You may have heard of the documentary film “The Principle” written and produced in the US by Rick DeLano, which is to be released in the Spring of 2014. It features interviews with a line-up of notable cosmologists including Michio Kaku, Laurence Krauss, and Max Tegmark. Many are big bang cosmologists who support the standard paradigm, whose proponents hold to a worldview which assumes there is no privileged frame of reference in the Universe. Others interviewed hold to alternate cosmological worldviews, notably those who hold to the idea that the Earth is in a privileged place in the Universe.
I am interviewed in the film.
The producers are supported by a team of Catholic geocentrists, including Robert Sungenis. The latter seems to be a self-styled scientist promoting the hypothesis that Galileo got it wrong.1 His and it seems therefore the producer’s worldview not only includes the belief that the Universe was created by God, but also the idea that the planet Earth does not move through space. The Earth does not orbit around the Sun after all, in that view. They believe the Earth is fixed in space, and, in fact, it is the absolute centre of the Universe. This worldview is known as geocentrism, an ideology I absolutely do not hold to, which will become clear below.
When I agreed to be interviewed for the movie, in which I present the case for a galactocentric universe, I was told that a balanced view would be presented with all worldviews equally represented. I was also told that all those being interviewed would be given that assurance. The producer told me that they would not use the film to paint the picture of geocentrism alone. Unfortunately I have already had one report to the contrary. But you be the judge from what follows.
The cosmological principle
Firstly, let’s understand what the title ‘The Principle’ refers to. Standard big bang Friedmann-Lemaître cosmology, derived from Einstein’s field equations, requires what is known as the cosmological principle to be true for it to be a valid solution of those field equations. The cosmological principle was invoked by Alexander Friedmann and Abbé Georges Lemaître when they derived their solution in the 1920s. This then became the basis of today’s standard big bang model.
The cosmological principle is an extension of what is known as the Copernican principle, named after Nicolas Copernicus who advocated the idea that the Sun is at the centre of the Universe. That was, of course, of the Universe as they understood it at that time, nearly 400 years ago. This worldview is known as heliocentrism.
The Copernican principle is the assumption that the Earth is not at the centre of the Universe (ie. instead the Sun is, in its original form). The idea that the Earth is at the absolute centre of the Universe was the notion promoted by some Greek mathematician/philosophers like Aristotle and Ptolemy.2 At the time of Galileo the system describing the structure of the solar system and the stars beyond it was known as the Ptolemaic system. It modified the perfect circles or spheres of Aristotle with a deferent and its epicycles. These are ad hoc geometrical contrivances necessary to allow for elliptical orbits of the planets and their sometimes apparent-retrograde motions, notably of Mars.
Under Tycho Brahe, this system was further modified to account for observed fine-tuned motions, yet still maintaining the Earth at the centre of the system with the Sun orbiting around the Earth. He refuted the pure Aristotelian system of a perfect unchanging realm and developed the Tychonic system which incorporated some aspects of the Copernican system into the Ptolemaic system yet maintaining geocentrism. His very able assistant was Johannes Kepler, who went on to be one of the most brilliant astrophysicists of all time. He developed his three laws of planetary motion with the aid of the vast wealth of Brahe’s meticulous observations, which he inherited after his teacher had died. Kepler is supposed to have said he was “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”
Galileo has been named the father of modern observational astronomy because in 1610 aided with a telescope (invented by Hans Lipperhey, a German spectacle maker in 1608) he discovered the four largest satellites (moons) of Jupiter; Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. He noticed that they revolved around their parent planet and not around the Earth. Hence he realised that the Earth was not at the centre of the Universe.
Galileo was thus led to support and promote the Copernican notion of heliocentrism. There is much myth about these affairs but Galileo was opposed more by the geocentrist scientists of his day than by the Church which actually supported his work for many years until, through some untoward politics, he was accused of attacking Pope Urban VIII and the Jesuits. He was tried by the Holy Office of the Pope for heresy, forced to recant, and then banished to house arrest for the rest of his life.
