Monday, September 01, 2014

David Palm on Al Kreska's Show: Missing the Main Points

Al Kreska interviewed David Palm August 28, 2014 on the topic of geocentrism. There were some misrepresentations about the Church's positions, as well as mis-statements about the science involved. I wanted to clarify some of these points.

First David and Al discuss statements of the Church in 1820 and 1822, allowing publications of materials related to heliocentrism. From this they imply that the Church has changed its opinion on the matter. They keep pointing out that the Church allows Catholics to believe what they want. They do not point out that that freedom also includes the freedom to choose geocentrism as one of the options! David even quotes two statements in his blog:

His Holiness has decreed that no obstacles exist for those who sustain Copernicus’ affirmation regarding the earth’s movement in the manner in which it is affirmed today, even by Catholic authors. (1820)


There must be no denial, by the present or by future Masters of the Sacred Apostolic Palace, of permission to print and to publish works which treat of the mobility of the earth and of the immobility of the sun, according to the common opinion of modern astronomers…those who would show themselves to be reluctant or would disobey, should be forced under punishments at the choice of [this] Sacred Congregation, with derogation of [their] claimed privileges, where necessary. (1822)

Note that these statements basically allow the "common opinion of modern astronomers" (even Catholic ones) to be published. Nowhere do I see anything that says that the Church now accepts their views, nor that Catholics are not free to reject that view for geocentrism or any other view they prefer. Note also that upon publishing Newton's works as late as 1833 the following statement was included in the prelude (referring to Newton's hypothesis of a moving earth): "...But we profess obedience to the decrees made by the Supreme Pontiffs against the movement of the earth..." indicating that the common opinion of modern astronomers (e.g., Sir Isaac Newton) were allowed publication, but that this did not necessarily change the view of the Church, and certainly did not bind the faithful to the modern view.

They may be right at some level (i.e., the Church does not forbid discussion of heliocentrism), but miss the point that Catholics are free to choose to consider geocentrism as possible, and clearly the Church has taught geocentrism up to some point in time, and neither Al nor Dave really have offered any evidence that the Church (specifically the magisterium) has taught otherwise (not that some in the Church have changed their opinions, that may be).

David did claim that after the events in the 1820s, the Church encouraged a heliocentric understanding in official magisterial actions, but he did not specify what these actions are. I for one would be interested in any magisterial actions encouraging heliocentrism. I certainly have not come across them. There certainly are none as strong as the condemnations of heliocentrism in official actions of the Church.

On the scientific front, the discussion gets even more contorted. Al asks David if there is some revolution in physics/astronomy that would lead one to a geocentric perspective. David admits that in fact, there are space probes sending back data (David is referring to COBE, WMAP, and Planck most likely) that may indicate that the earth does hold a privileged position in the universe. David then goes on to say that is far from the geocentric position in which the earth is the immobile center of the universe. What David is not understanding (and Al does not appear to have the knowledge to lead further questioning of) is that this "data" has the potential to obliterate the Copernican Principle, and that the Copernican Principle is an underlying ASSUMPTION of modern cosmology. The "data" is also making inflation theory very unlikely (inflation theory is another component of the big bang theory created to keep it off the death bed in the early 1980s) without resorting to mystical fictions such as the multiverse. David Palm does not get it, and Al Kresta is not qualified to lead questioning forward, so the show was DOA at this point, especially in terms of the scientific content. Funny, though, the top scientists do get it. The "data" that David Palm was talking about led Lawrence Krauss, no geocentrist by any stretch of the imagination, to say this regarding the WMAP data in 2005:

"But when you look at CMB map, you also see that the structure that is observed, is in fact, in a weird way, correlated with the plane of the earth around the sun. Is this Copernicus coming back to haunt us? That's crazy. We're looking out at the whole universe. There's no way there should be a correlation of structure with our motion of the earth around the sun — the plane of the earth around the sun — the ecliptic. That would say we are truly the center of the universe."

If Lawrence Krauss can get it, why not David Palm? Or Al Kresta? Because they do not want to get it. Why? I do not know, but it is very unsettling.

Lawrence Krauss and other scientists discuss this and other observations in The Principle, the movie that David and Al go on to criticize next. The Principle is a great movie, and unlike Cosmos, it asks the right questions. To be fair, Cosmos really does not ask questions, but rather presents the consensus view of cosmology. The Principle investigates recent evidence that severely challenge the consensus view, and interviews top scientists about this evidence. Visually it as entertaining as Cosmos, but content wise it is far superior. The Principle is not about geocentrism per se, but it does have that perspective represented, as would be expected in a movie presenting evidence challenging the Copernican Principle.

I truly wish that Catholics like David Palm and Al Kresta were really interested in discussion, and not just knocking something they cannot grasp and that conflict with their sensibilities. Anyone that has truly given geocentrism a chance has had that initial reaction. Some of us actually did the studying required to understand the current state of cosmology, and how it could actually be possible regardless of what people believed for 400 years. Others just attack what they cannot understand based on science they do not understand. It is amusing that the top scientists in The Principle, though certainly not geocentrists, are a lot more open minded about it than David and Al. That is because they truly do understand the limitations of our knowledge of reality at the scale of the cosmos. The truth is that science is finding evidence correlating the cosmos at its largest scales to our little earth. And even David Palm is finding himself admitting that the evidence is real. Too bad he cannot grasp the monumental significance of that evidence.


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