Pointing out the absurdity of “flat Earth” theory…is it really necessary? I’ve noticed that there are more and more videos popping up on YouTube touting a number of related ideas, that the Earth is actually flat (or some other non-spherical shape), and that the fundamental nature of the cosmos is radically different than that presented by modern science, namely, that the Earth is a planet that orbits the Sun with the other planets and bodies of the solar system, and that the Sun is one of many stars in a galaxy which is but one of many. It seems preposterous that anyone at the dawn of the 21st century would believe the Earth is flat, or that anyone would promote such an idea as more than a joke, but apparently some do.
The spherical shape of the Earth has been well-known for over two thousand years. It was a well-understood concept in Greek science as early as the 5th century BC. Eratosthenes produced a fairly accurate estimate of the Earth’s circumference around 240 BC using simple geometry and some basic measurements. Besides simple measurements, there are many obvious observational phenomena that indicate the Earth must be round, such as the fact that different stars are visible to people in different lattitudes. This would not be the case if the Earth were flat. Flat-Earthers will make excuses and talk about “distortion”, “perspective”, or other absurd ideas, but they can’t explain such obvious things away in a scientifically consistent manner. Flat-Earthers will also claim that the Sun and Moon are relatively small bodies that circle a few miles overhead. They claim that sunset is simply the sun “moving farther away” until it disappears. Any rational person can see that this is not the case, if the Sun or Moon were moving farther away, they’d get smaller, and they don’t. In fact, they appear as large at the horizon as at the zenith. Flat-Earthers will say this is also due to atmospheric “distortion” or some such nonsense, even though such distortion is somehow never apparent or measureable in any other sense. Of course, they have no rational hypothesis for just what kind of magic holds their flat-world cosmos together, either.
Then of course, there is the matter of space travel, and the numerous photos, films, video, and of course personally witnessed views of a round, rotating Earth from space. Here’s where it gets tricky. Flat-Earthers will claim several things, one being that what we’re seeing is in fact a flat “round” Earth from above (though they can’t explain why it appears to rotate, or why the continents can’t all be seen at once), or they’ll take the position that ALL images of the Earth from space are faked, and that indeed all space programs and space travel is faked as well, and that all scientific information pertaining to the concept of a round Earth, orbiting the Sun, is all part of some huge plot or conspiracy to somehow control or dominate humanity, usually orchestrated by…Satan. Well, claims like that are hard to address directly, Satan being an unprovable supernatural entity, but the idea of a conspiracy that spans every scientific, government, and educational institution on the globe, and has gone on for centuries, seems a LITTLE far fetched, one might think. Some will claim that giant hologram projectors run by this mysterious conspiracy are actually creating the cosmos we actually see (what people saw before the hologram projectors were built is something they can’t answer). Naturally, when it comes to conspiracy theories, most Flat-Earthers are on board with many, if not most of the ones current in the popular culture. This is very typical conspiracy-theorist behavior, and it’s very rare that they are invested in one conspiracy without being invested in many others, usually with an elaborate narrative to tie them all together. The idea they nurture and cultivate among themselves, namely that they are privy to secret knowledge of a great and ominous nature that the rest of humanity is too blind, stupid, or indifferent to grasp is a very important factor in understanding the mindset that allows people to make preposterous assertions such as the Earth being flat, and do it with complete confidence. The fact that modern flat Earth theory is usually grounded (and evolved from) Biblical literalism and Christian fundamentalist beliefs that simply deny not only basic science and the evidence of one’s own eyes also tends to make it a very ingrained belief system in those who are partial to it, once they’ve convinced themselves of it’s theological correctness. Flat-earthers are never science people. In fact, I’ve never heard of or seen any science credentials offered or claimed from any person claiming this belief…but then, how could they have such? They’d fail a 7th grade science class with their level of “knowledge”. I suspect that many of these people have little formal education at all, no higher education, and that many of them are “home-schooled” (i.e., religiously brainwashed and indoctrinated from an early age).
The crucial thing that will be noted about people who believe in these conspiracies and “fringe” (to say the least) ideas like a flat Earth, is that they will almost never debate their ideas seriously. When confronted with uncomfortable facts, like orbiting satellites and space stations that are clearly visible, laser ranging that places the distance to the moon much larger and farther than they imagine and shows it orbiting the Earth at over a kilometer a second, or simple logical fallacies like the fact that it’s impossible to create a map of a “flat” Earth that has distances and travel times that remotely correspond to reality. The simple fact that a person can book a few flight and actually fly around the world themselves doesn’t seem to phase them at all. They apparently accept the idea that all the pilots in the world fly in circles and never realize it. I’ve noticed that when you start laying out some simple facts in an attempt to get these people to recognize their mistake, the response is generally that I’m a “shill”, “agent”, etc., quickly followed by silence or some attempt to ban or block me. With these people who are so totally and completely deluded, living in a complete state of denial, debate is generally a futile activity. As the saying goes, you’ve been warned. Let the insanity commence.
Prove the Earth is round –
How to measure the distance from the Earth to the sun –
How to prove the distance to the moon –