Most modern-day astronomers believe Galileo was right—that the observational evidence in the solar system supports the notion that the planets, both major and minor ones, as well as the asteroid belt, revolve around the Sun. This is the heliocentric view of the solar system. With about 99% of the mass of the solar system in the Sun this seemed the only answer to what was observed. This view is what led Sir Isaac Newton to discover the universal law of gravitation, from which Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion can be derived.
The irony here is that Galileo promoted heliocentrism, for the whole Universe, but today very few people would believe in that, citing progressive knowledge. Today it is the cosmological principle that is believed to be the fundamental state of the Universe.
The cosmological principle extends the Copernican principle to the whole Universe. That is, the Earth does not occupy a special place in the Universe and observations made from Earth can be taken to be broadly characteristic of what would be seen from any other point in the Universe at the same epoch. On the largest scales, matter is assumed to be uniformly distributed (homogeneity) throughout the whole Universe and in every direction we look we see the same distribution of galaxies (isotropy). The extension of that notion is that the Universe has no centre and no edge. There is no privileged place and the Earth is randomly located in space.3 But what if that is not true? Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman said,
“… I suspect that the assumption of uniformity of the universe reflects a prejudice born of a sequence of overthrows of geocentric ideas. … It would be embarrassing to find, after stating that we live in an ordinary planet about an ordinary star in an ordinary galaxy, that our place in the universe is extraordinary … To avoid embarrassment we cling to the hypothesis of uniformity.”
Feynman, R.P., Morinigo, F.B. and Wagner, W.G., Feynman Lectures on Gravitation (Penguin Books, London), p. 166, 1999.
Figure 3: A map made from the about 50,000 galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) DR5 with concentric with a Δz = 0.025 redshift spacing. If redshift represents distances then this represents concentric shells with a 100 million light-year spacing.4
In the documentary I present the notion of a galactocentric Universe. This is the idea that the galaxies arrayed all around us here in this part of the Universe are centred on a point somewhere cosmologically near our galaxy’s position. Research that I have published4 looked at periodic structure in the abundances of galaxy redshifts in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) data release 5 and the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey (2dF GRS). We analyzed half a million galaxies out to redshifts of about z = 0.3. From that we determined that there was periodic structure in the redshift abundance. That can be visualized something like concentric shells of galaxies with preferred redshifts centred on a point in space near our galaxy. See illustration (Fig. 3) of SDSS DR5 data with concentric circles drawn on. These are the location, in redshift space, of periodic redshift abundance maxima.
This is the result I presented in the film.
But it could be interpreted either of two ways. If that common centre is at the Earth, the observer, the existence of concentric shells could be interpreted as some sort of oscillation in the expansion rate of the Universe. This view does not place any special significance on the centre of the large-scale structure being found exactly at the observer. This is because if cosmological redshift results from cosmological expansion then we only appear to be at some local centre. It is a redshift space effect and not a real space effect. Under this viewpoint redshifts cannot be interpreted via the standard Hubble law (with a Hubble constant) as a measure of distance since the expansion rate in the past is not interpreted to be constant but oscillating.
However, if it could be shown that the common centre of those concentric shells of redshift abundance is not located at our galaxy but some other place nearby then this indicates that it is a real space effect and not an apparent effect (due to oscillations in cosmological expansion). The mathematical analysis from my preliminary research5,6 has shown that the true centre is not located at the Earth but at a location within 100 million light-years of our Galaxy. From this I conclude this is a real space structure, even though this is still preliminary and the investigation is still ongoing. If this is correct, it is not an apparent redshift-space-only effect. Here though I must make the proviso that the Hubble law is valid and cosmological redshifts are a measure of distance. Though it does not necessarily demand cosmological expansion.7,8
The evidence presented in the film by those opposing the big bang, including me, is all challenging this fundamental assumption, the Cosmological Principle. My research does just that. Another major line of evidence is that of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation data as measured by three space borne telescopes, COBE, WMAP and PLANCK. Data releases of WMAP available here.
These satellites all have returned data on the very small temperature anisotropies, the variations of the CMB temperature away from the uniform 2.7260 ± 0.0013K temperature seen in the radiation in all directions in space.
Figure 4: The CMB anisotropy map from WMAP satellite (top). (Source: Wikipedia) The dark and light spots indicate the hot and cold regions, variations from the uniform background temperature. The next from second top to bottom are the dipole, quadrupole and octupole harmonic expansion terms.
