This week, The Raw Story created a small avalanche of publicity for a forthcoming movie that was otherwise struggling in obscurity. Called The Principle, it has Star Trek actress Kate Mulgrew as its narrator, and it also features the participation of noted scientists Lawrence Krauss (pictured above) and Michio Kaku.
But it was brought to our attention that one of the film's executive producers is a controversial man named Robert Sungenis, a dedicated Catholic who is convinced that his church was right and Galileo was wrong when they clashed several centuries ago over the ideas of Copernicus, the Renaissance astronomer who promoted the idea that it was the Sun, not the Earth, at the center of the universe, with the Earth revolving around the Sun. (Later, of course, we realized that the Sun also isn't the center of the universe -- our solar system isn't even near the center of our own galaxy.)
Yes, Bob Sungenis is a 21st century geocentrist, someone who believes the Earth is not moving, and everything else is going around us, including the Sun. It's a model of the cosmos no modern astronomer takes seriously. At his website, galileowaswrong.com, Sungenis touts The Principle for the way it will challenge Copernicus. In the film's trailer (which you can see below), Sungenis appears briefly, saying, “You can go on some websites of NASA to see that they’ve started to take down stuff that might hint to a geocentric universe."
But were Mulgrew or Krauss aware of the film's purpose when they signed on for the project?
In the furor that followed, Krauss put out a statement on Twitter and then wrote a short piece for Slate, saying that his words had been "mined" for a project he didn't agree with, and he wanted his many fans just to ignore it. Mulgrew then put out her own statement at Facebook, saying that she'd been misled.
Today, however, we heard from a couple of the filmmakers themselves. We had sent an e-mail to Sungenis, asking him if the makers of The Principle had ever informed Mulgrew or Krauss or Kaku that the film involved geocentrism. We also asked him some practical questions about his beliefs. What did he think was the nature of stars? How, if they're many light-years away, could they possibly make a circuit around a stationary Earth every 24 hours?
Sungenis e-mailed us back and said he'd be giving us a statement. Instead, today we received a call from Bob Angelotti of Angelcom Media Group, who said he was calling on behalf of Sungenis. He said that the film's primary producer, Rick Delano, had a statement he was going to release to us.
Angelotti then told us we were wrong, The Principle wasn't about geocentrism. It was instead about challenging the "Copernican Principle" that we are not in either the center or in a special part of the universe. Angelotti also told us, "No one has been able to prove that the Earth is moving."
"We've believed the Copernican Principle for 600 years, and yet no one's proved it," Angelotti told us.
So, the Earth isn't moving, Copernicus was wrong, and we are in a special place in the cosmos. And yet the movie isn't about geocentrism. OK.
"When Krauss, when he actually sat down and signed the release form for this film, and cashed his check, he was told that we wanted him to go on record on the astonishing new revelations about observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background, which have profoundly non-Copernican implications," Angelotti added.
(The Cosmic Microwave Background is the faint radiation, perceptible in all directions, that is left over from the Big Bang, which happened about 13.8 billion years ago, at least according to astrophysicists. Recently, discoveries about tiny fluctuations in that background radiation have given support to the "Inflation" model of the Big Bang -- again, if you're talking to actual astronomers. But for the makers of The Principle, that radiation instead tells us that Copernicus was wrong about man not being in a special position in the universe. We think.)
Wait, we asked -- so Lawrence Krauss was told that the film was about the "non-Copernican implications" of recent discoveries?
No, Angelotti said. Krauss was only given a document to sign that told him he'd be asked about the implications about recent discoveries, not that they had "non-Copernican" outcomes.
Angelotti told us he'd send us Rick Delano's statement, and encouraged us to give the producer a call.
We did so. And we had a very enjoyable, contentious discussion. Delano blasted us for calling his film geocentric without calling him first, but then he also said we had a point when we noted that we'd given a small film laboring in obscurity amazing new visibility.
He chided us for not getting things right, that his film simply asks top scientists for their thoughts about recent discoveries as it raises questions about the Copernican Principle (that man is not in a special place in the universe). Delano denied that his film was pushing a particular point of view, and repeatedly told us it was simply about examining questions raised by recent scientific observations.
He did, however, confirm that the project started when Sungenis -- a committed geocentrist -- came to him and asked him to make a film questioning the Copernican Principle.
We pointed out that with Sungenis, there's no question he believes the Sun goes around the Earth and not the other way around. But does Delano believe that?
Delano said his own beliefs were irrelevant. Again, he was just a filmmaker asking questions.
And as for Mulgrew and Krauss? Delano said Mulgrew was just "scared" and was now trying to deal with the negative publicity.
