The World is Flat (No, Really)

Sherri Shepherd, The View‘s new co-host, doesn’t know if the earth is flat or not.

A transcript:

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Is the world flat?

SHERRI SHEPHERD: Is the world flat? (laughter)

GOLDBERG: Yes.

SHEPHERD: …I Don’t know.

GOLDBERG: What do you think?

SHEPHERD: I… I never thought about it, Whoopi. Is the world flat? I never thought about it.

BARBARA WALTERS: You’ve never thought about whether the world was round or flat?

SHEPHERD: I tell you what I’ve thought about. How I’m going to feed my child–

WALTERS: Well you can do both.

SHEPERD: …how I’m going to take care of my family. The world, is the world flat has never entered into, like that has not been an important thing to me.

ELIZABETH HASSELBECK: You’ll teach your son, Jeffery, right?

SHEPHERD: If my son, Jeffery, asks me ‘is the world flat,’ I guess I would go…

JOY BEHAR: You know, didn’t some person already work this question out? I mean, why are we doing this again? (laughter, applause)

Wow. Someone made Elisabeth Hasselbeck appear moderate.

Shepherd says knowledge of the planet’s non-flatness has nothing to do with how she feeds her child, takes care of her family, etc. Which is why she hasn’t thought about it. Ok. That *almost* wouldn’t be so bad… Except in the first few seconds of the video above, when asked if she believes in evolution, she is emphatically shaking her head, “no.” Somehow, she’s had time to contemplate basic biology and evolutionary theory… but she’s never seen a picture of the Earth from outer space.

Either that, or she just believes anything her Bible tells her.

Phil Plait says the show’s producers should rethink her hiring. I disagree. I’m thrilled she’s going to be on the show.

People don’t believe me when I say 66% of the country believe we were created less than 10,000 years ago.

This will help get some exposure to the complete idiocy of fundamentalist thought to a mass viewing audience.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, fundie, fundamentalist, conservative, Republican[/tags]

  • Darfasti

    *Blink*

    *Blink*

    WTF!!!

    She never thought about this kind of stuff? How do you go about life without even being even little curious about the world around you?

    How? How can you go through life without even learning if the fucking world is round or not?

  • http://thedailybackground.com Arlen

    Hahaha, good take. I had to laugh when you said “Someone made Elisabeth Hasselbeck appear moderate.”

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    It is amazing how little people know. My fiancee asked me recently, “What’s below the solar system?” I said, “What are you talking about ‘below’?” “You know, below the Solar System, under it. Why do we keep sending probes straight outward, and not below us, there might be things there we’re missing.”

    Now, keep in mind we have been to some of the best planetariums together, seen scale models of the solar system, went to the Hayden, the Adler, seen representations of what the Universe may look like, as we know it so far. All of that, and she doesn’t understand the relatively linear nature of the solar system, that we are out on an arm of a spiral galaxy, sitting in a corner of an ever expanding universe. She then asked, “What if there were no gravity, where would earth fall to?” I said, “What are you talking about? If there were no gravity, why would Earth fall? If there were no gravity, there would be no Universe, it’s a fundamental property of our Universe, at least so far as we’d be able to observe it. If there were no gravity, would we have an orbit around a star? Would stars form at all? Would the Universe be an ever expanding cloud of dust, or of hydrogen?”

    At least she didn’t ask, “Well, how do we know the Earth isn’t flat?”

  • Ada

    At least she’s asking questions, Bjorn. Some people need some stuff spelled out for them before they really get it, and asking questions makes that happen.

    For someone to go through their whole adult life and never ask about the shape of the world is pretty pathetic. Actually, for someone to get through puberty without ever being told the shape of the world is pretty pathetic. Even if she were told the wrong shape, at least the conversation came up.

    How poorly paid are the co-hosts of The View that they really have to worry about how to feed their children, anyway? I don’t buy that.

  • Richard Wade

    I give public talks about astronomy and other sciences for a living, and the level of ignorance about such basic things never fails to astound me. (Although I haven’t actually met a flat earther yet.) Graduate students from major universities can have absurd misconceptions about what makes day and night or the phases of the moon, and you can forget about asking what makes seasons. General science education in this country is pretty sad. Remember all those stories about huge percentages of people not being able to find their own state on a map of the U.S, or the U.S. on a map of the world? It’s still true. Most people live on a flat world a few miles in diameter, the distance to the office, the market, or the watering hole.

