Flat Earthers are still with us!

I bet you thought that Flat Earthers—those who deny that the Earth is spherical—were long gone. But flat-Earthism persisted into the 20th century, and some of the loons are still with us. There are serious (and also parody) flat-Earth societies; one of the serious ones is the International Flat Earth Research Society  (IFERS; header on bar says that link is not secure). That one is connected, as you might guess, with religiosity, anti-Semitism, and other conspiracy theories. Some adherents who are strict Biblical fundamentalists deny a spherical earth because some passages in scripture can be interpreted as describing a disk or plane.)

Here’s a screenshot from the IFERS site:

And here, according to Wikipedia, is the IFERS’s “model”:

The Flat Earth Society’s most recent world model is that humanity lives on a disc, with the North Pole at its center and a 150-foot (45 m) high wall of ice, Antarctica, at the outer edge. The resulting map resembles the symbol of the United Nations, which Johnson [Charles K. Johnson, the former president of IFERS] used as evidence for his position. In this model, the Sun and Moon are each 32 miles (52 km) in diameter. [JAC: if that were the case, then you could explain eclipses only by asserting that the Sun and Moon are about equidistant from Earth!]

Flat Earth Society recruited members by speaking against the U.S. government and all its agencies, particularly NASA. Much of the society’s literature in its early days focused on interpreting the Bible to mean that the Earth is flat, although they did try to offer scientific explanations and evidence.

You can even buy a flat Earth map on Amazon!:

And they’re in America! As the Denver Post reported just yesterday, there’s a group of three dozen flat-Earthers (FEs) in Fort Collins, Colorado, and the “movement” is supposedly growing, with several thousand people accepting this pseudoscience:

Every Tuesday at 6 p.m., three dozen Coloradans from every corner of the state assemble in the windowless back room of a small Fort Collins coffee shop. They have met 16 times since March, most nights talking through the ins and outs of their shared faith until the owners kick them out at closing.

They have no leaders, no formal hierarchy and no enforced ideology, save a common quest for answers to questions about the stars. Their membership has slowly swelled in the past three years, though persecution and widespread public derision keep them mostly underground. Many use pseudonyms, or only give first names.

Indeed, it surely is a faith, because there are no facts supporting it.  The article describes how it was founded, links to YouTube videos that have converted people (see the GlobeBusters channel), and describes their “theory”. Two more excerpts:

In Colorado, Ptolemaic-science revivalists have lofty ambitions: raising $6,000 to put up a billboard along Interstate 25 broadcasting their worldview. A GoFundMe site quickly raised more than $400 but has recently stalled. Anyone can contribute funds or submit billboard ideas, and the group has promised $100 to the winning submitter.

“This is not something you can force down others’ throats,” Vnuk says. “They have to come to it on their own journey. A billboard is a nonaggressive way to introduce people to the idea.”

(All scientists and educators consulted for this story rejected the idea of a flat earth.)

At the Tuesday night meet-ups, dubbed “Flat Earth or Other Forbidden Topics,” believers invite fellow adherents to open discussions in which the like-minded confirm one another’s hunches and laugh at the folly of those still stuck in the Enlightenment.

Here are two photos of the Fort Collins branch. The people look normal to me:

Members of Flat Earth Fort Collins watch YouTube videos on the topic at a meet up on June 27, 2017 at the Purple Cup in Fort Collins. The group is skeptical of the science behind the Earth being a spinning sphere.

 

John Vnuk, 54, founder of Flat Earth Fort Collins, speaks at their meet up on June 27, 2017 at the Purple Cup in Fort Collins. The group is skeptical of the science behind the Earth being a spinning sphere. Photo by Gabriel Scarlett, the Denver Post.

But wait! There’s more!:

“There’s so much evidence once you set aside your preprogrammed learning and begin to look at things objectively with a critical eye,” says Bob Knodel, a Denver resident and featured guest at a recent Tuesday meeting. “You learn soon that what we’re taught is mainly propaganda.”

. . . The movement, though, is not a monolith. Differences of opinion divide the community on matters of scientific interpretation, cosmology, strategy and even the most fundamental questions of geology, such as: what shape is our planet?

Many subscribe to the “ice wall theory,” or the belief that the world is circumscribed by giant ice barriers, like the walls of a bowl, that then extend infinitely along a flat plane. Sargent envisions Earth as “a giant circular disc covered by a dome.” He likens the planet to a snow globe, similar to the one depicted in “The Truman Show,” a fictitious 1998 existential drama about an insurance salesman unknowingly living in an artificially constructed dome.

What then lies on the other side of the ice walls or beyond the glassy dome enclosing our world?

Flat Earthers don’t claim to know with certainty, instead paying lip service to “common sense” evidence they claim can be proved. When skeptics demand proof, though, Flat Earthers wield reams of figures from so-called curvature tests and gyroscope calibrations that seem to buttress their views. Leaders want Flat Earthism to be an accessible creed for the common man, an egalitarian movement that gives life meaning by punching back at scientific disenchantment.