Images in Fig. 4 are taken from a NewScientist article with the title “’Axis of evil’ warps cosmic background”.9
But what was first discovered by Max Tegmark is that when one expands these small CMB temperature anisotropies into spherical harmonics something very unusual is observed. The lowest order expansion term is the dipole term with a cold component behind and a hot component in front describing the motion of the solar system through space. The next are the quadrupole, octuple and many higher order terms.10
Today we should be observing highly redshifted radiation, leftover from the big bang fireball, coming uniformly from all directions. There is no preferred direction for this radiation therefore these multiple expansion terms should also have no preferred directions in space.
However this is not what has been discovered in all three sets of satellite data, and in the case of the PLANCK satellite data, out to the 20th harmonic expansion term. The spherical harmonic expansion terms have their axes preferentially aligned with the plane of the solar system—the elliptic—and even more strangely with the direction in space determined by the two points where the apparent path of the Sun crosses the equator. These points in the orbit of the Earth around the Sun are a mere projection due to the tilt of the Earth’s spin axis. Why would the leftover radiation from a random fireball have a preferred direction and why would it be aligned somehow with our solar system? There is no good reason in big bang cosmology. The preferred direction is such a problem it is called the Axis of Evil.11
One could, though not so easily, write the equations of motion for the Sun and the planetary bodies in the solar system in terms of a fixed frame of reference at the Earth. Theoretically one could write those equations in the frame of reference of any point in space one so chose. The fact of relativity is that the physics could be described from any frame of reference. So from that perspective geocentrism is ‘true’ but so is Uranocentrism (centred on Uranus) or Siriusocentrism (centered on the star Sirius).
However, writing the equations of motion for the solar system centred on the Earth makes for a result that would be very difficult to use in order to understand the underlying physics—the result would be very complex indeed. It is normal practice in physics to find the frame of reference which yields the simplest equations, then this allows us to best understand the underlying physics.
So to state that the Earth is immovable because Psalms 93:1 says so and then determine all physics from that make no sense. When God inspired His Words in the Psalms, in poetical language, He was speaking from the perspective of the Earth-bound observer. In such a frame of reference one may interpret such passages. Look at the last part of this verse:
“ … the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.” (Ps. 93:1)
But if we look at the whole verse in context,
“The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.” (Ps 93:1)
It is all about the majesty and strength of Jehovah, who is in control of the whole world, meaning all the inhabitants thereof. This is a Psalm about God’s sovereignty, power, holiness and strength. Nothing can happen without His knowledge and control.
Zechariah 1:11 states
“…We have walked to and fro through the Earth, and, behold, all the Earth sitteth still, and is at rest.”
But it is referring to God’s angels who walk through the Earth, to see the state of the world; meaning those who inhabit the planet. It has nothing to do with motion of the planet through space or not. The “Earth sitteth still” means all is quiet, the power of Satan has not succeeded in taking over all the inhabitants of the world.
So even if you were to claim that those verses described an immovable Earth, look at this counter example, Isaiah 24:19:
“The Earth is utterly broken down, the Earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.”
“Moved exceedingly”! Not a stationary planet.
Look at the context. The section of the Psalm is about the judgements of God against the wicked from the “uttermost part of the Earth”. Here it seems to be referring to the pre-Flood world and God’s judgements upon those wicked. The phrase “the Earth is clean dissolved” (Is 24:19) cannot mean the planet but the dry land. In Isaiah 24:18 we read “for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the Earth do shake.” A reference to events in the Flood, but in this case it is a reference to the planetary body. And read this:
“The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.” (Is 24:20)
This confirms we live on a planet that is capable of movement. Whatever triggered the global Flood in Noah’s day there were catastrophic consequences. These involved moving the continents rapidly to new locations, with a subducting sea floor, and even the possibility of a consequent change in the tilt of the spin axis. The phrase “it shall fall, and not rise again” makes sense in this regard.
“Which commandeth the Sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars.” (Job 9:7)
To accomplish this God could stop the planet from spinning. What effect would that have? Gravity would cease and the surface occupants would all fly off? No, of course not. But it would mean the oceans would move onto the continents (due to their massive inertia), unless God stopped the oceans moving too. It is like one of those multiple traffic accidents where the woman in front stops first and everyone bashes into her car in a cascade from behind.