  • http://sideeffectsmayvary.wordpress.com Lily

    I wrote about this on my blog as well – her ignorances is so astounding, it *almost* seems like a joke. Of course the minute I posted it I started to attract comments spouting how “evolution is just a theory” etc. (sigh) Will this country ever change?

  • Erik Snyder

    According to Wikipedia: Raised a Jehovah’s Witness, Shepherd later became a born-again Christian after moving to Los Angeles.

    Jehovah’s Witness
    Born-again Christian
    Los Angeles

    If that doesn’t scream nut job, I don’t know what does!

  • Mriana

    Obviously education was lacking in generations past too. Unbelievable. Barbra Walters saw right through it, but I have a hard time with her statement the Bible needs to be respected. It is errant, not inerrant. It’s no better than John Jakes’s North and South, by way of history. It’s loaded with poetry, metaphor, similie, and all sorts of literature, but it deserves no more respect than other books and is subject to literary criticism and other criticisms.

    It is amazing how little people know. My fiancee asked me recently, “What’s below the solar system?” I said, “What are you talking about ‘below’?” “You know, below the Solar System, under it. Why do we keep sending probes straight outward, and not below us, there might be things there we’re missing.

    Bjorn, how much you want to bet that if you told her angels are holding up the universe that she would say, “Oh ok” buying it hook, line, and sinker without further question?

  • HappyNat

    It is amazing how little people know. My fiancee asked me recently, “What’s below the solar system?”

    Oh I know! It’s the giant turtle holding up the flat earth, right?

  • Vincent

    I believe Joy Behar’s line was actually “didn’t Columbus already work this out?”

    You think she’s bad, I just watched the seson premier of Beauty and the Geek last night. They showed “casting calls” and women were asked questions such as “which is closer to the earth, the moon or the sun?”
    Answers included “the moon”, “they’re the same distance” and the astounding “aren’t they the same thing?”

    Now it’s possible they were playing up the dumbness because they thought it would increase their chances of being on the show, but in many cases I’m sure it was genuine.

  • severalspeciesof

    I was ohhh sooo hoping to detect some bit of comic undertone from Shepherd, some shred of sarcasm, SOMETHING to make me feel as if this was a farce. But sadly, no.
    I’m betting that if someone were to ask her how many wise men came to see Jesus, her answer would be “three”. If asked how does she know this, she would say because the bible tells her so (even though the bible doesn’t give an account of how many). Many people are extremely egocentric (I don’t mean in the selfish sense) to the point of having permanent blockers when it comes to information that doesn’t pertain to the immediate here and now. They are passive recievers of information that they unconciously filter, and they are rarely active in acquiring information. So I actually believe her when she says she hasn’t given any thought to the flatness or roundness of the earth, and that she doesn’t know.
    This is what I see in many born-agains; at the time of conversion it’s a passive act, a giving up and letting an outsider supply the answers. I know this because I was once there myself.

  • stogoe

    If there’s one thing I miss about being religious, it’s using shame as a tool for social control.

    We have got to figure out a way to make humans ashamed of being stupid.

  • Polly

    I don’t know about baby Jesus, but that plus some of the other examples here sure made me want to cry.

    @stogoe,

    We have got to figure out a way to make humans ashamed of being stupid.

    Stupidity and ignorance should be the teen-pregnancy of the 21st century – something your family sends you away for until it’s out of your system. Unfortunately, we’re going in the opposite direction. NOT knowing jack seems to be a badge of honor and is the currency of celebrity. Sadly, that has an influence.

  • Siamang

    NOT knowing jack seems to be a badge of honor and is the currency of celebrity.

    Hey, it worked for our president.

    Not to say that the man is stupid or ignorant… I don’t think he is. But he PLAYS as though it’s okay to be that way.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    I’ve had similar experiences to Bjorn’s.

    - In high school one young woman was astounded to learn in science class that the moon and sun are separate objects. (She thought the sun became the moon at night.)

    - I knew one lady who didn’t know stars were other suns. That isn’t too bad, but she never wondered to herself what the “lights in the sky” at night were. The lack of curiosity shocked me.

    - I told another person that I saw a shooting star form an airplane, which confused her because she thought planes flew “above the stars”. (Explaining what shooting stars actually are was the least of my troubles.)

    I think there is just a large number of people who have no curiosity about the world around them and their physical location in it. The must come across such information in school or on TV etc., but since they have zero interest it doesn’t stick.

  • Polly

    I think the confusion with the sun and moon might be a misunderstanding coming from being told that the LIGHT is from the same source – the sun.

