Wait, this is about tradcaths?

I almost didn’t watch this video because, well, look at the thumbnail. It’s about Lawrence Krauss? No thank you very much. But it’s not about Krauss at all, so it’s OK!

It’s actually all about these wacky Traditional Catholics with more money than sense who cunningly put together a movie, a real movie/documentary, with real scientists cleverly questioned to make statements they could splice together to imply that they supported geocentrism. So it’s about how some kooks fooled Lawrence Krauss!

The highlight for me, though, is when the creators are in a conference with Michael Voris, the whirlpool guy. And best of all, they go to a flat earth conference to tell everyone there that they were nuts to believe the Earth was flat, but they were exactly right to claim that the sun orbits around the Earth. Even fanatical Catholic science deniers laugh at flat-earthers!

Anyway, recommended — there’s also useful information about how pseudoscientists manipulate the truth to support their delusions.


  1. wzrd1 says

    At least the harmony of the spheres lead to the discovery of orbital resonance.

    Heliocentrism was initially impossible to prove, as parallax measurements of stars wasn’t verifiably measurable until 1838. Interestingly, being surprisingly accurate, given the technology at the time, showing one reference star being 10.3 light years away, the most current measurement revealing a distance of 11.4 light years away!

  2. gijoel says

    @3 Fucking typical.

    Funny how traditional Catholics seem to think that disproving heliocentricism was the only reason people broke away from the Catholic church, and not the corruption, abuse of power, and hypocritical sexual abuse of our most vulnerable.

  3. zetopan says

    And then there are those outright crimes that the catholic church has been involved in so much of the time. Who knew that some people don’t actually want to fund or be part of a criminal organization?
    etc. A complete list is essentially endless.

  4. zetopan says

    Bible believers insisting that the Earth isn’t flat don’t even understand their bibles (there are over 100 different versions of those flat Earth publications and over 45,000 different christian cults). Even the christian god Jesus was a flat Earther and all of the biblical books are fully consistent with flat Earthism, to the obvious embarrassment to “modern” believers. As Asimov pointed out long ago, true believers will squeeze symbolism out of primitive biblical passages that eventually become too embarrassing to defend anymore as general knowledge increases.

  5. chrislawson says


    Yep. The idea that people left the church because of heliocentrism is the wrong way around. Actually the church cracked down on heliocentrism because people were leaving. Copernicus’s book was not suppressed when it was published in 1543, it was even championed by several powerful cardinals and bishops. By the time Galileo wrote about his telescope findings in 1610, the Protestant Secession was a major existential threat to the church’s power, and the church was in hardcore Counter-Reformation mode.

    Between Copernicus and Galileo, there had been the Council of Trent, the excommunication of Queen Elizabeth, and the French Wars of Religion. The church’s stance had changed from vaguely liberal — Copernicus’s Revolutions was dedicated to the Pope while its preface was written by a Lutheran preacher! — to strict orthodoxy enforced with state violence.

  6. chrislawson says


    Yes, the final irrefutable evidence for heliocentrism was stellar parallax which we did not have the instruments to measure until the early 19th century, but it was really the only viable model after Galileo. His observations of the moons of Jupiter and the phases of Venus meant that the geocentric model was flat out wrong. And the response by geocentrists was to either insist that telescope observations should be ignored, or to create a bizarre mixed model where moons orbited planets, and planets orbited the Sun, except for the Earth which was still the axis on which the Sun orbited.

    Essentially what they created was a monstrous chimera of two incompatible models where everything was heliocentric apart from the Earth itself. There was no physical or mathematical basis for this model, just the urge to preserve their Biblical beliefs from the obvious implications of the evidence. (And as it turned out, the church eventually abandoned this particular Biblical belief anyway, demonstrating that it had never really been an essential feature of Catholic faith, it was just a power play.)

    Today we know that even heliocentrism is not the ideal model. The entire solar system revolves around the mean of its masses, the barycentre, and very occasionally when the larger planets align closely, the barycentre moves outside the surface of the sun.

