Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hanging out with the Geocentrists, Part 3

For those visiting for the first time, this is part 3 of my ongoing summary of the recent "First Annual Catholic Conference on Geocentrism," held on November 6, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana (part 1 and part 2). I preface this with the disclosure that I am neither Catholic nor geocentrist, so consider my comments accordingly.

I've already covered some of the science talks, and there's one more science talk I want to present, which I'm saving for last. First, I want to cover the two historical talks. The first was a talk by E. Michael Jones, who actually has a Wikipedia page. In the program, he was described as "Catholic scholar and writer, specializing in historical analysis." The title of his presentation was "English Ideology, Newton & the Exploitation of Science."

The argument goes something like this: We know that Darwin was inspired by the economics of his day, since he took the inspiration for natural selection from Malthus. So too, Newton was inspired by the economics of his day in developing his physics, or to put it in other terms, "Newtonian physics is likewise a projection of economics on nature." With Newtonian physics, motion was no longer an intrinsic drive or teleological. Motion was imposed on objects from outside "forces," the idea for which Jones said came from English capitalism. Jones spent a lot of time describing Newton's life and how the Whigs of the day could exploit this notion of externally-imposed force to political advantage. My notes also include this gem, which I think was a quote from Jones: "Capitalism is government sponsored usury."

I see at least two huge problems with his presentation. First, the connection between Newtonian physics and economics was entirely speculative. In Darwin's case, we actually have Darwin's own words confirming his Malthusian inspiration. So I kept waiting for the smoking gun in Newton's case, some kind of indication from Newton himself that his ideas were indeed inspired by capitalism. Jones never supplied that crucial evidence, making his entire argument one long speculation.

The second problem is the classic genetic fallacy. Science just doesn't care where ideas come from, the only thing science cares (or should care) about is whether the ideas actually work. If Newton's ideas had been unable to predict planetary motion, then they would have been forgotten, whether or not they were politically advantageous.

The other historical talk was the penultimate talk of the day by Robert Sungenis (also with a Wikipedia page), the mastermind behind the entire conference and author of the immense books Galileo was Wrong the Church was Right volumes 1 & 2 (totaling 1100 pages). He presented "Galileo & the Church: What Really Happened?" Knowing his bias, I didn't expect much from his talk, but I was interested to see what his perspective would be. Naively, I was actually surprised by how blatantly anti-Galileo it was. Not just in the way he presented, but in the way Sungenis sort of brushed by the facts of the situation.

For example, he described the Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina as "Galileo goes on and on about why heliocentrism does not contradict the Scripture." That's not exactly correct. Galileo was proposing a hermeneutic in the Letter, a way of interpreting scripture that made it possible to be a heliocentrist. His argument was far bigger than just "why heliocentrism does not contradict the Scripture."

After describing the Church's 1616 formal condemnation of copernicanism, Sungenis said, "Galileo ignored the injunction against copernicanism" and began writing his Dialogue, giving the distinct impression that Galileo went out immediately and began writing his next book advocating heliocentrism. The truth is that he had already written a draft of what became the Dialogue prior to the condemnation of copernicanism and that he didn't start revising it for publication until September of 1624. Basically, he let the manuscript sit for nine years, and when he began to revise it, he made it a Dialogue discussing both copernicanism and the geocentric perspective. This was ostensibly permissible under the injunction against copernicanism, but the problem was that the text made it quite clear that Galileo's sympathies were with the Copernican system. Sungenis made it sound like Galileo just marched right out defiantly against the Church and began writing his next argument for heliocentrism, but that's not what happened at all.

The bulk of Sungenis's talk was spent on what happened after Galileo, in which he emphasized that it was the infallible Magisterium of the church that condemned Galileo and therefore the condemnation could not be rescinded without admitting that the Magisterium had made a mistake. I found this section very interesting, but given Sungenis's mistreatment of Galileo, I have to say I'm dubious of some of his claims here.

That's enough for today. Tomorrow, I'll cover Gerardus Bouw's presentation "The Biblical Firmament of Genesis 1:6-9." Then I'll try to give some closing thoughts on geocentrism and the conference.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.