Sungenis vs. Pope Benedict XV: Was Dante a Marginal Catholic?

Anyone who has followed Robert Sungenis’s many controversies through the years knows that when he is emotionally invested in a subject, he often fails to maintain a reasonable level of objectivity and scholarly standards.  For instance, in the service of geocentrism, Sungenis has more than once turned documentary evidence completely on its head, (see, for example, “Sungenis and Pius VII: Turning the Evidence on its Head” and “It’s All In the Translation”.)

The latest example of this can be found in his response to my article “Geocentrists Peddle Alien Theology of Centrality”.  There I demonstrated that the geocentric claim that the Earth’s supposed physical centrality in the universe confirms our significance to God is completely alien to classical Western thought and Catholic tradition.  It’s a theological novelty.

What the new geocentrists have actually done is adopt the false premise of modern critics of the Church and concocted a fundamentally erroneous theology in response.  As I explained in my article, for ancient and medieval Christians the center (and hence for them the Earth) was actually seen as the most base and unexalted location in the universe.  I wrote: “For sixteen centuries, Aristotelian/Ptolomaic cosmology held sway among Christian thinkers.  That cosmology considered the Earth to be in the lowest, most degraded and least privileged place in the entire universe.”  And this was seen as perfectly compatible with Christian theology.

Pagans Only?

Alighieri_DThe pith of Bob Sungenis’s response to my article was to claim that only pagan and not Christian writers held such a lowly view of the Earth.  This is false, as I plan to demonstrate in more detail in an upcoming follow-up article.  But to focus on one example, Sungenis, who has no particular expertise in medieval theology and literature, summarily dismissed the testimony of widely acclaimed medievalist C. S. Lewis, who pointed to Dante as a medieval writer whose work very much reflected the lowliness and insignificance of the Earth:

Because, as Dante was to say more clearly than anyone else, the spatial order is the opposite of the spiritual, and the material cosmos mirrors, hence reverses, the reality, so that what is truly the rim seems to us the hub … We watch ‘the spectacle of the celestial dance’ from its outskirts. Our highest privilege is to imitate it in such measure as we can. The medieval Model is, if we may use the word, anthropoperipheral. We are creatures of the Margin (The Discarded Image, 58).

To this Sungenis replied:

R. Sungenis: Of course, the problem with Dante was always whether he was accurately depicting the Christian faith, and his devotion to it was always questioned. Benedict XV had mentioned Dante’s peculiar ideas in his April 30, 1921, encyclical titled, In Praeclara Summorum, although he exonerated Dante from being a pseudo‐believer (“David Palm Peddles Alien Arguments Against Geocentrism”, p. 9).

You might want to read that remarkable claim again.  According to Sungenis, it’s obvious to all, that it has “always” been a “problem” to know “whether [Dante] was accurately depicting the Christian faith.”  Sungenis claims that Dante’s “devotion to [the Faith] was always questioned” (my emphasis).  Seeking to damn Dante with faint praise, Sungenis claims that in his encyclical In Praeclara Summorum on Dante, Pope Benedict XV merely, “mentioned Dante’s peculiar ideas” and only just, “exonerated Dante from being a pseudo‐believer.”

What the Pope Really Wrote:

Is that really what Pope Benedict XV wrote?  Look for yourself.

The very opening lines of the encyclical In Praeclara Summorum state:

Among the many celebrated geniuses of whom the Catholic faith can boast who have left undying fruits in literature and art especially, besides other fields of learning, and to whom civilization and religion are ever in debt, highest stands the name of Dante Alighieri, the sixth centenary of whose death will soon be recorded. Never perhaps has his supreme position been recognized as it is today. Not only Italy, justly proud of having given him birth, but all the civil nations are preparing with special committees of learned men to celebrate his memory that the whole world may pay honour to that noble figure, pride and glory of humanity (emphasis mine here and throughout.)

The second paragraph says:

And surely we cannot be absent from this universal consensus of good men; rather should We take the lead in it as the Church has special right to call Alighieri hers.

In the fourth paragraph the Pope describes this virtual “pseudo-believer” thus,

the divine poet throughout his whole life professed in exemplary manner the Catholic religion, . . .

