Madness: The Geocentric “Defense” On Plagiarism

O, that way madness lies;

let me shun that;

No more of that.1

Understanding plagiarism is very simple. You may not present somebody else’s work as if it were your own. Period. It’s dishonest. Most people readily understand this concept. Apparently, the new geocentrists do not.

My article “Top Geocentrists Caught Plagiarizing” predictably flustered the new geocentrists. If you haven’t already, I’d suggest that you read that article first (along with Alec MacAndrew’s excellent “Geocentric Physics: Is That All You’ve Got?”). Then, if you still decide to wade through Sungenis’s 41 page “rebuttal” to the charges of plagiarism (“David Palm Falsely Accusing Opponents of Plagiarism”), carefully re-read our articles again afterwards, and consider whether they actually say and convey what Sungenis, et al. claim that they do.

I think that you’ll find that the original articles stand essentially untouched by the geocentrists and certainly doesn’t warrant their wild charges and breathless protestation – salted with personal insults and warnings of hellfire.

Alec MacAndrew has done a great job responding to their “defense” concerning their scientific blunders, mathematical errors, plagiarism, and more in his new article, “The Folly of Defending the Indefensible”. Here I certainly won’t be responding to Sungenis’s screed line by line—it’s too ridiculous for that. But I think it might at least be worthwhile to explain why the core of their “defense” against the charge of plagiarism is entirely without merit.

Robert Sungenis

As I predicted he might, Sungenis first sought to push the responsibility for his plagiarism off onto one Dr. Milenko Bernadic. But that won’t fly because Sungenis presented the material in question as his own work.   In the footnote to the section “The Geocentric Lagrange Points”, he merely, “thanks” Dr. Bernadic for his “help”.   It’s weird to have to point this out to a person who touts his alleged, scholarly credentials, but this is not a recognized citation at all. Anybody with at least a high school diploma can see that this is not equivalent to saying that what follows is actually Bernadic’s work. So unless he explicitly said otherwise—which he did not—Sungenis presented this work as his own. And the first page and a half of that section is plagiarized from Dr. Neil Cornish.

Sungenis then tried to exonerate Dr. Bernadic from the charge of plagiarism by claiming it’s not plagiarism because the material in question only involves “equations”, which are common to all physicists/mathematicians. Sungenis quotes Bernadic’s reply:

Robert, the heliocentrists always make the same mistake: they believe that heliocentrism is the only solution to the observed phenomena. As a result, they think that they are owners of the equations (“Falsely Accusing”, p. 23).

No, Dr. Bernadic, it isn’t about just the equations. That’s an absurd excuse. It’s about the equations set amidst the text and illustration, all of which were copied from Dr. Cornish without attribution. That’s plagiarism. Period.

As for the other examples of Sungenis’s plagiarism that I documented in Appendix 1, he dismissed them all by stating, “We’ve already seen Appendix 1. It doesn’t have anything of substance.” The glaring problem is that Sungenis failed to interact in any substantive way with any of the examples I cited there; so it seems he’s hoping the reader will just take his word for it and not look behind the curtain. I again invite the reader to examine the numerous documented instances in that appendix, displayed in columns of parallel text (see them here). The plagiarism is clear and it is habitual.

Gerardus Bouw:

Certainly, Dr. Gerardus Bouw was the greatest offender in this matter. We pointed out that the lesser example is the five pages he copied from Dr. Neil Cornish. He and Sungenis seem to think that they found some sort of “gotcha” on the matter of whether Bouw cited the article by Cornish. Bouw says, “I certainly did credit Cornish and even credited Goodman, whom our critic does not mention. I even gave the link to their paper.” And Sungenis asks:

Sungenis: Did you catch that? The very person Palm and MacAndrew claim that Bouw plagiarizes (Neil Cornish) is the very person that Bouw cites in his article as the “source.” How could Mr. Palm dismiss this? Who knows? (“Falsely Accusing”, p. 3).

Sungenis even reproduced that page of Bouw’s work, with a little arrow pointing to the reference to Cornish.

