Geocentric dalliance

Phil Plait watches a silly documentary so that you don’t have to. All right not the documentary itself but the trailer for it. This one is about geocentrism, the idea that the earth is the center of the universe. (That really is silly. I’m the center of the universe.)

The trailer does seem to be making a case for Geocentrism (it’s mentioned specifically), but given the title, I would guess they’re going to try to make a broader point that the Universe itself was made—created, if you will—purposely for us. This idea (broadly speaking) is called the strong anthropic principle (hence the doco title), and as a philosophy it’s not terribly informative. It’s fun to think about in a limited sense, but in the end it always boils down to “God did it,” which is slamming a door in the face of exploration and inquiry. 

That’s what I mean about theism having a built-in obstacle to wanting to understand how the world works. Of course not all theists believe in the strong anthropic principle, but the temptation is always there.

I’ll note that the guy who made this documentary, Robert Sungenis, has been promoting this flavor of nonsense for a while now. I wrote about a Geocentrism conference he ran a few years back (called, seriously, “Galileo Was Wrong, the Church Was Right”). To give you an idea of the guy we’re talking about here, he has a history of saying anti-Semitic things and also of making Holocaust denial claims (and you can find more lovely things about him here). That would fit with the conspiratorial tone of some of the movie trailer, too.

So I expect this movie/documentary will be more of this same flavor of nonsense. We’ll see. As I’ve said before, the path of reality is narrow, and once you step off it, all manners of silliness seem equally plausible.

I like that: the path of reality is narrow. That’s very good. Narrow is the way and strait is the gate. The steep and thorny way versus the primrose path. Beware the primrose path of silliness.



  1. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    A little note from Kate Mulgrew (Capt. Janeway, Star Trek Voyager) who narrated the trailer…

    “I understand there has been some controversy about my participation in a documentary called THE PRINCIPLE. Let me assure everyone that I completely agree with the eminent physicist Lawrence Krauss, who was himself misrepresented in the film, and who has written a succinct rebuttal in SLATE. I am not a geocentrist, nor am I in any way a proponent of geocentrism. More importantly, I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary. I was a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that. I apologize for any confusion that my voice on this trailer may have caused.” – Kate Mulgrew, on Facebook

  2. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    Ah, my bad. I see Phil added a link to that as an update to the article.

  3. RJW says

    “….that the Universe itself was made—created, if you will—purposely for us. This idea (broadly speaking) is called the strong anthropic principle”

    According to Wiki,

    “In astrophysics and cosmology, the anthropic principle (from Greek anthropos, meaning “human”) is the philosophical consideration that observations of the physical Universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it.” Of course.

    How does that imply a creator, or that the universe was created “purposely for us”? I’d agree that it’s not very informative, on reflection it appears to be a ‘deepity’.

  4. says

    @ 3 RJW

    The anthropic principle is just circular reasoning.

    The weak anthropic principle is: the universe is what it is because we are available to observe it in it’s present state. In other words, existence is it’s own proof.

    The strong anthropic principle is: the universe is the way it is because it could not be any other way for us special little snowflakes to exist.

  5. Silentbob says

    @ 3 RJW, 4 Ophelia Benson

    The Wikipedia quote is correct, but that’s the Weak Anthropic Principle. The Strong Anthropic Principle holds that the universe must contain conscious observers in order to exist. (The terms were coined by cosmologist Brandon Carter in the 70s.)

    It’s not a religious idea, it comes from the same place as Schrodinger’s Cat – a philosophical extrapolation of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanical experiments conducted in the 20th century. The Copenhagen Interpretation holds that the nature and position of subatomic particles is unmanifest until they are observed. If not observed they exist in a superposition of probabilities – neither one thing nor the other. This is consistent with experiment. Since the universe is composed of subatomic particles the idea can be extrapolated to the entire universe. The universe exists only as a superposition of all possible universes until observed. Thus observation makes the universe manifest. (Scientific consensus no longer favours the Copenhagen Interpretation.)

    That said, the Strong Anthropic Principle says nothing about a creator, or the universe having a purpose. I think this is a case of theists subverting scientific ideas to support their theism much as they did with the Big Bang Theory – ‘Aha! Science has proved there was a moment of creation… therefore God!’.

  6. RJW says

    @6 Silentbob,

    “..the Strong Anthropic Principle says nothing about a creator, or the universe having a purpose.”

    Yes, that was my argument. I’ll leave the anthropic principles, whether weak, strong or medium to the philosophers, or is it ‘philosophical cosmologists’.

    Can’t help asking this question– If “The universe exists only as a superposition of all possible universes until observed.”, how does it (the universe) produce conscious observers?

  7. jesse says

    To be clear there’s a lively debate among cosmologists about whether the universe is one of a bunch of random universes — that is could physical laws take on any value — or if there’s some overarching principle that limits them to certain ranges. That is, does the fine structure constant have to be 1/137 or could it be something else? Stuff like that. The universe does seem awfully finely tuned, in the sense that there’s little room for “error” in fundamental constants, at least in our universe.

    However, as it turns out there are other ways to do chemistry, for instance, if certain constants were different. So it may be that there are multiple ranges for different kinds of chemistry and physics. And it’s an open question as to whether there are an infinite number of universes. Personally, I’d offer that if there are an infinite number of universes then at least one would have to be amenable to life, and in fact there would be an infinite number that are just like ours, more or less. But that doesn’t answer the question as to why our physical laws turned out as they did.

    None of this implies a creator or anything like that, though.

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