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Flip-flopping creationists

by Donald Prothero, Oct 12 2011

I’ve posted frequently (see my July 24 post) on the religious kooks who insist that Galileo and Copernicus and all later astronomers were wrong  and that the earth, not the sun, is the center of the solar system. They base this weird notion on their own version of biblical literalism, since there are many passages in the Bible (e.g., Isaiah 11: 12, 40:22, 44:24; Joshua 10:12-14) which clearly present a geocentric world viewpoint (as was widely held in almost all ancient cultures and not overturned until the 1500s). Many are actually renegade Catholics who not only insist that Galileo was wrong and that the Church was right, but what the Inquisition did to Galileo was justified. Naturally, the Catholic Church is not too happy about these revisionists, since it has long come to terms with Galileo and scientific reality, and even apologized for its treatment of him. They don’t spend a lot of unnecessary time trying to repudiate or excommunicate these renegades who want to drag us back to the 14th century. I guess the Church is busy with other problems….

Recently, the Los Angeles Times ran an article on the latest version of the Catholic geocentrist movement. The article says:

“I have no idea who these people are,” said Brother Guy Consolmagno, curator of meteorites and spokesman for the Vatican Observatory. “Are they sincere, or is this a clever bit of theater?”

Those promoting geocentrism argue that heliocentrism, or the centuries-old consensus among scientists that Earth revolves around the sun, is a conspiracy to squelch the church’s influence.

“Heliocentrism becomes dangerous if it is being propped up as the true system when, in fact, it is a false system,” said Robert Sungenis, leader of a budding movement to get scientists to reconsider. “False information leads to false ideas, and false ideas lead to illicit and immoral actions — thus the state of the world today.… Prior to Galileo, the church was in full command of the world, and governments and academia were subservient to her.”

Sungenis is no Don Quixote. Hundreds of curiosity seekers, skeptics and supporters attended a conference last fall titled “Galileo Was Wrong. The Church Was Right” near the University of Notre Dame campus inSouth Bend, Ind.

Astrophysicists at Notre Dame didn’t appreciate the group hitching its wagon to America’s flagship Catholic university and resurrecting a concept that’s extinct for a reason.

“It’s an idea whose time has come and gone,” astrophysics professor Peter Garnavich said. “There are some people who want to move the world back to the 1950s when it seemed like a better time. These are people who want to move the world back to the 1250s.”

After consulting with the neo-geocentrists and the Vatican observatory, the reporter next went to a logical additional source associated with biblical literalism: the loudest and more prominent creationist in the U.S., Ken  Ham, of the Answers in Genesis organization and the creation “museum” in Petersburg, Kentucky. This is the same guy who insists that every word of the Bible must be interpreted literally or faith is meaningless, and who spends huge numbers of hours and dollars pushing biblical literalism and excoriating anyone who suggests that the Genesis creation story is metaphor or myth, not literally true.

And what do you think he said? Did he stick to his principles and defend geocentrism, which is found in many places in the Bible? No, he turned out to be a cafeteria Christian after all. As the Times reported:

“There’s a big difference between looking at the origin of the planets, the solar system and the universe and looking at presently how they move and how they are interrelated,” Ham said. “The Bible is neither geocentric or heliocentric. It does not give any specific information about the structure of the solar system.”

Ummm… sorry, Ken, but the Bible is actually MORE specific and detailed in its support of geocentrism than it is of your creation myth. What’s the matter, Ken? You can’t accept any deviation from literalism except when you decide the Bible isn’t clear or it’s metaphorical?

So what explains this inconsistency and flip-flopping in a man who insists on inerrancy, and won’t let anyone interpret the Bible metaphorically? Could it be that if he preached geocentrism, even his loyal fundie followers would laugh at him? If we pressed Pat Robertson or Oral Roberts or Mike Huckabee or the GOP presidential candidates who promote creationism, would they also agree with geocentrism? Somehow, I think not. The geocentrism vs. heliocentrism debate was over more 500 years ago, and only kooks and cranks are still waging it (along with creationists who insist the earth is flat, another idea found in the Bible). By contrast, over 150 years since Darwin’s book was published, a substantial percentage of people in the U.S. (but NOT in most European industrialized countries, nor in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China, or other developed Asian countries) have still not rejected the equally outdated notions of creationism and come to terms with evolution. Apparently, 500 years is more than enough to get cultures to reject crazy religious notions, but 150 years are not enough (at least in the U.S.).