Unfortunately, it’s obvious that Bouw and Sungenis weren’t reading very carefully because both MacAndrew and I explicitly noted that Bouw had “referenced” Cornish, even right in the verbiage that Sungenis himself cited. But the far more serious point we made is that Bouw indiscriminately mingled his own words and those of Cornish. I wrote, “Bouw sandwiches Cornish’s material between introductory and concluding text of his own without any distinction,” and MacAndrew wrote, “Bouw does nothing to distinguish between his words and Cornish’s – no quotation marks, no italics, no indentation.”

Neither Sungenis nor Bouw interacted with this problem at all.

Bouw’s introductory text, which flows directly into Cornish’s text without any distinction, is enough to give the clear impression of, “Intentionally representing the words, ideas, or sequence of ideas of another as one’s own” (link), i.e. plagiarism. And on further examination it turns out that Bouw did not simply copy Cornish verbatim. He changed the order of the text with respect to an illustration; he tweaked the text here and there in a geocentric direction without any indication that the changes were his. He also copied five of the eight pages of Cornish’s work, which is ridiculously beyond what “fair use” laws would permit. (Humorously, as part of his own “defense”, Robert Bennett provided detailed definitions of the fair use laws, thus indicting his own confrere, Dr. Bouw.)

The point is that when you cite a source, you must clearly distinquish the source material from your own work so as not to give the impression that the work is yours. You may not simply alter the text and illustrations without indication. You place the citation at the end of the material that you have cited as distinct from your own (Bouw put the citation on the header to the whole section.) And you may use only a fair amount of text according to the fair use laws. As Sungenis’ own alma mater explains, failing to do so amounts to “literary burglary.”

Now, again, we have to ask ourselves: why should anyone have to explain these basic and obvious points to a man with a Ph.D., a former career as a college professor, a man who seeks to overturn centuries of scientific consensus? Doesn’t he already know these things?

But MacAndrew and I pointed out that the most egregious plagiarism was from F. R. Moulton; 18 pages of equations, illustrations, and text doctored to give them a geocentric twist. Strangely, both Bouw and Sungenis fixate on whether the copyright of Moulton’s work had expired. This is completely irrelevant—neither Dr. MacAndrew nor I said anything about a copyright violation with regard to Moulton’s work, so that’s a red herring. The mere fact that the copyright had expired does not give Dr. Bouw or anyone the right to utilize the text, equations, and illustrations without attributing them to Moulton. It’s still plagiarism, even if the work isn’t copyrighted anymore. Again, this is all high school level stuff here.

Bouw’s other “defense” against this more egregious example of plagiarism was to claim that his work wasn’t finished: “This is one of the problems that arises when an incomplete work is published” (“Falsely Accusing”, p. 3). Of course, one must still give proper attribution even in “incomplete” works, so this “defense” is no defense at all. What’s more, Bouw gave no indication that that this work was “incomplete”; quite the contrary, he insisted that:

Bob Sungenis invited me to derive a geocentric solution within the framework of the theory of geocentricity. Our purpose was to derive a viable geocentric framework for the 3-body problem. We were successful and this paper is the fruit of our labors (“A Geocentric Solution to the Three-Body Problem”, p. 1; emphasis mine.)

That certainly sounds like a finished product, doesn’t it? Bouw then claimed that, “I made no secret of using Moulton, both Hanson and Frank Wolff knew that I was doing so” (“Falsely Accusing”, p. 3). But he certainly did make it a secret to the readers of his “successful” “geocentric solution”. The work contains no reference to Moulton, at all.

Nothing Dr. Bouw offered in his defense clears him from having blatantly plagiarized material from Neil Cornish and F. R. Moulton.

And again, the extensive copying of Cornish and Moulton naturally raises the question of competence. If Dr. Bouw is so competent a scientist that he is qualified to challenge a massive, centuries-long scientific consensus, then why does he need to steal other peoples’ work? Why was he unable to do the work himself?

Robert Bennett:

But it is Dr. Bennett’s defense of his own plagiarism that runs closest to outright madness. Near the start he declares quite boldly what he was doing:

In order to introduce these topics to said general reader, I used the most succinct quotes found on the Internet and edited them for irrelevant material and simplified some technical phrasing (“Falsely Accusing”, p. 6).