    Flying above the stars. Is it possible (s)he was just from an extremely advanced civilization that takes interstellar travel for granted? Telltale antennae and a green or blue tinge to the skin may be clues. :P

    If the purportedly most advance country in the world has citizens who are this ignorant what must lesser developed nations be like?

    @Siamang,

    I strongly suspect that W is working toward some definite goal that has nothing to do with the interests of the USA, democracy, or the well-being of Iraq; and that definitely has nothing to do with capturing Osama.

  • Karen

    severalspeciesof:

    Many people are extremely egocentric (I don’t mean in the selfish sense) to the point of having permanent blockers when it comes to information that doesn’t pertain to the immediate here and now. They are passive recievers of information that they unconciously filter, and they are rarely active in acquiring information. So I actually believe her when she says she hasn’t given any thought to the flatness or roundness of the earth, and that she doesn’t know.
    This is what I see in many born-agains; at the time of conversion it’s a passive act, a giving up and letting an outsider supply the answers. I know this because I was once there myself.

    Exactly – that’s a terrific insight, and that’s how religion plays into ignorance and stupidity like this shameful display. I was taught explicitly NOT to question god or trust science, to accept his “mysterious” ways and to wait until I got to heaven, where I would get all the answers I wanted. Thinking about them was just a distraction from the real work of evangelism, so I consciously suppressed my doubts and questions. This is seen as “having faith,” the most positive attribute of the conservative evangelical Christian.

    You can hear Sharri extol the virtues of faith, as laid out in Hebrews, in that clip. In other words, believe what you wish is true, despite having no evidence. It really turns my stomach now to see that trumpeted as a virtue. It’s sad and dangerous.

  • Sunworshiper

    I forwarded a comment to ABC.com asking for a woman with a scientific background who could be a role model for today’s youth to replace Sherri. I doubt much will come of it. But perhaps if there is a loud enough voice (such as the stir after the Paula Zahn bit on CNN several months back) folks in the media might take some notice.

    My wife is an elementary school teacher and I am, among other things, an amateur astronomer. As a result, I often talk with other elementary teachers about astronomy. I’ve also given classroom presentations and shared my telescope during some night gatherings.

    What I find interesting is that very few of the elementary teachers I’ve talked with have much knowledge about the universe. Many teach the nine (some still haven’t caught up with Pluto being demoted) planets and a few facts about the moon or sun. Yet there is little understanding of how the sun works, the formation of stars, the effects of the sun and moon on the earth, the components that make up galaxies, cosmic distances, or the big bang (to name just a few).

    And yet when I give a lesson, there is an insatiable appetite for this knowledge. At times, I can’t seem to answer questions fast enough. Fourth graders ask about black holes and “Planet X”. They want to know, and they understand much more than most adults give them credit for.

    Unfortunately, although most adults are still curious enough to ask questions, some aren’t even interested in looking through a really big telescope under dark skies when it is only a few steps away.

  • Kate

    I forwarded a comment to ABC.com asking for a woman with a scientific background who could be a role model for today’s youth to replace Sherri.

    PLEASE tell me who you sent it to, I would love to do a follow-up e-mail with my own concerns. I get very fired up over women-in-science issues and…yes, please let us know who you sent it to. I’d love to voice my concerns.

    Hemant, I read this before my morning coffee and immediately got so depressed that I barely wanted to leave my apartment. I was also frightened – people like this (she CAN’T be the only one) DRIVE MOTOR VEHICLES.

    Ahahahahahahaha Wikipedia has been nija-edited…check out the last line in this quote. ;)

    Shepherd was the subject of controversy due to the September 18, 2007 broadcast of the View. An excerpted clip of the show was rebroadcast by numerous news programs in which she appears to express a neutral position on whether the Earth is flat. In the September 19 broadcast, she amended her apparent neutrality on the subject and stated that she is aware of the Earth being round (presumably meaning the traditionally accepted spherical shape of the planet) and that in the previous broadcast she had been too nervous, confused and stupid to answer the question adequately.

  • Vincent

    What I find interesting is that very few of the elementary teachers I’ve talked with have much knowledge about the universe. Many teach the nine (some still haven’t caught up with Pluto being demoted) planets and a few facts about the moon or sun. Yet there is little understanding of how the sun works, the formation of stars, the effects of the sun and moon on the earth, the components that make up galaxies, cosmic distances, or the big bang (to name just a few).

