There are days when fundamentalist zealots do something so off the wall that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I do a little bit of both.
Today is one of those days. This emotional roller-coaster comes courtesy of a band of extremists who have fine-tuned creationism and have concluded – wait for it – that Copernicus and Galileo were wrong: The Earth really is the center of the universe.
This belief is known as “geocentricity.” I held off writing about this before today because I didn’t want anyone to think this was a late April Fools’ Day joke. I assure you it is not. These people are real; they mean it. What’s more, the movement, led by an ultra-conservative Roman Catholic named Robert Sungenis, is making a play for the big time with a “documentary” they claim will soon appear in U.S. theaters.
The film is titled “The Principle,” and you can watch a trailer here. You’ll note that actual scientists like Lawrence Krauss and Michio Kaku – both of whom I’m sure accept the heliocentric model – appear in this film. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m guessing that the producers didn’t tell them upfront that it was a geocentricity film. (You’ll note that the trailer doesn’t either; very sneaky of them.)
Someone obviously poured a nice chunk of change into this thing. The film looks very slick, and it’s narrated by Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Kathryn Janeway on “Star Trek: Voyager.” (As a “Trek” fan, I can only lament, “Say it ain’t so, Captain!” Patrick Stewart would never fall for something like this.)
Sure, the film looks nice, but at the end of the day, fancy cinematography and clever CGI can’t hide the fact that this movie argues that the Earth is the center of the universe and that it does not move. The film’s producers believe the early leaders of the Catholic Church, who interpreted the Bible to mandate an Earth-centered universe, were right after all.
Promoting his book, Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right, Sungenis asks, “Were the Fathers, the Medievals, our popes and cardinals of the 17th century correct in believing that the Earth, based on a face value reading of Scripture, was standing still in the center of the universe?”
Tellingly, Sungenis goes on to write, “The most important thing you will receive from this astounding study is a very close relationship with God. For once you see that God, his Church, and Holy Scripture have given us the unadulterated truth, proven by modern science itself, you will have no choice but to put yourself completely in His trust and care for everything else in your life.”
Interesting. So you’ll read this “science” book and walk away more religious than ever. Nope, not science, that.
Sungenis has a real problem with Galileo and seems bothered by the idea that science has sometimes cast doubt on the geocentrists’ pet sectarian concepts. Sungenis once groused, “Prior to Galileo, the church was in full command of the world, and governments and academia were subservient to her.” (Yep, those were the days! Just ask Giordano Bruno.)
Nowadays, that evil science leads some people to question theological doctrines – and others don’t listen to the church at all. And it’s all because of that heliocentric system. Yikes!
Just to be clear: People can believe whatever they want – even if it’s demonstrably wrong. And they have every right to make movies about those beliefs, too. But as we’ve learned from past experience, holding a private belief is never enough for creationist cranks. They have worked for decades now to sneak their ideas into public schools.
Some might say we don’t have to worry about this because the geocentrists are just too far over the edge (of the flat Earth, no doubt) to be taken seriously. I would have thought the same thing about people who believe that our planet is 6,000 years old and that humans rode around on dinosaurs just like on “The Flintstones” – yet it has taken several federal lawsuits to get those ideas out of some public schools.
We’re dealing here with people whose interpretation of religion trumps all facts and reason. People like that are disturbing because they elevate their dogma over everything, even observable facts. They must be kept very far away from our public schools.