IV. THE NEW COSMOLOGY—COPERNICUS TO KEPLER AND GALILEO
"The improbability is tripled by the complete overthrow of that order which rules all the heavenly bodies in which the revolving motion is definitely established. The greater the sphere is in such a case, so much longer is the time required for its revolution; the smaller the sphere the shorter the time. Saturn, whose orbit surpasses those of all the planets in size, traverses it in thirty years. Jupiter completes its smaller course in twelve years, Mars in two; the moon performs its much smaller revolution within a month. Just as clearly in the Medicean stars, we see that the one nearest Jupiter completes its revolution in a very short time—about forty-two hours; the next in about three and one-half days, the third in seven, and the most distant one in sixteen days. This rule, which is followed throughout, will still remain if we ascribe the twenty-four-hourly motion to a rotation of the earth. If, however, the earth is left motionless, we must go first from the very short rule of the moon to ever greater ones—to the two-yearly rule of Mars, from that to the twelve-yearly one of Jupiter, from here to the thirty-yearly one of Saturn, and then suddenly to an incomparably greater sphere, to which also we must ascribe a complete rotation in twenty-four hours. If, however, we assume a motion of the earth, the rapidity of the periods is very well preserved; from the slowest sphere of Saturn we come to the wholly motionless fixed stars. We also escape thereby a fourth difficulty, which arises as soon as we assume that there is motion in the sphere of the stars. I mean the great unevenness in the movement of these very stars, some of which would have to revolve with extraordinary rapidity in immense circles, while others moved very slowly in small circles, since some of them are at a greater, others at a less, distance from the pole. That is likewise an inconvenience, for, on the one hand, we see all those stars, the motion of which is indubitable, revolve in great circles, while, on the other hand, there seems to be little object in placing bodies, which are to move in circles, at an enormous distance from the centre and then let them move in very small circles. And not only are the size of the different circles and therewith the rapidity of the movement very different in the different fixed stars, but the same stars also change their orbits and their rapidity of motion. Therein consists the fifth inconvenience. Those stars, namely, which were at the equator two thousand years ago, and hence described great circles in their revolutions, must to-day move more slowly and in smaller circles, because they are many degrees removed from it. It will even happen, after not so very long a time, that one of those which have hitherto been continually in motion will finally coincide with the pole and stand still, but after a period of repose will again begin to move. The other stars in the mean while, which unquestionably move, all have, as was said, a great circle for an orbit and keep this unchangeably.
"The improbability is further increased—this may be considered the sixth inconvenience—by the fact that it is impossible to conceive what degree of solidity those immense spheres must have, in the depths of which so many stars are fixed so enduringly that they are kept revolving evenly in spite of such difference of motion without changing their respective positions. Or if, according to the much more probable theory, the heavens are fluid, and every star describes an orbit of its own, according to what law then, or for what reason, are their orbits so arranged that, when looked at from the earth, they appear to be contained in one single sphere? To attain this it seems to me much easier and more convenient to make them motionless instead of moving, just as the paving-stones on the market-place, for instance, remain in order more easily than the swarms of children running about on them.
"Finally, the seventh difficulty: If we attribute the daily rotation to the higher region of the heavens, we should have to endow it with force and power sufficient to carry with it the innumerable host of the fixed stars —every one a body of very great compass and much larger than the earth—and all the planets, although the latter, like the earth, move naturally in an opposite direction. In the midst of all this the little earth, single and alone, would obstinately and wilfully withstand such force—a supposition which, it appears to me, has much against it. I could also not explain why the earth, a freely poised body, balancing itself about its centre, and surrounded on all sides by a fluid medium, should not be affected by the universal rotation. Such difficulties, however, do not confront us if we attribute motion to the earth—such a small, insignificant body in comparison with the whole universe, and which for that very reason cannot exercise any power over the latter.
"Simplicio. You support your arguments throughout, it seems to me, on the greater ease and simplicity with which the said effects are produced. You mean that as a cause the motion of the earth alone is just as satisfactory as the motion of all the rest of the universe with the exception of the earth; you hold the actual event to be much easier in the former case than in the latter. For the ruler of the universe, however, whose might is infinite, it is no less easy to move the universe than the earth or a straw balm. But if his power is infinite, why should not a greater, rather than a very small, part of it be revealed to me?