    From my own experience as a substitute teacher in the California school system, I think our educational system is completely screwed up. Teachers go to college to get a degree in how to make presentations, how children learn, basic child psychology, etc. Then they are put in the schools and expected to teach subjects about which they probably have little knowledge and even less interest. On the other hand, someone with a Master’s or PhD can’t get a teaching certificate.
    It’s backwards. Teaching is a skill that can be trained and learned, but it shouldn’t be the sum total of what you need to enter the profession. You should be able to do it with a demonstrated ability in the relevant subject matter and some supplemental training.
    Maybe a year on how to make a lesson plan etc. after getting your higher degree. I believe such people really have the enthusiasm and ability to convey that to children, but the school doors are closed to them.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    You’d think somewhere along the way she’d have seen an episode of Star Trek (maybe one of Whoopi’s) or seen at least a part of a Star Wars movie, enough to know that planets are spherical. This basic stuff is pervasive in popular culture.

    I guess if one of the other girls back out of the reunion she could always have a singing career: as Stupid Spice

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I find it hard to believe that people really don’t know this stuff. I mean, I knew the stuff being discussed here by the time I was in fourth grade. Sigh.

  • Polly

    Speaking of teachers, how did I forget this.
    At my wife’s preschool, one of her fellow TEACHERS asked whether the sun orbits the Earth or the Earth orbits the sun. (She didn’t use the word “orbit” I’ll tell you that.) My wife had to inform her that, indeed, the Earth goes around the sun.
    So, I’m happy to report that they’ve now caught up to the 16th century. Somehow, I don’t feel like celebrating.

  • Maria

    Wow, that’s scary….someone needs an education. I learned the earth was round in 2nd grade. Whoopi Goldberg sounds like she has Deistic views. I don’t think Barbra Walters is that religious….

  • Mriana

    The most religious place I know is out in the Ozark boondocks. All the teenage girls in that particular school were pregnant one year and they adults were talking about sin and trying to make the kids repent for their sins and get married, which means going to the alter (given it is a blink once and you’ll miss it town there was, at the time, one predominent church) of “The Church of God”. Needless to say, they did not teach birth control in the one and only high school, much less the one and only junior high. Now that was a crime against humanity, because if they had dropped their dogmatics then the pregnancy rate might have been lower and no one would have had to have been shamed into religion.

    BTW, I know this because my step-cousins were mixed up in that mess in that town. Even though I didn’t live there, they did and I heard the adults rant and rave about it all when I visited my grandmother.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    I think everyone is overestimating the importance of scientific knowledge. Some people just plainly aren’t interested in the mechanics of heavens. I don’t tihnk there’s anything particularly wrong with that. I personally prefer to associate with academically inclined persons, but surely there are many other pursuits of appredciable value.

    HOWEVER, there exist a number of key facts whose ignorance with regards to is simply not negotiable (I know that was a horrible sentence, but I’m trying to mirror the grammar of my philosophy text right now). Evolution, the shape of the Earth, and what the Sun is constitute that short list (IMHO). It’s deplorable that this inane woman is so incredibly retarded and seemingly, not embarrassed by it.

  • Mriana

    This is true, but I do think we should not keep our children ignorant of their bodies either. So that should be on that list you made too. It’s not Evolution or basic earth science, but it is basic medical science that everyone should know and understand.

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  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    If there’s one thing I miss about being religious, it’s using shame as a tool for social control.

    We have got to figure out a way to make humans ashamed of being stupid.

    I wouldn’t worry, you guys seem to be doing a pretty good job of it here. :roll:

  • DaveC

    I’ll even answer the question you posed.
    Her next question will be “why is that red light flashing on that camera?”
    the one after that will be, “aren’t we lucky that Intelligent Falling is a fact otherwise we’d all float away?”

    Oh crap I don’t know what the hell is going through her head, but it must be complete and utter bollocks and it depresses me that some people insist that the truth lies somewhere between her views and the truth.
    A black wristband would be cool, but failing that any kind of pink or red would be just as sweet

  • Richard Wade

    We have got to figure out a way to make humans ashamed of being stupid.

    Definitely backfires. I assume you really mean ignorance. Shaming people for their ignorance just makes them hide it, driving them deeper into the intellectual isolation that has fostered their ignorance . It also makes them resent people who are not ignorant. I frequently answer some of the “dumbest” questions about basic science, and a patient, positive and respectful approach will nurture the spark of interest that caused them to ask the question in the first place.

    Ask yourself if you really want to help remove ignorance or just feel superior.