So, does this mean we still need to wait up to 350 years for creationism to finally die its long overdue death in the U.S.?

 

 

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39 Responses to “Flip-flopping creationists”

  1. pete says:

    Best one I heard was when the president of the flat earth society said there was a global conspiracy against the idea.

  2. Robo Sapien says:

    WRONG! The earth is clearly cone-shaped. Idiots.

  3. Bill says:

    “And THAT, m’Lord, is how we know the Earth to be banana-shaped.”

    - Sir Bedevere, Kuhnigget of the Round Table and Scientific Advisor to Arthur, King of the Britons (even though *I* didn’t vote for him)

  4. Judy Redman says:

    I imagine that Ken Ham doesn’t support slavery, either, despite the fact that a literal reading of the Bible says it’s quite OK as long as you treat your slaves well.

  5. BillG says:

    “a clever bit of theater”? Shouldn’t we consider this collective of airheads who peddle this dogma are actually an asset for science and reason?

    The “theater of the absurd” becomes so untenable, as well as any credibility.

  6. d brown says:

    Fundamentalist Christians come from ignorance of the King James Bibles English. The pioneers were in the hills without men who knew old English. The priests stayed on the coast. RCs used Latin, it’s dead and unchanging. A snake oil sales man made up the 17 century English meaning and sold it in books. Our fundamentalists are Christian heretics. The Inquisition and the Church did very little to Galileo. It had not been that long after the Calendar riots when the new calendar reform had become the law. There are indications that by now the church knew Galileo was right. The Pope was the head of a country and Galileo printed a traditional satire showing what he believed. But he mocked the head of state as dumb. That got him the Roman Inquisition not the Spanish one.

  7. Genesis 1 also describes the sun, moon and stars as being set in the firmament, which divides the upper waters from the lower waters, clearly placing these heavenly bodies BELOW the upper waters.

    In Henry Morris’ book, The Genesis Record, he “explains” this embarrasing passage by claiming that there are actually two firmaments, the atmosphere and space.

    So, the same creationists that will admonish other Christians for adding eons to the creation week are apparently fine adding firmaments where non exist in the text. Where is the consistency there?

  8. The simplest explanation is that the man has no clue what he’s talking about. He doesn’t know how to interpret the Bible. Simple as that.

  9. John K. says:

    The Bible is so easily discredited as a scientific source. How anyone can steadfastly consider a literal interpretation is amazing. Heck, after dealing with the problem of a talking snake, it is not too surprising that they can find a way to ignore the heliocentric business.

    Is it even worthwhile to point out that using the sun as the center of the solar system is just an arbitrary decision that makes it easier to calculate and predict planetary motion? The physics still work if you choose the earth as your reference, even if the math gets more difficult.

    Probably not.

  10. BJ says:

    Still waiting for a post from Donald in which he doesn’t plug his book.

    • Jim Shaver says:

      Where’s your book, BJ?

      • Donald Prothero says:

        Sorry, BJ. My publishers keep telling me to publicize them all I can, and there ARE spikes on the Amazon.com sales rankings after I put in those links, so I keep doing it. I’m an impoverished teacher, after all, living in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. Every little bit of royalty payment helps!

  11. James Phillips says:

    I just got done reading the introductory post and the comment policy so hopefully what I have to say here will pass any (inquisitorial?) inspection. Geocentrism is a scientific paradigm which today is being largely ridiculed. That is actually a good sign for geocentrists in so much as that at first a new major scientific paradigm is largely ignored such as the ridiculous one of a flat earth (which I certainly don’t believe in.) After that it is ridiculed. The next stage is a furious fight to suppress it and finally there is acceptance of the paradigm.