And then further down, apparently struggling to recognize “whether [Dante] was accurately depicting the Christian faith,” Benedict XV highlights Dante’s especial devotion to St. Thomas, Scripture, and the Fathers of the Church:

Dante lived in an age which inherited the most glorious fruits of philosophical and theological teaching and thought, and handed them on to the succeeding ages with the imprint of the strict scholastic method. Amid the various currents of thought diffused then too among learned men Dante ranged himself as disciple of that Prince of the school so distinguished for angelic temper of intellect, Saint Thomas Aquinas. From him he gained nearly all his philosophical and theological knowledge, and while he did not neglect any branch of human learning, at the same time he drank deeply at the founts of Sacred Scripture and the Fathers. Thus he learned almost all that could be known in his time, and nourished specially by Christian knowledge, it was on that field of religion he drew when he set himself to treat in verse of things so vast and deep.

Geocentrism: Not a Matter of Faith

Then we come to a passage of the encyclical that has already been highlighted on this site (here, here, and here). Perhaps this passage is the key to understanding why Sungenis has gone to such lengths to distort and downplay the Pope’s encyclical. Pay close attention to what the Pope wrote here:

If the progress of science showed later that that conception of the world rested on no sure foundation, that the spheres imagined by our ancestors did not exist, that nature, the number and course of the planets and stars, are not indeed as they were then thought to be, still the fundamental principle remained that the universe, whatever be the order that sustains it in its parts, is the work of the creating and preserving sign of Omnipotent God, who moves and governs all, and whose glory risplende in una parte piu e meno altrove; and though this earth on which we live may not be the centre of the universe as at one time was thought, it was the scene of the original happiness of our first ancestors, witness of their unhappy fall, as too of the Redemption of mankind through the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.

It’s plain from this passage that Benedict XV did not consider geocentrism to be part of the Catholic Faith. As such, perhaps Sungenis was confused. Perhaps it was not Dante, but rather Benedict XV who needed to be “exonerated…for being a pseudo-believer” because he dared to doubt the geocentric “dogma” that the Earth is the immobile center of the universe?

The geocentrists have attempted to escape the force of the pope’s statement here, but it is presented in a simple, “If A is not true, nevertheless B is still true” form.  If the geocentrists want to argue that this statement leaves open the possibility that geocentrism is a core doctrine of our faith, let’s turn it around and consider the results.  What if the pope had said instead, “If this earth on which we live was not the scene of the original happiness of our first ancestors . . . as too of the Redemption of mankind through the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, nevertheless it is the center of the universe.”  Would they still consider his statement to be doctrinally acceptable?  Not a chance. It’s plain that Pope Benedict XV was saying that the Earth’s physical location in the cosmos is a matter of doctrinal indifference, while the latter portion of our Fall and Redemption remains a core part of our Catholic faith.  (See also the ruling by Pope Pius VII giving official permission for Catholics to hold non-geocentric views: “The Magisterium Rules: The Debate is Over”.)

In the fifth paragraph Benedict XV highlights Dante’s reverence for and fidelity to sacred Scripture, the ecumenical Councils, and the Doctors of the Church.  In the sixth paragraph he highlights Dante’s reverence for the Popes. Then in the seventh paragraph the Pope describes the Divine Comedy thus:

Thus, as he based the whole structure of his poem on these sound religious principles, no wonder that we find in it a treasure of Catholic teaching; not only, that is, essence of Christian philosophy and theology, but the compendium of the divine laws which should govern the constitution and administration of States

So powerful is Dante’s representation of the Faith, says Pope Benedict XV, that it has resulted in more than one conversion.  The Pope states that Dante’s writings are firmly grounded in the true Faith, as expressed by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.  And finally, the Pope closes by exhorting teachers, especially, to study Dante more and more deeply precisely in order to enhance their “devotion to the Catholic Faith”:

And you, beloved children, whose lot it is to promote learning under the magisterium of the Church, continue as you are doing to love and tend the noble poet whom We do not hesitate to call the most eloquent singer of the Christian idea. The more profit you draw from study of him the higher will be your culture, irradiated by the splendours of truth, and the stronger and more spontaneous your devotion to the Catholic Faith.

So Much For the Pope: Now What About Bob?

Those are the Roman Pontiff’s views, in his own words, expressed in a papal encyclical.  Now, let’s look at Sungenis’s tendentious characterization again:

R. Sungenis: Of course, the problem with Dante was always whether he was accurately depicting the Christian faith, and his devotion to it was always questioned. Benedict XV had mentioned Dante’s peculiar ideas in his April 30, 1921, encyclical titled, In Praeclara Summorum, although he exonerated Dante from being a pseudo‐believer.

