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Ideas such as Geocentrism were widely accepted in historic times. Models and theories were set out by some of the most prolific scientists and/or philosophers of the time. Those with opposing ideas were ridiculed, often even killed. Now we have much evidence against these theories, showing clearly they were incorrect.

Was there a scientific flaw with the way the ideas were presented? What concepts do we have in place today where such flaws are outed and not regarded as science?

For example, the theory of evolution is widely accepted as a fact, as much as the theory of gravity is. Are these theories susceptible to similar discredit in the future?

Essentially I am looking for a counter-argument against the following statement:

"Many ideas such as geocentrism were widely accepted as fact through science, and now have been completely debunked. Evolution is another one of these cases."

Note: This is not a question about the contents of the theory of evolution, but about progression of scientific thinking that allow us to have more credible scientific theories.

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  • $\begingroup$ I would argue that in the early years (i.e. pre-Copernicus), these non-geocentric ideas were stifled by religious bodies (not all, but many), and it was considered heresy to accept them. Science simply could not stand up to the forces of religion. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Sep 5 '15 at 14:14
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There was no "flow of scientific thinking" in the work of those who developed geocentric system. The flow is in the education of modern philosophers and writers who propagate the idea that "geocentrism" was somehow "incorrect". Geocentric theory was a valid scientific theory which predicted some phenomena correctly, within the accuracy of the measurement at that time. No proof of motion of the Earth existed at that time, neither it existed 1000 years later. The geocentric theory quite well described the phenomena with respect to the frame of reference connected with Earth.

Many modern computations are made in the same frame of reference. If you want to compute how to aim your telescope, you have to use geocentric system (if your telescope stands on Earth). If you want to launch a space craft to Mars, you use some other theory. But Ptolemy was not concerned with launching a craft to Mars.

The theory is accepted if it is well enough tested. As science develops new facts are discovered, and new theories are developed to explain these facts. Sometimes these new theories contain old theories as a special case. Sometimes they give a more precise predictions, but old (tested) theories remain valid approximations, within the range of phenomena for which they were designed and tested.

For example, quantum mechanics generalizes Newtonian mechanics. But to say that Newtonian mechanics is incorrect is nonsense. It is tested, is correct, and will always be correct, no matter what new theories will be invented. Moreover, all these new theories must be consistent with it, and any generalization should contain it as a special case.

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