St. Basil “Dogmatic” on Geocentrism? Nope!

exaggeration

www.marctomarket.com

Exaggeration, to the point of falsehood. It’s a central characteristic of the new geocentrism. It occurs in the geocentrists’ treatment of science. It permeates their handling of the Bible. It’s part and parcel of their theological case. And in this article we’ll see that this tendency toward fanciful exaggeration pervades Robert Sungenis’s treatment of the Church Fathers as well (see many prior instances in “Geocentric Double Standards and Exaggerations on Magisterial Documents”, “Geocentric Exaggerations: The Catechism of Trent”, “Geocentrists Significantly Mangle CMB Science”, and “Robert Sungenis, Physics Major?”)

In an interview given in 2004, Sungenis presented a specific citation from Church Father St. Basil the Great as the single most important patristic witness in support of geocentrism (see interview with Jacob Michael, link).  And in Galileo Was Wrong, he explicitly calls this passage a “dogmatic assertion of geocentrism” (9th ed. vol. 2., p. 509n579) and claims that it’s one of the Fathers’ “definitive works” on geocentrism.

Dogmatic Assertion?  Really?

“Dogmatic” is an interesting choice of words.  In colloquial parlance, dogmatic means to assert something as “certainly correct” and that “cannot be doubted” (link).  In theological parlance, which would more closely match Sungenis’s usage as applied to a Father of the Church, dogmatic means that something is formally defined by the Church’s Magisterium as an essential part of the Catholic faith, the denial of which would represent formal heresy.

For this to be a “dogmatic assertion” on St. Basil’s part we would need to see an indication that this belief is a core and unshakable part of the Church’s faith, that it is firmly grounded in sacred Scripture, of continuous belief in sacred Tradition, and upheld by a formal act by the Church’s Magisterium.  That’s what “dogmatic” means in Catholic parlance.  Do we see any of these features in the passage from St. Basil cited by Sungenis?  Certainly not.  An examination of the passage in its context shows the claim that this is a “dogmatic assertion of geocentrism” to be yet another gross exaggeration.

But Why is it Central?  It Makes a Difference

ptolemaic

abyss.uoregon.edu

Now to anticipate, before we forge into this discussion, I think Sungenis would reply that what St. Basil sees as central to his argument (pun intended) is precisely that the Earth is in the center of everything, while one can quibble about the details of how it is supported there, etc.  But notice that St. Basil never says that the Earth’s centrality must be so because it’s a matter of divine revelation – rather, he claims it must be so because he adheres to the then-standard Aristotelian cosmology which holds that heavy things fall, that Earth is the heaviest thing in the universe, and that therefore its “natural place” is the center (or “bottom”, as St. Basil says) to which it has fallen:

If stones, wood, all terrestrial bodies, fall from above downwards, this must be the proper and natural place of the whole earth. If, on the contrary, a light body is separated from the centre, it is evident that it will ascend towards the higher regions. Thus heavy bodies move from the top to the bottom, and following this reasoning, the bottom is none other than the centre of the world (Hexaemeron 1:10).

The irony is that the neo-geocentrists strongly reject Aristotle’s cosmology, not only because it falls apart in light of physical evidence (the Earth is obviously not the heaviest thing in the universe), but also because it thoroughly undermines their insistence that being in the physical center is of great existential significance.  On the contrary, in the Aristotelian cosmology espoused by the ancients such as St. Basil:

earth’s position at the center of the universe was taken as evidence not of its importance but (to use a term still in circulation) its grossness. . . . Pre-Copernican cosmology pointed not to the metaphysical or axiological “centrality” but rather to the sheer grossness of humankind and its abode. In this view, the earth appears as a universal pit, figuratively as well as literally the world’s [universe’s] low point (Danielson, “The Great Copernican Cliché”, p. 1031; for more see “Geocentrists Peddle Alien Theology of Centrality”).

So even in the portion of text cited by Sungenis there is nothing to indicate that St. Basil sees the centrality of the earth as anything more than the purely natural consequence of Aristotelian notions of matter that even the neo-geocentrists reject.

That Pesky Context Again

saint-basil-the-great

en.wikipedia.org

More significantly, when we read this passage in its larger context we see that Sungenis has left out material on either side of the passage he cited that further undermines the claim that this is a “dogmatic assertion of geocentrism.”  In the material immediately preceding, St. Basil asserts explicitly that the matter he’s going to be discussing is in some ways best left unaddressed, because it’s not edifying:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” If we were to wish to discover the essence of each of the beings which are offered for our contemplation, or come under our senses, we should be drawn away into long digressions, and the solution of the problem would require more words than I possess, to examine fully the matter. To spend time on such points would not prove to be to the edification of the Church. . . . (Hexaemeron 1:8; emphasis mine.)