Press release, Dec 2013

Press release, Dec 2013

It seems fair to ask, if the pope’s encyclical In Praeclara Summorum only just rescues Dante from the fate of being a “pseudo-believer” who held “peculiar ideas”, what would the Pope have to say to describe Dante as a true believer?

It’s important to ask ourselves too, why did Sungenis go to such lengths to dismiss Dante and to mischaracterize Pope Benedict XV’s statements about him in the first place?  Because he felt it was necessary in order to defend geocentrism.  Sungenis has publicly stated that he believes God has given him the mission of convincing the world that geocentrism is true and he has also said that he intends to spend the rest of his life pursuing it.1

So, once again, we see that when Robert Sungenis is heavily, emotionally (and in this case financially) invested in a topic – as he is with geocentrism – he can’t be relied upon to provide a fair and accurate account of the evidence. And that’s true whether we’re talking about magisterial documents, Scripture, or science.

Caveat emptor.


1 “I am pursuing one of the greatest projects the Lord has ever given me. It is to tell the world that the Catholic Church was right when it condemned Galileo, and thus no Catholic has to hang his head in shame…THAT is why I am pursuing the Galileo issue, Wes – because the right view of it can change the world and restore the Church to her rightful place of honor. I’m going for the whole enchilada. If Galileo was wrong and the Church was right, you can imagine what an impact that will have on our whole view of ourselves and the modern age. That is what I call the ultimate “apologetic,” and that is what I will be pursuing the rest of the time the Lord gives me.” ~ Robert Sungenis


Posted in Credibility, Magisterium, Theology |

It Really Is That Simple: Geocentrism Lacks Basic Evidence

In long-running disputes, sometimes it’s good to get back to basics.  A recent exchange with an enquirer highlighted yet again the inability of the new geocentrism to stand on its own two feet when confronted with the most basic challenge.

My interlocutor asked for a simple explanation why geocentrism is not viable as a scientific viewpoint.  Before laying out that simple explanation, I made just one stipulation – the geocentric counter-reply must make no appeal to General Relativity (GR). That stipulation was necessary because I knew that would be the first place they’d go.  Geocentrists get lots of mileage out of a bogus appeal to GR, deploying various claims along the lines of “General Relativity allows for geocentrism” or “See, even famous scientists X and Y agree that geocentrism is plausible” (see, for example, “Context Anyone? The (Literally) Incredible Geocentrists Strike Again”.)  This rhetorical ploy has been effective in bamboozling some people into thinking that geocentrism actually has the support of modern science and scientists.¹

vonbraunBut the appeal to General Relativity by the geocentrists is illegitimate.  Why?  Because the geocentrists are the ones making the truth claim that the Earth is the exact center and is motionless.  They insist that it is the one, absolute frame of reference.  The new geocentrists vociferously reject General Relativity, which inherently excludes the concepts of an absolute center and absolute rest (for evidence of their rejection of GR see here).  It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that one may not both reject a theory and simultaneously appeal to it in order to prop up one’s own view.  This is what Dr. Alec MacAndrew has dubbed the Great Inconsistency at the very heart of the new geocentrism.  He writes:

Surely it is deeply inconsistent and illogical to invoke physics in support of their claims that they think is wrong-headed, atheistically motivated, a product of the author’s moral degeneracy and medical ailments, and amounting to no more than science fiction – to do so smacks of desperation. (“Here Comes the Sun”, p. 17).


Now an honest scientist who rejects a particular theory, doesn’t turn round in the next sentence and use it to support his case – by rejecting it, he is proclaiming that it is not a good description of reality, so how can he logically and fairly use it in support of his idea, which presumably he believes does reflect reality? Of course he can’t – or shouldn’t. The fact that the neo-geocentrists rely on a theory they detest and reject is the fundamental Great Inconsistency at the heart of neo-geocentrism that has always been there and that they have never succeeded in resolving (“There He Goes Again”, p. 2).

General Relativity (GR) inherently excludes an absolute center and absolute motion.  The new geocentrists vociferously reject GR (again, see here.)   In order to avoid the Great Inconsistency, the geocentrists must lay aside any and all reference to General Relativity.  Their view needs to stand on its own two feet.   It is their burden to show how their own theory is viable on its own, given the evidence that we have.   And that’s where it all falls apart for them.