  7. anxionnat says

    Interesting. I didn’t know til now that that’s the catholic cult I grew up in. I was only a small child during Vatican 2, but I do remember the wild sermons, denouncing what the priests in my family’s church called “communism.” I also remember being told that heaven was “up there” (pointing at the ceiling) and hell was “down there” (pointing at the floor.). When I asked if that meant heaven and hell were in outer space–everybody had seen pictures of John Glenn in his Mercury space capsule–I got tossed out of catechism class for asking “impertinent questions”, meaning questions they couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. My family’s church employed only priests who would say the mass in Latin–at least til 1970. So, yeah, pretty trad, for those times. Even in 2009, they were still teaching the same stuff, and talked in the same vein as the film reviewed here, at my mother’s funeral. I’ve known for a long time that it was a cult, but had no idea that it was an actual organized thing, as depicted here.

  8. ajwade says

    The way to model the solar system motions would be as a hierarchy: The sun orbits the common barycentre with Jupiter, that barycentre in turn orbits the barycentre with Saturn, that barycentre in turn orbits the barycentre with Uranus and that barycentre in turn orbits the barycentre with Neptune. Basically the modern version of epicycles, and it’ll be pretty accurate in the medium term. Long term orbital precession will throw things off a bit, and in the really long term the motion of the planets is straight up chaotic which is not captured at all in this model.

  9. KG says


    Actually, Galileo was persecuted more because he was believed to have been rude about the Pope (the character “Simplicio” in his Dialogo was though to be a caricature of Pope Urban VIII, formerly a friend and patron, although it’s not certain Galileo intended that), and for trying to tell the Church how to interpret the Bible (this is closely related to the intra-Christian spats known as the Reformation and Counter-Reformation to which you draw attention), than for heliocentrism as such. And he couldn’t prove his model, particularly as (unlike his contemporary Kepler) he still thought of orbits as circular, so still needed the same sort of fudge factors as the geocentrists to make his model work. Nor is there any particular reason to be sniffy about Tycho Brahe’s model in which the sun and moon revolved around the earth, while the other planets (the sun and moon were considered planets) revolved around the sun – lacking modern concepts of inertia and gravity, it wasn’t at all clear how a moving earth model could work. I recommend this article, and others on the same site as a counter to the Enlightenment-era myths about Galileo’s life and work.

  10. chrislawson says

    KG — look, I know that Galileo was not some scientific freedom fighter, that his egotism made him stick to some theories that he should have abandoned (his tidal theory was especially flawed and his refusal to even consider elliptical orbits is only fathomable in the light of his egocentrism — it would have solved many of the problems in his system), and that he was foolish to call his Aristotlean mouthpiece Simplicio, but the fact remains that the key thing the church could not tolerate was people claiming heliocentrism was true and this was because it clashed with biblical literalism.

    It’s not like this all happened in an instant. 22 years passed between Galileo publishing The Starry Messenger, which started the whole controversy rolling, and The Two Worlds which is what got him hauled before the Inquisition.

    In that time he was attacked for promoting heliocentrism by numerous church figures. The professor of philosophy at Pisa accused Galileo of heresy in front of his patron Christina of Lorraine (to make this even more cowardly, Galileo wasn’t even present at the time and all the accusations were levelled at a former student of Galileo’s who happened to be visiting the court). His writings were referred to the Inquisition in 1616 which concluded that heliocentrism was “foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture” and ordered Galileo to “abandon completely” his heliocentric opinions. And to really show how much the political situation had changed, it now banned Copernicus’s Revolutions, 73 years after publication, until it could be edited to insist that heliocentrism was merely a mathematical model and was not to be considered true in any physical sense.

    All this happened between 1610 and 1616. Galileo got the message and stopped talking about heliocentrism…up until his old friend and admirer Cardinal Berberini became Pope in 1623. Berberini had opposed Galileo’s 1616 censure, and now he specifically asked Galileo to write a book about the arguments for and against heliocentrism provided it was treated as a mathematical hypothesis only. Which Galileo set about writing, slowly, and published in 1632. It seems clear that Galileo thought he was following the Pope’s instructions, but of course Galileo he made the arguments too forcefully and it came across as emphatically pro-heliocentrist and anti-Aristotlean, and although there is no direct documentation, it is very likely that his decision to put some of the Pope’s arguments in the mouth of a character called Simplicio ended up insulting the Pope. And most people know the story from there.

