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21/02/2017

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Mandark Astronominov

Not that this is really important to the rest of your post, but I do think you could predict the time and position of the next solar eclipse by observing the relative positions and movements of the sun and the moon in the sky for long enough - all while believing in a completely false geocentric model where the sun and moon are just disks that move in the sky. The sun-earth-moon system is periodic and thus the relative positions (including when eclipses occur) should predictable with an observational model. My understanding is that pre-Copernican astronomers were in fact able to do this quite well.

Peter Vickers

Hmmm, yes, thanks for this. I should have been clearer. I don't think being able to do it 'quite well' is sufficient; that is, indeed, explicable in terms of a purely phenomenological model, a model which *could* be underpinned by a radically false theory. The kind of thing I'm thinking of is the prediction that on 8th April 2024 the maximum total solar eclipse will be in Nazas, Durango, Mexico, lasting 268 seconds. That very specific prediction does, it seems to me, depend very sensitively on the underlying physics, and is something that one couldn't ever reach using pre-Copernican astronomy. But I now wonder whether I should use a better example to demonstrate the 'no miracles' connection between predictive success and truth.

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British Journal for the Philosophy of Science