“They want you to think you’re insignificant, a speck on the earth, a cosmic mistake,” Sargent says. “The flat earth says you are special, we are special, there is a creator, this isn’t some accident.”

This would seem to be the height of lunacy, even dumber than creationism, but it’s not all that surprising. If you can deny the evidence for evolution, which is as strong as that for a spherical Earth, why not deny that round Earth? I recently met an evolutionary biologist who made significant contributions to writing science textbooks in an Anglophone country, but he believed strongly that the 9/11 hijackings were a ruse: the destruction of the World Trade Center was done by the U.S. government with the help of the Jews. He was dead serious.

How can this be? Well, Michael Shermer wrote a book on the subject, Why People Believe Weird Things, and I’ll refer you to that. It’s nor surprising that this kind of movement is growing in the Trump era.  With the pervasiveness of conspiracy theories, the resentment of a scientific “elite”, the feeling that your group is persecuted, and the idea that the media is constantly deceiving us, it’s not too hard to see how people can buy “alternative facts.”  Even if those facts involve the Earth being shaped like a Necco Wafer.

Here’s the ultimate disproof, courtesy of reader Laurie, that the Earth isn’t flat:

h/t: Emily Titon via Dan Dennett

123 Comments

  1. Mark Joseph
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    There’s actually a whole continuum, from flat-earthism to naturalistic evolution. The Talk Origins archive, here, has a good summary; I’ll just post the continuum itself, getting less crazy as you go down the list:

    Flat Earthers
    Geocentrists
    Young Earth Creationists
    (Omphalos)
    Old Earth Creationists
    (Gap Creationism)
    (Day-Age Creationism)
    (Progressive Creationism)
    (Intelligent Design Creationism)
    Evolutionary Creationists
    Theistic Evolutionists
    Methodological Materialistic Evolutionists
    Philosophical Materialistic Evolutionists

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      For philosophical reasons, I prefer the term naturalist to materialist, but OK.

    • Draken
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 5:46 am | Permalink

      Also read the tragic story of Gerardus Bouw, who from being an astronomer slid off to geocentric YEC.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted July 9, 2017 at 10:19 am | Permalink

        Tragic indeed. Very depressing.

  2. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I wonder what these folks do with the strong evidence that the well-educated classes in the Middle Ages definitely knew the Earth was a sphere (albeit not holding Copernican’s heliocentric model or the solar (then terran) system.)

    In Dante’s Inferno, Satan’s waist is frozen in a block of ice at the gravitational center of a spherical earth (evidently he is able to influence world events telepathically.)
    His body is huge, and the travelers crawl down his chest to his waist. But his waist being at the center of gravity(!!), they must climb from there UP to his feet to get to the other side of the earth (where evidently Dante has placed purgatory.)

    The notion of Columbus travelling to prove the world round is a myth first appearing in a novel by Washington Irving.
    =-=-=

    NASA is just about the most honest government agency in the USA, and both the earth being a globe and Newton’s gravity are the easiest to understand modern scientific theories around (closely tied with genetics & Old Earth geology.)

    Faith without full evidence is only justified if there is at least some fragmentary evidence in favor of your position. Here there is none.

    • Hayden
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      Biblical Cosmology is true. Calling on all Jesus people to make a stand and discover water will not curve in non-fisheye camera lense. GOD PULLED THE FIRMAMENT OVER THE EARTH LIKE A TENT.

  3. Rita
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Fort Collins seems to be aiming to displace Colorado Springs as the Fundie capitol of the USA.

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      Fort Collins is actually a really cool college town. I used to live 45 minutes from it and visited often. I don’t think it will ever displace a city like Colorado Springs as the Fundie capitol.

    • barn owl
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      My “favorite” Colorado loons are the elderly couple who showed up at my dad’s high school reunion (not so very far from Fort Collins) looking like Smurfs. They had developed argyria from taking colloidal silver, to “protect against infection with HIV and other pathogens.”

      I didn’t believe my mom when she told me about the blue skin, but then I saw the photos of the pair, and yes … Smurfs.

      • Richard
        Posted July 8, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        Or perhaps they were just on vacation from Pandora. Did they appear to be rather tall?

        • barn owl
          Posted July 8, 2017 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

          No, quite stout. Definitely Smurfs.

          • Draken
            Posted July 9, 2017 at 5:53 am | Permalink

            But smurfs eat sarsaparilla. So we must conclude that sarsaparilla contains a lot of silver!

  4. Posted July 8, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    How do they explain gravity? How do they explain the changing path of the sun as we progress through the seasons?
    And so on.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      Through the use of an entirely different conception of the word “explain”.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        To elaborate, they are like (and in fact usually are) creationists. Objections are overcome by whatever ad hoc excuse can be contrived. That a collection of these ad hockeries reveals no consistency of view, and includes flatly contradictory assertions, troubles them not in the least. Gish Galloping at its finest.

