The Dance Of The Spheres

Around 500B.C. there lived a famous Greek philosopher by the name of Pythagoras. His sect of followers were influential during the classic Greek era in southern Italy in a place called Crotone. The Pythagoreans taught that the planets (including an Anti-Earth on the other side of the Sun), the Moon, and the Sun were fastened on great spheres of crystal, rotating around a central fire. The motion of these great spheres was believed to create an exquisite harmony of the spheres which ordinary people cannot hear because they are too used to it. Pythagoras and his followers believed they could tune instruments by geometrical calculations so the instruments would resonate with the spheres. Dancing to the music of the spheres was an activity that occupied much of the time of the ancient Pythagoreans.

In today's world there are people who still believe they can hear the Pythagorean music of the spheres. A group called ProZodiac has taken the work of the Pythagoreans and built an astrology program on it. There are also people who are attempting to predict the end of the world on the basis of planetary alignments and the miraculous impact such alignments are claimed to have on human affairs. Those attempting to find proof of the end of time in the year 2000 are pointing to a partial planetary alignment that will occur late in that year which they claim to be a vehicle of destruction.

All of these kind of claims and beliefs would be funny if it was not for the ignorance of people that allows these beliefs to be influential. Heavens Gate is the most recent tragic reminder of how destructive this ignorance can be. Although the vehicle that Marshal Applewaite and his followers were using was a comet, the same kind of problem existed--people did not have enough information to understand the impossibility of Applewaite's claims.

From a scientific standpoint the dance of the spheres is understandable and the music to which the spheres dance is loud and clear. Our solar system moves with definite rhythms, following a musical score written with incredible precision and purpose. As our knowledge and understanding has improved, the incredible complexity of both the music and the dance has become clear. Newton gave us the original score and Einstein fine tuned it, but both created their understandings by looking at the grand design. We have now seen that moons help hold planets with a proper tilt, that the large Jovian planets help shield the inner planets from intruders, and that the very substance of which we are made is remarkable both in its make up and origin.

Dean Overman in his book A Case Against Accident and Self Organization has shown the fallacy of trying to explain all we see in the cosmos by chance. Thomas Huxley once said that a large number of monkeys typing on a large number of typewriters would eventually produce the complete works of William Shakespeare. Overman shows that a section from Macbeth containing 12 lines would have a probability of 26 to the 379th power. Mathematicians consider anything with a probability of 10 to the 50th power as a mathematical impossibility. Paul Davies equates the odds of one chance in 10 to the 60th power as the chance of hitting a one-inch target with a random shot of a bullet from a distance of 20 billion light years.

The dance of the spheres and the music to which it moves is not what Pythagoras thought, but it is very real and speaks to us in beautiful ways about our own design and purpose.

--John N. Clayton

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