How exactly can a matter be of allegedly dogmatic importance and yet, at the same time, “not prove to be to the edification of the Church”?  Going further, St. Basil states that the questions themselves are “vain”:

If I ask you to leave these vain questions, I will not expect you to try and find out the earth’s point of support. The mind would reel on beholding its reasonings losing themselves without end. . . . Put then a limit to your thought, so that your curiosity in investigating the incomprehensible may not incur the reproaches of Job (Hexaemeron 1:9).

Then, contemplating the various challenges that the physical details present to one’s reason, St. Basil sidesteps the entire issue and insists that the only “infallible” aspect that commands the Christian’s assent is the bare fact that all these things are sustained by God’s power:

we must still remain faithful to thought of true religion and recognise that all is sustained by the Creator’s power. Let us then reply to ourselves, and let us reply to those who ask us upon what support this enormous mass rests, “In His hands are the ends of the earth.” It is a doctrine as infallible for our own information as profitable for our hearers (Hexaemeron 1:9).

The simple statements that “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” and “In His hands are the ends of the earth”  are all that St. Basil insists upon as binding for Christians, the only “dogmatic assertions” or “definitive” statements that he makes on the subject. Clearly these fall far short of supporting the neo-geocentric enterprise.  Sungenis left all of this preliminary context out of his citation.

Then, in the portion actually cited by Sungenis, St. Basil lays out a quasi-scientific, quasi-philosophical explanation for why the Earth, in his view, occupies the center:

There are inquirers into nature who with a great display of words give reasons for the immobility of the earth. Placed, they say, in the middle of the universe and not being able to incline more to one side than the other because its centre is everywhere the same distance from the surface, it necessarily rests upon itself; since a weight which is everywhere equal cannot lean to either side (Hexaemeron 1:10).

Notice that there is no citation of biblical texts, no appeal to an unbroken lineage of apostolic Tradition, no appeal to any ecclesiastical authority.  Rather, the support for all of this is a natural philosophical argument – an argument which, in our own time, we find to be incorrect scientifically:

If stones, wood, all terrestrial bodies, fall from above downwards, this must be the proper and natural place of the whole earth. If, on the contrary, a light body is separated from the centre, it is evident that it will ascend towards the higher regions. Thus heavy bodies move from the top to the bottom, and following this reasoning, the bottom is none other than the centre of the world (Hexaemeron 1:10).

St. Basil believes that this natural explanation may be of some use and comfort to his readers, but in the end he sees the entire matter as one of relative indifference.  Notice that he explicitly leaves this an open question:

If there is anything in this system which might appear probable to you, keep your admiration for the source of such perfect order, for the wisdom of God. Grand phenomena do not strike us the less when we have discovered something of their wonderful mechanism. Is it otherwise here? (Hexaemeron 1:10; my emphasis.)

He goes on, then, to point out the varied views of different natural philosophers and warns his readers not to be concerned about these differing views:

We might say the same thing of the heavens. With what a noise of words the sages of this world have discussed their nature! . . . Some have said [etc.] . . . Others have rejected this system as improbable, . . . But yet another fine speaker arises and disperses and destroys this theory to give predominance to an idea of his own invention (Hexaemeron 1:11).

In the end it’s sufficient simply to say that God created all things and that the creation points to God:

Do not let us undertake to follow them for fear of falling into like frivolities; let them refute each other, and, without disquieting ourselves about essence, let us say with Moses “God created the heavens and the earth.” Let us glorify the supreme Artificer for all that was wisely and skillfully made; by the beauty of visible things let us raise ourselves to Him who is above all beauty; by the grandeur of bodies, sensible and limited in their nature, let us conceive of the infinite Being whose immensity and omnipotence surpass all the efforts of the imagination. Because, although we ignore the nature of created things, the objects which on all sides attract our notice are so marvellous, that the most penetrating mind cannot attain to the knowledge of the least of the phenomena of the world, either to give a suitable explanation of it or to render due praise to the Creator, to Whom belong all glory, all honour and all power world without end. Amen. (Hexaemeron 1:11; my emphasis.)