Sgot-evidencetrict geocentrism was rejected by all working astronomers and physicists many decades before General Relativity or Big Bang cosmology came on the scene.  And it’s pretty safe to say that it will continue to be rejected even if those theories are supplanted by other theories.  Why?  Because in order to be viable, scientific theories must be backed by observational evidence.  Can geocentrism stand on its own, with no appeal to GR?  Can it provide observational evidence to answer to even the most basic questions?  No.

As Dr. MacAndrew has laid out well in “Here Comes the Sun: How the Geocentrists Persist in Scientific and Logical Errors”, the gravity of the Sun dominates our solar system.  The scientific explanation for why the Earth does not fall into the Sun is that it is orbiting the Sun, just like the other planets.  And this means that it’s moving and that it’s not the center even of our solar system, let alone of the entire universe.

The only other way this could work is if there were some other masses that perfectly and continuously offset the Sun’s enormous gravitational influence on the Earth.  And this is where the geocentrists think they have an “out” – they say our problem is that we’re looking at our solar system in isolation without regard to the influence of the rest of the bodies in the universe.  Robert Sungenis states, “each night we see that there are countless stars the [sic] circle the Earth. Each of those 5 sextillion stars have gravity, and that gravity will affect how the Sun and Earth react to one another, especially if the Earth is put in the center of that gravity” (“Karl Keating’s “Scientific” Attempt to Debunk Geocentrism”, p. 2).  So according to him it’s the gravity of the “5 sextillion stars” that keeps the Earth from plunging into the Sun.  But this raises two insuperable problems.

First, because of the extreme distances involved, the distant stars and galaxies simply do not provide enough gravitational influence to offset the nearby Sun’s gravity.  As Dr. MacAndrew demonstrates in his paper, even if you put all of the galactic clusters that lie within 2.5 billion light years on one side of the Earth and positioned them much closer than they actually are, their combined gravitational pull would still be, “30 million times less than the Sun’s gravitational field at the Earth” (see “Here Comes the Sun”, p. 5).

Figure 7: The solar system's center of mass: 1945 - 1995

Figure 7: The solar system’s center of mass: 1945 – 1995

And the geocentrists have a second, even more serious problem.  Not only is the gravitational field of these distant masses not remotely sufficient, but in order for them to exactly offset the Sun’s (and to a lesser extent the Moon’s and other planets’) gravitational fields, these offsetting masses would have to be moving constantly and be positioned perfectly at every second of every day of every year in order for the Earth to remain motionless.  This has been laid out very well with some nice visuals by Gary Hoge in “As the Universe Turns”.

There is no observational evidence whatsoever that the other bodies in the universe are constantly moving in the precise way necessary to offset the Sun’s enormous gravity.

When recently confronted yet again with this conundrum, geocentrist Rick DeLano followed two predictable paths.  First, he immediately appealed to (drum roll….you guessed it!) General Relativity, even though he rejects General Relativity and even though I explicitly stated that such an appeal was off the table, for the obvious reasons I gave above – he rejects General Relativity so he can’t appeal to it. And, in any case, the concepts of absolute rest and an absolute center are excluded in General Relativity, so an appeal to it explicitly destroys his argument.  Second, he lapsed into ridicule and insult (and just as I was about to direct the reader to this exchange, I find that that my interlocutor appears to have taken it down.)

What he did not do is answer the question. What is the observational evidence for masses in the universe that, at every instance of time, offset the enormous gravitational pull of the Sun and planets in our solar system?  On that question, DeLano was completely silent.

So here’s the bottom line: For geocentrism to be viable, the geocentrists would have to provide observational evidence for both the existence of and precise motion of masses that at every instant of time are positioned perfectly to offset the enormous gravity of the Sun and other planets, thus leaving the Earth motionless.

There is no such observational evidence.  Therefore, geocentrism is not a viable scientific theory.  That is why the geocentrists don’t have the support of a single working astronomer or physicist.  As a scientific theory providing a coherent explanation for what we observe, geocentrism falls flat.

It really is just that simple. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise.  This is what happens when you turn the scientific method on its head.  Modern geocentrism amounts to faulty theology, dictating unshakable “scientific” conclusions, in search of supporting evidence.