    • yiamcross
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      I’ve been following this crazyness for some time now. The article was written by an intern who claims to be a rising senior at Yale but looks about 12 years old. Much of what he says is nonsense simply regurgitated from his subjects with no fact checking, something which should have been caught by the editor.

      The flat earth scam peaked a year or two back but still manages to scoop up some of the least intelligent and most gullible denizens of YouTube who are often persuaded to part with a few bucks by the FE gurus.

      It’s quite an indictment of our education systems when there are people out there who can be convinced that gravity does not exist and all of NASA’s imigery is fake. They even believe that the ISS is not in space but is a CGI green screen production studio somewhere in the desert.

      • biz
        Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        It it really an indictment of our educational system, or just a reflection of the fact that humans have a distribution of intelligence, credulity, and personality disorders, and some people will inevitably lie at the wrong end of those distributions?

        Some highly educated people believe in ridiculous conspiracy theories while some high school dropouts don’t. In fact, I don’t see much evidence that the most ridiculous beliefs are correlated with education in one direction or another.

    • yiamcross
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      I’ve been following this crazyness for some time now. The article was written by an intern who claims to be a rising senior at Yale but looks about 12 years old. Much of what he says is nonsense simply regurgitated from his subjects with no fact checking, something which should have been caught by the editor.

      The flat earth scam peaked a year or two back but still manages to scoop up some of the least intelligent and most gullible denizens of YouTube who are often persuaded to part with a few bucks by the FE gurus.

      It’s quite an indictment of our education systems when there are people out there who can be convinced that gravity does not exist and all of NASA’s imigery is fake. They even believe that the ISS is not in space but is a CGI green screen production studio somewhere in the desert.

    • yiamcross
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      Ha ha ha, you’ll love this one. The main explanation they use for things falling is, wait for it, density and buoyancy. Because they don’t accept maths as viable on representing reality the fact that buoyancy depends on gravity goes over their heads. Again, gravity is just a theory which has never been proved. A few of those particularly far out there just put it down to magnetism.

      It’s a crazy world out there and the cult of anti-intellectualism is growing scarily fast. The internet somehow seems to magnigy stupidity whilst at the same time filtering out facts and reason.

      • Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        I wonder if they appeal to “intrinsic density” and “intrinsic buoyancy”? I remember those names coming up in the context of how to understand Aristotle’s physics.

        (The idea is that since there’s no void and hence no room for (to speak anachronistically) nonbaryons, something else explains density.)

    • Michiel van Haren
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      Not to mention travelling by plane around the world for example. I guess all the pilots are in on the conspiracy as well and they secrety turn the plane around when you aren’t paying attention (and then manipulate time to make up for the discrepancy in time vs distance traveled).

  5. Jacques Hausser
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I remember the tw**t of a flat-earther who wanted to test his theory during a long flight (Miami – Anchorage or something like that). He smuggled a spirit level in the cabin and checked it during the flight: except when taking off and landing, the plane was flying Horizontally ALL THE TIME. Ergo, the earth is flat.QED.
    … and several commenters did say they were relieved to have a solid scientific proof, at least.

  6. Posted July 8, 2017 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Just over the border from me in Illinois is Zion, a town long influenced by flat earthers; I don’t believe the influence persists.

    An old sign in Zion, IL.

    • Barry Lyons
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      A technical question: How did you “drag” that image into the comment space? I tried to drag a couple of memes from my desktop, but they won’t “take.” I’m working with jpegs and png files. Maybe your “scoundrel” meme has a URL-like address.

      Anyway, I’m unable to import any image into this comment space and don’t understand how others do it.

      • Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        As a WEIT contributor, I may have available to me editing commands not available to all commenters, but I’m not sure of the details of which commands are available for which users. I just try things, and if they work, they work 🙂

        • Barry Lyons
          Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          So you’re not “dragging and dropping” images from your desktop? Apparently so, because dragging and dropping doesn’t work for me. But because these images don’t come with URLs, I can’t figure out how you import them!

        • Mark Sturtevant
          Posted July 8, 2017 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

          Which is to say that you are a person with… special skills.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted July 8, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        For anyone here to access your image, it must have a URL. So get yourself a free account on some photo-sharing site and upload your images there. Then you can use the HTML img tag to embed them, if embedding is what you really want to do. Da Roolz discourage embedding, so I’d suggest using the a tag to insert a clickable link instead.

        • Barry Lyons
          Posted July 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

          Okay, thanks. I always thought a simple “drag and drop” procedure for any image would be the norm — just as it is on Twitter and other places.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted July 8, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

            The image still has to be hosted somewhere with a URL. If you have a Twitter account, Twitter will transparently upload it and host it for you under the terms of your service agreement. But we commenters have no such agreement with WordPress, so they’re under no obligation to provide hosting services for us; finding a place to host any images we want to use is our responsibility.

