21st Century Geocentrism

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
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Geocentrism Lives

Flat earth believers were active at least up until 2001, when Charles K. Johnson, president of the Flat Earth Society, died. There are undoubtedly flat earth believers today. Whether there are any serious and active flat earth organizations today is open to question, since most flat earth sites are filled with spoofs and parodies to the point where it's hard to tell what is serious and what isn't. But it is beyond question that there are serious believers in geocentrism, the idea that the earth is fixed.

Modern geocentrism is instructive because it shows that some people will not be persuaded by any amount of evidence, and illustrates the dangers of naive conceptions of proof in science. Geocentrism is about as pure as pseudoscience gets.

So you think that evolution may be under attack, but at least the Copernican Revolution is well and truly won? Your naivet is touching. After all, Copernicanism was the first major victory of science over religion, so it's inevitable that some folks would think that everything that's wrong with the world began there. Here are a few examples:

Catholic Apologetics International

Robert Sungenis holds to the Geocentric cosmological view of the universe in accordance with the literal, infallible, and inspired Word of God which, according to Providentissimus Deus by Pope Leo XIII, is inerrant in all matters.

Evolution and Heliocentrism are neither taught in Scripture, nor are taught by the Fathers and Medieval theologians of the Catholic Church, nor are there any official teachings from the Catholic Church endorsing either of the two teachings. Furthermore, the modern scientific evidence does not in the least support Evolution, and in fact denies it completely, while the scientific evidence for Heliocentrism is at best a draw when compared to Geocentric models, and at worst a distortion of both science and Scripture.

The Geocentrism Challenge. CAI will write a check for $1000 to the first person who can prove that [the earth moves around the sun] But the fact is that Geocentrism permeates Scripture. [When this challenge was publicized on a number of other Web sites, CAI pulled all the relevant pages and sanitized other pages of links.]

The Kolbe Center

This modernist attitude is refuted by the progressive and degenerative moral effect produced by rejection of, first, geocentrism in the 17th century, then special creation in the 19th century, and now the very existence of human life in the womb in the 20th.

[Maximilian Kolbe was a priest had pioneered religious use of mass media before World War II, and who voluntarily took the place of a condemned prisoner at Auschwitz. He was later canonized for his heroism. To have his name associated with something like this is truly revolting, indeed, as sacrilegious as any of the evils this group attacks. Also, sorry, but I don't think abolishing slavery, granting rights to women, establishing due process, and so on, count as "degenerative."]

www.fixedearth.com

The Earth is not rotating...nor is it going around the sun. The universe is not one ten trillionth the size we are told. Today’s cosmology fulfills an anti-Bible religious plan disguised as "science". The whole scheme from Copernicanism to Big Bangism is a factless lie. Those lies have planted the Truth-killing virus of evolutionism in every aspect of man’s "knowledge" about the Universe, the Earth, and Himself.

The Bible teaches that the Earth is stationary and immovable at the center of a "small" universe with the sun, moon, and stars going around it every day. All observational and experimental evidence--and non-occult math, i.e., true science--supports the Bible teaching.

Because of their total pro-Israel theology, the powerful "Christian Zionist" evangelical churches are, by default, the biggest supporters of the Talmud/ Kabbala-based Pharisee Religion. That Religion is killing Bible Christianity with: a) its evolution-based "creation model"; b) its control over demonstrably anti-Bible "Dispensationalist" doctrine of a literal Millennium. The Preterit alternative is also an anti-Bible decoy. The Kabbala and the Talmud--anti-Christ "holy books"--are the hidden destroyers of Bible-only Christian theology and morals and ethics.

It’s Hardball Time Creationists: No More Stonewalling Against Bible Geocentrism!

Will Christians et al Fight Back When They Realize That The Bible-Bashing ‘Big Bang Creation Scenario’ Is Just A Competing Religious Concept From The Kabbala Brought To Pass By A Theoretical Science Establishment?"

No Doubt About It: The Kabbala Is The Root Source Of Today’s Assumption-Based Cosmological ‘Science’

The One True Philosophy

Geocentrists don't deal with the hard questions. The earth is at the center of the universe? Well, what part of it? London? Paris? Some point about 1500 miles below Pago Pago? The center? Which center? The geometric center? The center of mass? Those won't be exactly at the same place. What happened when Mount Saint Helens collapsed? The shape of the earth changed slightly, so the geometric center of the earth shifted. Since mass was redistributed, the center of mass shifted. Did the whole universe shift slightly in response?