End Notes:

¹ Rather than rehash all of the myriad problems in the neo-geocentric appeal to General Relativity here, I would bid the reader carefully read “Here Comes the Sun: How the geocentrists persist in logical and scientific errors”.  Suffice to say that the new geocentrists compound their bogus appeal to GR by simply assuming Mach’s Principle, a conjecture, not a theory which is neither settled nor widely accepted.  A reader ignorant of the crucial distinctions can easily be bamboozled by their selective quotes from various physicists.  If the neo-geocentrists really think that Mach’s Principle is correct then by all means let them demonstrate mathematically why that must be so!

Posted in Science |

Robert Sungenis, Physics Major?

A Pattern of Misleading By Exaggeration

It has been documented in detail that Robert Sungenis has exhibited a long-standing pattern of exaggeration, from claims about the theological and scientific evidence for geocentrism (see e.g. here, here and here) to claims about his academic credentials (see here).  The purpose of such exaggeration, of course, is to mislead others about the actual strength of his argument and his personal credibility.  As Sungenis presents himself as virtually the only person in the world who is both qualified and honest enough to expose the supposed vast scientific conspiracy to hide the truth of geocentrism from the world, this is no small matter.

Sungenis’s pattern of deception through exaggeration was on display again during a radio interview he recently gave to Protestant pastor James Manning about geocentrism.  Manning asked Sungenis to introduce himself to his listening audience and Sungenis set about trying to establish his scientific credibility by citing his scholastic credentials related to cosmology: “I was a physics major in college, so I’m pretty familiar with that end of things” (here, starting at around 2:45.)  This claim is not new.  Sungenis has repeatedly insisted that he’s credible in the field of cosmology because he was a “physics major”:

“I was a physics major in college, and also took astronomy classes, at a major university” (“Is There a Conspiracy Against Geocentrism?”).

“Devoid [of scientific training]? Let’s see. I was a physics major in college.” (“Debunking Palm and MacAndrew on the CMB Evidence”).

“Forgiving me for the nudge, Stat, but you need to read up on the literature, and it is all quoted in Galileo Was Wrong. I was a physics major, so I am very familiar with this material” (comments on “Good for Cardinal Burke!)

“But the truth is, although science has given us some advancements, it is hardly the monolith of achievement it is sometimes made out to be. I can tell you that firsthand. I was a chemistry and physics major in college” (“The Case Against Theistic Evolution”)

Of course, people will logically conclude by such statements that Sungenis took a significant number of high-level physics courses in the process of successfully completing a degree in physics.  It works.1  Sungenis’s claim to be a “physics major” gives a false impression of his actual academic achievements.  No reputable scientist would advertise himself in such a way.

Here is what has recently come to light according to George Washington University and Sungenis’s own statements:

  • Sungenis only took the first two most basic prerequisite physics courses that didn’t even involve calculus.
  • He didn’t finish the four physics courses required to fulfill the prerequisites for a physics major.
  • He inexplicably took two basic astronomy courses that would not contribute to the requirements for a physics major and were so basic as to be labeled “Primarily for nonscience majors”.
  • He took none of the undergraduate physics courses that are listed as “Required courses in the major”.

In short, Sungenis has materially exaggerated his academic accomplishments in the field of cosmology.

Sungenis’s Claims About His Academic Record at GWU

After recently being challenged, Sungenis produced some documentation that he thought would bolster his educational claims but which, when closely examined, seriously undercuts them.  Specifically, he produced a report card for his first semester at George Washington University (GWU) in 1975, showing that he took two physics courses: Physics 1, “Foundations of Physics” and Physics 9, “Introduction to Astronomy 1”.  He stated,

I was a DECLARED Physics major at GWU, and I was given a list of courses I was to complete in my four years at GWU. “Foundations of Physics” (which is now apparently called “University Physics” was the first course I took. In the next semester I had Modern Physics and Calculus” (link; NB: the original Facebook thread in which Sungenis posted his remarks was removed shortly after this article was posted. Screen shots of his comments are hosted on this site instead.)

He said of “Foundations of Physics” that it was, “the first course of my major in Physics” and of “Introduction to Astronomy” that it was, “the second course I took for that major” (link).  He also stated that, “GWU requires ‘two approved 100-level physics electives’” and that, “In this category the two electives I chose were Astronomy I and Astronomy II” (link).