Conclusion

There is nothing here remotely approaching a “dogmatic assertion of geocentrism”.   Far from emphasizing the allegedly divine nature of such a belief, St. Basil puts forth purely natural arguments which, today, are known to be incorrect and are rejected even by the neo-geocentrists.   St. Basil cites no Scripture in support of his view.   He makes no appeal to sacred Tradition, apostolic authority, or magisterial pronouncements.  Quite the contrary, he explicitly says that in the end, beyond belief that God made all things and sustains them by His power, the details are matters of indifference.

This fits perfectly with what I stated years ago in my article “Geocentrism and the Unanimous Consent of the Fathers”:

What has struck me in looking into this particular topic is just how consistently, among the Church Fathers and the medieval theologians, these matters of cosmology were treated as matters of natural philosophy and not as matters of faith.

There is no evidence that a consensus of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church treat geocentrism as a matter of divine revelation and therefore binding in faith. The Fathers and medieval theologians accepted geocentrism as the best science of their day and spoke of it in terms of a natural philosophy (most notably Aristotle’s cosmology) that is rejected today even by the new geocentrists.  As even Fr. Melchior Inchofer, the anti-Galileo theological consultant for the Holy Office in 1633 said, “Regarding the Holy Fathers it must be noted that they presupposed, rather than argued, that the earth is at rest, in agreement with the common opinion of the philosophers” (from R. J. Blackwell, Behind the Scenes at Galileo’s Trial, p. 119; emphasis mine.)]  And, as Fr. Inchofer admitted elsewhere: “I have not found a single one of the Holy Fathers who has dealt with the motion of the earth clearly and positively, as the saying goes.  But from some of them it is possible to deduce a few things that seem relevant here (ibid., p. 112.)

Sungenis has advanced this specific patristic citation from St. Basil the Great as the best he has in favor of geocentrism as Catholic doctrine.  As such, it looks like he doesn’t have much.

Posted in Fathers of the Church, Theology |

Aether, Springs, and Light: Physics Blunders in Galileo Was Wrong

by Dr. Alec MacAndrew

1 Introduction

I sometimes browse Mr Robert Sungenis’s Facebook page here, the one called Ask Robert Sungenis about Geocentrism, because the spectacle of a man virtually devoid of education in science giving absurd answers to earnest scientific questions posed by his undiscerning admirers can be very funny.

As it is on the Facebook page here, where Sungenis answered a question about the propagation of light in a “rotating universe”. There is much wrong with his reply, which we’ll get to later, but one very elementary mistake jumped out at me. His reply depends on the existence of a speculative medium, the “geocentric aether”, which he invented and which he believes is needed for the propagation of light. He claimed, among other things, that the speed of light depends on the tension in the aether (don’t worry, we’ll come back later to these claims about how light travels) and he provided an analogy for how he thinks this works.

areteem.org

areteem.org

The analogy he chose is a spring in tension and he gave an expression for the speed of waves along such a spring. His expression is v = T/μ-2 (T is the tension and μ is the mass per unit length of the spring). This is hopelessly wrong – the correct expression is v = √(T/μ). Also, the expression T/μ– 2 is bizarre because it is mathematically awkward – one would usually write it Tμ2 (but perhaps he meant (T/μ)-2, which, although less awkward mathematically, is still wrong so far as the physics goes). Further on, Sungenis claimed that if the tension is 100 times greater, the speed would be “100– 2 or 10 times greater”. This is grotesquely wrong because 100-2 is another way of writing 1/1002 which is 1/10,000 which equals 0.0001. 100-2 is not 10 – it’s not even close. He is out by a factor of 100,000. What’s going on here?

I realised that most of his answer was based very closely on a section in his book, Galileo Was Wrong[1] (GWW) where he used the correct expression for the speed of the wave in a tensioned spring.[2] Then it dawned on me that Sungenis, in transcribing the contents of GWW to the Facebook com-box, had been forced to use exponential notation because the symbol, ‘√’, representing a square root is not available in Facebook comments. Fair enough.

fail_math

educationnews.org

But unbelievably, shamefully, he knows so little about arithmetic notation, indeed far less than a good high-school pupil does, that he thinks x -2 means the square root of x. Not true – of course x -2 doesn’t mean the square root of x – it means 1/x2, the reciprocal of the square of x. The square root of x, written in exponential notation is, of course, x1/2, and so the things he should have written were v = (T/μ)1/2 and 1001/2 (rather than what he did write, v = T/μ-2 and 100-2; the differences are profound). This ought to be within the compass of anyone who has benefitted from a modest general education and yet it is beyond him. This is a man who would overthrow the worlds of physics, astronomy and cosmology – I find it absurd and dispiriting that his vaulting ambition should so overstep his meagre ability. And not one of his followers on the Ask Robert Facebook page picked him up on this latest blunder which we can now add to his long and dismal list of incompetent mistakes.

