Does the sun really revolve around the earth?


#1

Noted Catholic apologist and prolific writer Robert Sungenis insists that the sun revolves around the earth. His website is found at Catholic Apologetics International. He bases his belief on how the early Catholic church viewed astronomy before Galalio. Plus he claims even today, no one can prove that the earth revolves around the sun, but vice versa.

I just can’t accept Mr Sungenis’ belief, because both the sun and the earth have a magnetic field. Doesn’t the larger body control the smaller one? And earth is by far the smaller body of gravitational force.

It is amazing though that the early church did believe the earth was the center of all the universe and all stars and planetary objects revolved around the earth. What do you think and say about all this? Can you prove that the earth does revolve around the sun?

Ron from Ohio


#2

Well, I don’t have the capability to “prove” that the earth revolves around the sun. The reason that the early church believed that the everything revolved around the earth is that that was the best science the people of this earth. That was the universal belief of every major scholar, etc. during that time.


#3

This is not the only dangerous and disingenuous “Biblical” position that Mr. Sungenis has taken, but it certainly helps brand him as one of the kookiest apologists out there.


#4

Yeah, but nobody has scientifically refuted his claim. Check it out at his site. Very, very interesting!

CAI will write a check for $1,000 to the first person who can prove that the earth revolves around the sun. (If you lose, then we ask that you make a donation to the apostolate of CAI). Obviously, we at CAI don’t think anyone CAN prove it, and thus we can offer such a generous reward. In fact, we may up the ante in the near future.


#5

well I guess that answers the question posed on another thread “Whatever happened to Robert Sugenis?”


#6

You’ve triggered my “former physics TA” indicator.

I just can’t accept Mr Sungenis’ belief, because both the sun and the earth have a magnetic field. Doesn’t the larger body control the smaller one? And earth is by far the smaller body of gravitational force.

First, just as an FYI, always be sure to distinguish between magnetic and gravitational fields. Magnetic fields have a lot of cool effects in the solar system (sunspots, solar winds, etc.), but the motion of the planets should be viewed as a gravitational effect, not a magnetic effect.

Second, it’s not true that the larger body “controls” the smaller body. The force on both of them is identical (Gm1m2/r^2), but the acceleration produced by that force is much more significant on the body with smaller mass (since a = F/m, the body with the higher mass experiences less acceleration). An example would be a space shuttle orbiting around the Earth. Technically, the space shuttle and the Earth both attract each other with the same force, but because the mass of the space shuttle is so much smaller, the effect of that force is far more noticeable on the space shuttle than the Earth. The relationship between the Sun and the planets is similar; each planet imperceptibly moves the Sun, while the effect of the Sun on the planets is easily observable.

Third, you can always pick any point as your reference for rest, so it doesn’t make any sense to say that the Earth goes around the Sun (in an absolute sense) or that the Sun goes around the Earth (in an absolute sense). In that respect, Sungenis is wrong if he is making an absolute statement, nor would it make any sense to say that the stationary Earth was “God’s frame of reference,” because God’s omniscience means that He can’t be confined to any particular frame of reference. But here’s the other problem. While you could technically pretend that the Earth was still and everything else was moving, it would be a computational nightmare to devise such a system. You’d have to introduce all sorts of nastiness associated with accelerating reference frames, such as fictitious forces and coordinate translations, which is why nobody with any sense would put themselves through that when it would be so much easier just to approximate the Sun as the body at rest. But in any event, it would be absolutely impossible to devise any frame of reference in which the Sun would be moving around the Earth in a generally circular path, which I believe is what Sungenis is suggesting. It’s just a fact that the relative positions of the Sun and Earth do not take such a track. If Catholicism did, in fact, require that, then one would have to abandon the notion that our senses correspond to an objective reality. Fortunately, it doesn’t.

Edit–

Obviously, we at CAI don’t think anyone CAN prove it, and thus we can offer such a generous reward.

It can’t be proved by definition. You can consider any arbitrary point to be at rest, including the Earth. But if you’re saying that the relative position of the Sun traces a circular path around the Earth, it is easily provable, and in fact, it has been proved by the satellite tracks that have been shown directly to Mr. Sungenis.
catholicoutlook.com/gps1.php
catholicoutlook.com/dance1.php
catholicoutlook.com/chandra2.php
It’s also trivial to prove that the Earth could not remain at the center of mass in our universe.
catholicoutlook.com/geo1.php
Your challenge is either unprovable by definition (in which case you could offer $10 million for all anyone cares), or you should have paid Gary Hoge $1000 a long time ago.


#7

You can’t prove either. You have to prove that one is remaining still and you can’t do that.


#8

I just read a bit of the disputation between Sungenis and Cole, and I have to say that it was quite tedious.

First, I’m not sure they’ve agreed on what “around” means. Technically, bodies orbit the center of mass of the system. If the sun and earth had the same mass they’d both orbit around a point midway between them. In actuality the sun’s mass dominates the system and the center is within the sun’s volume, but nonetheless it’s not at the exact center of the sun’s mass. So I ask, how is “around” to be defined?