I immediately noticed some significant anomalies in Sungenis’s recent evidence.  For example, “Foundations of Physics” could not be equivalent to GWU’s current “University Physics 1”, since the latter requires that calculus be taken either before or at the same time.  Sungenis would not have been eligible to take “University Physics 1” in his first semester, since he had completed no calculus at that time (he stated that he took Calculus 1 his second semester at GWU).  Similarly, “Modern Physics” in the current GWU catalog requires a student to first complete both semesters of calculus-based University Physics, as well as all three semesters of calculus.  This could not be the same course that Sungenis took.

The 1975 Academic Requirements at GWU vs. Sungenis’s Claims

Something wasn’t adding up.  So I contacted George Washington University and obtained a scanned copy of the requirements for a physics major from the 1975 University Bulletin.  Here’s what we find:

GWU 1975 Physics Degree RequirementsThis lays out clearly which courses are prerequisite for a physics major, that is, which courses had to be completed before the student could even begin to take courses that actually count in that major.  Thus, Sungenis’s claim that “Foundations of Physics” was “the first course of my major in Physics” is incorrect.

Conspicuously absent even from the “Prerequisite courses” list are Physics 9 and 10, Astronomy I and II – courses that Sungenis claimed to have fulfilled a GWU requirement that physics majors take two approved “100-level physics electives”.   Sungenis has two problems here.  First, according to the University Bulletin in 1975 there were no electives listed that counted either towards prerequisites or required courses for a physics major; so his argument is an anachronism.  But even under current requirements Physics 9 and 10 would not count as electives because they are not 100-level courses.

More importantly, according to the Bulletin, Physics 9 and 10 would not count toward even the prerequisite courses for a physics major, let alone within the major itself.  In fact, the course catalog explicitly states that these astronomy courses are, “Primarily for nonscience majors”:

GWU Astronomy Not For Science MajorsThat deserves to be repeated: So basic were Sungenis’s astronomy classes at GWU that the university found it necessary to explicitly state in their catalog that they were “Primarily for nonscience majors.”

Based on the information that Sungenis himself has provided, combined with the documentation from GWU from 1975, here’s what we now know:

  • Sungenis only took the first two most basic prerequisite physics courses, basic enough that they didn’t require calculus.
  • Thus, he didn’t even finish the four physics courses required to fulfill the prerequisites for a physics major.
  • Although he claims that, “I was given a list of courses I was to complete in my four years at GWU”, he inexplicably took two basic astronomy courses that, according to the 1975 GWU catalog itself, would not contribute to the requirements for a physics major and were so basic as to be labeled “Primarily for nonscience majors”.
  • Factoring in his entry-level chemistry courses and one semester of calculus, Sungenis only completed about half of the prerequisite courses toward a physics major – the courses required by GWU to be completed before he could even begin to take courses within the actual physics major itself.  Of these prerequisites, only two were actual courses in physics, the two most basic courses offered.
  • He took none of the undergraduate physics courses that are listed as “Required courses in the major”.

Primarily for nonscience majorsSungenis’s whole claim to expertise in terms of his academic credentials in physics amounts to the two most basic undergraduate physics courses, along with two astronomy courses taught at a level appropriate for non-science majors.  That’s it.  To insist that these basic courses render an individual academically qualified to take on the entire world of physics and astrophysics is dishonest, delusional, or both.

This information provided by Sungenis himself and GWU definitively establishes that, contrary to his claims, he never received the education at GWU necessary to achieve any significant comprehension or mastery of the subjects central to the study of cosmology. This helps to explain his repeated demonstrations of mathematical and scientific incompetence.  See, for example, “Elementary Physics Blunders in Sungenis’s Reply to Sky and Telescope’s Camille Carlisle”, “Sungenis Botches the Math Again”, “There He Goes Again”, “The Simple, Scary Mindset of Robert Sungenis”, and “Sungenis Fails the CMB Challenge…Twice”.

A Physicist Analyzes Sungenis’s Academic Deficiencies in Math and Physics

Before this additional detail came fully to light, Dr. Alec MacAndrew enumerated well the enormous gaps in Sungenis’s science education, along with the fundamental misunderstandings of physics that he’s displayed over the years:

As others have stated, Robert’s report card in no way supports his claim that he was a physics major. It’s clear that in making that claim he is seeking some legitimacy for his arguments; he is making a claim that he understands classical and modern physics to validate his position and to avoid being brushed off as a scientific ignoramus. Now, other than the report card (which I have never seen before this thread) and his own claims, there is no direct evidence to support the idea that he repeatedly tries to put in people’s heads that he was a physics major in college. He might have taken a course or two in physics at college – I don’t know.

