The Need to Feel Special

The scientific kerfuffle of the past couple days has been about a documentary supporting geocentrism (as if the creationists are not crazy enough), the idea that the Earth is the center of the universe, immovable, and that the sun and stars rotate around it. An idea that has been pretty thoroughly been debunked for, like, 500 years now. The documentary includes interview excerpts from prominent scientists, including Lawrence Krauss and Michio Kaku, and has narration by Kate Mulgrew, known to science geeks as the captain in one of the Star Trek series (Star Trek Voyager, a show I never watched).

Lawrence Krauss speculates in Slate how snips of interviews he’s done might have ended up in this documentary, and explains that he categorically disavows his implied support for the film’s premise.

The trailer for the film implies that NASA is engaged in a conspiracy to suppress the evidence the Earth is really the center of everything. You know, there’s a Flat Earth society too. No idea is so outlandish or discredited that someone somewhere doesn’t still believe it. There will always be people immune to reason and evidence who cling to ideas that flatter oneself.

Why would anyone put any stock in geocentrism, despite hundreds of years of scientific evidence otherwise?

It’s all about the need to feel special, it seems; this idea is evoked several times in the film’s trailer. “We are in a special place” created by God, we hear, revealing the obvious religious motivation.

The snips of Krauss and Michio Kaku and others are vague takes on the idea that physics and cosmology are changing, selectively edited without their approval to support the filmmaker’s take. This has happened before. Presumably the filmmakers are not Christians who take seriously the commandment to not bear false witness.

The narrator of this ‘documentary’, Kate Mulgrew, also disavows her apparent support for this, via a Facebook post reproduced by Think Progress, which also notes that “This is not the first time scientists have been taken out of context to advance a far-right political agenda….”

Why do I bother mentioning this, since Phil Plait and Lawrence Krauss suggest simply ignoring it, not giving it any publicity?

Because it fascinates me as yet another example of how humans have this need to feel special, to the point of denying the evidence of the world around them and the conclusions reason would dictate, in preference to fantasies of one sort or another that appeal to human vanity. It is an extension, as I described in a previous post, of the childish need to feel oneself at the center of the world, and never growing up out of this attitude.

Here’s Gawker’s take.

[last full para revised 10apr14 3.30pm]

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