And basically you can stop right there. Yes, Dr. Bennett, that’s exactly what you did. And when you do that but don’t cite your sources, it’s plagiarism.

But he insists that, “I believe that the manner of use of the quoted texts is standard practice for scientific publishing” (ibid.). Well, he may believe that, but he is factually wrong; there is no such “standard practice.” The rules for scientific publishing are the same as for any other kind of publishing—you may not present somebody else’s work as if it were your own. Oddly, the proof is found in the very source that Bennett sought to use in his defense: “Guideline 3: We must always acknowledge every source that we use in our writing; whether we paraphrase it, summarize it, or enclose it quotations” (Plagiarism of Text).

Bennett then went into a rambling and completely irrelevant defense based on the supposed lack of originality in the works from which he plagiarized. Next, he cited the web site of the Office of Research Integrity thus:

…..As a general working definition, ORI considers plagiarism to include both the theft or misappropriation of intellectual property and the substantial unattributed textual copying of another’s work (ORI Policy on Plagiarism).

How Dr. Bennett thinks this information actually helps him is a mystery, because this is precisely what he did and the ORI calls it “plagiarism”. Then Bennett cited a larger section:

Substantial unattributed textual copying of another’s work means the unattributed verbatim or nearly verbatim copying of sentences and paragraphs which materially mislead the ordinary reader regarding the contributions of the author. . . . ORI generally does not pursue the limited use of identical or nearly-identical phrases which describe a commonly-used methodology or previous research because ORI does not consider such use as substantially misleading to the reader or of great significance (ORI Policy on Plagiarism).

So according to ORI, Bennett’s own source, the limited borrowing of individual phrases may be okay. But “the unattributed verbatim or nearly verbatim copying of sentences and paragraphs which materially mislead the ordinary reader regarding the contributions of the author” (my emphasis) is plagiarism. And that’s precisely what he did. The examples I cited from Bennett were “unattributed verbatim or nearly verbatim”, were “sentences and paragraphs” in length, and misled the reader as to Bennett’s contribution since he presented the material as his own. So, according to his own source, he plagiarized.

At this point, it’s perhaps worth recalling again that Dr. Bennett served as both the evaluator and academic advisor for Robert Sungenis’s purported “doctoral dissertation.”

The ORI web site has this additional information about plagiarism:

Copying a portion of text from one or more sources, inserting and/or deleting some of the words, or substituting some words with synonyms, but never giving credit to its author nor enclosing the verbatim material in quotation marks.

The above form of plagiarism is relatively well known and has been given names, such as patchwriting (Howard, 1999) and paraphragiarism (Levin & Marshall, 1993). Iverson, et al. (1998) in the American Medical Association’s Manual of Style identify this type of unethical writing practice as mosaic plagiarism and they define it as follows:

“Mosaic: Borrowing the ideas and opinions from an original source and a few verbatim words or phrases without crediting the original author. In this case, the plagiarist intertwines his or her own ideas and opinions with those of the original author, creating a ‘confused plagiarized mass'” (p. 104).

Another, more blatant form which may also constitute plagiarism of ideas occurs when an author takes a portion of text from another source, thoroughly paraphrases it, but never gives credit to its author (Plagiarism of Text).

This is precisely what Mr. Sungenis/Dr. Bernadic, Dr. Bouw, and Dr. Bennett have done in their writing on geocentrism (and in the case of Sungenis on other topics.) On a practical level, I can understand their reluctance to admit this. It’s embarrassing, after all. But their attempted defense of the indefensible – replete with baseless, personal insults and condemnations – was repugnant.

Bringing this back to the most salient point of all, the reader should again ask himself: If the geocentrists are as competent in the fields of physics and astrophysics as they claim—so competent and honest that you should trust them instead of virtually the entire scientific community—then why do they resort to stealing and/or altering large chunks of other people’s work in order to make their case?


1 Shakespeare, King Lear Act 3, scene 4, 17–22