A friend told me a while back that members of his family–people I know–have become flat-earthers. And just yesterday I saw a story in the Denver Post newspaper about groups of flat-earthers who meet regularly. Contrary to what the Denver Post headline says however, the flat-earthers are not being persecuted, merely ridiculed (and, I think, the belief in a flat earth in the 21st century is worthy of a certain degree of ridicule).
What fascinates me most about this is the underlying social trends and psychology that makes some folks so anti-intellectual and anti-science that they will embrace the most extreme and implausible conspiracy theories and willfully reject the copious evidence against such conspiracies. Why does convincing themselves that millions of scientists, engineers, airplane pilots, astronauts, cartographers, politicians, etc.–all over the world–are actively conspiring to mislead them make them feel better about their lives?
I worked with a guy many years ago who was totally into biblical prophecy about the End Times. His cubicle was festooned with Clarence Larkin charts and Hal Lindsey books and timelines and newspaper clippings. It was his favorite topic of discussion; he came alive, his eyes ablaze with conviction, and he could go on and on about it for hours, making his case for the imminent pre-tribulation rapture and the identity of the anti-Christ and the stones already being quarried for the new temple in Jerusalem and the breeding of red heifers for sacrifice and the development of microchips for insertion into our hands and foreheads. I think it offered him a sense of fascination and distraction from an otherwise mundane life; being among the relative few who knew what was *really* going on.
I think climate change denial is cut from the same cloth as flat-earthism (from what I gather, flat-earthers are generally also climate change deniers as well as, of course, moon landing deniers) but it’s understandable that there is a lag among some in accepting climate change given that the (overwhelming) scientific consensus about human-caused climate change is relatively recent and has been politicized. Scientific observations about the spherical shape of the earth, on the other hand, have been around for thousands of years.
BBC article: Do they really think the earth is flat? –http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7540427.stm