But this boogaloo is all by way of preamble. Having been led to this section in GWW, I noticed he makes other claims there about the geocentric aether in which he gets the physics exactly backwards, and that is what this article is really all about.

2 Sungenis’s imaginary friend

imaginary-friends

onemixedbag.com

What is this Planck-aether medium of geocentrism that Sungenis bangs on about?[3] Well, he isn’t very clear about it himself, except that its properties are always exactly what he needs them to be in support of geocentrism. He certainly isn’t at all clear about how his Planck-aether can be detected (it hasn’t been, either directly or indirectly), nor how we can know of its existence and measure its properties (the properties can’t be measured, because the thing itself has not been detected).

However, we can infer something about his proposition from his description:

In the geocentric system, a diurnally rotating universe creates tremendous centrifugal forces which, according to Einstein’s own covariance equations, are equivalent to the force of gravity. As such, light traveling in this kind of superdynamic environment can greatly exceed 3 × 10^8 m/sec. As Rosser notes “light can assume any numerical value depending on the strength of the…centrifugal gravitational field” which has “enormous values at large distances.” In the Planck-ether medium of geocentrism, the speed of a transverse wave, such as light, depends on the tension between the Planck particles. [His emphasis and his ellipsis]

The Planck-aether medium of geocentrism is Sungenis’s own invention that consists of a solid plenum of Planck particles, which are highly speculative hypothetical entities that have not been detected either directly or indirectly.[4] The uniform density of Planck particles would be 4.9 x 1091 g/cm3. Such a density would mean that the mass of Sungenis’s aether in one cubic centimetre is a stupendous factor of 1036 more than the ordinary mass in the entire observable universe. There is no known physical phenomenon which depends on their existence.

Note that Sungenis’s Planck-aether is neither the long-abandoned classical luminiferous aether, nor the energy of the vacuum, neither of which have properties anything like that claimed by Sungenis for his Planck-aether.

Working physicists don’t think that Planck particles or a solid aether made of them actually exist. Indeed, the mass-energy density of space is measured to be about 10-29 g/cm3 (about 5 hydrogen atoms per cubic metre), or about 10109 times less than Sungenis’s Planck-aether – direct observational evidence that it doesn’t exist. It’s a complete fantasy.

Wikipedia Commons

Sungenis faces another difficulty: If his Planck-aether is rotating about the Earth, it would be rotating not about the Earth as a point, but about Earth’s polar axis which extends indefinitely away from the Earth into space from the North and South poles. The “centrifugal gravitational field” in a rotating universe does not have “enormous values at large distances” on the axis of rotation – in fact, it is zero, no matter how far away from the Earth you go.[5] So according to Sungenis’s own idea, the speed of light at great distances from the Earth along the polar axis would be the same as it is locally on Earth but it would be hugely greater at great distances on the equatorial plane. This idea is negated by observations, and it violates general covariance. It’s a fantasy.

Sungenis asserts confidently that his invented Planck-aether can “sustain” (whatever that means) “millions of orders of magnitude” greater tension than its tension at the Earth (note: not merely a factor of millions, but millions of orders of magnitude!), that it is “incompressible” at the Earth, that it can be stretched to “great dimensions” and “remain stable”, but that it is “strong” and would take a “tremendous amount of centrifugal force to stretch it”. His aether has “such high granularity” (whatever that means) that it doesn’t “react with baryonic matter” but with “electromagnetic and gravitational activity” (see GWW, Vol 1, page 263).[6] How can he possibly know these things? His claims are vague, unquantified and entirely unsatisfactory to physicists, they arise without rhyme or reason, and he never explains how he has come by them. Their empirical and mathematical foundation remains a mystery. The undeniable fact is that he’s just making it up. His kind of knowledge is like that of a child who just knows her imaginary friend is wearing a blue dress and has brown eyes. It’s a fantasy.

But let’s indulge the fantasy for a while. Let’s temporarily suspend our disbelief and grant Sungenis his aether for a time. Let’s step into his invented world and see whether, even if it existed, it would behave the way he says it would.