  • Paul

    Here’s the problem with narrow mindedness of Athiests

    You go on and on about how ignorant believers are and how biased they are –that they just jump to conclusions and right here, right now, you show you ARE what you accuse others to be

    Is not one person here inteliigent enough to see she was nervous? That she choked. She felt she was being traped with the question and lost her center. Obviously she is in the wrong business, on a talk show, but your making judgments on christians to make yourselves feel superior

    You also use the logical fallacy of ascribing what she said as if it was the response every Christian would give. You also imply that the bible says the earth is flat when this woman didnt even say the earth was flat.

    You dont strengthen your argument with such fallacies. You weaken them by showing you dont think clearly. Its lke someone having the opinion that all Men are murderers and then when you find one you say…see…I was right.

    You bring up meaning less stats like–66% of the country believe we were created less than 10,000 years ago.–as if this proves some point you have. There is not one person I know that believes the earth is 10,000 years old and Im sure there are only athiests and bad pollsters who believe that stat. So again, fallacy to renenforce your belief.

    I can easily say that 95% of the world believes your wrong in coming to the conclusion there is no creator. This large majority throughout time includes the greatest minds in history. This sheer volume of people obviously includes billions of humans in the higher IQ ranges —compared to your little insignificant number of believers, its like comparing a mountain to a pebble

    So if you want to use stats to bolster your views you just make yourselves look foolish. Reason is decided by the reasonable. A pebble doesnt tell a moutain whats reasonable. The very definiton is defined by what is *Normal–and its normal to believe in God and abnormal to come to the conclusion that something in Spacetime came out of nothing

    So have your beliefs. But having a little, “Im smarter than all of humanity” party, with points dripping with bias, fallicies, and lies, only makes you look pathetic.

  • batyah harris

    I agree with Richard Wade: ask yourself whether you want to bring more enlightenment and intellectual curiosity into the world, or whether you just want to hone your own contemptuousness of others. Everyone has weaknesses and knowledge deficits of some kind. This woman who seemed befuddled by the question of whether the earth is round or flat certainly did come off sounding like a moron. Surely she knows better — I am not sure what happened there (stage fright?), and I’m really not interested in an isolated incident of stupid speech, though it makes for a fun post, I guess.

    But let’s talk about the more serious question of general ignorance in our society. I do think that we have a problem in the educational system today, and it is not just limited to science and math. If you truly have a fund of knowledge that should be shared with others, then by all means, share it in a positive way. Make others hungry to learn from you. Make learning fun. To the young man whose fiancee is ignorant about astronomy — please, I hope that you did not shame her or worse, derive pleasure from shaming her. That would be a bad basis for a marriage relationship, or any relationship, for that matter. She obviously had her curiosity sparked by something and she turned to you for help in broadening her own understanding of things that confuse her. I think that’s great. I happen to know very little about astronomy myself and asked my husband what was, definitely, a “dumb” question. He was surprised at my lack of knowledge, since I was an honor student in college and am obviously intelligent. But you know what, I understand grammar quite well and I love language and words. My husband is brilliant, graduated with a double major in science and math in three years’ time with a 4.0 GPA, but I read and correct every business letter and speech that he writes. I work with professionals, and I am continually shocked at the poor usage, bad grammar, and abominable syntax coming from the mouths of college graduates (many of whom are quite arrogant about their scientific or mathematical prowess).

    Some people seem to have very little knowledge in any area. Feel compassion for them. Perhaps there were circumstances in their early lives that quashed their intellectual curiosity or perhaps they were never given any meaningful education. Some people have a lot of knowledge about certain things, but are surprisingly ignorant about other things that you may consider basic. Yet other people seem to know a lot about a lot of stuff. We can only hope that those in the last group care enough about their fellow citizens to try to encourage the others to come along and catch up.

    I know that the habit of rejecting knowledge on the grounds of religious belief is very, very odious to anyone who has a curious and sharp mind. I am an Orthodox Jew who is agnostic most of the time, atheist part of the time. There are many, many, many brilliant Orthodox Jews, and I’m sure there are many brilliant devout Christians as well. Each finds his own way of reconciling his dual impulses of reason and faith. Painting all the faithful with the same broad brush really accomplishes nothing worthwhile. I understand your frustration; I know where it’s coming from, believe me. But just think before you speak.

  • Richard Wade

    batyah harris, please stick around.

  • Siamang

    There is not one person I know that believes the earth is 10,000 years old …

    Stick around. They post here. You’ll meet ‘em.

