I must say that I am fascinated by this growing “anti-flat earther” movement online in response to flat-earthers and other fringe conspiracy theories. The people within this trend are adamant about proving that the Earth is a globe. I second their motion. However, how they go about the business of addressing this issue leaves much to be desired.
They usually come from a logical point of view, which is excellent for most assertions regarding our world’s nature, but it has inherent flaws and doesn’t acknowledge the real issue at hand with flat earthers.
If empirical evidence is all that was needed to whisk away the pesky idea, then it wouldn’t exist, but yet it persists. Our knights in shining armor are heavily armed, but maybe a little too armed. The dynamic between flat earthers and anti-flat earthers is a mirror image of most political conflicts in our times.
In this scenario, one is correct, and the other is wrong, but there’s something beneath the surface that I have noticed. The way they have reached their conclusions seems to come from a similar mindset, a mindset that has slowly degraded our society.
Why Should We Care About Flat Earth?
There will always be conspiracy theorists and not ALL conspiracy theories are bad. It’s the onlookers, the people on the fence, and those who can’t tell you why the Earth is not flat that concern me.
These ideas are dangerous in a democratic society because we depend on our neighbors to make informed decisions, elect leaders that make informed decisions and share universal truths.
There are additional opportunity costs associated with leaving people behind, as physicist Lamar Glover quoted during the Behind the Curve documentary: “The truthers, the flat-Earthers, the anti-vaxxers. When we leave people behind, we leave bright minds to mutate and stagnate. These folks are potential scientists who have gone completely wrong. Their natural curiosity and rejection of norms could be beneficial to science if they were more scientifically literate.”
To take what Lamar said a little further, There are those of us who have legitimate questions about science and are striving to critique and sharpen our understanding of our world.
As with the political landscape, science with the rise of conspiracies and space denial has created an atmosphere rife with extremism and tribalism.
Anyone asking a legitimate question such as “Is the Sun made out of plasma?” or “What is gravity?” is ostracized for being science deniers. This smug attitude towards basic questions concerns me since a few of the basics of modern science are falsification and the belief that our understanding of the world around us will continuously improve.
These developments stagnant scientific achievement and give legitimacy to flat earther’s claim that “globe believers” believe what they are told without question. There is a vast difference between a seemingly crackpot idea and a conspiracy theory. Not everyone understands science. Some people just don’t know. Those people need to be educated, not ostracized.
This discussion matters because flat earth theory at its core strives to discredit humanity’s most celebrated achievements, integrity, ingenuity, and intelligence. It denies us the right to believe in ourselves, our fellow men and women, and our institutions.
But more importantly, flat-earthers have a point that many anti-flat-earthers summarily dismiss without examination.
Pop Science Encourages Flat Earth Theories
The onus is upon science to change course and reexamine the landscape in which scientific knowledge is consumed and, more importantly, how it is communicated.
The world has changed significantly over the past twenty years, and flat earthers aren’t the only people being left behind. We laughed and snickered when Trump announced his bid for president. How did that turn out?
The political landscape wasn’t ready for Trump in much to same way industries weren’t prepared for Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and other start-ups. These companies have changed our world forever. No part of our society is immune to change. You either evolve or perish.
As I’ve discussed in my blog Science Needs Marketers, the scientific community has taken it for granted that people will believe experts since they have spent years studying a topic or area of interest.
The internet has given anyone the power to acquire knowledge without context and acclimate that knowledge to their localized belief systems and paradigms.
On the surface, this is a good thing. Knowledge empowers and helps to even the playing field for the disfranchised. But combine this newfound power with the inadequacies of our education system and a somewhat aloof, elitist, scientific community, and you’ll have what you have today. My sincere apologies to the scientist friends, but you know there is some truth to those words.
Social media exacerbates the problem. How many Facebook ads, videos, and posts have you seen today with “experts” vying for your attention online, promising to cure all of your pains and hardships? Naturally, people have become skeptical of “experts.”
The way news is consumed and shared has an impact as well. News makes its round on social media, and people share it, meme it, and tomorrow it’s gone. Does anyone know what a black hole is or even how a picture of a black hole was created?
Knowledge and information are no longer monopolized by large textbooks, libraries, writers, professors, and universities. You can learn pretty much anything on YouTube, Coursera or Lynda. Information is cheap and flows freely, but understanding, insight, and wisdom are at an all-time low.
We have an idea about what science is supposed to be, but we don’t understand the process or the “whys.”
It’s similar to watching a football game. We see the action, but do we know the dynamics of play-calling, the playbook’s intricacies, or a position group’s schemes? Do you know what an “A” gap is?