  7. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    The people look normal to me

    Mostly they look like bored family members dragged in to bulk up the numbers for Grandpa’s press coverage. I’m skeptical of the “three dozen” figure, and guess that when there’s no photographer, it’s just a handful of old cranks.

  8. Ken Phelps
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    For some interesting videos debunking current flat earth claims, try the Youtube channel Cool Hard Logic. He also covers many other worthwhile subjects like geocentrism, and has an eclectic series under the heading World of Batshit.

    https://www.youtube.com/user/CoolHardLogic/videos

    In the same vein, Potholer54 is not to be missed.

    https://www.youtube.com/user/potholer54/videos

  9. Dave
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    If these people confined themselves to flat-earthism alone it would be easy to smile and dismiss them as inoffensive cranks, but all the stuff about the “Jew World Order” suggests that it’s a gateway to some much nastier (and far from harmless) belief systems.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, that caught my eye too. What’s the bet the long debunked ‘Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion’ is on the recommended reading list.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      Flat earth-erism is apparently a thing with the neo-Nazi crowd. They have a forum for it at the “Daily Stormer.”

      Chalk it up to “crank magnetism,” I guess.

      • Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        We already knew that neo-Nazis have to be a bit crazier than the originals, in a way – to adopt it after what happened, after all. I believe this enhances that diagnosis.

  10. DrBrydon
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Why don’t they do down to the Antarctic with a balloon, go up a few thousand feet, and see what’s over the edge. Take a camera, show us the turtle.

    And a repeat from the other day, if the earth was flat, cats would have knocked everything off it by now.

    • Sarah
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      LOL!

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted July 8, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        Too late, perhaps, however: in picture form 🙂

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted July 8, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

          I don’t remember that picture being on the end of the post earlier… I guess I bailed to go and cook without reading to the end. Such an important topic, what was I thinking?!

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Well the answer to the first one is obvious – the U.N. naval patrols that prevent such things. Seriously. That’s what some of them assert. As someone mentioned above, this crap is inextricably tied to a deeper cesspool of conspiracy thinking.

      • Dave
        Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        Once you’ve decided that there’s a global conspiracy to hide the truth about the flat earth, then it follows that someone must be behind that conspiracy. And when it comes to global conspiracies, who else could it be but the Jews? I mean, seriously, do you think the Jains, the Methodists or the Buddhists could pull off something like that?

      • BJ
        Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        But the turtle is far too big to hide!

        Unless the Jews have also perfected invisibility and shapeshifting technologies.

        OMG! This is how they sneak the reptilians into all levels of government!

        (the sad thing is this post of mine could be read as entirely serious on many websites)

        • Mark Sturtevant
          Posted July 8, 2017 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          The turtle is underneath the elephants. That is why you cannot see the turtle.

          • Sarah
            Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

            But…but…Do you mean to tell me that it’s not turtles all the way down?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 8, 2017 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

          The Rothschilds perfected invisibility long ago.

          What, you hadn’t seen anything about that? Exactly.

    • BJ
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      Best.

      Post.

      Ever.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      …and why is the night sky, including the Southern Cross, so different when seen from Australia compared to the night sky, including the Plough and Pole Star, seen from Europe or the USA?

      • darrelle
        Posted July 9, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Well, if you believe that the sky is a material dome and all celestial objects are on its surface, a mere hundreds or thousands of miles away, then that would not be a problem to explain.

  11. bonetired
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    OK .. where are the elephants and the turtle?

  12. Sastra
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Iirc no less a figure than early evolutionary scientist Alfred Russel Wallace took up a very public challenge put out by a popular, well-heeled flat earth crank to “prove to me that the earth is flat” … and then money. Wallace designed an excellent test, which was successfully demonstrated in front of large crowds and the press. Surprise of surprises — the crank refused to accept the results, coming up instead with convoluted explanations and prevarications. No money.

    Worse, said crank turned out to be both ornery and litigatious, suing Wallace for imagined slights in court after court till the poor scientist actually ended up losing money, time, and peace of mind.

    Which provides a lesson to us all: approach dealing with cranks at your own peril.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      A lesson Bill Nye should learn.

      • Sastra
        Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        I don’t quite see the debate with Ham as a fair analogy. Nye wasn’t after a prize, Ham didn’t drag him through the courts, and the situation allowed the scientist to have access to an audience which wouldn’t otherwise ever hear a fair case.

        Also, Nye was never under any illusion that Ham himself might be persuaded. I think the romantic Wallace did indeed envision a genial capitulation.

        • Ken Phelps
          Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

          I was thinking in a broader sense. The live, public venue is rarely a good place for technical argument. The audience rarely comprehend the issues – if they did they wouldn’t be in doubt in the first place – and a sense of false equivalence is reinforced in the minds of uninformed or disinterested observers.

