The more access we have to technology, the easier it becomes for fewer and fewer people to have a bigger and bigger impact on more and more people. And as the impact gets bigger, we have a hard time taking in the fact that so few people could really have such devastating effects. So, for instance, even though all the evidence really does point to the fact that he acted alone, 50 years later many people still can’t believe that one jerk with a gun could break the hearts of millions of people or, a century earlier, ignite a vast European civil war, fought in two acts known as World War I and World War II, that destroyed that civilization and fundamentally changed the geopolitical structure of the world.
Likewise, with the force multiplier of technology offering a huge assist we now live in an era where 19 jerks could achieve on 9/11 something that no nation-state 50 years ago could have achieved.
Those are two big examples. But the vast majority of examples are much smaller and are not shown by physical acts of violence, but by intellectual and spiritual acts of great goodness or epic stupidity. The internet is the great force multiplier for these things, an immense unfiltered purveyor of wonderful information and damnable lies. It is affording hitherto unheard of opportunities for unknown people to do wonderful things (like the delightful work being done by Fr. Robert Barron, the Vlog Brothers, and Jonathan Coulton, or cool ideas like Kickstarter funding all kinds of inventive and good undertakings. Heck! Youse guys have demonstrated many many times your own selfs that the Internet can be an awesome tool for good with your spectacular feats of generosity to people in need).
But as with all things human, technology is also enabling quacks and cranks–who hitherto had only xerox machines, a crazy vision, and a soapbox in a park as their means for getting The Message out–to gain a much wider and better networked audience with lots of other quacks and cranks.
Case in point, the ridiculous spectacle of the Catholic Geocentrism Movement (and assorted related groups devoted to paranoid conspiracy theories), a small group of kooks who have, thanks to Teh Interwebz, managed to help God’s name look stupid on a scale far in excess of their numbers, and necessitating, in the 21st century, that some Catholic take up the thankless task of making clear that, no, most Catholics do not believe this idiotic rubbish and do not endorse the trickery of the quacks who have snookered sane people into appearing to support it. On the bright side, it also afforded a chance for people who may have snoozed through their sophomore science class a chance to catch up. So all glory, laud, and honor to Dave Palm for taking up this thankless job! He writes:
In the coming months, you may be hearing more about geocentrism, the view that the earth is the motionless center of the universe, especially in connection with an upcoming movie called The Principle.1 Unfortunately, this fringe scientific view is also being touted by these proponents as the official teaching of the Catholic Church. The mainstream media and blogsphere have been having a field day with this, often seeking to make the Catholic Church look ridiculous. And some good folks, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, have been confused and troubled by these geocentrists both as to the actual teaching of the Catholic Church and the science involved.
You can view new updates to Geocentrism Debunked (www.geocentrismdebunked.org), a web site that provides a great deal of information debunking this claim that the earth is the motionless center of the universe, particularly that this is the official teaching of the Catholic Church. In the latest update, you’ll find a selection of newer articles covering the topic from various angles—science, theology, history, and more.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you know anyone else who might benefit from it, please feel free to pass it along. (If you would rather not receive future updates, just let me know and I’ll remove you from the list.)
The Magisterium Rules: The Debate is Over – In 1820, Pope Pius VII decreed that there are “no obstacles” nor “any difficulties” for Catholics to hold that the earth moves. Two years later, the Holy Office even decreed that there would be canonical punishments for any Roman censor who refused to allow publication of books supporting the motion of the earth. With good reason, then, Pope St. John Paul II stated in 1992 that the debate concerning whether Catholics may hold to modern cosmological views which include the motion of the earth “was closed in 1820″.