    Those skeptics with truly open minds will wish to get past singing to their choir by actually looking into the ever increasing scientific evidence for geocentrism. The comment policy forbids links and advertising, but if you run a simple Internet search with the word geocentrism you will immediately come across some sites that will provide a very powerful scientific case for geocentrism. At least one of them very thoroughly debunks the major objections to geocentrism. Geocentrists, including Catholic ones, do not need to rely on the Bible to make a very compelling case for geocentrism. The science does it for them.

    The practical reason why most professionals who are involved in promoting/defending heliocentrism will not step out of the box in even debating the subject of heliocentrism vs. geocentrism is that they don’t want to lose their jobs! Same same for many who promote/defend evolution. If you talk to a lot of them privately, they will even tell you this. Makes sense. Who wants to lose their job (and jeapardize finding another one in their line of work) and be ridiculed to boot?!

    It is much easier to ridicule geocentrists and geocentrism than to actually study the case for geocentrism. It is your choice.

    By the way, many of the scientists of the world are in a real hissy fit right now as to what to make of the recent world wide news from CERN, the world’s largest laboratory regarding its 3 year series of experiments showing that neutrinos repeatedly traveled faster than the speed of light. But nothing is supposed to be able to travel faster than the speed of light, right?!

    • Jim Shaver says:

      James, nothing you wrote there remotely deserves censorship on this site. You clearly have much about which to worry: your complete scientific ignorance, your logical fallacy-driven decision making, your conspiracy-theorizing. Your opinions may get scrutinized, in fact be sure of it. But that your opinions might get censored here — I wouldn’t worry one bit about that.

    • Max says:

      They laughed at Galileo. The Catholics that is.

    • gdave says:

      “They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”
      -Carl Sagan

      Not all “paradigm shifting” proposals that are initially ignored turn out to be true or useful. In fact, most of them are ignored because they aren’t even wrong. And not all “paradigm shifting” proposals are ignored. The Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics received some ridicule and some fighting against them (but not much), but neither were ignored, and both were rapidly accepted as the evidence piled up and those who tried failed to poke convincing holes in them.

      By the way, why do you find Flat Earth Theory to be ridiculous? As you suggest for geocentrism, do a Google search for “flat earth” or “flat earth society”. You will immediately come across some sites that will provide a very powerful scientific case for a flat Earth. At least one of them very thoroughly debunks the major objections to a flat Earth. Flat Earthers, including Catholic ones, claim they do not need to rely on the Bible to make a very compelling case for the flat Earth. The science, they claim, does it for them.

    • SocraticGadfly says:

      Ridicule? No.

      Ignore? Yes.

      BZzzz….

      Was that a fly buzzing? Oh, I guess not any more; maybe he fell off the edge of the FLAT earth that is at the center of the biblical universe.

    • James,

      For years I have indeed been “actually looking into the ever increasing scientific evidence for geocentrism.” I wrote about it in my column Psychic Vibrations as far back as 1982, and I even subscribed to the Bulletin of the Tychonian Society (I bet that publication brings back fond memories for you!).

      And you know perfectly well that there IS NO “scientific evidence for Geocentrism,” it’s just an example of extreme literalism in religious belief. You realize, I hope, that not only do we see the effects of the earth’s motion in our own solar system (retrograde motion of the outer planets, to name just one – to Ptolemy, it was the result of an Epicycle), but well beyond. The phenomenon of the stellar parallax is well known, the nearby stars seeming to make tiny circles in the sky against the more distant stars, corresponding to the earth’s annual orbit. But even distant galaxies, millions of light years away, can be seen by tiny changes in their red shift, to be approaching the stationary earth for six months, then receding for another six. What physical force pulls the Andromeda Galaxy toward the earth for six months, then pushes it back? Why does every visible object in the universe engage in tiny epicycles to mimic the effect we would see from a moving earth? Inquiring minds want to know.

      • Max says:

        Do geocentrists at least acknowledge that the Earth spins on its axis, or do they think that the universe orbits the Earth once per day?

    • Mark says:

      Hmm. Is James just very cleverly mocking the “anti-global-warming” movement here?

