It leaves us knowing less than we knew in Aristotle’s time. We can fly into space and make some impromptu observations of the earth spinning, but how do we know it isn’t us that is spinning so that the stars are more still, making the earth appear to spin? We would have to know how to be perfectly still in space to know how things are moving, but we can only know that relative to other things like stars or planets, so we don’t even know if one day we will shift back to an earth-centered model of the universe.

The usual argument scientists make against this type of reasoning is to make things more complex, as though that will wash away these doubts. It doesn’t really do that except rhetorically. It must be admitted, at least until we have found a point in the universe that doesn’t move, that the modern scientific models of the universe are based ultimately on rhetoric, whether it is a rhetorical air of faithfully measuring things, the rhetorical air of using mathematical symbols and formulas instead of words, or the rhetorical air of claiming that to know more is to have a more important opinion than others, so that a simple-minded analysis like mine is unimportant.

All these postures are rhetorical in foundation and nature, and so there is not much reason to draw a stark line between people who believe this or that thing, and use this as a cause of belittling, hating and shaming people (this runs the spectrum of issues such as anti-vax, flat-earthers, or whatever else). Scientific ideas are just ideas, including the our geometric or numerical ideas of space and time, and our ideas of logical reasoning, which are also fundamentally rhetorical. When Bernie Sanders says something in the order of poverty being a contradiction in the richest country in the world, he is mainly referring to a failure of Americans to think rhetorically. Instead the way to persuade people is to make logical claims, or so we believe nowadays, and this is a deep and purposefully fostered flaw in the political process in the USA. In this, the scientific community and their rhetorical posturing does us a disservice.

I am extremely fond of Borges talking about the attitude of Argentinians on literature, and his comparison with the corresponding attitudes in the USA. According to Borges, Argentinians tend to think a book that won a literature award might still be a good book, in spite of the award. Of course, this attitude is quite out of the question in the USA, where everything needs official publication, awards and certifications, and certifications of certifications, that let other people tell us who to trust and who to listen to. This Argentinian attitude towards books (and ideas) is basic to a society that is not thought-controlled.