3 Twirling the spring

Sungenis uses the analogy of a spring representing his Planck-aether to explain how, in his model, in which the Universe rotates around the Earth, light travels faster the further from the Earth you get. He says:

In the Planck-ether medium of geocentrism, the speed of a transverse wave, such as light, depends on the tension between the Planck particles. The greater the centrifugal force, the greater the tension and thus the greater the speed of light. The inertial force of a rotating universe increases as the distance from the center of mass increases. Consequently, the farther from Earth a star is in a rotating universe, the faster its light can travel toward Earth, the center of the universe. By the time the light reaches the environs of Earth, however, it will be traveling at the minimum speed of 3 × 108 m/sec since the surface of the Earth is at or near the neutral point of the centrifugal force created in a rotating universe. Outside of this locale, light can travel at much greater speeds than 3 × 108 m/sec. Since that is the case, we may be looking at the explosion of supernovae precisely when they occur in deep space.

Wikipedia Commons

We shall not be distracted by Sungenis’s last rhetorical sleight of hand, where he asserts that we could be seeing “supernovae precisely when they occur in deep space”, a prediction which is trivially and obviously wrong for any finite speed of light. Let’s focus on his idea that if the universe is whirling around, the tension in his hypothesised aether is greater as a function of distance owing to centrifugal force, and that the greater tension with distance results in a higher speed of light according to the formula we have seen already, v = √(T/μ). He continues his exposition by comparing the Planck-aether to a spring:

We can grasp this phenomenon intuitively by illustrating the stretching of a metal spring. If we hit the end of an unstretched spring, the vibration will travel to the other end of the spring in a certain time and velocity. If we stretch the spring to about three times its original length, the vibration will travel proportionately faster due to the increased tension in the spring. Likewise, if we whirl the spring around in a circle, the centrifugal force stretches the spring. Similarly, a rotating universe stretches the ether medium within it. The greater the radius of the rotation, the greater the centrifugal force, and thus the greater the tension in the ether medium. This will result in a greater speed for light traveling through that medium.[7]

hanging_slinkyBefore we consider the whirling spring as an analogy for the whirling aether, let’s limber up our thinking muscles by considering a related but simpler case – a spring under tension and extended only by its own weight. In that case, the tension in the spring varies along its length. The greatest tension occurs at the top fixed point of the spring because the entire weight of the spring has to be supported at this point. The least tension, in fact zero tension, occurs at the very bottom end of the spring where there is no mass below to be supported, so there is no tension in the spring at this point (see Fig. 1). Let’s imagine that the spring is a long chain of people, dangling head-down under gravity, holding, desperately for fear of precipitate disaster, on to each other’s feet, with the feet of the guy at the top attached to a rigid platform. The tension in the ankles of the bottom dangler is his own weight – the tension in the ankles of the one at the top is his own weight plus the weight of all the others hanging below him. He’d better be the strongest of them all if they are not to plummet to their deaths. In a similar way it is clear that, for a spring hanging under its own weight, the greatest tension (and extension) is at the top next to the fixed point and the least tension (and extension) is right at the bottom at the free end. So the velocity of a transverse wave will vary along such a spring, being greatest at the top and falling to zero at the bottom.[8]

aether-spring-fig-1-tension-springOK, let’s get a little more complicated and explore what happens when we whirl the spring horizontally around a fixed point. Gravity is no longer relevant but centrifugal force is. Sungenis says:

The greater the radius of the rotation, the greater the centrifugal force, and thus the greater the tension in the aether medium

This is how Sungenis concludes that the speed of light is greater away from the Earth. Is his argument correct? No. In fact, Sungenis has it exactly backwards. It’s true that the case of the whirling spring is a little more complicated than that of the hanging spring. The force exerted by gravity on any element of the hanging spring is the same as every other (it’s just the mass of the element times the acceleration due to gravity), but in the whirling case it also depends on the radial distance of the element from the centre (it’s the mass of the element times its distance from the centre times the square of the angular speed of rotation). However – and this is the important point – the principle, which we have already explored for the hanging case, that the tension is greatest in the centre remains true for the rotating case. An element at the centre, although not experiencing a centrifugal force arising from its own rotation, has the outward force exerted by the entire spring pulling on it, whereas an element at the far end has none of the spring beyond it, no external force to pull on it other than the centrifugal force of its own rotation, and so it is not in tension. The centrifugal force acting along the spring is greatest at the end and zero in the centre, but the tension in the spring is greatest in the centre and zero at the end.[9]

aether-spring-fig-2-tension-per-unitOur analogy of a chain of people works here too. What if we whirl a chain of people around? The guy at the end has no-one else’s centrifugal force to pull on him. The next person in has a smaller centrifugal force acting directly on him than the one on the end, but, in addition, he has to hold on to the feet of the person on the end and is tugged by his force. And so it goes, the strong-man in the centre has little centrifugal force acting directly on him, but has the centrifugal force of everyone else in the chain pulling on him. If he lets go, the entire chain flies off. He is physically (and psychologically) under the greatest tension.

