David Palm Takes on the Thankless Task of Debunking Geocentrism

Why would anybody feel the need to debunk geocentrism?

Well, it all started with Bob Sungenis, a fundamentalist who became a Catholic and went from reading the Bible in a flat-footed, individualistic, and literalistic manner heedless of the tradition and the magisterium, to reading the Bible and church documents in a flat-footed, individualistic and literalist manner heedless of the tradition and the Magisterium. Along the way, he decided that “the Church says” that the earth is the physical center of the universe and that everything orbits around it and the earth does not rotate.

He also embraced more toxic and dangerous views about Jews, which he has never, to my knowledge, brought himself to publicly repudiate. And he has promoted various crazy conspiracy theories. But all of this has been scoured from his website (though the internet remembers) so that he can now focus his energies on a new project: a movie called “The Principle” for which he has somehow found backing from somebody rich enough to hire poor Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway of the Starship Voyager) as his narrator and to sucker such science documentary luminaries as Michio Kaku and Lawrence Krauss into interviews, though I am willing to bet money they had no idea they were being snookered into starring in a weird propaganda film whose purpose is to argue that geocentrism is God’s revealed truth and the earth does not rotate. (It will be interesting to see if these participants will try to stop release of the film should they find out its purpose and the rather dubious credentials and paper trail of its creators–all documented by Palm.)

Anyway, it appears that enough tinder and dynamite is being gathered into one spot for there to be quite a little explosion of fundamentalist Christian vs. fundamentalist atheist lunacy about the War of Religion and Science. So Dave Palm is anticipating the release of this film because, very simply, in a world where people people can seriously believe that Pope Francis is just about to declare “abortion fiesta for all!” or buy the idea that The Da Vinci Code is serious scholarship, a Catholic apologist who makes a ridiculous film promoting geocentrism is going to be taken seriously by a certain percentage of people as “speaking for the Church”. This will result in two things: foolish or simple people thinking that geocentrism is gutsy Alternative Science overturning the Evil Secular Scientific Consensus and somewhat smarter and better informed unbelievers using the movie to bash the Church as the bastion of wahoos and ignorant fools who want to burn Galileo at the stake now since they could get the job done 500 years ago. The bishops are, I will wager, oblivious to Sungenis (except for his own ordinary) and so will be oblivious to this embarrassing movie. But it’s worth it to have a voice out there rebutting it and saying “This is not the teaching of the Church” since, as Augustine says:

It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, . . . and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are” (St. Augustine, The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20, Chapt. 19).

The irony is that the story of how we got from a geocentric to a heliocentric model of the solar system is, in fact, an absolutely fascinating (and deeply Catholic one) in which, as a matter of fact, Galileo was often wrong (though not, obviously about heliocentrism, but that was only by luck, since he didn’t actually have the proof for his claims). To read that real and fascinating story, run and do not walk to the estimable and learned Mike Flynn’s site and read his delightful and epic tale of the Great Ptolemaic Smackdown. It is a fascinating page turner of a tale and I hope and pray the guy turns that series into a book, complete with his delightful illustration and witty quips.

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