Geocentrists are wusses. The true physical picture of the universe is egocentrism. I am the center of the universe. I never move (You do, however. Sorry, but your claim that you are the center of the universe is mere heresy.) If I "go down to the first floor to get a cup of coffee," I don't actually move. When I walk to the elevator I really stand still and push the earth and the entire universe behind me with my feet. When I get into the elevator I exert a force that causes the earth and the universe to move upward relative to me. If I do a pirouette, I really push against the earth and cause it and the universe beyond to spin. That funny feeling I have afterward is merely due to the gravitational pull of all that spinning mass attracting my inner ears. When I did pushups in the Army I really did push-aways, and chin-ups were really me pulling the whole universe down past my chin. No wonder they were so hard. Situps are the worst. You try swiveling the earth and the whole universe through 90 degrees with just your abdominal muscles. The universe is so fixated on me that if I give it a chance, like say jumping off a bridge, it will rush toward me so hard it will kill me.

Well, if you buy the deconstructionist psychobabble picture of science, egocentrism is just as valid as geocentrism or heliocentrism. Still, to make it work, I have to invent all sorts of weird forces that act only when I do certain things, and there is no way to predict exactly when they will appear, what they will do or why they work. On the other hand, assuming that I move relative to the earth makes all these problems go away. So, even from an egocentric perspective, why would I want to embrace a convoluted theory that requires me to postulate all sorts of bizarre forces that contribute nothing toward my understanding of the way things work? The only possible answer is that I want to believe in egocentrism regardless of the evidence, and redefine reality to fit my preconceptions.

Occam's Razor

The purpose of the above exercise is to show that if you invent elaborate enough evasions, you can make any idea at all work, even the idea that you never move and the universe moves around you in accordance with your will. Similarly, why would any 21st century person want to embrace geocentrism? If the earth isn't rotating, and everything is rotating around the earth, then everything more than a mere 4.1 billion kilometers away from earth (2.5 billion miles) is moving faster than the speed of light. Jupiter and Saturn are actually moving at appreciable fractions of the speed of light as they whip around the earth once a day. They should show easily observable relativistic length contraction. So relativity is wrong, too. The speed of light either is not a limit, or must vary from place to place in space. So all the formulas in electronics and quantum mechanics that make lasers and solid state electronics possible must be wrong too. Curiously enough, the spacecraft we send to the distant planets behave as if their electronics are following exactly the same laws of physics as on earth. Somehow these spacecraft get accelerated by the rotating universe to far beyond the speed of light, something terrestrial physics considers impossible, yet all the data we get back mimics the terrestrial laws of physics. More prosaically, these spacecraft are being flung outward by huge centrifugal forces, but the forces have absolutely no effect on their trajectories. Why would anybody go through such mental gyrations? The only possible answer is that they want to believe in geocentrism regardless of the evidence, and redefine reality to fit their preconceptions.

In issuing its challenge, CAI specified:

Now a word of caution. By "proof" we mean that your explanations must be direct, observable, physical, natural, repeatable, unambiguous and comprehensive. We don't want hearsay, popular opinion, "expert" testimony, majority vote, personal conviction, organizational rulings, superficial analogies, appeals to "simplicity," "apologies" to Galileo, or any other indirect means of persuasion which do not qualify as scientific proof.

Sounds reasonable, but is it? After we eliminate the arguments from authority, we are left with "direct, observable, physical, natural, repeatable, unambiguous and comprehensive." Nobody should have any issue with the proof being observable or repeatable, and "comprehensive" is so loose as to be meaningless, but what about the rest? Does "physical" rule out mathematical proofs? Does "natural" rule out observations by spacecraft?

Barring going somewhere in a spacecraft and watching the earth move, the only possible observations of the earth's motions are "indirect." Even if we are on Mars on November 10, 2084, watching the Earth and Moon transit the Sun, will that do it? Or can a die-hard geocentrist insist that the Earth stands still and Mars and the Sun move with respect to the earth? If we were to park a space station above the plane of the solar system and watch the earth rotate and circle the sun, would that be proof? Or could a geocentrist simply assert that the space station was in fact moving along with the sun as well as revolving around the earth every 24 hours?

So we come back to an idea that the CAI challenge dismisses: "simplicity." The notion of simplicity is often called "Occam's Razor" after the 14th century theologian William of Ockham, who used it frequently, but the idea is ancient. Decades before Ockham, Thomas Aquinas said "If a thing can be done adequately by means of one, it is superfluous to do it by means of several; for we observe that nature does not employ two instruments where one suffices."