    So rather than the Galileo affair being predominantly about his insult to the Pope, it was the culmination of two decades of anti-heliocentric agitation by conservative forces in the church. Yes, Galileo’s incredibly ill-considered phrasings contributed, but this entire issue would never have happened if not for religious objections to heliocentrism. Galileo was just as abrasive on many other topics, but they weren’t the ones he got in trouble over. Nobody was going to drag him through the Inquisition because of his opinions on geometry, even if he had directly insulted the Pope in the process.

    And as for the Tychonic model, why did the contemporary limitations in the understanding of gravity and motion that were a problem for geocentrism not also apply to geo-heliocentrism? Galileo argued that the tides were evidence of the rotation of the Earth (yes, he was wrong about that, but it made more sense than anything that could be explained by a stationary Earth under geocentrism or Tychonism) and he was forced to change the title of Two Worlds (it was originally intended to be published under the title Dialogue on the Ebb and Flow of the Sea, but the Inquisition didn’t want to acknowledge the argument in the title!).

    Finally, although I agree with a lot in that essay you linked to, ut I think it’s absolutely pathetic of the author to state that Galileo was a scientific nobody going nowhere before The Starry Messenger — professor of mathematics at one of the great universities of Europe and about to publish his foundational work on dynamics is hardly “stuck in the same rather lowly position for the last eighteen years…on the down hill slope to ill health, death and anonymity.” Talk about poisoning the well.

  11. KG says


    I’m certainly not defending the Catholic Church’s persecution of Galileo. Whatever the exact importance of different factors, his main offence was seen as challenging the authority of the Church.

    And as for the Tychonic model, why did the contemporary limitations in the understanding of gravity and motion that were a problem for geocentrism not also apply to geo-heliocentrism?

    The contemporary limitations in the understanding of gravity and motion were a problem for heliocentrism – because it implied the earth was whizzing through space – not for either geocentrism (for which the phases of Venus were the greatest problem) or Brahe’s model.

    However great Padua was as a university, Galileo was certainly keen to move to Florence, and he hadn’t at that point published his work on dynamics.

  12. Owlmirror says

    The way to model the solar system motions would be as a hierarchy: The sun orbits the common barycentre with Jupiter, that barycentre in turn orbits the barycentre with Saturn, [. . . etc . . .]

    Yeah, but the problem, as I’m sure you know, is that that ignores the barycenter of Jupiter-Saturn, and Jupiter-Uranus, and Saturn-Uranus, and Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus (and so on). . .

    The reason the n-body problem is unsolved is because the number of things that need to be tracked, and their changes over time, increases ridiculously fast even when n is as low as 3.

    I seem to recall that, when read very closely, the “geocentric” arguments rely on relativity (“no preferred system”), and the fact that Galileo was not correct about absolutely everything about astronomy and physics (so “Galileo was wrong!”, in the same way that “Darwin was wrong!” — ie, both needed correction by later physics/astronomy and later biology). Therefore, the Tychonian system is “just as good” as the heliocentric one.

    The reliance on relativity can be dismissed by pointing out that the same logic means that a ball being dropped can be modeled just as correctly as the ball staying still and the Earth rushing up to meet it. The motions involved can be modeled in more than one way on the one hand, but on the other, the physical fact is that the center-of-mass of the Earth-ball system is deep inside the Earth.

    I suspect that if pressed on the issue of the size, mass, and distance of the Sun and the Earth, geocentrists would either have to agree that the center-of-mass of the Earth-Sun system is inside the Sun (and the center-of-mass of the solar system is closest to the Sun than to any other body in the Solar System) — or else dispute an actual known fact about physics.

  13. PaulBC says

    It’s telling that Newton could nail down once and for all what you needed to predict all the observable celestial motion and remain a Christian religious zealot, albeit unorthodox.