          • Sastra
            Posted July 8, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

            I think what Nye brought to the table wasn’t so much an impressive technical argument, but an engaging and likable persona — and it was their table. If creationists tend to allow their opinions to be swayed by emotional factors, there’s an emotional factor.

  13. Randy schenck
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    And there exist something pretty close to this same disease in the White House. I think it was the Obama was not born here flat earth society.

  14. Zach
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Anyone can contribute funds or submit billboard ideas, and the group has promised $100 to the winning submitter.

    Feel like you’re spinning? Find the truth at IFERS.net

    Snow globes are neat. So is the world. Find out what they have in common at IFERS.net

    You don’t need to get on our level; you already are. Join us at IFERS.net

  15. Sarah
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Wow! The sheer battiness!

  16. tubby
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Merseyside Skeptics did an interview with a flat earther on Be Reasonable. It was golden how he believed that a flat earth was the linchpin of all conspiracies and believed them all to be true- with the exception of Mars conspiracies. After all, if you believe Mars is a flat dot on a crystal dome then there really is no way there can be Martian colonies.

    • Tom
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Yes, the idea of a flat earth snug beneath a dome is very comforting. Every direction has limits, no unknowns are possible.
      Rather like an infants cradle.

  17. Jenny Haniver
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I’ve noted previously in this space that a number of basketball players are flat earthers — sadly, Shaquille O’Neal is one and Kyrie Irving another, though I’m unfamiliar with him. If they were footballers, one could perhaps attribute this nuttiness to head trauma.

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 3:18 am | Permalink

      Apparently that was a joke.

      http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/03/shaq-world-is-flat-kyrie-irving

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        Be a shame if round-ballers were flat-earthers.

        • Gary Greenfield
          Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

          Celebrities and athletes are for the most part ignorant pawns in the programming process to keep mankind from getting in touch with what is real, good and truly worthwhile. The guiding force behind this evil is Satan who holds the entire world under his sway. In the end, God wins.

          • Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

            Well, folks, I think we have a genuine Flatty here. Convinced that they exist? Unfortunately, Mr. Greenfield has been booted from the premises.

  18. Frank Bath
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    When I meet these conspiracy theories I try to use the Popperian is it science test: If you were to be mistaken in your belief, if, what sort of evidence might demonstrate it? Strangely it doesn’t get me anywhere.

  19. Barney
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    My great-great grandfather wrote a book at the turn of the 20th century claiming the Earth is flat – it’s mentioned at that Wikipedia link. It’s based almost entirely on “the Bible says this, so it must be true”, with various logical inconsistencies, and some simple falsehoods (such as claiming it’s well known that circumnavigating the world at 50 degrees south is about twice as far as at 50 degrees north).

    One error in that article – it calls them “Ptolemaic-science revivalists”, but as Wikipedia says, Ptolemy knew it is a globe, and used a system of latitude and longitude to give the positions of places.

    The history is roughly:
    people assume the Earth is flat, because why wouldn’t you;
    people start to study geometry, and pretty soon, around 500BC, realise it must be a globe with ‘down’ being towards the centre;
    there’s a small backlash from late Roman Christianity when some get fundamentalist and insist that the Bible overrides all mathematics and observation;
    by the early Middle Ages, no one educated thinks that any more (eg the churchman Bede, around 700AD, says it’s a globe and it’s clear he doesn’t have to argue about that).

    After that, you have to have the conspiratorial “the powers that be are trying to fool you” mindset to actually argue it’s flat, once the reasoning has been presented to you and you understand basic geometry.

  20. Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  21. Mark R.
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Whenever I read loony stuff like this, I am reminded of “Do” (pronounced doe) the founder of Heaven’s Gate cult, and one of his transcripts.

    Let me say that our mission here at this time is about to come to a close in the next few days. We came from distant space, and even what some might call somewhat of another dimension, and we are about to return from whence we came

    It requires, if you maybe moving into that evolutionary kingdom, that you leave behind everything of human ways, human behavior, human ignorance, human misinformation

    If I would title this tape, it would be ‘Last chance to evacuate planet Earth before it is recycled’
    Last chance to evacuate Earth before it is recycled.

    A couple days after he said this, 39 people killed themselves. Believing in crazy shit can have very bad consequences.

  22. biz
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    There was a different, less potentially racist/antisemitic flat Earth website that was popular around 10 years ago, partially with people who thought it was hilarious. There was the same North Pole at the center and Ice Wall cosmology, but they even came up with convoluted explanations for how gravity works in this situation and how GPS, polar white nights, and other phenomena work. I forget a lot of the details but I do remember that we feel gravity because the Earth disk is accelerating upward.

    • Mark Ayling
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I remember that site. There were several regular contributors with titles such as “Bendy Light Expert” who felt able to bat away all objections by pointing to their ludicrous “explanations”. It was fun to watch!