Apart from esthetic considerations, the justifications for simplicity include:

On the other hand, mere simplicity alone is insufficient. Modern theories on celestial mechanics are dauntingly complex, but yield results incomparably more accurate than the theories of Ptolemy, Copernicus, or Kepler. Einstein once proposed a rule that has been paraphrased as "theories should be as simple as possible, but no simpler." For purposes of explaining the daily movements of the heavens, a geocentric reference frame is the simplest approach. If that's all you seek to explain, geocentrism works fine. After all, we still say "the sun rose" rather than "the earth rotated so that my location became illuminated by the sun." But if you're trying to develop a comprehensive theory of planetary motion without recourse to ad hoc postulates, geocentrism fails totally.

With Friends Like These...

A CAI web page posted Guy Consolmagno, Head of Vatican Observatory, Will Not Deny Geocentrism by Robert Sungenis, reporting on a BBC interview of August 28, 2006.

Interviewer: "Brother Consolmagno, do you believe that the sun revolves around the earth?"

Consolmagno: "Well, let's put it this way. It's easier to make calculations with the earth going around the sun."

At this point I could tell the interviewer sensed that the whole thing was exploding in his face. So he tried to pin Consolmagno down to denying geocentrism.

Interviewer: "But Brother Consolmagno, we are talking here about reality. Regardless of whether the math works easier, is it true or not that the sun goes around the earth?"

Consolmagno: "Well, like I said, it's easier to make calculations with the earth going around the sun."

There were more things said, but I can't remember them now, but the above is an accurate rendition of how the conversation went. In brief, Consolmagno would not admit to the interviewer that the sun did not go around the earth.

There could not be a more stark example of the intellectual bankruptcy of what Ian Barbour called the instrumentalist model of science, the idea that "theories should not be judged by truth or falsity, but by their usefulness as calculating devices for correlating observations and making predictions." But Consolmagno is in good company. Fred Hoyle issued the following absurdities:

We know that the difference between a heliocentric theory and a geocentric theory is one of relative motion only, and that such a difference has no physical significance (Hoyle, F., 1975. Astronomy and Cosmology - A Modern Course. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.)

Today we cannot say that the Copernican theory is "right" and the Ptolemaic theory "wrong" in any meaningful physical sense. (Hoyle, F., 1973, Nicolaus Copernicus, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., London.)

You really have to wonder why people who think like this even go into science at all. If they don't believe deeply in the truth of what they're doing, why are they wasting resources and taking up space?

Basic Proofs of Earth's Motion

Since CAI reserves the right to be sole arbiter of whether geocentrism has been disproven, and they have criteria in place to justify rejecting any imaginable evidence, it's a complete waste of time to bother with their challenge. There are easier and more productive ways to earn a thousand bucks. But for readers who aren't familiar with astronomy, here are the basic proofs:

Earth's Equatorial Bulge

It was Newton who realized that if the earth rotated and was not perfectly rigid, it should bulge at the equator due to "centrifugal force." (Purists in physics don't like the term for reasons too complex to go into here) Centrifugal force at the equator amounts to about 1/2 of one per cent of gravity, which is why things don't fly off. Gravity is far stronger than centrifugal force. If the earth were a fluid, the equatorial bulge should be about 1/2 of one per cent of its diameter, or about 1/200. The earth does have some internal strength, so the bulge is less, about 1/298. This figure is known to quite high precision and a precise knowledge of earth's shape and gravity is essential for satellite navigation. But the bulge is what counts here.

Moving around the sun also creates centrifugal force. It's about 1/1600 as strong as earth's gravity.

Coriolis Effect

This is the effect that causes weather systems and ocean currents to rotate. Basically, if you move over the spinning earth, the earth rotates under you. The force is quite weak and doesn't detectably affect driving a car or water draining out of a toilet (contrary to The Simpsons). In theory, it affects planes in flight but normal measures to keep planes on course more than take care of it. It does affect satellites, missiles, and long range artillery shells. When the Germans bombarded Paris from 75 miles away in World War I, they took the Coriolis Effect into account.

We say Coriolis Effect, rather than "Force" for the same reason we put "centrifugal force" in quotes above. They are what physicists call fictitious. They exist to us only because we are on a rotating earth. Someone outside the earth would see objects tending to move in straight lines but being forced into curving paths by the earth's gravity.