    Newton was born in 1643, a year after Galileo died (I wouldn’t know but I just looked it up). Kepler (1571-1630) was a contemporary, and I am still confused about what made Galileo’s views more of a problem, though I guess Kepler did not have to deal with the Catholic church (or not as much).

    I’m not very interested in relitigating this. I think a lot of the folklore around Galileo comes from the need to find heroes. He strikes me more as an innovative scientist who made some political missteps, probably out of naivety, and then backed out of them the way most people will do when subject to threats to their life. Maybe that makes him a hero to those of us who want to “live to fight another day.”

  14. Rob Grigjanis says

    PaulBC @19:

    It’s telling that Newton could nail down once and for all what you needed to predict all the observable celestial motion…

    Newton knew that the planets would interact with each other, resulting in deviations from Keplerian ellipses, but he thought that occasional divine intervention was necessary to maintain stability. It wasn’t until Laplace and his perturbational techniques, used with Newton’s law, that stability to first order in the planetary masses was confirmed.

  15. pilgham says

    @18 “Man, Dan Olson (Folding Ideas) is on a roll of late.”

    Not much to add, I just think your comment bears repeating. Folding Ideas’ videos are always worth watching. I’m sorry it took 18 comments for someone to name the author of the video.

  16. jrkrideau says

    @ 14 chrislawson
    The Church was opposed to changing “doctrine” on geocentrism without very good reason. He had already been warned about this back in 1615-18.

    Besides accidentally insulting an increasingly paranoid Pope [1] this is what he did. Galileo was advocating a change in doctrine without decent proof. His real problem in terms of a heliocentric theory was that “his” hypothesis stank. It postulated one tide a day. Oops.

    The Church was not committed to a literal reading of the bible like some 20th US fundamentalist. It just was not about to change things until there was some good reason and Galileo did not present one.

    A excerpt from Cardinal Bellarmine’s letter to Carmelite provincial Paolo Foscarini:

    I say that if there were a true demonstration that the sun was in the center of the universe and the earth in the third sphere, and that the sun did not travel around the earth but the earth circled the sun, then it would be necessary to proceed with great caution in explaining the passages of Scripture which seemed contrary, and we would rather have to say that we did not understand them than to say that something was false which has been demonstrated.But I do not believe that there is any such demonstration; none has been shown to me.

    Bellarime to Foscarini, 1615

    1, Given the political situation at the time Pope Urban had good reason to be paranoid.

  17. PaulBC says

    Am I mistaken in thinking this is the same Bellarmine they name Jesuit prep schools after? (one in San Jose, CA). I find that a little disturbing.

    The nearby city of Cupertino, CA is known for its high-performing public schools. I don’t think it was named after St. Joseph of Cupertino, but it would be great if it was. He was known for two things: he was not very bright, but would study all he could and pray to God that the test would cover just the part that he had managed to memorize. He would also levitate uncontrollably sometimes due to religious ecstasy.

    As saints go, I far prefer a mystic to an inquisitor. (I’ve used the same study technique myself, though counting more on good fortune than prayer.)

    Actually I do have a favorite Jesuit, namely Matteo Ricci, one of the few missionaries (of that time) who actually bothered to learn the culture of the people he was “converting.” I don’t think he’s been canonized though.

  18. mnb0 says

    Unfortunately for PZ and others heliocentrism is as stupid as geocentrism. It’s totally possible to use a model with the Sun revolving around the Earth. Galilean transformations totally apply to rotational movements. Our Universe nor our Solar System contains any fixed centre of orbiting; we are free to choose one as the origin of a reference frame according to our wishes an needs.
    Everybody who maintains that “heliocentrism can be proven since 1838” is as much a science denier as the quacks who made this video.

  19. Rob Grigjanis says

    mnb0 @24:

    It’s totally possible to use a model with the Sun revolving around the Earth.

    Sure, and it’s totally possible to use a model in which the Earth is spinning around a person on a merry-go-round. But that would be stupid.