    I can easily say that 95% of the world believes your wrong in coming to the conclusion there is no creator. This large majority throughout time includes the greatest minds in history. This sheer volume of people obviously includes billions of humans in the higher IQ ranges —compared to your little insignificant number of believers, its like comparing a mountain to a pebble

    So if you want to use stats to bolster your views you just make yourselves look foolish. Reason is decided by the reasonable. A pebble doesnt tell a moutain whats reasonable. The very definiton is defined by what is *Normal–and its normal to believe in God and abnormal to come to the conclusion that something in Spacetime came out of nothing

    So have your beliefs. But having a little, “Im smarter than all of humanity” party, with points dripping with bias, fallicies, and lies, only makes you look pathetic.

    Glad you could stop by and tell us how superior you are to us.

    We’re human, and we have failings, just as Sherri Shepard has. We don’t claim to be perfect either. But as I’ve said to others, this conversation is only as good as its participants make it. If it isn’t what it should be, PLEASE improve it by your participation and example.

    Don’t come here to condemn us, come here to converse with us, and be the example by which we measure ourselves and come short, thereby bettering ourself and the conversation.

    Okay, so what, we have a minority belief. Do you think you’re telling us something we don’t know? Do you go around to Jewish websites and tell them that the majority believe in Jesus, so they’re wrong and “abnormal”
    ? I’m hoping not.

    We can only get better if you do too. Please set a good example for us, and engage us rather than scold us. Is it within you to do that?

  • Siamang

    batyah harris, I appreciate the thoughtful post. I second Richard Wade’s call for you to stay.

    I see this incident as an EXAMPLE of general ignorance in our society. Sometimes humans need striking examples of things in order to be moved to do something about them.

    We can talk about racial equality in the abstract all we want. But when the issue turned into a person by the name of Rosa Parks not allowed to keep her seat on the bus, there was an example. The issue caught not only the court’s ruling, but the nation’s CONSCIENCE.

    Humans, by their nature, act on concrete examples much more forcefully and directly than they act on nebulous principles.

    Yes, on principle, education should be better. Good luck rallying the troops with that cry.

    BUT, show people an idiot on live tv, and instantly we’ve sparked a broader national discussion on where our scientific and educational proirities have fallen, how low the bar for base competence is set, who we choose for our on-air role-models, the state of quality television programming in this country, roles for women and questions of “why don’t we see more smart black women on tv?”, etc…

  • Karen

    Paul:

    You bring up meaning less stats like–66% of the country believe we were created less than 10,000 years ago.–as if this proves some point you have.

    That’s not meaningless at all to those of us who feel that scientific literacy is important and who want to see sound science become more influential in driving public policy, Paul. Those kinds of numbers are not an anomaly, by the way. They come up again and again in these kinds of polls.

    Siamang:

    BUT, show people an idiot on live tv, and instantly we’ve sparked a broader national discussion on where our scientific and educational proirities have fallen, how low the bar for base competence is set, who we choose for our on-air role-models, the state of quality television programming in this country, roles for women and questions of “why don’t we see more smart black women on tv?”, etc…

    That’s an excellent point. Since that video made the Huffington Post and several other prominent blogs and websites this week, there has been a lot of discussion of a number of important issues that are too seldom addressed seriously. Not saying there’ll be an immediate casting change, but producers may think twice the next time there’s a similar decision to be made on a television show.

    Frankly, I hope Sherri stays around, gets her horizons widened a lot, and learns something from the more intelligent and sophisticated cast members on the show.

  • http://paxnortona.notfrisco2.com Joel Sax

    People jump to the fore on the evolution question because they just can’t see themselves as related to monkeys. If the Bible said that this was the truth, they might well shake their fist at God and refuse to believe it.

    I’m getting sick of representing all views myself when it comes to matters of science.

  • Polly

    I’m not the one who made the comment about shaming stupid people, but I can certainly sympathize with it in context. We live in a celebrity soaked society where STOOPIDITY is considered laudable and accolades are showered upon anyone who demonstrates the much-coveted ability to push the cultural brow ever lower. I wish we ascribed to intelligence and knowledge a higher social value. Perhaps, people SHOULD feel ashamed for getting in front of a camera on a nationally syndicated program and blurting out something that betrays brazen ignorance.

    I’d have more sympathy if she dropped the issue rather than excuse her astounding ignorance with the lame excuse that everyday responsibilities presented her with an insurmountable obstacle in gaining a 3rd grader’s knowledge of geogrpahy (For FSM’s sake, what does she think a GLOBE is???) It boggles my mind.

    TV has the greatest potential in the world for mass-education. But, instead, it seems to be a force for the dumbing down of America. Worse, it seems to be a force for convincing Americans that being dumb is kewl.