  23. Jeff Rankin
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    “Satellites Do Not Exist!”

    They might as well just argue that airplanes don’t exist! I mean, you can go outside – at night of course – and observe tiny, bright, fast-moving objects in the sky. You can even track the little guys with various software apps.

    • murali
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 1:23 am | Permalink

      They can acknowledge the ‘tiny, bright, fast-moving’ lights while denying the existence of Satellites 🙂

  24. Peter N
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    The stumper I’ve always wanted to pose to a flat-earther would be to call up my brother and ask him what time it is. I’m in Iowa and he’s in Berlin.

    • Barney
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      I think any of these people are so paranoid that they’d just dismiss the voice on the other end of the line as a liar, out to fool them, rather than your brother.

      But I’d like to ask them if they’ve ever known someone personally that they could call up in a time zone with a significantly different sunrise or sunset time. Or if they’ve ever traveled far enough themselves for their watches to show them the difference.

  25. Phil Rounds
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    What bothers me most is that they teach this tripe to children. Just like religion, indoctrinating the young leaves them with an enormous hurdle to overcome on the way to rational adulthood.

    I had an argument with a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses that came to visit me one Sunday. They claimed that the bible gave proof that the world was round thousands of years before it was officially accepted as a scientific fact. The quote they used contained the phrase “the circle of the Earth”. I had to remind them that a circle isn’t a sphere. At least they were on the right side of science there…I can’t say the same for their views on evolution.

    These bible quotes are the type of thing that flat Earthers refer to when they make their ridiculous claims. There seems to be a sort of “wisdom” that much of humanity clings to that people living hundreds and thousands of years ago were somehow smarter and inherently wiser than people are today. Hence, those who believed in the flat earth had it right the first time and we’ve fallen into deluding ourselves with all of this newfangled science.

    • Richard
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      I had a similar argument with two JWs at my door: I tried to explain to them that a circle is a flat two-dimensional construct, whereas a sphere is a solid three-dimensional object – and was met with blank stares of incomprehension.

      Religion must really rot the brain.

      As Dawkins said about “ancient wisdom”: it comes from a time when people did not understand how things work.

      • murali
        Posted July 9, 2017 at 1:28 am | Permalink

        You might have told them that a circle is one-dimensional 🙂 A disk is two-dimensional.

  26. Phil Rounds
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    This is interesting:
    http://www.crivoice.org/circle.html#-1-
    Christians who believe in science?

  27. David Coxill
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Oh ,America ,America .

  28. Vaal
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    For quite a while I had a very hard time believing there were any real flat earthers.
    However, I inhabit some other forums (sub forum of sports related discussion) where people have come on to defend flat earth theory at great length and effort.

    My conclusion was either that they were sincere, or playing a part. In either case, I view such people as bonkers – if you believe the earth is flat you are a kook; if you spend huge amounts of your precious time pretending to believe the earth is flat, you are pretty much just as weird.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      I suspect it’s becoming part of the conspiracy people’s bundle of beliefs. Much the same as evolution, abortion, Republicanism, etc. are part of the fundagelical package. Once you step through the looking glass, you don’t really think about the specifics too much.

      I see very little difference in the thought processes or temperaments of “mainstream” creationists and flat earthers.

  29. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    “You can even buy a flat Earth map on Amazon!:”

    Errm, that’s just another map projection. Every map of the earth is to one projection or another, and since it’s a projection of a spherical surface on a flat piece of paper, it is to some extent unrealistic. (Except for a globe).

    That projection will give (I think) correct distances on radial lines from the North Pole (i.e. lines of longitude) and be ‘wrong’ in everything else.

    cr

  30. Wunold
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    This t-shirt mocks the idea of a flat earth. I own one of these and several others from the TEACH THE CONTROVERSY collection.

  31. Michael Fisher
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    That map at the top:

    Rowbotham ripped off Gleason’s map & repackaged it into that flat earth cover

    Alexander Gleason was not a ‘flat Earther’ he patented that map [which maybe he stole from J.S. Christopher?]:

    A. GLEASON.
    TIME CHART. No. 497,917.
    Patented May 23, 1893.
    http://www.google.co.uk/patents/US497917

    The idea was to put a pin through the North Pole to attach a couple of cardboard clock hands for determining time at any locale. The map uses the azimuthal equidistant projection – all points on the map are scaled at the correct distance from the pole & also at the correct direction from a north pole POV

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      Also practically useless given the peculiarities of the wiggly time zones we use even today

  32. stuartcoyle
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I very much enjoyed the video series by CoolHardLogic debunking the ‘flattards’. They are incisive and witty though probably too long and ultimately futile in changing idiots into rational beings.