picard-headWhat does this mean for Sungenis’s analogy? Well, if the Planck-aether is like a spring being whirled around then the tension will be greatest in the centre, and that is where the highest wave speed will be, where the tension is highest and the linear density is lowest, near the Earth. In fact, if his hypothesis that light is a transverse wave in the Planck-aether with a speed given by the spring-in-tension formula is correct, and that tension is caused by the centrifugal force of the rotating Planck-aether, then the speed of light would be less the further away from the Earth you go, the complete opposite and contradiction of his claim.

4 Going solid

rotating-disk

livephysics.com

A spring in tension is the analogy that Sungenis has chosen to represent his Planck-aether, but the physics of a spring is that of a one dimensional entity that vibrates in space. Presumably the aether, as Sungenis understands it (remember, Sungenis’s Planck-aether is a made-up fantasy, but we’re indulging it for a while), is a solid three dimensional thing, and in his mind, light is a transverse (shear) bulk wave travelling in it. So a better analogy for the Planck-aether would be a solid uniform rotating disc. Perhaps in this case, the transverse wave speed would be greater at greater radii? Sadly for Sungenis the answer is no – the greatest stress still occurs in the centre. (Stress is force per unit area and is the solid body analogue of tension – we need to consider stress rather than tension when examining the behaviour of solid bodies). This fact is well known to engineers – for example, rapidly rotating turbine blades tend to fail at the root where the stress is greatest, not at the tip.

In the case of a solid rotating disc there are two stresses to consider – radial stress which is the stress acting in a direction from the centre to the periphery and hoop stress which acts around the circumference. The derivation of these stresses in a rotating solid disc is standard physics, available in many textbooks, and the results well-known. The total stress is greatest in the centre, which is where the greatest strain will also be (strain is the distortion of the material as a result of stress). Consequently, the bulk density of the rotating disc will be least in the centre.[10]

picard-double-facepalmThe speed of shear bulk waves in a solid is given by v = √(m/ρ) where m is the shear modulus of the material and ρ is its bulk density. It’s obvious, that even with this better analogy for his aether, the physics gives results in exact contradiction to the way Sungenis would have it. As the stress and strain are tensile and greatest in the centre, so the density would be least there, and thus the velocity of transverse waves would be highest. So, according to this better analogy, as is the case with Sungenis’s own spring analogy, light speed would be greatest at the Earth and would be less the further away you go, exactly the opposite of his claim.

5 Returning to sanity

Our journey through Sungenis’s fantastic world has come to an end, and we must return to humdrum reality. It’s time to abandon the analogy of a whirling spring, an analogy representing the bizarre notion that light consists of transverse waves in a solid, incredibly dense Planck-aether of speculative undetectable particles. Let’s examine other ways in which his hypothesis fails.

Across much of his writing Sungenis and his supporters repeatedly fall into what I call the Great Inconsistency, appealing to the conclusions of General Relativity while vehemently rejecting them (see Here Comes the Sun, p.17, and There He Goes Again, p.2). The section from GWW that we are reviewing is no exception. He quotes W G V Rosser’s review of General Relativity approvingly in spite of the fact that he rejects the theory:

As Rosser notes “light can assume ANY NUMERICAL VALUE depending on the strength of the…centrifugal gravitational field” which has “enormous values at large distances.”

Sungenis is more interested in the rhetorical capital he can make from Rosser’s statements than he is in adopting a self-consistent case for geocentrism. He would have his readers focus on the notion that the “[speed of] light can assume any numerical value” (in other words, in his rhetoric, any value that he needs it to have – his questioner on the Facebook page did indeed succumb to this interpretation), and gloss over the proviso “depending on the strength of the gravitational field”. Sungenis hides or is ignorant of the fact that the gravitational field is weak in a photon’s path from a distant star to the Earth. In the vast reaches of intergalactic space it is very, very much weaker than the gravitational field of the Sun at the Earth. It is somewhat stronger near massive galaxy clusters but only enough to create small perturbations in the photon’s path. It doesn’t affect the propagation of the photon to anywhere near the extent that Sungenis suggests. How do we know this? We know because we can observe the effect of gravitational fields on the light from stars and on the CMB, which causes the light from a single distant event to be deflected and so to appear at slightly different times in slightly different locations (an effect known as gravitational lensing) and to be red- or blue-shifted as it falls into or climbs out of gravitational wells near to large masses such as galaxy clusters (an effect known as the Integrated Sachs-Wolfe effect). Astrophysicists can quantify the size of these effects and deduce the magnitude of the gravitational field along the path of the photon from the star to the Earth – these fields are strong enough to change the arrival time of light from a distant supernova which is nine billion light years away by a few tens of years, but not to change it from 9 billion years to 6,000 years.[11]

