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Flat Earth "Science" -- Wrong, but not Stupid

Flat Earth

By Nameless writerPublished about a month ago 5 min read
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Flat Earth "Science" -- Wrong, but not Stupid
Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash

I, like many individuals involved in science communication, find flat earthers to be intriguing. Here we have a group of individuals who adamantly deny evidence that is clearly presented to them. Today, I would like to discuss why I believe that flat earthers are not necessarily unintelligent or anti-scientific, at least not all of them. Furthermore, I would like to address why it is perfectly acceptable if you are unable to recall how we have come to understand that the earth is round. However, before delving into that, it is important to outline what flat earthers actually believe and how they have arrived at these beliefs.

The most commonly accepted flat earth model depicts the earth as a disk with the North Pole situated in the center and the South Pole as an ice wall along the edge of the disk. Nevertheless, not all flat earthers adhere to this particular model. An alternative viewpoint is the bipolar model, where both poles are located on the disk and are surrounded by water held in place by a rim of some material, possibly ice or rocks. A minority of flat earthers even propose that the earth is an infinite plane. Despite their differing beliefs, flat earthers generally concur that gravity is non-existent, attributing observations typically associated with gravity to the upward acceleration of the flat earth.

Consequently, they argue that the apparent gravitational acceleration is uniform across the earth, which contradicts established evidence demonstrating that gravitational acceleration varies in different locations on earth. Additionally, the notion that gravity results from upward acceleration presents further complications. For instance, one must assume that the moon and the sun move in tandem with the flat earth to prevent collisions. This ad-hoc assumption places the flat earth hypothesis at a disadvantage compared to models where the orbits of the moon and the sun can be accurately calculated using gravitational laws.

However, this is not the sole issue. It is also necessary to devise a mechanism for the moon and the sun to orbit above the disk to account for day and night cycles as well as lunar phases. In order to make the day-night cycle perceptible, the sun must be reduced in size and brought closer to the earth. Moreover, they invest a significant amount of time and, in some instances, money to support their belief.

Despite being aware that publicly declaring themselves as flat earthers will lead others to question their sanity, they remain steadfast in their conviction. This dedication suggests that they are not simply engaging in this for amusement. While it is true that some flat earthers can be classified as conspiracy theorists, it would be unfair to label the majority of them as such. To comprehend why, it is beneficial to examine the history of the flat earth society. The origins of the flat earth society can be traced back to Samuel Rowbotham, an Englishman who lived during the 19th century.

Rowbotham, a medical doctor, firmly believed that he had provided evidence supporting the notion of a flat earth. However, he spent the remainder of his life lamenting the fact that his supposed scientific evidence was disregarded by established authorities. Rowbotham referred to his approach as "Zeteticism," derived from the Greek word "zeteo," meaning "to seek." By employing "Zeteticism," he advocated for an extreme version of empiricism, asserting that one should solely rely on information obtained through their own senses to comprehend the natural world.

The flat earth society's philosophy, which remains unchanged to this day, is rooted in Rowbotham's principles. On the flat earth society's website, you can find statements such as: "The world appears flat, clouds have flat bottoms, and the movement of the Sun all of these are examples of our senses indicating that we do not inhabit a spherical heliocentric world. This approach is known as an empirical approach, relying solely on information obtained through our senses."

The insistence of flat earthers on relying solely on sensory evidence is crucial in understanding their perspective, which I will delve into further. Before delving into the significance of this reliance on sensory evidence, let me provide you with the rest of their history.

Following Rowbotham's passing in 1884, the flat earth concept was carried forward by another British individual named Samuel Shenton. In an interview with a journalist, Shenton explained, "While no one can truly comprehend the ultimate shape of the earth, it is undoubtedly flat in the portion we inhabit. The complete complexity of its structure will forever remain unknown, I suppose, due to its vastness." And that initiated a significant momentum in recruiting new believers.

According to a 2018 survey in the United States, two percent of the respondents claimed to believe that the earth is flat, while an additional 7 percent were uncertain. Accurate figures are difficult to obtain, but we are now likely talking about over ten thousand individuals in the developed world who reject scientific knowledge that has been established since the Middle Ages. Take a moment to let that sink in.

How does someone come to reject something as scientifically well-established as the fact that the earth is round?

There isn't just one reason, of course. Some flat earthers find the idea appealing for religious reasons, while others belong to the group that believes

NASA is evil, space is fake, and the moon landing never occurred. But mostly, it's because they consider themselves to be rational skeptics. They haven't personally been able to prove that the earth is round, so they believe it is reasonable to demand evidence. CNN, for instance, reports from a flat earth conference: "Like most of the speakers at the event CNN spoke to, he was convinced after he realized he couldn't prove the Earth's roundness."

Let's set aside the fact that, strictly speaking, you cannot prove any empirical fact; you can only prove mathematical identities. So, more precisely, we should discuss seeking evidence that disproves the hypothesis that the earth is flat. And there is an abundance of such evidence, starting from historical records of how stellar constellations shift during travel, how the length of shadows changes, to Newton's 1/R^2 force law that applies to a sphere, not a disk, not to mention Einstein's theories and the gravitational redshift, as well as the perihelion precession of Mercury, and so on and so forth.

The problem that flat earthers face is that they are unable to personally conduct most of these observations. So, if you accept the notion that only personally collected evidence is valid, you will find yourself in a difficult position.

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About the Creator

Nameless writer

"A weaver of words, crafting tales that dance on the edge of reality, inviting readers to lose themselves in the symphony of imagination"

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