    I have seen a few posts that associate this person’s stupidity with xianity. Not everyone here thinks xians are like that and I couldn’t disagree more with that stereotype. To me, this isn’t even a religious issue. I feel sad for the whole US when I hear about crap like this.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    Mriana:

    She’s not as skeptical as I am, but she is getting more curious, at least she’s asking questions. She was a counselor at Camp Quest, I don’t think she’d buy angels holding up the planets.

    I think there may be a notion that it’s cool to be dumb. On the opposite, I think there is a real fear of stupidity, or looking stupid. This fear can scare people enough that they don’t even bother learning basics of a subject, because they’d be stupid, and would rather remain ignorant. It isn’t easy to be curious, to look for answers, to not be satisfied.

    When I tell my family that I keep my eye open for compelling evidence of a deity, any deity, not just the God of the Bible, Koran, and Torah, they see that as a positive thing, because there is still hope I’ll come over to “their side.” So far, I’ve led a pretty fulfilling life without believing in the divinity of Jesus, I don’t need to talk to him every day, or would be lost without him. So far, I can’t unknow what I know, and what I know tells me that there is no God, at least no God like the one depicted in Christianity. Quantum fluctuation, did that cause the Big Bang? Who knows? Was it sparked by some kind of multidimensional entity? The answer to that question is meaningless today, no basis for limiting gay marriage, choosing leaders, or justifying racism.

  • Mriana

    I was joking about the angels, Bjorn, but I do find the question about what is below the earth a little unusual. I don’t believe the supernaturalistic god of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism exists, but if one wants to say love, nature, compassion and alike is god without theism, then I can see that. However, this is not the anthropomorphic god of theism.

  • Richard Wade

    Bjorn and Mriana, I re-read Bjorn’s fiancee’s question, which she followed up with

    “You know, below the Solar System, under it. Why do we keep sending probes straight outward, and not below us, there might be things there we’re missing.”

    If I’m not reading too much into it, by “below” she might have meant “south” of the Earth away from the relatively flat disk of the Solar System where most of the nearby and interesting objects are. “Above” and “below” are often terms that lay people use to mean the regions of space north or south of the general plane of the Solar System. She’s right in that we do send most of our probes “out” along the orbital planes of the planets rather than into the regions north or south of them. Besides the fact that there seems to be relatively few interesting things out there, it’s very difficult to do, since we rely heavily on the “slinging” motion of the Earth and other planets to increase the probes’ velocities. To put a spacecraft into an orbit around the Sun perpendicular to the ecliptic takes a great deal more artificial thrust and it’s very expensive.

    Bjorn, ask your fiancee if this is what she meant. If so, it’s a very astute question, and there very well may be things there that we’re missing.

  • http://baconeatingatheistjew.blogspot.com The Atheist Jew

    Sherri Shepherd represents the wilfully ignorant. She says she doesn’t believe in evolution and obviously knows very little about anything scientific because she wasn’t sure about the shape of the earth.
    Every survey I’ve seen shows that between 40-50% of Americans believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old.
    I’m in Canada a I know at least one Fundy who believes it. Her husband has a problem with that, and thinks that the world is millions of years old but evolution never happened.
    I don’t go around asking people, but this couple has tried to get my wife to go to church with them so I felt it was OK to ask them their beliefs.

  • HappyNat

    So if you want to use stats to bolster your views you just make yourselves look foolish.

    This is a GREAT line after throwing out a stat with no source and then using the argument by consensus.

  • http://baconeatingatheistjew.blogspot.com The Atheist Jew

    43% of Christians believe earth is between 6-12,000 years old
    http://www.onenewsnow.com/2007/08/poll_reveals_wide_difference_o.php

    44% of Americans believe the earth to be less than 10,000 years old
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/ev_publi.htm

  • http://www.psychobabbleblog.com Amy

    As awful as it was that those comments left her mouth on national television, I am deeply insulted by the fact that she makes motherhood out to be this giant void where no learning, questioning, or growth occurs. Unless she in such dire circumstances where feeding her children was always in the forefront of her mind, using motherhood as an excuse for ignorance is deplorable.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    If I’m not reading too much into it, by “below” she might have meant “south” of the Earth away from the relatively flat disk of the Solar System where most of the nearby and interesting objects are. “Above” and “below” are often terms that lay people use to mean the regions of space north or south of the general plane of the Solar System. She’s right in that we do send most of our probes “out” along the orbital planes of the planets rather than into the regions north or south of them. Besides the fact that there seems to be relatively few interesting things out there, it’s very difficult to do, since we rely heavily on the “slinging” motion of the Earth and other planets to increase the probes’ velocities. To put a spacecraft into an orbit around the Sun perpendicular to the ecliptic takes a great deal more artificial thrust and it’s very expensive.