And how about Sungenis’s fundamental idea that light consists of mechanical transverse waves in his aether, with the speed of light determined by the spring-in-tension expression for wave speed, v = √(T/μ)? This idea is an unnecessary non-starter because we have known since 1865 that light is an electromagnetic phenomenon and that the speed of light in a vacuum can be derived simply from two electromagnetic constants that were accurately measured in the 1850s. The two constants in question are the permittivity (ε0) and permeability (μ0) of free space[12]. In 1865 James Clerk Maxwell published his seminal paper on electromagnetism On Physical Lines of Force, in which he combined the laws of electricity and magnetism into a single unified theory and laid out the equations which describe electromagnetism. His fundamental formulation is the basis for all physics that involves electrical or magnetic phenomena, including the propagation of light. The speed of light was derived directly from the two constants referred to above which appear in Maxwell’s equations and which had previously been measured: c = 1/√(ε0μ0).

This equation for the speed of light based on the measured electromagnetic constants gives a value equal to the directly measured speed of light, and confirmed the hypothesis that light is an electromagnetic phenomenon. In addition to independent measurements of the two constants, an experiment to measure the ratio 1/√(ε0μ0) directly in an electromagnetic laboratory experiment in 1855 [13] yielded a value for c very close to the measured speed of light.

So, Sungenis’s naïve attempt to create an aether-based mechanical model for the propagation of light not only fails to predict what he wants it to predict, but it is anachronistic, wrong-headed and doomed to failure. It could only have been proposed by someone for whom the physics of electromagnetism and Maxwell’s equations is a deep and abiding mystery.

6 Conclusion

We have seen that Sungenis’s Planck-aether medium of geocentrism is an undetectable fantasy that exists only in his imagination. He plucks various propositions about its properties out of thin air and asserts them with bold but utterly misplaced confidence.

backward gunHe states that light is a transverse wave in his invented medium and that its speed is determined by the tension between the hypothetical particles that make up the medium. He offers the analogy of a rotating spring to explain how the tension in the spring will result in the wave speed being greater away from the centre of rotation, and, by analogy, how the tension in the rotating aether will result in the speed of light being greater away from the Earth. We have seen that he gets the physics exactly backwards, and that the tension and thus the wave speed would be greatest at the centre, which would make the speed of light, according to his own idea, greatest at the Earth and less the further away you go.

Even in the case of a better analogy for Sungenis’s solid Planck-aether, a solid rotating disc, we have seen how the speed of transverse waves is greatest in the centre and less the further from the centre you go.

So Sungenis’s own model of light propagation gives results exactly opposite to what he asserts and what he wants them to be. And this discussion of rotating springs and discs, although entertaining and educational (particularly for Sungenis himself), is moot because light is not a transverse mechanical wave in a fantasy medium, but an electromagnetic phenomenon. The wave nature of light falls naturally out of Maxwell’s well-validated electromagnetic theory and the speed of light is related to two fundamental physical constants of electricity and magnetism measured in the 1800s.

In this and other articles (see here, here, here, and here), I have documented numerous examples of Sungenis’s profound ignorance of quite elementary physics and mathematics. Is any more needed to demonstrate that his physics is bad, his mathematics worse, and his expertise entirely inadequate to the task he has set himself?

 

End Notes:

[1] Galileo Was Wrong, Vol 1, Distant Events: Are They Past or Present?, p.262.

[2] ibid., page 263, reference 462

[3] When I was a post-grad, as a diversion, we made a film in the style of Monty Python. One sketch contained a satirical ditty about the discredited luminiferous aether. Who could foresee that in 2015 someone would actually believe in it? Sing it lustily to the tune of “God Save the Queen”:

In intergalactic space
The aether carries waves of star-origin
dah dah dah dah,

It sends them twinkling, propagated sparkling,

There must be something in empty space.

[4] A Planck particle, an entirely theoretical entity, is a hypothesised black hole, which has a Schwarzschild radius equal to its Compton wavelength. The Planck particle mass would be approximately the Planck mass (3.85 x 10-8 kg) and its Schwarzschild radius would be approximately the Planck length, (5.73 x 10-35 m). They are not thought actually to exist.

