Where did the solar system come from? Why and how? What accounts for its evolution over time? Those questions have plagued scientists, philosophers, theologians, and other thinkers from the point where humanity first realized that Earth was part of a large system of bodies all interacting with each other. It is also a subject I have been considering of late. Is anyone aware of a definitive work on this subject that can explain the evolution over time of this theme in the history of science?
The first attempts to explain in naturalistic terms the origins of the solar system some 500 years ago may seem rudimentary by today’s standards, but current explanations remain incomplete and some of their elements may well prove naïve as future scientists continue to investigate this subject. During the space age intensive efforts resulted in a revolution in knowledge gained about the solar system.
Using data newly available, scientists structured theories, always more than one, of solar system origin and evolution that reflected that larger sets of beliefs of the various communities and disciplines working on the question. Most theories involved to some degree a common set of elements: the collapse of cloud of gas and cosmic dust into the sun and the concentration of globs into planets and other smaller bodies, were seen as part of a single process.
The devil was in the details concerning this process, however, and scientists endlessly debated the roles of condensation versus of accretion, hot versus cold origins, the role of geological processes, the nature of wandering bodies, and the like. Consensus positions proved elusive. Even so, the story filtered through textbooks, popular writings, and multi-media presentations offered more certainty and less acknowledgment of tentativeness to the public than the scientists thought appropriate.
How might we come to grips with the manner in which knowledge about the solar system was created and evolved in the space science community and then was homogenized, popularized, and offered to the larger public and the manner in which that larger community of the United States incorporated it into its knowledge system? At the same time, how has the wider society embraced, or perhaps rejected, these larger scientific ideas about the origins of the solar system?
I am very interested in any thoughts readers might have on this subject.