People live in the real world, a world in which we hang out with friends, go to school and work, do things with our hands, hug each other, talk, eat and sleep. There is no context for a massive gas planet 72,000 miles wide that can float in your bath tube or a star being four “light-years,” or 23,510,000,000,000 miles away.
The situation is exacerbated when these “findings” are communicated through the lenses of dogma and sensationalism.
Brain Greene stood up before a TED talk audience and spoke of multiple universes, the string theory, and dark matter. Fascinating, but I can’t even begin to imagine what you are describing.
It sounds a little like a fairy tale to most people, but we are supposed to admire the possibilities and children listening to their teacher read a story before nap time. For most people, their empirical meter indicates that nothing in their world indicates multiple universes could be real. The universe alone is a foreign concept relegated to late-night television.
You can imagine some of the questions some people ask themselves: What does this have to do with me? Are you guys wasting taxpayers’ money? What do they do all day? And so goes the thought process. A flat earther is in the making.
If you listened to that fantastic TED Talk, you would have no choice but to believe dark matter is real since it is the foundation for the multi-universe concept he described. Well, some of his colleagues disagree. The existence of dark matter is still going through the stages of falsifiability.
Renowned physicist Erik Verlinde and others are working to develop alternative concepts that would not only render dark matter obsolete but redefine how we think of the universe. That’s heavy. That’s also the true nature of science in our age of critical rationalism. Things can be proven false and will continue to be proven wrong. To present scientific concepts as indisputable facts is slightly disingenuous.
We can see other pitfalls in advances in medical and social sciences since new concepts require rigorous peer review, sometimes taking years, if not decades. This process slows seemingly apparent advancements. Meanwhile, people lose faith and patience.
This paradigm, along with the proliferation of the internet, has allowed alternative medicine outlets to grow and feed off a hungry populace. The internet has allowed people to customize their life, access information that was previously inaccessible and buy almost anything from anywhere.
We apply the same logic to our health. Weight loss has been one of the hottest niches in digital marketing circles for years. People are getting rich off eBooks and blogs speaking on “scientifically proven” weight loss methods. Unfortunately, this opens the question, “Why should I trust a doctor? That ad I saw last night spoke to me.”
The Real Reason People Believe the Flat Earth Theory
The thing that makes this belief so troubling is that we can easily prove it false. I can’t determine either way that there is an afterlife, but I can show you the undeniable proof that the Earth is round.
To say that the Earth is flat defies fundamental math and science and requires a person to believe that millions of people every day someone manage to go to work and do things that are fake and unreal.
Space tech companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin are somehow lying to people who are throwing billions of dollars to do so. Aerospace engineers spend years and years in college studying one thing, and that one thing is to lie to people and build technology worth millions of dollars to go to a place that doesn’t exist.
The fact that a healthy human mind can deny something so fundamental about our existence and dismiss entire segments of the population as liars and propagators of conspiracy in the face of mounting evidence over thousands of years is fascinating. There is no limit to what our minds will allow us to believe in light of that reality.
So why do people believe the Earth is Flat? The flat earth theory isn’t about the Earth being flat. It’s more about the rejection of society, society’s framework, paradigms, and the general establishment.
The argument for the flat earth theory relies solely on the premise that society is brainwashed. Most scientific advancements are a hoax, and that a powerful group such as Free Masons keeps this all hidden from humanity.
That’s not science. That’s a conspiracy. Without that argument, it wouldn’t hold up, which is coincidentally unprovable. You will never prove to a flat earther that the Earth is round using science, reason, or logic because of how their paradigm is constructed.
Their issue is a detachment from humanity in a superiority complex that gives one the onus of truth about our world. People naturally want to believe in something, and they want to believe their life has meaning with a higher purpose.
But is everyone else so different?
Billions of us believe in beings that we have never been seen or heard. We worship these beings in what we call religion. I am not knocking religion. I’m pointing out that empirical evidence isn’t necessary for us to believe, hope and dream.
How do you feel about Trump being elected president? Russiagate kept people glued to their television screens for years. Then, after Biden’s election, some genuinely believed Trump “won” reelection.
Although flat-earthers are on another “plane” when it comes to detachment from reality, none of us are immune to beliefs and paradigms that do not corroborate with reality. Growing distrust with “experts,” academic dogma, and the tabloid-like news media has left many to fend for themselves when it comes to making sense of the world.
We need to teach and learn new ways of understanding and deciphering information in this postmodern information age before we find ourselves joining the flat-earthers in a world that does not exist.
Quincy Bingham is a native Mississippian, world traveler, and digital marketer. Quincy’s life’s work has been the Solar Republic brand, which embodies his values of kaizen, personal development, and lifestyle design. He has learned through experience that change is the only constant in life; trust is the single real currency, and consistency is the only vehicle that gets you to where you want to be in life.
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