  20. Rob Grigjanis says

    In case my point wasn’t clear; the laws of physics are simplest in inertial frames of reference. In non-inertial frames (accelerating linearly, or rotating), one has to introduce fictitious forces to explain motion. So we quite sensibly choose inertial frames as our reference frames*, or as close to inertial as possible. A heliocentric model comes close to achieving this for the Solar System.

    *And of course that depends on context; the particular system under consideration (e.g. Milky Way, Solar System, Earth-Moon, a lab on Earth, etc).

  21. PaulBC says

    @26 I thought your point was clear enough. Just to be an asshole, I will add that maybe you’re interested in what happens to someone drinking a cup of coffee on a merry-go-round, e.g. how they can drink it without spilling it, in which case, a non-inertial frame of reference might make the analysis easier (and you might as well treat the earth’s gravity as a uniform force at that scale; its relative position doesn’t matter).

    I think it’s obviously useful to think of the sun as the center of the solar system, but that seems like a circular definition. It is useful to think of the earth as the center of orbiting bodies such as the moon and artificial satellites (though I suppose the effect of the sun’s gravity is non-negligible, or am I mistaken?).

  22. Rob Grigjanis says

    PaulBC @27:

    It is useful to think of the earth as the center of orbiting bodies such as the moon and artificial satellites (though I suppose the effect of the sun’s gravity is non-negligible, or am I mistaken?).

    That’s where the notion of a Hill sphere becomes useful. How far away from a body like the Earth do you have to be before you have to include the sun’s gravity? The key point is that across the volume of the Hill sphere, the gradient of the sun’s gravitation field is small enough that it can be ignored. In other words, everything within the Hill sphere experiences almost the same acceleration due to the sun’s gravity, and the Earth’s field dominates local motion. Outside the Hill sphere, the sun’s field begins to dominate.

  23. chrislawson says


    That is flagrantly incorrect. In relativity, you can choose any inertial frame of reference you want. Rotating frames are not inertial. You can certainly apply whatever mathematical transforms get the answers you want, which is what astronomers used to do with epicycles, but when you’re trying to build a physical theory then you have to account for things like, say, the phases of Venus which demonstrate conclusively that Earth is not at its axis of orbit.

  24. chrislawson says


    Yes, the church was dedicated to literalism — not the mad head-in-a-box literalism of the current evangelicals, but literalism none the less. Galileo was charged with heresy, not scientific error. And that argument from Bellarmine that you quoted is no different than the usual tripe from creationists about how they don’t see any evidence of evolution. “Oh yes, if only there was evidence I would change my mind, but even so the Bible speaks absolute truth in all things.”

    Everyone likes to post the quote you have given by Bellarmine, but they always seem to ignore this quote from the same letter:

    “I say that, as you know, the Council [of Trent] prohibits interpreting Scripture against the common consensus of the Holy Fathers; and if Your Paternity wants to read not only the Holy Fathers, but also the modern commentaries on Genesis, the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Joshua, you will find all agreeing on the literal interpretation that the sun is in heaven and turns around the earth with great speed, and that the earth is very far from heaven and sits motionless at the center of the world. Consider now, with your sense of prudence, whether the church can tolerate giving Scripture a meaning contrary to the Holy Fathers and to all the Greek and Latin commentators. Nor can one answer that this is not a matter of faith, since it is not a matter of faith ‘as regards the topic’, it is a matter of faith ‘as regards the speaker’.”

    Now to be fair to Bellarmine, he died in 1623, years before Galileo’s Two Worlds, so it’s impossible to know what position he would have taken on Galileo’s trial, although he probably would have supported the Inquisition. We do know that Galileo tried, without success, to use Bellarmine’s 1616 certificate of defence.