  33. Posted July 8, 2017 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Freethinkers and scientists of all political parties welcomed President Obama’s vow during his inaugural speech to “restore science to its rightful place”. However, some politicians have determined that acceptance of science is a turn off to religious voters. I can understand that calculation. I attended many church services as a child where the preachers blasted evolution, environmental protection, women’s rights, gay rights, and progress in general. I clearly remember one preacher asserting from the pulpit that the Earth is absolutely flat, as “proven” in scriptures that refer to “the four corners of the Earth”.

  34. Posted July 8, 2017 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    For those who care to inquire while enduring the mockery they will find overwhelming evidence in favor of a geocentric universe with an immovable Earth as a flat plane and the stars, moon and sun all contained within the firmament. The sun and the moon and the stars are thousands of miles away and aren’t nearly as big as what science tells us. The Ancients all understood the engineering of the universe and it is only in modern times that we have rejected what is plainly visible, logical and reasonable. Most news agencies today prop up Flat Earth organizations that embrace bizarre ides mixed with truth to
    discourage the masses from even considering an
    alternative to the heliocentric system that is taught throughout the world today.

    • Posted July 9, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Until Eratosthenes, almost everyone believed the geocentric system. Why would they change to the heliocentric system if there wasn’t sufficient evidence for it and against the flat earth model? If there is a conspiracy, what is the point of it?

  35. Martin Levin
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    For some reason,a few NBA stars are flat-Earthers, eg. Kyrie Irving and Shaquille O’Neal

  36. Deon Hurter
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    I believe the word of God not what scientist think they know.Read “Fifty reasons Copernicus or the Bible by F E Pasche (1915).God bless.

  37. Dale Franzwa
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    A number of months back, “Skeptic” magazine contained an article on the Flat-Earth movement in the Junior Skeptic section, written by Daniel Loxton. The article used the same map Jerry shows here with the southern ice wall. Of course, if that map were THE TRUTH, then there is no South Pole and all who have been there or flown over it are liars. Sorry, I don’t remember the exact issue or date (so, I guess that makes me a liar). Although, I guess someone with great Internet research skills can probably find it (if so, then I would become an un-liar, wouldn’t I?)

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 1:29 am | Permalink

      That particular *Junior Skeptic* is bound inside *Skeptic Magazine*, Volume 19, Number 4, 2014:

      http://www.skeptic.com/magazine/archives/19.4/

      You can buy it for $6 or so.

      BTW I found it easily with one Google search

  38. Tom
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    It may be churlish of me to point out that the map projection shows the earth the wrong way up since on the other side of the map is the correct projection with Antarctica as its centre this explains everything as the earth is a wafer thin disc surrounded by a sphere of stars
    Not many people know that.

  39. nicky
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    Of course the Earth is flat. If it were a sphere, the ones at the bottom half would fall off, ne? Take that spheroids!

  40. allison
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    How do Flat-Earthers explain the fact that the sun is above the horizon for only half the Earth at a time? If Earth was a flat surface, the sun would be either above or below the horizon for the entire Earth at any given time. This is by far the most obvious (in my opinion) flaw in their “theory”.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      @Allison The sun has a lampshade. Duh! 🙂

  41. Kris Sherwood
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    It makes me very upset that I have to read all of these people criticize others that have actually questioned the bullshit spinning ball nonsense that the media NASA and the government shoves down our throats . Especially when. They take everything the media and the government and NASA tells them at face value and then tries to criticize others without even doing any in I mean any of their own research. One of the definitions of ignorance is blindly believing something when there is evidence to the contrary and you still don’t even take a look. I didn’t believe a lot of different so-called conspiracy theories either. But thought I should at least research it for myself like an intellectual does. You shouldn’t criticize something without first looking into it yourself. You can easily look up all this information for yourself but most people suffer from cognitive dissonance and will believe whatever is handed to them through the media or government. Make sure all of you Flat Earth critics take your Gravol today and everyday because the Earth is spinning and moving so freaking fast that you are going to become nauseous. The Horizon is always at flat eye level. If it was curved at all the Horizon would be going away from us curving away and it simply does not anywhere you are on this plane. Please just do your own research before criticizing these people and me who have actually done real science which includes experiments not basing everything on mathematical equations. Please listen to what I have said today thank you

    • Gary Greenfield
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      The heart of man is deceptive beyond all measure and the Evil One holds all mankind under his sway. In the end God wins and the devil loses. Yes, the earth is flat but we are living in days similar to the time of Noah when the whole world was steeped in violence and a hatred of God and all things sensible. He who has ears to hear will hear and he who has eyes to see will see. Be at peace knowing God is in control and He loves you.

      • Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        Pray tell, Mr. Greenfield, could you give us some hard evidence for the existence of “The Evil One”? And what evidence do you have for the existence of God beyond what you were taught? Finally, what makes you so sure that YOUR religion is the right one and that the claims of other faiths, say Hinduism and Islam, are wrong? For someone who touts evidence, you seem to have precious little save what you were taught from dogma, scripture, or your own private revelations.