      If so, damn funny, and well done.

      If not…yikes! He’s got real problems.

  12. Elias S says:

    @James Phillips

    I’m sure it’s a mischaracterization to state that scientists are in a “hissy fit” about the CERN experiment. If the results turn out to be confirmed, it’ll be fascinating to learn what it is about neutrinos that allows them to travel faster than light. In the end, scientists will accept and integrate the fact of faster than light neutrinos into their model of the laws of nature. That’s what scientists (and skeptics) do – when an observed fact contradicts their held belief (or theory), they revise their belief.

    Observed facts supplanted any possibility of geocentrism being fact hundreds of years ago. Geocentrism is impossible.

  13. Kenn says:

    When I was a Christian fundamentalist, I approached these challenges with the following:

    1. Emphasize the instances when the Bible agrees with science and declare the Bible to be centuries ahead of human research.

    2. Excuse biblical inconsistencies as human misunderstandings rather than out-right errors.

  14. Rick DeLano says:

    Elias:

    Thanks for the link. In the comments section we find a tremendously interesting fact: not a single post is able to refute this simple observation:

    “The struggle, so violent in the early days of science, between the views of Ptolemy and Copernicus would then be quite meaningless. Either CS [coordinate system] could be used with equal justification. The two sentences, ‘the sun is at rest and the earth moves’, or ‘the sun moves and the earth is at rest’, would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different CS [coordinate systems].”
     
    —”The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta, Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, New York, Simon and Schuster 1938, 1966 p.212

    Now it would be very nice indeed to find you able to intelligently address *which* scientific experiment required Einstein to adopt the above position.

    • Mark says:

      Not sure it falls upon Einstein … is not the main issue that it is a little difficult for any physics to explain why and how all the other planets of this solar system then have to execute little loops (holding circuits within their orbits) at regular intervals?

      • Mark says:

        Hmmm – wiki says it better thatn I:

        The resultant system, which eventually came to be widely accepted in the west, was an unwieldy one to modern eyes; each planet required an epicycle revolving on a deferent, offset by an equant which was different for each planet. But it predicted various celestial motions, including the beginnings and ends of retrograde motion, fairly well at the time it was developed.

  15. Moses says:

    Noo! I was reading this article on my iPhone and my left thumb hit the 1 star rating! I want it to be 5 star! Shame on me! I’m sorry!

  16. Almulhida says:

    It’s always embarrassing when the purists are making noise. You can’t quite disown them but you sure wish they’d shut up.

  17. Rick DeLano says:

    Gentlemen: The Ptolemaic system was developed centuries ago, by Tycho Brahe. Rather similarly, the Copernican system has since developed, notably by the incorporation of Kepler’s laws.

    I reiterate: which experiment do you propose has established the falsity of the following assertion by Einstein:

    “The struggle, so violent in the early days of science, between the views of Ptolemy and Copernicus would then be quite meaningless. Either CS [coordinate system] could be used with equal justification. The two sentences, ‘the sun is at rest and the earth moves’, or ‘the sun moves and the earth is at rest’, would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different CS [coordinate systems].”

    —”The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta, Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, New York, Simon and Schuster 1938, 1966

    • tmac57 says:

      So…you don’t think that the ladies might have something to contribute on this question?

    • Owlmirror says:

      The Ptolemaic system was developed centuries ago, by Tycho Brahe.

      LOL.

      The Ptolemaic system was developed centuries ago by Claudius Ptolemy.

      The Tychonian system was developed centuries ago by Tycho Brahe.

      Rather similarly, the Copernican system has since developed, notably by the incorporation of Kepler’s laws.

      Meh, it’s “heliocentric”, rather than “Copernican”, since it doesn’t incorporate Copernicus’ errors.

      which experiment do you propose has established the falsity of the following assertion by Einstein

      How do you falsify a choice of coördinate system? From a mathematical perspective, a coördinate system can have its origin anywhere, even your anus. If you try to argue that this arbitrary mathematical choice has an actual physical meaning, then you’re talking out of your anus.