Second, they’ve not defined a reference frame. It the earth’s motion to be referenced to the sun, or the center of the galaxy? Sungenis doesn’t seem to really understand the issue, as is shown in this exchange:

Ken Cole 4: Another point: rotation does not generate centrifugal force. Centrifugal force is the non-intertial reference frame equivalent of Centripetal force. In orbital mechanics, centripetal force is graviational force.

R. Sungenis 5: “non-inertial reference frame equivalent”? What is that, Ken? Sounds like a lot of relativistic mumbo jumbo to me. Perhaps it is just your way of admitting that centrifugal force, in your system, is really a fictitious force. But if you believe in the Third law of motion, you must have a real force to counterbalance the centripetal force. So where is it coming from if you say that centrifugal force is merely a “non-inertial reference frame”?

Cole is correct in what he says here, and Sungenis demonstrates his lack of basic understanding of physics and dynamic systems.

The sun doesn’t orbit the earth, sure. The earth may or may not orbit the sun depending on what you mean, and therein lies the rub. I don’t think that the Church ever made a dogmatic declaration that the earth is the center of the physical universe, and I certainly don’t think that what was non-bindingly asserted can be taken to address an issue that was not being discussed at the time.

Really, Sungenis is making much ado about nothing.


#9

Actually, neither the earth nor the sun moves around the other. They both move in an ellipse around a common point whose location is determined by the location of the center of mass of each object, the amount of mass in each object, and the distance of the two objects from each other. Because the sun is so much more massive than the earth, the common point is actually located within the sun itself, but not at the sun’s center. Until this principle was worked out by Johannes Kepler in the late 16th-early 17th century, the math for calculating the orbits of the planets kept going off.

It is the pulling effect of an orbiting planet on its star that has allowed the discovery of many, if not most, of the 140-odd extra-solar planets that have been discovered in the last 8 years.

DaveBj


#10

Sungenis is just wrong, and his views on cosmology destroy whatever credibility he may have had in the field of apologetics. His strangest claim is that the earth does not rotate on its axis. When, using this assumption, he tries to explain the orbits or geosynchronous satellites, and satellites with elongated elliptical orbits the result is embarrasing. Nobody will ever win his $1000 reward because he is the sole judge. How about if we let the physics department at MIT be the judge?

In Biblical and medieval times cosmological theories were also based on observation. Look at the night sky and what do you see? It appears to be a hemisphere of stars surrounding the earth at the center, while the sun, moon, and planets orbit the earth at various cycles. But today we have better means of observation and measurement.


#11

[quote=JimG]Sungenis is just wrong, and his views on cosmology destroy whatever credibility he may have had in the field of apologetics. His strangest claim is that the earth does not rotate on its axis. When, using this assumption, he tries to explain the orbits or geosynchronous satellites, and satellites with elongated elliptical orbits the result is embarrasing. Nobody will ever win his $1000 reward because he is the sole judge. How about if we let the physics department at MIT be the judge?

In Biblical and medieval times cosmological theories were also based on observation. Look at the night sky and what do you see? It appears to be a hemisphere of stars surrounding the earth at the center, while the sun, moon, and planets orbit the earth at various cycles. But today we have better means of observation and measurement.
[/quote]

Suggest it to him. In the meantime take up the argument and see how well you do one on one. This is fascinating.


#12

The beef for me is not whether what revolves around what. My beef is that Sunnegis (and correct me if I’m wrong) thinks geocentrism is a binding Church teaching.

Scott


#13

I think it is similar to the inquisition. The Church was not necessarily upset with the science but since science and theology had no clear boundaries at the time, what he was suggesting was an imposition on theology. He was trying to debunk the theology and thus was condemned.


#14

Einstein once answered a reporter who asked what relativity was, something to the effect “if you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it’s an hour. If you sit with a pretty girl for an hour you think it’s a minute.”

It’s all in how you look at it.

CAI claims that the proof that the earth rotates around the sun cannot be based on “appeals to simplicity” and that any given “mathematical model” does not constitute reality. To back this up, they assert that a mathematical model could be built that makes Jupiter the center of the universe.

Given their conditions, they are correct. There is no absolute answer to whether the sun, or the whole universe for that matter, revolves around the earth. It can neither be proven nor disproven because the basis on which we say “the earth revolves around the sun” is based on a mathematical and geometric model that is chosen solely for its simplicity. Considering both the general and special theories of relativity, then any point, including the tip of my nose or a certain crater on the earth’s moon can considered to be just as equally “valid” a center of the universe as any other point. The mathematics of such points would be a mess, but CAI doesn’t mind.

I say CAI can claim with validity that geocentric theories are just as valid as any other. The whole idea of what “center” means is just a word and math game. What I didn’t see them say (though I didn’t read their web site thoroughly) is that they cannot prove the earth is the center, either. If I had $1000, I would bet them back that under their own conditions they can’t prove geocentrism. It is all an exercise at finding absolutes in the midst of relativism.

By the way, the actual path of either the sun or earth from the others’ point of view is neither an ellipse nor a circle, but is a very complex erratic motion because it is affected by every speck of mass in the whole universe. It’s close to an ellipse, but not quite.