Aberration of Starlight

If the earth moves, the stars should appear to shift in position. When British astronomer James Bradley tried to detect the shift in 1729, he made the surprising discovery that all stars appeared to shift by the same amount, some 20.5 seconds of arc (about the apparent diameter of a quarter seen from three football fields away) either side of their average position. Either Ptolemy was right, and the stars are all attached to a sphere, or there was some other explanation. There was. Just as a person walking into the rain sees raindrops hitting at a slant, moving with respect to starlight causes the starlight to appear to come at an angle to its true path.

If light starts from 300,000 kilometers away, it will take one second to reach the earth. In one second, the earth moves 30 km in its orbit. So the starlight will hit 30 kilometers from its original aiming point. The angle of shift is 30/300,000 = 1/10,000 radian = 20.5 seconds of arc.

Stellar Parallax

What Bradley was looking for was finally observed in 1838. Three different observers discovered it nearly simultaneously. Friedrich Bessel chose an inconspicuous star, 61 Cygni, but one whose motion across the sky was rapid as stars go, reasoning that it it appears to move swiftly, it must be nearby. Bessel is generally given credit for the first successful measurement. Two other observers picked bright stars with measurable motion, figuring that the combination of brightness plus motion implied nearness. Thomas Henderson determined the parallax of Alpha Centauri (thereby winning the nearest star sweepstakes) and Wilhelm Struve measured the parallax of Vega.

If the star's position is observed twice, six months apart, then we triangulate its position from opposite sides of the earth's orbit. The angle at the apex of the triangle is tiny. Of course, we don't measure that angle - we measure the angle of the star's parallax as seen from earth, which is the same thing. And the angles are tiny. One of the pre-Copernican proofs that the earth does not move was the failure to observe parallax, and the reason it was not observed is that the change in position is far too tiny to measure without good instruments. For the nearest star, Alpha Centauri (4.3 light years away), the total shift is 1.5 seconds of arc, or the apparent width of a quarter at a distance of over two miles. Astronomy books usually tabulate the shift either side of the star's average position, which is half the total shift, so the parallax of Alpha Centauri is about 3/4 second of arc.

Up until 1997, we had fairly good direct measurements of stellar distances out to 70 light years or so. In that year the data from the European Space Agency satellite HIPPARCOS came on line and rendered everything before then obsolete. We now have accurate distances (within 10 per cent) for tens of thousands of stars up to a couple of hundred light years away.

Geocentrism Violates The Laws of Physics

First of all, there are no known cases anywhere else in the universe of large massive objects circling around small light objects. Conservation of momentum requires that when one object circles another, the center of mass of the system must remain fixed. The two objects actually revolve around their common centers of mass. For double stars with comparable masses, the center of mass is between the stars. For cases where one object is far bigger than the other, like the earth and moon, or the sun and earth, the center of mass is within the larger object. But it is never at the center of the larger object. So if anything revolves around the earth, the earth also has to move. Unless you want to postulate that, of all objects in the universe, the earth is not subject to the laws of motion. But individual pieces of earth obey the laws of motion. Tie two rocks to opposite ends of a string and throw them, and they'll revolve around their center of mass. So why would the earth as a whole be different? Where's the evidence that it is?

Second, if you picture the earth as not rotating, then everything else is whipping around the earth every 24 hours. Anything more than about 4.1 billion kilometers away would be moving faster than the speed of light. The Sun would be moving at 3.6% of the speed of light and should show measurable relativistic length contraction. Uranus and Neptune should be squashed flat as seen through a telescope, as well as their rings. Believers in weird physics tend to dismiss relativity, but the changes in space and time due to motion were actually worked out by Joseph Larmor, Hendrik Lorentz and Henri Poincar before Einstein ever came on the scene. Even if we could somehow get around the relativistic problem of exceeding the speed of light there would be some very weird causality problems once we got beyond the Solar System. The Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft should long ago have accelerated to beyond the speed of light. Why didn't we see any evidence of it?

Geocentrism Violates Its Own Rules

Remember their definition of "proof:"

By "proof" we mean that your explanations must be direct, observable, physical, natural, repeatable, unambiguous and comprehensive. We don't want hearsay, popular opinion, "expert" testimony, majority vote, personal conviction, organizational rulings, superficial analogies, appeals to "simplicity," "apologies" to Galileo, or any other indirect means of persuasion which do not qualify as scientific proof.

