Last April, I wrote about a bunch of cranks who believe that the Earth is the center of the universe. These so-called “geocentrists” are extreme Roman Catholics who believe that Copernicus and Galileo were wrong to promote the heliocentric model of the universe.
The geocentrists’ main argument seems to be that everything has to revolve around this planet because we’re special. God wouldn’t put us, the pinnacle of his creation, in some forgotten corner of the universe!
Somehow these zealots scraped up a pot of money and produced a fancy, CGI-laden “documentary” called “The Principle,” which in the spring of 2014 they claimed would appear in theaters soon.
The film didn’t appear, but the matter attracted some attention because “The Principle” is narrated by Kate Mulgrew, an actress who played Capt. Kathryn Janeway on “Star Trek: Voyager” and later appeared as Galina Reznikov on the popular Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” The film also features interviews with actual scientists like Lawrence Krauss, Michio Kaku and others.
Mulgrew felt compelled to issue a statement affirming her belief in the heliocentric universe, and Krauss and some of the other scientists said they had no idea the documentary was about geocentrism when they were asked to take part.
I figured that was the end of it, but late last night I received a press release via email with big news: “The Principle” will play in “selected theaters” Jan. 23!
“The Principle,” asserts the press release, “will begin an exclusive limited engagement at AMC theaters in Burbank, CA, Orange, CA, and Spokane, WA, on January 23rd, with additional markets opening in the weeks following.” There will also be a screening for critics in Los Angeles Jan. 13.
The release goes on to say, “‘The Principle’ brings to light astonishing new scientific observations challenging the Copernican Principle. The film explores, from all sides, the question of Earth’s station in the universe and whether it could, in fact, have a unique importance. Astonishing results from recent large-scale surveys of our visible Universe disclose surprising evidence of a preferred direction in the cosmos, a so-called ‘Axis of Evil,’ aligned with our supposedly insignificant Earth.”
An Axis of Evil in space? Yikes! I hope it’s not the Klingons.
Just to be clear: The people behind “The Principle” are serious. This is not a parody, a “Spinal Tap”-style “mockumentary” or some sort of hoax by Alan Abel. These people seriously believe, in the year 2015, that the Earth is the center of the universe.
The force behind all of this is a man named Robert Sungenis. He’s quite a piece of work. The author of a book titled Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right, Sungenis is angry because the heliocentric model has cast doubt on the authority of the church and its leaders. He has written, “Prior to Galileo, the church was in full command of the world, and governments and academia were subservient to her.” (According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Sungenis is also an anti-Semite who denies the Holocaust.)
I know it’s easy to make fun of stuff like this. I mean, these people are literally living in the Dark Ages. But we should never underestimate the power of pseudo-scientific loons who elevate religious fundamentalism over modern science. They have caused a lot of problems in the past.
Who would have thought creationism would have the staying power it has had? Who would have expected that the state of Kentucky would spend years deliberating giving $18 million in tax breaks to a biblical fundamentalist who wants to build a theme park based on the story of Noah’s Ark? Who would have expected that entire biology books would be published that never mention the word “evolution”?
The way things are going, with so many state legislatures in the grip of Tea Party forces and their pals in the Religious Right, I wouldn’t be surprised if some state lawmaker somewhere didn’t push for a “balanced treatment” law mandating equal time for the Earth-centered universe theory. Or perhaps “The Principle” could be shown in Louisiana’s public schools under that state’s “Science Act,” which allows “supplemental materials” in classrooms to promote “critical thinking.”
In short, never underestimate the power of slickly packaged propaganda. All it takes is a band of extremists with some money and a camera, and one teacher who has been brainwashed. And before you know it your kid’s science education has been set back about 400 years.