In Which the Universe Revolves Around Robert Sungenis – Part 1

The following is a guest post from Flora, who can be found alongside Jusarious at the Subspecies blog. She recently attended a presentation by Mr. Robert Sungenis, a Catholic geocentrist, and was kind enough to share her thoughts. This entry is cross-posted from Subspecies.


On March 29, 2011, Dr. Robert Sungenis descended on the puddled and pot-holed campus of that pinnacle of higher learning – the University of Manitoba. He provided a comprehensive lecture on why modern science is a large, looming monolith which suppresses reality, ostracizes non-believers and does some downright dirty things… which he, of course, kindly contrasted with the Catholic Church. He spoke (after a 20 minute technical delay) to a packed lecture hall 29 people who were willing to take some time out of their Tuesday night to entertain the notion of geocentrism. That is, Dr. Sungenis argued that the entire universe, including the Sun, revolves around us.

Dr. Sungenis is one of the top names in geocentrism, having co-written the definitive, and, as near as I can tell, only, modern textbook on geocentrism. (Side note: He shamelessly promoted this book throughout the lecture, claiming to be holding back valuable evidence in support of his ideas. The thing itself could be used to hold down a helium balloon in a hurricane, though at the $80 price tag, I would suggest finding a moderately sized boulder instead.) He obtained his PhD. from an unaccredited distance education program, and is quite proud of the fact that his doctoral dissertation is over 700 pages long. By contrast, normal research-based theses are around 150-200 pages long. Not only does that indicate the sort of quality of education Dr. Sungenis received, it is a lovely demonstration of his complete inability to get to the point.

Pictured: "Totally not a diploma mill" PhD education in Theology, Homeopathy or Energy Healing. Not pictured: PhD education in Website Design

So, Dr. Sungenis began his talk with a long and drawn out discussion that hardly seems worth mentioning but for two points. The first is that he quote mined and then insulted Carl Sagan. Blasphemer! The second is that his logic seems to come down mistaking correlation for causation in the downfall of the Catholic Church. It is as follows: People use Galileo as an example of things that the Catholic church has gotten wrong in the past. Since Galileo’s time, the Church has fallen in prominence and atheism has gained in popularity. Ipso facto, heliocentrism leads to atheism. Later on in the lecture, he actually said verbatim that if you did not believe in a geocentric universe you were atheist. He mentioned nothing of the numerous rational individuals who manage to somehow synthesize heliocentirsm and Catholicism. Nor does he ever demonstrate how accepting his model would mean that the Church is and always has been right about everything.

Ray Comfort - Prominent atheist?

Early in the lecture, I became acutely aware of the fact that Dr. Sungenis is a huge fan of quote mining. I was willing to forgive him for the Sagan misquote, as it is easy enough to unintentionally misconstrue Sagan’s literary devices and poetic language. However, one of his early quotes (and honestly, I don’t remember which, as there were plenty of them) contained so many ellipses that my only notes on the subject are “Ellipses seizure!!” This was a recurring theme over both days and descended from the precipices of “casual and appropriate reference to someone who had something thoughtful to say” to the dark depths of “dredging scientific papers for things that could be deliberately misrepresented.”

Dr. Sungenis, hard at work.

He then continued to say that current theories based on heliocentric models have not been proven. This is a familiar creationist claim that has been so thoroughly debunked that it’s almost tiresome to mention it. He, either deliberately or through some vast oversight in his research, fails to understand that theory cannot ever be 100% proven. The theory only works in every conceivable situation we have applied it to – and there are a great deal of those! Of course, what he asks scientists to provide him with are absolute certainties, and being good scientists, they give him assertions with qualifications. He interprets this as uncertainty and dissent, when in reality, it’s intellectual honesty.

Then, he moves onto a history lesson. He barely touches on Copernicus, except to say that he thought that the orbits should be perfect circles and that this was incorrect. He argues that the advancement of this knowledge proves that previous theory should have been utterly discarded when it was in fact refined (and simplified) to fit the observable evidence. Of Galileo, he has much to say. He argues that the Church was right to condemn his works, though fails to mention his imprisonment. Implicitly, he condones the censorship as the right call – the very censorship which he claims and opposes for today. He argued that the only reason that the Church (much later) allowed Galileo to be stricken from the blacklist was through “subterfuge.” Yes, it was a grand conspiracy, as Napolean had stolen the relevant records from the time, and someone else had argued that the Church objected to one particular aspect as opposed to the whole thing, but no one could prove anything, and so the church revoked the ban on publishing but did not condone heliocentrism.

That shifty jerk probably spat on orphans, too.

