Although Copernicus attempted to convert thinkers to his viewpoint, acceptance was not easy. What is important here is that Copernicus believed there was a better explanation for the Earth's position in space compared to the old Earth-centered Ptolemaic theory of celestial spheres in which the stars and planets were fixed. It was this personal belief that drove him to discovery.
In his book, Personal Knowledge, Michael Polanyi (physical chemist & philosopher) talks about this scientific passion, this subjective foreknowledge of a solution because we somehow know it’s out there. It drove the likes of Salk and Copernicus to seek what they believed to be true. It is the same heuristic commitment that, today, drives researchers to seek cures for cancer and aids. It makes scientists want to examine outer space because they have an intimation that it can be done regardless of limitations by distance and the speed of light.
Various religious beliefs have existed since humans started to think. The earliest humans must have concerned themselves with survival, the more thoughtful with an explanation of the natural world. Obviously, they made crude calendars by setting huge stones upright and observing the sun’s shadows over the course of time.
But it would seem that these peoples who’ve recorded any kind of history, also believed in goddesses or gods to explain the unknown. It’s as if they had a hint that something was there.
I wonder if their search and ours and that of science for a final explanation is a result of this same intimation?