For God to stop the Sun from rising He would supernaturally have to suspend or intervene in His own natural laws. It is simple (for Him, the Creator) to do that. Hence from the Earth-bound observer’s perspective He stops the Sun from rising at one place (longitude) on the Earth’s surface. Job 9:7 says nothing about the Earth not moving but everything about God’s omniscience.
The following verse in Job 9:8 reads,
“Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.”
It tells us God ‘spread out’ (Hebrew נָטָה natah) the heavens, ie created the stars in the night sky. This is not cosmological expansion but that God created the stars up there like setting up a tent (eg. Isaiah 40:22). This then gives us the context for “sealeth up the stars” in Job 9:7. He said ‘seals up’ (Hebrew חָתַם chatham) which has meaning of ‘make an end’ or as the English says ‘seals up’ which is what you do when you have finished the job. He sealed up His task, when He had finished making the stars, and I conclude this implies a finite number of them too.
Joshua 10:12,13 are some of the geocentrists’ favourite scriptures. We read:
12 “Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.”
There is no difficulty here as already explained above. God is describing in the text all that is happening from the perspective of the agents on Earth. When God supernaturally stopped the heavens moving all He had to do (with little effort on His part) was stop the Earth spinning for one day. The passage of time of the one day is not determined by the Earth’s rotation but by the flow of time itself. God must have suspended inertia in the Earth itself to effect this. He intervened in His creation, so that from the Earth-bound observer’s position it appears that the heavenly bodies stopped moving. These are all true statements, from an Earth-observer frame of reference, just as we say “sunrise” and “sunset.” These are events we observe.
Though geocentrism is a mathematically valid frame of reference for calculating the motions of heavenly bodies, it is so much simpler to use a heliocentric system in the solar system. This is where the advance in physics came from with Kepler and Newton. Then moving this out further it then becomes easiest to use the centre of the Galaxy as the frame of reference to calculate the motion of the stars in the Galaxy. We can extrapolate this to choose the centre of mass of the other galaxies as the best reference frame when investigating their motions or to the centre of mass of the Local cluster of galaxies or to that of the superclusters beyond that. When studying the large-scale structure of the Universe as described in Fig. 3 we may choose the centre of mass for the structure. The location of that is still part of ongoing research, but so far it looks like it is at a point in space quite close cosmologically speaking, hence we could call this description of the Universe, galactocentric or at least near-galactocentric. Cosmologically speaking, that puts us in a special place in the Universe. Nevertheless 100 million light-years is still a long way from Earth and hence it make no sense to speak of a geocentric universe. It is also in no way demanded by Scripture.
- Aristarchus of Samos (c. 310 – c. 230 BC) developed a cosmology based on heliocentrism, saying that the Sun was at the center of the Universe, while the Earth and other planets revolved around it. Lawson, Russell M. (2004). Science in the Ancient World: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 19.
- J.G. Hartnett and K. Hirano, “Galaxy redshift abundance periodicity from Fourier analysis of number counts N(z) using SDSS and 2dF GRS galaxy surveys,” Astrophysics and Space Science, 318, 1 & 2, 13-24, 2008.
- As a corollary, this principle also assumes that the Universe would look much the same (on the largest scales) from any other point within it. In the standard big bang view, there is no ‘centre’ of the big bang; someone on a distant galaxy would also observe the same broad pattern on a large-scale of redshifts increasing with distance from that part of the Universe as we observe from the Earth.
- J.G. Hartnett, “Fourier analysis of the large scale spatial distribution of galaxies in the Universe,” in the Proceedings of the 2nd Crisis in Cosmology Conference, Port Angeles, WA USA, ASP Conference Series, Editor: F. Potter, 413, pp.77-97, 2009.
- Appendix 5 of J.G. Hartnett, Starlight Time and the New Physics, Creation Book Publishers, 2010
- Does observational evidence indicate the Universe is expanding?—part 1: the case for time dilation
- Does observational evidence indicate the Universe is expanding?—part 2: the case against expansion
- CMB Conundrums