Though interesting from a historical perspective, I was confused as to what this had to do with anything. Though he was pointing out numerous ad hominem arguments against a sun-centred solar system, he did not stop to consider that perhaps, jackasses can have good ideas too. Whether there was grand conspiracy or not, whether some heliocentrist killed a geocentrist in a duel or not, whether Galileo had a fun time poking dying people with a pointy stick – it’s all irrelevant to the quality of the theories which they supported. Although Dr. Sungenis never considers his critiques a fallacy, could we hardly expect more from someone who has clearly never learned how to critically dissect science.

Of course, Newton was the next to come up. Although Physics, as a discipline, is a mysterious entity that my brain simply refuses to fully grasp, I could see the basic flaws in his critique of Newton’s Laws. “F = ma!” he stated as if he had struck upon something significant. The same slide espoused Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation. “Look,” he opined, “The force is the same no matter which object is rotating around the other! Geocentrism is just as valid as heliocentrism and Newton proved it!”

Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation

As Tim Minchin says in Storm, “Hm that’s a good point, let me think for a bit; Oh wait, my mistake, it’s absolute bullshit.” Dr. Sungenis defeats his very own point by referring to F = ma, which means that acceleration = Force/mass. Therefore, acceleration will decrease proportionally with the mass of the object, and the sun, which is far more massive, will accelerate less than a much smaller Earth. This point was never questioned, but I am truly curious as to how Dr. Sungenis fails to comprehend this basic observation about reality. You don’t need Newtonian physics to understand that the same force applied to a ping pong ball and a cement truck will have a lot more affect in accelerating a ping pong ball.

She could totally send your house flying with that paddle.

Perhaps anticipating that argument, he asserted that the earth was the central mass of the universe, and yet did not show how we could possibly exist on a planet, which, being more massive than anything else in existence, would not crush us into a fine dust by that same gravitational law. Ultimately, I believe that such confounding arguments were part of his strategy – if you get everything so utterly wrong, it’s nearly impossible to refute him without going back to the beginning and giving an hour long Grade 10 level lecture on Newtonian physics.

Ultimately, he asserted that Newton and Einstein should be made pariahs on the basis that they took a theory (heliocentrism) and modified it to fit the evidence. This was the proof, at last, that the whole system should crumble. Those nasty scientists had the gall to observe the universe and find a way to improve our model of it! I’m not sure what he would rather have – since Dr. Sungenis repeatedly attacked science for being stuck in a paradigm, does he want change, or doesn’t he? He seems to misunderstand that scientists don’t treat theories like antique vases. Nobody says, “Look, we’ve got a theory now, so put it on a shelf and for God’s sake, don’t break it.” Science takes that vase and throws it against the wall for the express purpose of breaking it. Usually, it doesn’t, but where the real science happens is when everyone bends down to pick up the pieces.

One set of those pieces that scientists are currently trying to put back together is the so-called “Axis of Evil.” The hullabaloo is that the axes seem to point to the plane of our elliptical around the sun. This is consistent in the dipole, quadrupole and octopole. Here it is:

And there you have it. Geocentrism is fact, ladies and gentlemen.

If you’re confused, so was I. I have no idea what these diagrams mean aside from something to do with cosmic background radiation. He referred to these images over and over again as proof of… something? Honestly, he made no effort to explain what we were looking at or what it meant. He did take this out of a Science editorial in 2007 by Adrian Cho (subscription required), who summarizes the controversy nicely.

Some suspect that the axis may be an illusion produced by an unaccounted bias in how the satellite works. And even those who have studied the alignments note that exactly how unlikely they appear depends on which mathematical tools researchers use to analyze them. Still, many are taking it seriously. “I would say that with a bit more than 99% confidence you can say there’s something strange,” Schwarz [of the University of Bielefeld, head of one of two teams who discovered the findings] says.

So, we found something we can’t explain. And, because we’ve not got another universe to compare this one against, we have no idea if this interesting phenomena is a statistical fluke, or something else entirely. We have no control group. It’s an observable thing, but, so far, it’s just a thing. The fact that I had spend 20 minutes reading about this phenomena to even have a cursory understanding of what he was talking about shows just how poorly he explained the concepts involved. It was a “Look!! Science!! I’m smarter than you so you couldn’t possibly understand this, but trust me, this is science!” kind of moment. He threw around words like “quasar” “isotropic” and “anisotropic” without definition or explanation. I was annoyed.

Na na na boo boo!

Other “evidence” was the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which showed all the galaxies in the observable universe, with us at the centre. By definition, if we can see a specific distance all the way around us, we will be in the centre.

Look, we're at the centre of the observable universe!! ... Wait a minute...