What I really want to see CAI show is that in a world of at least 3-d space, the earth is flat and not (approximately) spherical. I think they’d have trouble with that one.

Alan


#15

[quote=JimG]Sungenis is just wrong, and his views on cosmology destroy whatever credibility he may have had in the field of apologetics. His strangest claim is that the earth does not rotate on its axis. When, using this assumption, he tries to explain the orbits or geosynchronous satellites, and satellites with elongated elliptical orbits the result is embarrasing. Nobody will ever win his $1000 reward because he is the sole judge. How about if we let the physics department at MIT be the judge?

In Biblical and medieval times cosmological theories were also based on observation. Look at the night sky and what do you see? It appears to be a hemisphere of stars surrounding the earth at the center, while the sun, moon, and planets orbit the earth at various cycles. But today we have better means of observation and measurement.
[/quote]

I wouldn’t go as far as saying that his apologetics come into question. This has nothing to do with his apologetics.


#16

They both move in an ellipse around a common point whose location is determined by the location of the center of mass of each object, the amount of mass in each object, and the distance of the two objects from each other.

In the center of mass frame, that’s true. But there’s no rule that makes the center of mass frame absolute. You can always work in another reference frame if you choose. Why you’d want to do that to yourself is another issue entirely. :smiley:

I wouldn’t go as far as saying that his apologetics come into question. This has nothing to do with his apologetics.

Sure it does. He was wrong about dogma in this instance, so you can’t tell if he is correctly representing the Catholic position without independently verifying it. That certainly undermines the apologist’s effectiveness.


#17

[quote=DaveBj]Actually, neither the earth nor the sun moves around the other. They both move in an ellipse around a common point whose location is determined by the location of the center of mass of each object, the amount of mass in each object, and the distance of the two objects from each other. Because the sun is so much more massive than the earth, the common point is actually located within the sun itself, but not at the sun’s center.

[/quote]

Dear DaveBj,

What do you mean by “around?” I was taught that a satellite orbited in an ellipse, one of whose foci is the other object, but obviously that’s not precise enough. I haven’t worked out the mechanics, but are you saying a focus of the ellipse is at the center of mass of the system and not at the center of mass of the other object? Considering JPrejean’s comments, I’m assuming we are using the center of mass as the reference frame origin (in case that matters – I’m confusing myself).

Just from warm fuzzies, I can also imagine that, using the center of one of the masses as origin of the reference frame, the other mass moves in an ellipse with the origin at one focus. Could this be right at the same time as your assertion? I’m way to lazy to go figure out how to figure this out.

Alan


#18

Any Catholic Apologists hold this position?

flat-earth.org/

:smiley: :wink: :slight_smile:


#19

[quote=JGC]Any Catholic Apologists hold this position?

flat-earth.org/

:smiley: :wink: :slight_smile:
[/quote]

:rotfl:

Thanks, JGC. I’ll send this to some of my friends!

Alan


#20

[quote=AlanFromWichita]Dear DaveBj,

…are you saying a focus of the ellipse is at the center of mass of the system and not at the center of mass of the other object?.. I can also imagine that, using the center of one of the masses as origin of the reference frame, the other mass moves in an ellipse with the origin at one focus. Could this be right at the same time as your assertion? I’m way to lazy to go figure out how to figure this out.

Alan
[/quote]

In a system with only two objects, then the path of each of them could be described as ellipses that have the center of mass of the system as one of the foci. Neither of the objects are themselves at the focus, but it can appear that one is if it is sufficiently larger than the other object.

If you added a third object to the system, much more massive than the first two and at a distance, then you’d find that the first two objects would still orbit their common center of mass in an elliptical fashion, but the major axis of the ellipse would slowly revolve with respect to the third object. You’d also be able to set up a new coordinate system, tied to the new object, in which to describe the paths of the smaller objects. In that new coordinate system the equation describing their paths would be a bit more complex.

If you added a fourth mass, larger than the first two, but much smaller than the third, you’d further influence the wobbling and revolving, and have another coordinate system to use. The equations of motion of the first three objects in this third reference frame would be even more unwieldy than the in the second - but all three sets of equations would describe the same relative motion between all of the objects.

I’ve just described Earth, the Moon, the Sun and Jupiter. You could, if you chose, completely describe the orbits of all four bodies with respect to a coordinate system having the left fromt corner of your driveway as the (0,0,0) point, the x-direction going down your sidewalk, and the y-direction pointing toward your garage door - but why would you? The equation would be valid, but a bear to work with.

It’s much easier to take the most massive body in the system as your reference, and assume either that it doesn’t rotate or that there is a distant point that doesn’t move.

How you define the system depends on what you’re trying to do. If you want to put a satellite in orbit, then the most massive object is the earth. If you want to send one to Mars, then the Earth dominates at first but then it’s the Sun. If You want to go to another galaxy, then after the Sun you need to start paying more attention to the immediate group of stars and the galaxy as a whole.

Sungenis’s challenge is a HUGE red herring. Squabbling over it is a waste of time.


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