Should You Follow The (Copernican) Principle?

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Editor’s note: AiG has been receiving inquiries about the new documentary on our solar system, The Principle. Our staff astronomer Dr. Danny Faulkner wrote this analysis of its main concept, the Copernican principle.

The Principle is a documentary film released in October 2014. The title refers to the Copernican principle, that neither Earth nor the sun is in any particularly favored location in the universe. The name of the Copernican principle comes from Nicolaus Copernicus, whose 1543 book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) put forth arguments for the heliocentric theory. Copernicus’ book had a strong influence, because within a century of its publication, nearly everyone had abandoned the Earth-centered geocentric theory in favor of the theory that Earth was just one of several planets orbiting the sun. By the early nineteenth century, astronomers came to believe that the sun was the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

In 1918, however, Harlow Shapley (1885–1972) showed that the sun was displaced some distance from the galactic center, and in 1924 Edwin Hubble (1889–1953) demonstrated that the Milky Way was just one of billions of galaxies in the universe, and so there is no reason to believe that our galaxy was near the center of the universe, assuming that the universe even has a center. The skeptic Shapley coined the term the Copernican principle, because he thought that his and Hubble’s work continued the spirit of Copernicus in dislodging the Earth from a special location.

The executive producer of The Principle is Robert Sungenis, a Roman Catholic author and apologist. In his writings, Sungenis has attacked sola fide and sola scriptura, two of the foundational principles of the Protestant Reformation. For instance, in 1997 Sungenis published Not by Faith Alone: The Biblical Evidence for the Catholic Doctrine of Justification and Not by Scripture Alone: A Catholic Critique of the Protestant Doctrine of Sola Scriptura. In his recent movie project, Sungenis argues for the geocentric theory. The actress Kate Mulgrew, best known as Captain Janeway on the TV series Star Trek: Voyager, narrated the documentary. The movie features several prominent scientists, such as cosmologist Lawrence Krauss. Mulgrew, Krauss, and most of the other scientists say that they were misled into participating in the film and that they would not have agreed to do so if they had known the true nature of the project. The movie even includes John Hartnett, a creationist physicist. Hartnett, too, says that he was misled, because he was told that The Principle would be about the idea that the universe has a center and that Earth is near that center.1

Instead, The Principle is a defense of an absolute geocentric model, in which the entire universe moves around the Earth. This form of geocentric belief has gained some popularity in recent years, but we at Answers in Genesis are opposed to it. Nor does The Principle explicitly endorse a recent creation, as some people have claimed. This movie appears to be an attempt to enlist people into the geocentric movement. Therefore, given the questionable practices of the producers and the commitment to Roman Catholic teaching of the executive producer, we cannot endorse this film and we recommend caution to the people who view it.

Note: A planetarium program inside our Creation Museum, titled Worlds of Creation, takes a virtual tour of our solar system.

Footnotes

  1. David Winograd, “Star Trek’s Kate Mulgrew Says She Was Duped on Film Narration,” Time, April 8, 2014, http://time.com/54684/star-trek-kate-mulgrew-the-principle-film/; Lawrence Krauss, “I Have No Idea How I Ended Up in That Stupid Geocentrism Documentary,” Slate, April 8, 2014, http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/04/08/lawrence_krauss_on_ending_up_in_the_geocentricism_documentary_the_principle.html; John Hartnett, “Review of ‘The Principle,’” John Gideon Hartnett (blog), March 11, 2014, http://johnhartnett.org/2014/11/03/review-of-the-principle/.

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