"Obviously she knew what the film was about. She read the script into a microphone," he said.
He was more impatient with Krauss, who he says "knows what we asked him, and he knows what we've got."
Delano says that The Principle has a deal for a theatrical release in a 'major market' sometime later this year. But he was looking into moving the date up now that there's so much attention about it.
Mostly, he wanted us to run his entire statement, and we thought that was a good idea. Here it is...
STATEMENT FROM RICK DELANO, PRODUCER OF "THE PRINCIPLE" -
It is, in a way, quite an honor to have this little independent science film suddenly subjected to a concerted Internet assault, even though most of the information about "The Principle" is based solely on presumptions and innuendo.
I am not surprised at the opposition, since it has been one of the important missions of “The Principle” to point out that some ideas are powerful enough to burn heretics, to overthrow civilizations, and to turn our world view upside down.
The Copernican Principle is certainly one of those ideas, and the reaction to our treatment of it indicates that this idea has lost none of its power over the last four centuries. Indeed, as Lawrence Krauss has stated, we could be living at a time when Copernicus is "coming back to haunt us"!
When my partner Robert Sungenis asked me to produce “The Principle”, we agreed that the controversy surrounding this question was such that only a fair, balanced, and comprehensive treatment would do. It was our intention to seek out leading cosmologists who had, in their writings and papers, addressed this Copernican Principle, as well as the recent unexpected evidence of a preferred direction in the cosmos, aligned with our supposedly “insignificant” Earth, and to ask some candid questions about the impact of these discoveries on “established” science.
It certainly appears we have shaken up the status quo, and our film has not even been released yet!
Indeed, the real takeaway from the massive media assault on this comparatively tiny little independent film, at this point, has to be, “What are they so afraid of?”
“The Principle,” as the title indicates, is not about geocentrism per se, but is instead an in-depth cinematic examination of the Copernican Principle itself -- in its historical, cultural, religious, and remarkably unexpected modern observational aspects.
We include historical facts concerning the ancient, geocentric cosmology, the Copernican revolution, Newton’s seemingly conclusive establishment of the heliocentric model of reality......
But we also include the factual information that some of our scientific mainstream opinion-makers apparently are quite uncomfortable having you hear about -- for example, Einstein’s frank admission that no optical experiment ever would, or even could, in his opinion, measure any motion of the Earth in its orbit around the Sun, or the recent, shocking large scale observations which have suggested presently-inexplicable, Earth-oriented structure on the cosmos’ largest observable scales.
On this latter point, I want to emphasize that “The Principle” is in possession of signed release forms from all of its contributors, most certainly including Lawrence Krauss.
Any suggestion to the contrary is simply a falsehood.
These releases include explicit notification of our intention to explore controversial aspects of cosmology, even highly controversial ideas and theories.
Lawrence says he has no idea how he ended up in our film.
I can tell him how he ended up in our film.
He signed a release form, and cashed a check.
I have both.
He sat for an interview of about five hours’ length.
I have the footage.
And the transcripts.
Lawrence Krauss is on record concerning the implications of some of some of the astonishing new cosmological observations of the cosmic background (CMB), observations with profoundly non-Copernican implications.
We researched these statements, and interviewed him, and others, about them.
I would hope that at some point, relatively soon in this process, some reporters would do some of the same research, and establish for themselves that Krauss has personally affirmed that these observations could mean that we are the center of the universe.
He has said exactly that.
Our film is certainly dangerous -- dangerous enough to have elicited this astonishingly well-executed assault from individuals who have done absolutely no research on what "The Principle" is about.
It is also dangerous, because once you view the film, you are going to see that these misrepresentations regarding "The Principle" are profound, and ought to be retracted.
I won’t hold my breath in this regard, but I promise you, our film is the ONE FILM you absolutely MUST see this year, if only to find out why so much effort has been lavished to prevent you from knowing what it is about in the first place.
A last word to the wonderful actress Kate Mulgrew.
Kate, I am sorry you were forced to this unfortunate repudiation of your fine work on our film.
We artists have, from time to time, got to be willing to take even the most excruciating heat in order to preserve the rights of filmmakers, for example, to challenge even the most entrenched and established ideas.
Otherwise, it would seem we really have come full circle, wouldn’t it?
“Cosmos” talks about Bruno being burned at the stake for challenging the medieval cosmology; have we reached the point where we are no longer allowed to examine the evidence which suggests science could be wrong about something as basic as the Copernican Principle?
Even worse -- have we reached the point where we are no longer even allowed to ask the question?
Here's the trailer for 'The Principle'...