The diagram which Dr. Sungenis showed had a much larger “void” in the middle where there were no galaxies, likely due to a logarithmic scale, but I can’t be sure as he did not tell us what the scale was or what it meant. The galaxies also seem to occur in specific periods around the Earth, which he pointed out, but again, this proves nothing, as there could be a repeating period, and we are in the one across the middle which includes the Milky Way (not shown, because the Milky Way obscures our view of the universe)

Finally, he came to his piece de resistance, luminiferious ether. Not only has this concept been thoroughly debunked, he didn’t bother to explain what ether was, or why it had any sort of relevance to his theory. Honestly, I just don’t get it.

Ultimately, Dr. Sungenis’ arguments fell into one of many fallacies: ad hominem attacks, nirvana fallacy, negative proof fallacy, appeal to authority, cherry picking… it goes on and on. Dr. Sungenis’ talk was heavy on just that – talk – but it came up several furlongs short of anything a rational mind could call evidence.

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14 thoughts on “In Which the Universe Revolves Around Robert Sungenis – Part 1

  1. Hey that was a great writeup. My main criticism is to call this guy “Dr.” since as you said his “PhD” is as phony as a three dollar bill. Before anybody gets the idea that he has anything to say about Catholicism it should be pointed out that Sungenis has no official capacity in the Catholic Church and his bishop forced him to take the label “Catholic” off his organization.

    This bit stood out to me “one of his early quotes (and honestly, I don’t remember which, as there were plenty of them) contained so many ellipses that my only notes on the subject are “Ellipses seizure!!””

    Well Sungenis is not just a quote miner and mangler he is a serial plagiarist. He believes the moon landings were a hoax, 911 was a U.S. government conspiracy, that “The Jews” killed JFK and are behind every other nefarious thing you can imagine. Well you get the deal. You can check all this stuff out at http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/

    It’s always good to know who your dealing with.

  2. Delete my first comment please.

    I believe in Tychonic Geocentrism, but Robert Sungenis is a narcopath (narcissist + psychopath). When I pointed out that Catholics had killed millions of supposed heretic Christians, his reply to the email I sent him, with another email, was, “What’s wrong with killing heretics?” And what was wrong with killing and torturing their children too, right? No, such things don’t occur to a sick person like this. Further, the length of his essay is also evidence of narcissism disorder, in that narcissists love to show off their supposed intelligence and opinions. That it was over three times longer than usual, i good evidence for that.

    http://truthkeeper.tk

    1. I am, as you might imagine, curious as to why you believe that the Earth’s position in the solar system (or planetary system, I suppose) is so privileged. Do you also believe that each other star is orbiting one of its planets, while the other planets in its system orbit it? Would a system in which the star is one focus of the elliptical orbit of the planets be more parsimonious, and more likely to be the correct interpretation?

      Of course, a geocentric view of the universe is a valid relativistic reference frame—but no more valid than any other, so if you want to make your argument using relativity, exclusive Tychonic geocentrism falls flat on its face.

    2. Catholics have killed millions of heretic Christians? Egads, man. Not sure which is more ridiculous – the earth as the center of the universe or that whopper. You really need to broaden your choice of sources.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition#Death_tolls

      http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/06/myth-of-multiple-millions-supposedly.html

      http://www.catholic.com/library/Inquisition.asp

      http://askville.amazon.com/people-killed-Inquisition/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=3878676

  3. I don’t know if I could have stomached sitting through this, thanks for taking one for the team!

  4. Now since the vote taken at the end of the presentation found the audience voting in the majority that Dr. Sungenis had won the debate (a rather amazing thing, I should say) then either we have a rather inaccurate summary of Dr. Sungenis’ presentation, or he stacked the audience with his pals.

    Given the location, Option Two does not look good for you.

    The laughers in the post include:

    “The theory only works in every conceivable situation we have applied it to – and there are a great deal of those!”

    >> Sorry to burst your bubble. I will allow Professors Corpi, Huterer (2010) to reply:

    “According to the standard concordance model of cosmology, over 95% of the energy content of the universe is extraordinary- dark matter or dark energy whose existence has been inferred from the failure of the Standard Model of particle physics plus General Relativity to describe the behavior of astrophysical systems larger than a stellar cluster- while the very homogeneity and isotropy (and inhomogeneity) of the universe owe to the influence of an inflaton field whose particle-physics identity is completely mysterious even after three decades of theorizing……testing the cosmological principle should be one of the key goals of modern observational cosmology”.

    Fascinating full paper here:

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1004.5602v2

    To be sure the import of the above is grasped, *our theories of gravity are stupendously wrong when applied to any system larger than a stellar cluster.* Not just a little wrong. Vastly, shockingly, breathtakingly wrong.

    The first observed instance of this problem was from Zwicki in the 1940’s, who noticed that the stars in spiral galaxies do not obey Kepler’s Laws (the galactic rotation curve problem).