        • Gary Greenfield
          Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

          Evidence? It’s all around us, for him who has eyes to see and ears to hear. For that which can’t be proven, faith serves it’s purpose well. In the end, all will know.

          • Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

            Okay, Mr. Greenfield, you haven’t answered my questions but are simply fulminating. And your last sentence is telling, because it says that if we don’t know something for sure, we can accept it through faith. That’s why it’s called “faith” rather than science.

            BYE!

          • Mark Joseph
            Posted July 9, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

            Mr. Greenfield:

            Your inability to understand basic science does not mean that god did it.

            It is not our job to educate you, though we can certainly provide some helpful pointers. Respectfully suggest that you attempt to deal with the objections to the flat earth hypothesis posed by here in this thread, and in the follow up thread here.

            °The seasons
            °The differences in times taken by airplanes in flight to different destinations.
            °Why the sun is only visible for half the day (more or less, depending on the season)
            °Time zones
            °Eclipse predictions. Or, for that matter, how eclipses occur at all.
            °Climate patterns
            *The classic sailing ship moving into the distance refutation

            As well as other arguments in the videos at the CoolHardLogic and potholer54 YouTube sites.

            When you have explanations for these phenomena that are more convincing than the accepted scientific evidence and conclusions supporting a oblate spheroidal earth, please come back, present them in grammatical, non-theological language, along with your supporting empirical evidence and, if possible, mathematical formulations, and we will be happy to take a look at them.

            And, while you’re at it, please advise your geocentrist and young-earth creationist friends of these parameters as well.

            Best Wishes.

            Mark Joseph

    • Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      On the flat Earth model, it would take 2.5 times as long to fly from Sydney to Santiago as it would to fly from Santiago to Dallas. In reality, the second flight takes much longer.

      • Gary Greenfield
        Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        You are incorrect sir. Dallas is in the flight path between Santiago and Sydney. A flight from Santiago to Dallas will take less than half the time as a flight from Santiago to Sydney. Man can only change reality within his own mind.

        • Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

          I’m afraid you are mistaken. Flights from Sydney to Dallas take 15.25 hours. Flights from Sydney to Santiago take 12.25 hours.

          My earlier claim of 2.5 times longer was in error, but the key point is that Sydney-Dallas flight is the longer one. This can be verified on airline flight searches, and I am attaching a link that further explains it. http://flatearthdeception.com/flights-prove-the-flat-earth-deception/

    • Barney
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Have you ever talked to someone you know in a significantly different time zone – so that they can tell you the sun has set or risen at a significantly different time from where you are?

      Or have you yourself travelled east or west by several hundred miles with your own watch or other accurate timepiece? This would show to you that the sun rises and sets at very different times, which cannot happen in a flat earth model.

      Or have you travelled south of the equator? You see that, anywhere south of the equator, that Polaris, at the north celestial pole, is no longer visible, and instead there is a different point in the sky that never appears to move, and it’s to the south – wherever you are, south of the equator (and the further south you are, the higher in the sky this south celestial pole is).

      If you haven’t travelled or phoned outside your locality yourself, do you know and trust anyone who ever has?

  42. Thomas
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    These modern flat earthers do have some valid points. Enough to warrant a full investigation into space agency fakery and the actual science involved in why we belive it’s a ball. Because for all normal people, we belive it is because we are told it is.. proof of claim is required. There are many many contradictions in the copernican model, gyroscopes, helium balloons, boats going over the horizon to name but a few. What I find most strange whilst looking into this, is the lack of resonable debate. Even this piece starts by calling these people loons! Not very scientific if you ask me. If you think you have some actual proof that we live on a ball, go speak with del on a Saturday night on a channel called beyond the imaginary curve on you tube. He represents no model and will not represent any strawman argument.

    • Posted July 9, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Ah, ladies and gentlemen, we see how far the termites have spread, and how well they’ve dined.

  43. Stephen Knoll
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I ran into one at my favorite brewpub a couple months ago

    nice guy, intelligent with a technical background (he had been a Crew Chief in the Air Force & we had a nice conversation

    in the course of it, he brought the flat earth thing up :0 he challenged me to check out some website, which I later did because I told him I would

    dunno where these guys come from

  44. Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Wow, I wonder how many of the above FEs are Poes …

    That said, they do have their Islamic counterparts, and I wouldn’t be surprised (given religious syncretism) that there aren’t a few Jews (more Orthodox than say the Lubavitchers) and such as well caught up as well.

  45. Posted July 11, 2017 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    . I suspect it’s becoming part of the conspiracy people’s bundle of beliefs.

  46. Posted July 13, 2017 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    It may not come as much of a shock, but those Flat Earthers I’ve encountered on Twitter, who have expressed a political stance, have been big Trump supporters. Make of that method what you will.

  47. Posted July 29, 2017 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Mark Joseph

  48. Posted August 26, 2017 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    Mark Joseph


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