But there are some things that I do know. I know that he has made contradictory and incompatible statements about his education. I know that his current knowledge of physics and mathematics is insufficient to earn a pass in freshman physics, never mind to earn a Bachelor’s degree in physics. And I know that far from being brilliant, he is an obtuse and close-minded student of physics – not only does he not know, but he is unable or unwilling to learn, repeating the same gaff over and over even after he has been patiently corrected.

People have talked in this thread about physics courses taken early in one’s undergraduate career by physics majors. Of course, they have different titles in different institutions, but it is common for these first year courses to include classical or Newtonian mechanics, and something called Vibrations and Waves or Harmonic Motion or some such. In addition, physics majors would take mathematics: differential and integral calculus, vector algebra, matrix algebra, set theory, series expansions of functions and so on. In every case, Sungenis shows absolutely no sign of understanding even the most basic concepts in classical mechanics and shows every sign of misunderstanding. In mathematics, his knowledge is demonstrably poorer than a bright 8th grader.

Regarding his failure to understand elementary classical mechanics I have documented the following, in some cases more than once. He doesn’t understand:
1) That the centre of mass of body or a set of bodies does not generally coincide with a point where the gravitational field is zero
2) That the Sun’s gravitational field at the Earth is, by a vast degree, the biggest contribution to the total gravitational field at the Earth, and it is not zero
3) That his oft-repeated statement that the Earth can be the centre of mass for the Universe conflates a body with a point in space and is meaningless
4) That a system of free-falling bodies do not necessarily orbit their centre of mass, and that the rotation of an extended set of bodies around an axis with an angular velocity independent of distance from the axis (as he imagines the Universe to do) is not a viable Newtonian system
5) The difference between dynamics and kinematics in classical mechanics
6) The meaning of such foundational terms as: inertial frame of reference; orthogonal.

I have documented his many failures in elementary mathematics (at a level in the subject that is way below that which would be needed as freshman physics major) on David Palm’s website. Amongst other things, he appears not to understand the need for expressions in physics to be dimensionally balanced, he clearly doesn’t know any vector algebra, and he is even confused about scientific notation of numbers. He constantly bungles simple arithmetic.

So on the evidence of his current knowledge, Sungenis never was a physics major, or at least not long enough to learn any elementary university level physics and mathematics.  [NB: Dr. MacAndrew is right. University physics requires calculus and Sungenis took no calculus-based physics courses.]  As I said in my last article on David’s website: “There is no shame in not knowing about a subject, but there should be shame in not knowing and yet pretending that you do, especially when you use your counterfeit knowledge to bamboozle others.” (link).

A Meaningless Declaration

While Sungenis may have technically declared himself a “physics major” while at GWU, that’s a meaningless declaration in the context of trying to establish his academic qualifications in the field of cosmology.  A declaration is basically just a formal statement a student makes to the university indicating that he has decided to attempt to complete the academic requirements for a particular major.  According to Sungenis himself, he declared a major before even completing a single course at GWU – and that major was in chemistry.  It was so simple to declare and switch majors that he did so twice more: first to physics (the very next semester) and then to religion.  He abandoned his chemistry major after a single semester.2  Even so, according to Sungenis’s current standards, it would also be perfectly legitimate for him to publicly tout his credentials as a “chemistry major.”  That’s how silly it is.3

Interestingly, The Chronicle of Higher Education recommends that students not declare a major early in their college careers because they tend to make bad choices based on “poor information or in response to parental pressure.”  This seems to have been true in Sungenis’s case, as in addition to changing his declared major twice, he stated in his autobiographical conversion story that all the way through his early semesters at GWU he was a “jack-of-all-trades, master-at-none kind of guy” who was “floundering with no sense of direction” while trying to measure up to his father’s medical success by choosing to be a “pre-med major…and become a doctor” (Surprised by Truth; pp 104 -105.)