    Bjorn, ask your fiancee if this is what she meant. If so, it’s a very astute question, and there very well may be things there that we’re missing.

    I assumed that was what she meant, and I thought it was a good question too.

    You should give her more credit Bjorn. At least she’s asking questions. And they’re not that dumb if you don’t happen to be an astronomy geek.

  • monkeymind

    I apologize if this is a stupid question, but who is Sherri Shepherd and why is she on TV? I feel so out of touch. :-)

    When people say stupid racist or sexist things on TV, they are often required to go to “sensitivity training.” Could something similar be required of Ms. Shepherd, and wouldn’t that be more to the point than shaming her? She could be required to do so many hours of community service at a planetarium, for example, or to invite an astronomer onto the show.

  • monkeymind

    Batyah (daughter of God?) I third the request for you to stick around.

  • Polly

    @Richard Wade,

    by “below” she might have meant “south” of the Earth away from the relatively flat disk of the Solar System where most of the nearby and interesting objects are.

    May I pick your brain? Aren’t the objects “below” or “above” light years away? At the speeds of our mechanical explorers it seems like it would take far too long to realize any benefit from sending probes out in those directions. I imagine the asteroid belt(s) as also (more or less) along the plane of the ecliptic. So, even the minor planets aren’t out that way.
    Am I missing something?

    These may be stupid questions to an astronomer; I’m aware of the irony. :)

  • PrimateIR

    Paul said

    You go on and on about how ignorant believers are and how biased they are –that they just jump to conclusions and right here, right now, you show you ARE what you accuse others to be

    Wait Paul, but now aren’t you doing the accusing?

  • Richard Wade

    Polly, they’re not stupid questions at all, and you’re correct that most of what we see north or south of the solar system are too far away to reach physically. That’s what I was saying, that there are not very many objects within our solar system that are north or south of the main plane, so we don’t have much interest in overcoming the physical difficulties of putting spacecraft out there.

    But there are some solar system objects and some phenomena that are in those regions. Many comets come from the Oort cloud, which is a spherical cloud of billions of icy rocks beyond the orbits of the planets. The cloud is all around the solar system in all directions so comets from there can come from any direction. Also the north and south poles of the sun emit interesting electromagnetic radiation that is different from what the Earth receives. To study that we have to send a probe all the way to Jupiter to use it’s tremendous gravity to “make a sharp left turn” and go into an orbit perpendicular to the Solar System plane. Then the probe can pass over the north and south poles of the sun.

    A question is not stupid simply because it reveals that the asker doesn’t understand something. The only stupid thing would be to not ask for fear of embarrassment and remain ignorant. I’m always asking experts in different fields questions that they would find elementary. Instead of saying “I have a stupid question for you,” I say “I have a very basic question for you.” I’ve never had one sneer down at me and chide me for my ignorance. Usually they’re delighted that a lay person is interested in their field.

  • Polly

    @Richard Wade,

    Thanks for your response. I didn’t know that about the EM radiation from the sun’s poles.
    I thought of the Oort cloud, but honestly I didn’t know where in relation to Earh’s orbit it is or how far away or what there might be to study.

    Yup, it does help to ask. Your point is well taken.

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  • Ray

    Some of you pretentious, arrogant people need to get your facts straight. If an idiot out there thinks the world is flat, it has nothing to do with religion or the Bible. The Bible specifically states that the world is a sphere and it said so way before you and all of your precious scientist heroes jumped on the sphere bandwagon. So before you go talking about things that you don’t know and judging people who believe in God and calling them “nutjobs,” how about you practice a little bit of your own scientific method and get your facts straight first, unless you’re content to go making comments that make you look just as stupid as the people you’re making fun of. Sure, there are religious idiots out there. But there are plenty of atheist idiots out there too, as is evidenced by comments made within this topic, such as: “Either that, or she just believes anything her Bible tells her.” Riiiight. Hey, maybe you should try reading it before you go assuming that someone’s moronic beliefs originated out of it. Just because someone tells you something came out of the Bible doesn’t mean it’s true. But hey, let’s not let the facts color our opinions when sarcasm and snide remarks flow so much more easily from our fingertips without them.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    I don’t think the Bible says the Earth is a sphere. See:
    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2001/PSCF9-01Schneider.html

  • Siamang

    Yeah… whatever you say, nutjob.


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