There He Goes Again – In a follow-up to his scientific critique of the new geocentrism, Here Comes the Sun, physicist Alec MacAndrew spotlights still more of Robert Sungenis’s scientific misunderstandings and errors. Sungenis continues to argue that geocentrism works under classical mechanics, but MacAndrew demonstrates that Sungenis’s claims of gravitational balance and his “center of mass” arguments fail. MacAndrew also notes that Sungenis failed to address the glaring Great Inconsistency at the heart of the modern geocentrist polemic, namely, that they reject General Relativity while simultaneously using it to promote geocentrism.The Fathers Don’t Support an Immobile Earth – Fr. Melchior Inchofer, S. J. was one of the theological assessors who examined the Galileo case prior to his trial. Regarding the motion of the earth, which geocentrist Robert Sungenis insists is the crucial point in the debate, Fr. Inchofer said of the Church Fathers that, “I have not found a single one of the Holy Fathers who has dealt with the motion of the earth clearly and positively, as the saying goes.”
The Four Elements and the Four Humours: Will You Go the Distance? – The Catholic Church teaches that a consensus of the Church Fathers only binds on matters of “faith and morals”—the Magisterium has clearly shown in both word and practice that matters of natural philosophy (i.e. science) are not included. But the new geocentrists insist that a consensus of the Fathers on any topic whatsoever automatically becomes a matter of faith. This error puts them squarely on a collision course with the Magisterium.
It’s Elementary My Dear Geocentrist – The Fathers and Doctors of the Church are in agreement on the view that the entire physical universe is made of four and only four elements—earth, water, fire, and air. They held this as a matter of natural philosophy, as the best science of their day. But according to their own standards, the new geocentrists should therefore insist that all Catholics hold that view too, as a matter of faith. Similarly, as they do with geocentrism, they should also be insisting that the Magisterium of the Church has been completely derelict in its duty to uphold the “True Faith” on this issue. Those who have been influenced by their appeal to the Fathers of the Church might want to look a bit more closely at exactly where this train is headed.
The Geocentrists Have No Sense of Humour – The Fathers and Doctors of the Church are in agreement, as a matter of natural philosophy, that the physical and emotional health of the human body is determined by the balance of the four humours: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. Why have the geocentrists not produced a documentary and books decrying all modern medical advances and insisting that Catholics must hold to humourism as a matter of faith? Will the new geocentrists be consistent and denounce the Magisterium as derelict in its duty to teach the “True Faith”, the four elements and the four humours?
That’s the Whole Ballgame Right There! – Podcaster and Michael Voris associate Christine Niles follows in Voris’ footsteps by conducting an infomercial/interview with Rick DeLano about the upcoming movie, The Principle. Depending upon whom he’s talking to at the moment, DeLano can be coy about the ultimate intent behind the movie. But in this interview Niles and DeLano make it very plain that geocentrism is first and foremost a matter of faith, not a matter of science. Listen as Niles herself inadvertently gets caught up in the theological confusion.
Piling On, or Holding Back? – Robert Sungenis has recently complained that documentation of six examples of his conspiracy theories on the Geocentrism Debunked Backgrounds page proves that, “Making a fool out of Bob Sungenis is paramount,” and that “[David Palm] must leave no stone unturned.” Read on to see the proof that Sungenis has it exactly wrong – a great deal of other goofy and paranoid material was originally withheld, precisely to avoid the appearance of piling on.
Who Are You Going to Believe? A Matter of Credibility – If you’re going to present yourself as both trustworthy and qualified to accuse and castigate virtually the entire scientific community and the Magisterium of the Church, as Robert Sungenis has, then credibility matters. Read on to see a few recent examples demonstrating that Sungenis can’t even be trusted to get the simplest and most easily verified information correct, let alone the kind of complex information necessary to turn both the Church and the entire scientific community on their heads.
If you know somebody who is being snookered by this rubbish–or somebody who is looking at the Church and scandalized by it, point them to Dave.
Also, for an absolute fantastic education in science history that is a joy to read, go see Mike Flynn’s magnificent series on the The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown, which chronicles, in delightful, funny and really informative prose the works of (mostly Catholic) intellectuals and scientists as they labored to figure out basic astrophysics–and gives the real history of Galileo and his relationship with the Church. Seriously, one of the best pieces of pop science and pop history I’ve ever read. I keep hoping he will do the world a favor and publish it as a book. Great stuff.