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The Case Against Flat Earth Theory
Yes, this column does need to be written
You might say, “John, do we REALLY need a column explaining why the Earth can’t be flat?” Unfortunately, yes we do. Why? Well, because among others, here are some of the celebrities who have come out at one time or another and said that the Earth is flat or at least, that they’re not sure about it: Shaquille O’Neal, Kyrie Irving, B.O.B., Tila Tequila, Thomas Dolby, A.J. Styles, Sherri Shepherd, and Draymond Green. There are also millions of other people, most of whom were probably convinced by the YouTube algorithm, who also believe that we live on a flat Earth:
Researchers believe they have identified the prime driver for a startling rise in the number of people who think the Earth is flat: Google’s video-sharing site, YouTube.
Their suspicion was raised when they attended the world’s largest gatherings of Flat Earthers at the movement’s annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2017, and then in Denver, Colorado, last year.
Interviews with 30 attendees revealed a pattern in the stories people told about how they came to be convinced that the Earth was not a large round rock spinning through space but a large flat disc doing much the same thing.
Of the 30, all but one said they had not considered the Earth to be flat two years ago but changed their minds after watching videos promoting conspiracy theories on YouTube. “The only person who didn’t say this was there with his daughter and his son-in-law and they had seen it on YouTube and told him about it,” said Asheley Landrum, who led the research at Texas Tech University.
The interviews revealed that most had been watching videos about other conspiracies, with alternative takes on 9/11, the Sandy Hook school shooting, and whether Nasa really went to the moon, when YouTube offered up Flat Earth videos for them to watch next.
Some said they watched the videos only in order to debunk them but soon found themselves won over by the material.
Typically, most people just roll their eyes at this kind of thing, but I am from the mindset that it’s a mistake not to counter conspiracy theories. Maybe at one point in time, when there were a handful of gatekeeper news sources, that was a viable strategy, but today? Bad ideas can spread easily among like-minded thinkers if people aren’t exposed to counterpoints.
So, let’s start with the basics. First of all, the Flat Earth Theory IS NOT being offered in a vacuum. There is a popular competing theory that has been around for thousands of years (around 500 BC, the Greeks figured out that the world was round and at around 240 BC, Eratosthenes figured out the circumference of the Earth) that has large amounts of scientific proof undergirding it. So, for the Flat Earth Theory to be viable, it has to make more sense than the idea that the Earth is round. That is not an easy task because of some very big, very obvious flaws in the Flat Earth Theory.
First of all, if the world were really flat, then where are the edges? Those would make for great tourist locations, wouldn’t they? Can you imagine staying at a resort on the edge of the Earth and paying to hang off the side? Of course, some idiot would end up falling off trying to take a selfie, there would be a story in the New York Post, and we’d all laugh at what an idiot he was… then the next one would happen. Given how widely human beings have traveled, we should have certainly found all of these edges by now, right? The fact that we have not is a huge blow to the Flat Earth Theory because a Round Earth Theory explains this very easily (there are no edges), but I have never seen a good explanation of this from the flat Earth side. There are people who believe that when we get to the edge, we somehow teleport to the other side. For reasons unknown, some people also seem to believe the edge is in some unexplored part of Antarctica, but Colin O’Brady crossed Antarctica in 2018 without reporting an “edge” of any sort. Also, that would be one edge, so where would the other edges be? In and of itself, this is an enormous problem for the Flat Earth Theory.
So is the fact that people have been able to circumnavigate the globe by going in one direction. The first flight around the world was in 1927. The flight left from Seattle, went west and landed again in Seattle in 175 days. At this point, there have even been non-stop flights that have gone all the way around the Earth in 67 hours. If you have the money and the time, you can even personally take a cruise that goes all the way around the world. The fact that you can circumnavigate the globe by going in one direction again makes perfect sense if you believe the world is round but a huge problem for the Flat Earth Theory. Rationally, if let’s say, you keep flying west under the Flat Earth Theory, at a certain point, you should fly off into space – except that’s not what happens.
Similarly, we have been to space and taken pictures of the Earth from there and it’s a globe. Don’t take my word for it, look for yourself. Again, in a running theme, the fact that the Earth appears to be a globe from space is another strong piece of evidence that the Earth is round and a big, big problem for the Flat Earth Theory. In fact, the Flat Earth Theory explanation of this is that there’s a conspiracy to lie to people about it.
First of all, why? What would the point of that be? I don’t have the slightest idea how that would benefit anyone or why it would merit some massive conspiracy. Even setting that aside, as technology has advanced, we have more and more people across various countries that are involved in some form of space flight. More than 75 countries have their own satellites. Even nations like Thailand, Mexico, and Kazakhstan are in space at this point.
Does anyone really believe that there are 75+ world governments and tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of people involved in space flight, satellites and soon even space tourism (!!!) that KNOW the world is flat, are aware that we’re faking pictures of it being a globe, but that are keeping this quiet for some unknown reason? That’s just not possible and it makes no sense.
Now, up to this point, I’ve tried to do very basic, yet very powerful, non-scientific pieces of proof that show the Earth isn’t flat. However, there are many, many other pieces of evidence in the world. Here are just a few out of many that are particularly convincing and don’t require a lot of scientific knowledge to buy into:
1) If you watch a ship sail offshore, when it gets far away enough, you will lose sight of it as it disappears around the curvature of the Earth.
2) As you go higher, you can see further distances, even across flat areas, because areas past the curvature of the Earth are revealed.
3) We can look at other planets in our solar system. They’re round. Why would our planet be flat while all the other planets are round?
4) Sunsets and sunrises occur at different times in different places all across the world. That makes perfect sense if the world is round, but not a lot of sense if the world is flat.
The counterargument to this is basically, “I believe the Earth is flat because it seems flat, and you can’t make me believe it’s round.” If that’s where you are, no one can indeed “make you” believe that the Earth is round. But, IF you believe yourself to be a logical, rational person who possesses common sense (and most people do), then you should agree that you need to be able explain these things if you’re going to claim that the Earth is flat. My guess is those answers are going to be difficult to come by because even the Flat Earth Society, which has been around since 1956, doesn’t have good answers to these questions. All of us should want to know the truth and if you are someone who is capable of looking at the evidence with an open mind, it’s going to be very difficult to look at the overwhelming evidence and conclude that the Earth is flat.