Distorting the Truth in Order to Appear Credible

But now, as he recently admitted, it has become personally advantageous for him to claim expertise in physics:

Science didn’t become a part of my daily contemplation until about 2003 or so when I began my studies on Geocentrism. Since Geocentrism requires a knowledge of Physics and Astronomy, and since an unpopular subject like Geocentrism requires its adherent to have knowledge of both, it was to my advantage to advertise my major in Physics at GWU for the sake of credibility (link).

It’s worth noting that Sungenis said basically the same thing about his illegitimate “Ph.D.” from a degree mill in the South Pacific:

The only thing [my PhD degree from Calamus] does is allow me to show the world, in a glance, that I have the same academic credentials as those who receive a Ph.D. in Religion from a United States accredited institution.” (Sungenis, “My Ph.D. From Calamus International University”, p. 26; cited in “Just What the Doctor Ordered?”)


There you have in a nutshell the reason Sungenis continues to mislead people by exaggerating his scholastic accomplishments and credentials – it’s because he knows full well that credibility matters.  He’s willing to materially exaggerate his accomplishments and credentials in order to appropriate for himself credibility that he has not legitimately earned.  No reputable person would refer to himself as a “physics major”, let alone as a credible scientific authority, based on the paltry study that Sungenis completed at GWU.  Of course, neither would a reputable scholar tout a “Ph.D.” from a degree mill.

But perhaps even more importantly, far from having any demonstrated competence through legitimate academic accomplishments, Sungenis repeatedly demonstrates his incompetence in the field of physics.  His writings on geocentrism are shot through with mathematical errors and scientific misunderstandings (see e.g. “Elementary Physics Blunders”, “Sungenis Botches the Math Again”, “There He Goes Again”, “Sungenis to Catholic Answers: Get Some Science Education!” and “Sungenis Fails the CMB Challenge…Twice”).

Likewise, his fellow geocentrists have not fared well when challenged to demonstrate their competence by producing their own, real mathematics or science (see, for example “Geocentrists Fail the Lagrange Point Challenge”, “Geocentric Physics: Is That All You’ve Got?”, “Dr. Tom Bridgman Weighs In On Flunking the Lagrange Point Challenge”, and “Will the New Geocentrists Take the CMB Alignment Challenge?”).  And this group has topped it off with habitual plagiarism, conspiracy mongering, and egregiously citing sources out of context.

As remarkable as that is, it seems even more remarkable that some people see all of this deception and incompetence repeatedly demonstrated in front of their eyes and still conclude, “Yes, these geocentrists are honest, competent, trustworthy experts and I should trust them instead of virtually the entire world of astrophysics.”



End Notes:

1 For instance, one fellow claims flatly that, “Sungenis has a degree in Physics, too” (link).  Another individual who actually did earn a degree in physics asked Sungenis about his academic credentials: “[Sungenis] personally told me he was a physics major.”  And what natural conclusion did the questioner reach? “Sungenis has an undergraduate degree in physics,” he insisted (see here and here).  In fact, so strong was this person’s conviction after communicating with Sungenis about his physics credentials, that even after another commenter pointed out that Sungenis never specifically mentions any actual degree in physics, the fellow replied, “Just because he doesn’t mention it there doesn’t mean he doesn’t have such a degree.  He personally told me he was a physics major” (link).

“In the first half of my freshman year I was a chemistry major. In the second half I switched to a physics major. In my junior year I switched to religion and then graduated as a religion major.” Robert Sungenis: “A Critical Analysis of Karl Keating and His Book The New Geocentrists”, p. 53

3 Remarkably, while one might think that even Sungenis couldn’t possibly go that far, one would be wrong. He has done precisely that. Although he merely took a total of two entry-level chemistry classes (with accompanying labs) during his entire undergraduate career (one at American University and one at GWU) and a total of one semester at GWU as a declared “chemistry major,” Sungenis had the gumption to publicly tout his “chemistry major”:

I’ve been studying science all my life. I was a Chemistry and Physics major in college, studying for pre-med” (see here).


“But the truth is, although science has given us some advancements, it is hardly the monolith of achievement it is sometimes made out to be. I can tell you that firsthand. I was a chemistry and physics major in college” (“The Case Against Theistic Evolution”)

Sungenis wants his readers to believe that he had such thorough, in-depth experience at the university level in chemistry and physics that he can personally tell them “first-hand” about the terrible shortcomings of science.  It’s hard to convey how inflated such claims are without lapsing into ridicule.

Posted in Credibility, Science |