[5] The magnitude of the centrifugal force of a body revolving around an axis is given by:

aether-spring-eq-1

where F is the centrifugal force, m the mass of the body, ω the angular speed and r the distance of the body from the axis. For the hypothesis of the rotating aether, the centrifugal force of a body at distance R from the Earth and at angle δ above the equatorial plane, the magnitude of the centrifugal force is:

aether-spring-eq-2

So, for a given distance from the Earth, the centrifugal force would be maximum on the equatorial plane and would fall as cos δ, going to zero on the polar axis where δ = ±90°.

[6] Sungenis asserts that his aether doesn’t “react with baryonic matter” but with “electromagnetic and gravitational activity”. Interestingly, he asserts elsewhere that the aether “absorbs” the tremendous centrifugal force of stars rotating daily at astronomical distances (Answer to Camille Carlisle, p.3). He didn’t explain the mechanism there but now it seems that he thinks the aether doesn’t affect baryonic matter, the constituent of stars. The contradiction between these two evidence-free assertions seems to elude him. As does the contradiction within the very sentence quoted here, that the aether doesn’t “interact with baryonic matter” while “reacting” with “electromagnetic and gravitational activity”.

[7] Sungenis makes a distinct claim that if the spring is stretched to three times its length then the wave will travel proportionately faster due to the increased tension in the spring. In fact, the wave speed depends both on the tension and on the mass per unit length (the linear density) of the spring. Which one of these parameters dominates the wave speed depends on the stiffness of the spring, i.e. how much it extends for a given force. For a very stiff spring, one that requires a large force to achieve even a small extension (like a guitar string for example – the physics of transverse waves in tensioned springs and strings is identical), then the wave speed will depend mainly on the tension. Its length and thus its mass per unit length changes only very slightly. However for a spring with very low stiffness which is easily stretched with little force, like a slinky, the change in mass per unit length dominates. If we stretch a slinky by a factor of three, its mass per unit length also falls by a factor of three and this dominates the wave speed as the change in tension is minimal. So whether it’s the increase in tension or the reduction in mass per unit length that dominates depends on the stiffness. How does this affect Sungenis’s aether? Well, we don’t and we can’t know, and neither can he, because no-one can have any rational idea about a medium that is a pure fantasy and that has never been and cannot be detected in any way. We don’t and can’t know what its stiffness is and so we can’t say what effect stretching it will have.

[8] At any point r along the hanging spring, T is given by the weight of the spring itself below the point.

aether-spring-eq-3

for a stiff spring, where T is tension, R is the length of the spring, g is the acceleration due to gravity on Earth and μ is the mass per unit length. For a stiff spring v ∝ √T, but for a spring which extends significantly under its own weight the wave speed depends both on T and on μ, but in all cases the speed is greatest at the top.

[9] At any point r along the whirling spring the tension is the integral of the centrifugal force acting on each element beyond the point:

aether-spring-eq-4

 

where T is tension, R is the length of the spring, μ is the mass per unit length and ω is the angular speed of the rotation. So the tension falls as the square of the radius from the centre. It is maximum at the centre where r = 0 and falls to zero at the end where r = R.

[10] For a solid rotating disc the stresses at a point r from the centre are given by:

aether-spring-eq-5

 

 

where σr and σH are radial and hoop stresses respectively, R is the radius of the disc, ρ its bulk density and ν the Poisson ratio of the material. The maximum stress occurs in the centre, where the radial and hoop stresses are equal:

aether-spring-eq-6

 

The maximum strain also occurs in the centre, according to Hooke’s law, and thus the density is lowest in the centre.

[11] See, for example, Kelly et al, Multiple Images of a Highly Magnified Supernova Formed by an Early-Type Cluster Galaxy Lens, http://arxiv.org/abs/1411.6009

[12] The permittivity of free space, ε0, is a constant in Coulomb’s law which governs the force between two separated electrical charges. The permeability of free space, μ0, is a constant in Ampère’s force law which governs the force per unit length between two parallel conductors carrying a current.

[13] This experiment was conducted by Wilhelm Weber and Rudolf Kohlrausch in 1855. See Joseph Keithley, The Story of Electrical and Magnetic Measurements, ISBN 0-7803-1193-0, p.115 et seq

Posted in Credibility, Science |

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.

www.redbubble.com

www.redbubble.com

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.

www.britannica.com

www.britannica.com

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 |