Okay, so where's the direct, observable, physical, natural, repeatable, unambiguous and comprehensive evidence that the earth is fixed? Where's the evidence that distant objects are moving faster than the speed of light as they whip around the earth? Where's the evidence that some mysterious force carries everything in the universe around the earth? Where's the evidence that the earth is immune to the laws of motion?

Instead we have references to Catholic doctrine, to the Bible, to the alleged degenerative effects of heliocentrism, and to attempts to show that heliocentrism can be reinterpreted in geocentric terms, all nice examples of "indirect means of persuasion which do not qualify as scientific proof."

Absolute Relativism

Here, as in the case of creationists dismissing evolution as "only a theory," we have believers in absolutes posing as relativists. If you're going to be a relativist, be a relativist; if you're going to be an absolutist, then be an absolutist. But don't flop from one to the other as it suits your purposes. The earth has an age and all other ages are wrong. The earth is either fixed, or it moves. The fact that one can transform one frame of reference to the other doesn't have the slightest bearing on which is really true.

Payback

In late February, 2007, Texas legislator Rep. Warren Chisum made the news after circulating a memo originated by geocentrists. The memo argued that evolution was based on the Jewish mystical writings, the Kabbalah, and was therefore a religious doctrine. Chisum explained that he was only trying to aid the efforts of a Georgia legislator who was trying to spread the message. "If that's a sin, well, shoot me," he said. Boy, that's really tempting.

Creationists deserve all the scorn we can heap on them, but for the most part they are not geocentrists. And as dumb as the geocentrist argument is, merely arguing that heliocentrism and evolution can be wrung somehow out of the Kabbalah doesn't make that argument anti-Semitic, as the Anti-Defamation League asserted when the news broke. It's merely stupid.

Can it Happen Here?

Is heliocentrism in danger? Not imminently. But I can recall how Iran degenerated from a modern society to a medieval one in barely a generation, and how we gave up on going to the moon and now have large numbers of people who don't believe it happened at all. I can see it happening here, slowly. We start off where most Americans are now, as passive consumers of the fruits of science with no real understanding of how they work. As more Americans live in urban settings, cut off from nature, and live increasingly in virtual reality worlds, they will see less and less need for science education. For a while, we'll cover our shortfall of scientists, engineers and technologists from outside, but as the society becomes increasingly self-satisfied and anti-intellectual, as the rewards for science lag behind those for less productive jobs, and other nations overtake the U.S., eventually the U.S. will stop being an attractive destination for scientists, engineers and technologists. One by one, we'll begin abandoning scientific enterprises. We'll find we can live without a space program because other nations do all that, and we can just rely on their weather and communications satellites. We won't need geological surveys any more because the mapping has all been done and we know where all the faults and resources are. Besides, mining is icky and looking at rocks always gets people wondering about the age of the earth and e-volution. We'll reluctantly give up endangered species as they become expendable because we'd rather do something else. Whooping cranes and condors? Most people have never seen them. Wolves, mountain lions and grizzly bears? Dangerous. Besides, if you can see them in zoos or virtual reality, that's just as good anyway.

Eventually, we'll reach the point where the technological degradation begins to pinch. We will probably, to some extent, stratify into a society of haves who can afford the conveniences we now take for granted and have nots who can't. More likely, as services get more scarce, people will decide to abandon some luxuries to be able to afford others. As the economy stagnates, people will insist that the state supply their life support needs. They'll want the rich to supply that money and the rich will do the predictable thing: leave or quit earning. People with the energy and motivation to do science will seek their fortunes elsewhere. People will certainly decide they have better things to spend money on than taxes for schools. We'll decide that vocational training is cheaper and faster, and you don't need to know whether the earth goes around the sun to cut a 2x4 or install a motherboard. We'll decide we don't need liberal education. As the rest of the world advances, we probably won't fall below the global lowest common denominator, but bear in mind that countries near the global mean for GDP per capita include Mexico, Brazil, Iran, Turkey and Russia.

The Geocentrists Are Right About One Thing

Copernicus is where things went wrong. Specifically, it's where religion went wrong. Religion encountered, and failed, its first great test of whether it had the qualities religion is supposed to have: humility, respect for the truth, discipline, and obedience. Some religious writers like to say "true science can never contradict religion," as if there is no such thing as false religion.


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Created 12 February, 2006;  Last Update 25 March, 2011

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