  25. chrislawson says


    Q. What was the fundamental flaw in Galileo’s model?
    A. Attributing tides to rotational inertia rather than gravitational forces (which were not known at the time)
    Q. Does the current model of tides imply rotation of the Earth?
    A. Yes. If the Earth did not rotate relative to the moon and sun, tides would not be observed.
    Q. How many tides a day does the heliocentric view predict?
    A. Zero
    Q. Given pre-Newtonian understanding of mechanics, how should planets and stars move in the sky?
    A. Their rotation would slow down and stop due loss of momentum, and they would fall to Earth as all things do.
    Q. Did Galileo have an answer to the problem of Earthly motion?
    A. Yes. In Two Worlds he wrote a lengthy explanation of how sailors on a boat at motion relative to the sea are not aware of that motion, and that a weight dropped from the mast of the moving ship will land at the base of the mast, not yards behind it as predicted by Aristotlean physics. Physicists sometimes refer to this as “Galilean relativity”.

    In short, there was plenty of good evidence for heliocentrism, even if it wasn’t a slam dunk at the time. The Tychonic model was a reasonable alternative at the time of the Galilean controversy although it lacked internal consistency and I believe that it would never have been entertained at all if it had not been a stepping stone from geocentrism designed to wave away as much evidence as possible while maintaining Earth at the centre of the universe. Even then, I personally have no problem with the church’s stance that heliocentrism was not supported by enough evidence to adopt — I disagree but can see it as an acceptable position — but it was never acceptable to impose that view on pain of torture and execution across Catholic Europe and to shut down research that might prove it wrong. This is why it still amazes me that some people (not saying you) insist that Bellarmine was doing better science than Galileo. Hogwash. Even if he had been correct about geocentrism, his actions show he was not a scientist at all.

  26. PaulBC says

    I watched the whole video. Well worth the time. The capsule summary of Vatican II was pretty good too, and sounded accurate.

    Now I’m depressed, though, since it’s settling in how millions of people go out of their way to reinforce their beliefs in completely nutty ideas.

  27. Owlmirror says

    Correcting my terminology @#16:

    the “geocentric” arguments rely on relativity (“no preferred system”)

    should read:

    the “geocentric” arguments rely on relativity (“no preferred frame of reference”)

    That having been said, @mnb0 — what part of “the center-of-mass of the Earth-Sun system is inside the Sun (and the center-of-mass of the solar system is closest to the Sun than to any other body in the Solar System)” is stupid or denying science?

  28. Owlmirror says

    Another point about physical systems vs frame-of-reference — you can model motions with the Earth as stationary, but unless your physical model includes the rotation of the Earth around its axis, the fact that a free-swinging (Foucalt’s) pendulum changes its plane of oscillation, precessing around in a cycle dependent on latitude is otherwise unexplained.

    (How do flat-earthers and geocentrists explain Foucault’s pendulum? Fake news? Secret motors? Reptiloid technology?)

  29. blf says

    How do flat-earthers and geocentrists explain Foucault’s pendulum? Fake news? Secret motors? Reptiloid technology?

    Yes (except, possibly, the latter?). There is a flat earth wiki — which I won’t link to — whose page on Foucault’s pendulum does blame “fake news” (without using that term), to wit, that the pendulum needs to be adjusted on installation “proves” something (supposedly it must work straight out of the box (which I guess means they are always made to a level of perfection not achieved by any other large mechanical apparatus?)); and offering dubiously-edited quotes from what are said to historical accounts. In addition, the motor in (most?) museum display Foucault’s pendulums is alleged to be “the” explanation. And perhaps other gibberish…

  30. ajwade says

    Yeah, but the problem, as I’m sure you know, is that that ignores the barycenter of Jupiter-Saturn, and Jupiter-Uranus, and Saturn-Uranus, and Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus (and so on). . .

    Yeah it’s not a great model when each successive planet is only ~2× further out than the previous. I’m sure further refinements are possible (though I wouldn’t be familiar with the details) before giving up and falling back on numerical integration.

    The reliance on relativity can be dismissed by pointing out that the same logic means that a ball being dropped can be modeled just as correctly as the ball staying still and the Earth rushing up to meet it.

    Agreed; it’s not so much that you can’t put the center of the universe at the Earth via an appropriate transformation, but rather that when you do so the entire rest of the universe starts behaving in some rather silly ways.

    BTW if you haven’t seen it yet you might find the recent video from Veritasium on general relativity interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRr1kaXKBsU