I almost decided against writing this post, because the topic — the quirky idea that the Earth is flat — seems so utterly ridiculous as to not be worth dignifying with attention.
But, as I learned, a lot of Americans — a lot — are true believers who fully embrace it.
This week, for example, organizers claim some 600 flat-earth aficionados have registered for the third annual Flat Earth International Conference in suburban Dallas, Texas, where they will attend seminars with such themes as “Space Is Fake” and “Testing the Moon: A Globe Lie Perspective.” They will also, according to CNN, get to meet “several of the movement’s most influential minds.”
So the movement has celebrities and illuminati, too, apparently, and a global following. In past years, the flat-earther gatherings have been held in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Brazil, Britain and Italy.
Nonetheless, despite the very apparent silliness of the whole flat-earther conceptualization of things universal, it seems a whole lot of Earthlings are totally on-board with it.
Such notions therefore must be critically addressed, because it’s dangerous to allow abject irrationality to flourish unchallenged, right? Because people actually are very susceptible to believing nonsense, as the current Donald Trump, liar-in-chief milieu teaches us.
Before or after you read the rest of this, I urge you to watch this short, eminently reasonable take-down video of the flat-earth conceit by a nerdy-looking Brit academic. He proposes, rationally and scientifically, that it is not only ridiculous to believe that the Earth is flat, but “impossible.”
Unless, of course, as flat-earthers clearly are, you are a person insensible to reality. (I also recommend watching this interview this week by journalist Michael Smerconish about the so-called moon-landing “hoax.”)
To get a sense of flat-earther mentality, consider non-spherical advocate David Weiss.
“I don’t want to be a flat Earther,” he told CNN. “Would you wake up in the morning and want everyone to think you’re an idiot.”
Understandable, certainly. But that apparently didn’t faze him, though.
When the lightning bolt of sudden revelation hit him that the earth was not round, his life was suddenly and irrevocably transformed, he said.
“I absolutely freaked out,” he told CNN. “It literally whips the rug out from underneath you.”
Weiss said the conventions are a godsend for flat-earthers because most of them have “lost a lot of friends,” who now generally look at them sideways. It’s a safe, collaborative space, much like, I assume, a Trekkie convention. Except at the latter, (mostly) everyone presumably knows they’re celebrating fiction.
On a crisp, clear day the curvature of the Earth is plainly evident, and we have video and still images of our roundly planet from far into space (taken by astronauts en route to the moon). Still, this silly idea persists, with no corroborative evidence.
For this reason, this theme appears in my nonreligious blog. This is exactly the kind of wishful thinking that perpetuates all supernatural faiths, particularly Christianity, which dominates American culture (although that primacy is eroding). Also, apparently, a lot of flat-earthers use the Bible as a reference for flat-earth assumptions.
The conceit is nevertheless popular. A YouGov survey of more 8,000 American adults last year indicated that as many as one in six citizens (about 16 percent) “are not entirely certain the world is round,” CNN reported. A Datafolha Institute survey this year of some 2,000 Brazilians suggested that 7 percent of that population reject that Earth is round.Robbie Davidson, the organizer of the Dallas conference, says he became a flat-earther when he couldn’t prove the world was round.
“For Davidson, a born-again Christian, the most logical explanation for the conspiracy of the millennium goes like this: ‘Let’s just say there is an adversary, there is a devil, there is a Satan. His whole job would be to try to convince the world that God doesn’t exist. He’s done an incredible job convincing people with the idea that we’re just on a random speck in an infinite universe.’ The reality, says Davidson, is that the flat Earth, sun, moon and stars are contained in a ‘Truman Show’-like dome,” he told CNN.
Well, there you have it.
Davidson tried to give flat-earther craziness some wiggle room, stressing that adherents know they don’t have all the answers.
“People don’t really know 100% what (the Earth) is, we’re just questioning what we’re being told it is,” Davidson explains.
Once again, then, it’s the ominous government and elite — particularly NASA in this instance — that are the villains in misrepresenting reality to the rest of us.
“The ruling elite, from the royal family to the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds … all of those groups that run the world, they’re in on it,” says Weiss.
Karen Douglas, a social psychologist at University of Kent (England), says “a social motive draws people to conspiracy theories … [to] maintain a positive view of the self and the groups we belong to.”
“It seems that increasingly, people don’t trust scientists and experts, or their motives,” Douglas told CNN. “More research needs to be done in this area, and I’m sure there are some positive consequences to believing in conspiracy theories, but early indications suggests that they are more harm than help.”
I’m more than ready to proclaim in advance that such mindless nonsense is harmful, unless, like Trekkies, adherents can convince us they have their tongues firmly in their cheeks.
That seems as unlikely as a flat Earth.
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