Attitudes on Heliocentrism and Interracial Dating

Over at Crooked Timber Kieran Healy takes notice of some poll results:

I read the other day that a recent Gallup poll found that about 83 percent of Americans felt interracial dating was OK, and I believe this was a new high-water mark for this view. There was a degree of understandable concern about the remaining 17 percent, but (some people said) it’s only been forty years since Loving vs Virginia. And, as it turns out, it could be worse. The idea that the Earth orbits the Sun has had rather longer to catch on…

Sean Carroll provides the numbers:

more than 83% of Americans now think that interracial dating is acceptable. Now, some of you might be thinking, “Hey, that means that there’s still 17% of Americans that think interracial dating is not okay.” Well, yes. But everything is relative. Apparently the folks at the General Social Survey, just for kicks, decided to ask Americans to come clean about their feelings toward heliocentrism. As it turns out, about 18% of Americans are in the “Sun moves around the Earth” camp. A full 8% prudently declined to have an opinion, leaving only 74% to go along with Copernicus.

Of course the answer to whether the universe is heliocentric is not so straightforward. Sean again:

[In the wake of General Relativity] the concept of a global reference frame and the more restrictive concept of an inertial frame simply do not exist. You cannot take your locally-defined axes and stretch them uniquely throughout space, there’s just no way to do it. (In particular, if you tried, you would find that the coordinates defined by traveling along two different paths gave you two different values for the same point in space.) Instead, all we have are coordinate systems of various types. Even in Newtonian absolute space (or for that matter in special relativity, which in this matter is just the same as Newtonian mechanics) we always have the freedom to choose elaborate coordinate systems, but in GR that’s all we have. And if we can choose all sorts of different coordinates, there is nothing to stop us from choosing one with the Earth at the center and the Sun moving around in circles (or ellipses) around it.

I would note that views on interracial dating probably affect the lives of more people, the way we treat others, family dynamics and the like far more than disagreements about whether the solar system is heliocentric or geocentric.