    In order to bridge this gap, dark matter was hypothesized (invented). Sixty years later, the particle physics identity of dark matter remains completely unknown. In other words, 70% of the Universe must be made out of something we have never seen……OR, our theory of gravity is wrong, by a lot, and only happens to be a serviceable approximation here on local scales (solar system or so).

    So the theory does not work in every conceivable situation. In fact it fails spectacularly in *every* situation we have applied it to on the scale of a stellar cluster or larger.

    There are so many others………..but let us begin with this one. I invite replies.

    1. Interesting.

      If Flora had been talking about the geometric theory of gravitation when she said “[t]he theory only works in every conceivable situation we have applied it to”, perhaps it would be fair to accuse her of being somewhat hyperbolic: many physicists are currently working to reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics. However, given the context of what she said, it’s clear that she’s referring to the theory that Earth revolves around the Sun, rather than the other way ’round.

      I’m curious: Do you have an alternative gravitational model that you’d like to propose to replace our current paradigm? Perhaps a theory of quantum gravity? Does it involve Jesus holding all of the bits of the universe together? Or are you simply trying to poke holes in a (currently incomplete but quite well established) scientific theory in the hopes that it will bolster your own preposterous pseudoscientific view of the way the universe works?

      Also, who “won” the debate by popular vote is hardly relevant. Science is not settled by rhetoric.

      I’ll be honest with you, Rick; I doubt that you’ll see many replies to your comments, here. Personally, I’m about as interested in debating the geocentric model as I am in debating the flat-Earth hypothesis.

  5. Gem:

    The only theory of gravity, in the mainstream at least, is the one developed by Einstein.

    In this theory it is impossible to say that the Earth is going around the Sun, without admitting that you are saying the same thing as that the Sun is going around the Earth.

    I grant you, that is a very difficult assertion to accept.

    But if one wishes to be intellectually honest (I am now very clear about the fact that you don’t, but I do) then one must deal with the stunning implications of Einstein’s frank statement in this respect:

    “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 is true that you are not prepared to deal with this, but then again, you are not comfortable having your faith challenged. I am familiar with this impediment to knowledge, but if your faith were true, you would;t need to fear anyone poking holes in it, would you?

    Btw, I am not them one poking the holes.

    It is the real scientists who are doing that.

    I am just the (apparently unwelcome) messenger in this regard.

    Go back to sleep now Gem.

    1. In this theory it is impossible to say that the Earth is going around the Sun, without admitting that you are saying the same thing as that the Sun is going around the Earth.

      That’s not quite how I would phrase it, because it’s not really true. It would be more accurate to say, “it is impossible to say that the Earth is rotating, without admitting that you are saying the same thing as the Sun is going around the Earth.” I say that with as little smugness as possible.

      As I said earlier on this very page: “Of course, a geocentric view of the universe is a valid relativistic reference frame—but no more valid than any other, so if you want to make your argument using relativity, exclusive Tychonic geocentrism falls flat on its face.”

      I grant you, that is a very difficult assertion to accept.

      Not if you understand relativity.

      I find the fact that you go on to call me intellectually dishonest when I have already made the point you’re making to be delightfully ironic. When you then go on to imply that I have “faith” in a heliocentric (or other non-geocentric) model of cosmology, I can’t help but think you may be projecting a bit.

      In case anyone is interested in hearing the perspectives of qualified experts in the appropriate fields, I recommend reading Phil Plait’s discussion of geocentric reference frames at Bad Astronomy and Sean Carroll’s discussion of inertial versus global frames of reference at Cosmic Variance.

  6. I am aware of Mr Sungenis’ misguided quest. Unfortunately for him, the book I wrote in 2009 is far better, and far cheaper (free as a pdf and $16.00 print). This is because I utilized phenomenology as the philosophical basis of this book, which is theology book as well as something of a critique of scientism, and proves what Sungenis attempts to prove: that the Church and the Bible were correct, are correct, and always will be correct.

    The main point of my book being to show that, although science can and often does give us true information about the world, it doesn’t always (e.g., evolution, relative time) and neither does science have a lock of truth. Nor does it give us the best perspective and definition of reality.

    The modern scientific cosmological perspective is, in fact, inferior to the prescientific and biblical geocentric perspective when it comes to relevancy and purpose as human person living in the world.

    If anyone is interested, here are the links to the free pdf, and to the print and ebook versions on Google Books: Free pdf here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/18013481/Phenomenology-Theology-and-The-World-Perceived – Google Books here: http://books.google.com/books?id=1fz05ui2kpAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+world+perceived&hl=en&src=bmrr&ei=WO6AToKPMIrbgQfh5v0k&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

    1. Interesting. Based on your description of the work, I see no reason to assume that it is less ridiculous than that of Sungenis.

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