Flat Earth? Really?

By Phil Plait | August 11, 2008 1:00 pm

The world is filled with dumbosity, and it’s all we can do to fight it. But sometimes an idea is so ridiculous that you have to wonder if it’s a joke.

Yeah, I mean the Flat Earthers. Can people in the 21st century really think the Earth is a flat disk, and not a sphere? When I see their claims I have to wonder if it’s an elaborate hoax, their attempt to poke a hornet’s nest just to see how reality-based people react. The media will sometimes talk to these goofballs, and I’m glad to report it’s almost always tongue-in-cheek, which is probably more than they deserve.

The BBC News site recently covered this topic, and, well, you just have to read it. I pretty much lost it around this quotation:

“People are definitely prejudiced against flat-earthers,” says John Davis, a flat earth theorist based in Tennessee… “Many use the term ‘flat-earther’ as a term of abuse, and with connotations that imply blind faith, ignorance or even anti-intellectualism.”

Well, duh. Why do you think that is, Mr. Davis? It’s because you need blind faith, ignorance, and anti-intellectualism to think the Earth is flat.

I was thinking of writing up a definitive post debunking this silliness, but decided I have better things to do, like clipping my toenails. It’s like trying to disprove solipsism; why bother? I don’t see this as being a particularly infectious bit of antiscience (like, say, the Moon Hoax or the antivax movement), and it’s pretty limited in its scope. Maybe someday if I’m particularly bored — like say locked in a room with just water, bagels, and an internet-connected computer — I’ll write something up. It would be a fun mental exercise, but not terribly useful against the Flat Earthers. If someone showed them my page, they’d probably just deny the existence of the internet.

Comments (125)

  1. Leon

    Right on the head, Phil!

    Flat Earth “theory” is merely the most extreme example of what’s wrong with antiscientific nonsense. Creationism isn’t too far behind, but flat earth is such a clear example of what this kind of thinking (and I use the term lightly) can lead to. It’s not beneath you to speak up about this kind of thing; it’s your job, and you’re doing it well.

    And your rejoinder to Mr. Davis was spot-on.

  2. Cheyenne

    http://www.alaska.net/~clund/e_djublonskopf/Flatearthsociety.htm

    Looks like that is one of their homepages. The idea of a flat Earth is so mind numbingly dumb that I thought the whole thing must be a joke. Judging by their site- it doesn’t look like it is.

    But their “Join the Flat Earth Society” page definitely does look like the whole thing is tongue in cheek. But if it is a joke, it’s a pretty freaking lame one.

    I say ignore them Phil. If you get locked in the closet with the computer and bagel please start work on your third book!

  3. What happened to the old fashioned “bread and water”? Perhaps the new JREF president (congratulations, Phil!) is now above simply eating “bread” and must resort to bagels.

  4. Just remember, “spherical Earth” is just a theory!

  5. BadMA:

    What happened to the old fashioned “bread and water”? Perhaps the new JREF president (congratulations, Phil!) is now above simply eating “bread” and must resort to bagels.

    But a bagel without “a shmear” is more torture than bread without butter. :-)

  6. Doug Little

    Teach the controversy!

  7. bjn

    I strongly suspect these folks are having you (and the BBC) on. Of course there are enough schizophrenic folks in the world that you could probably find several who believe in a flat earth, but that’s not antiscientific, it’s pathology. Someone articulate expousing a flat earth should register very high on the irony meter.

  8. Wow, what a brain squeeze.

    These guys can’t even get their stories straight. In one sentence Mr Davis says: “the Earth is flat and horizontally infinite – it stretches horizontally forever” and in the next James McIntyre says: “The Earth is, more or less, a disc, it is around 24,900 miles in diameter.”

    So which is it? Infinite or 24,900 miles? If the former, how do we see past it from space? (oh, that’s right, all space photos are faked). If the latter, why doesn’t it take 78,000 miles to travel around the south pole when explorers show that you can simply stomp around it in a few seconds?

    Davis also says: “it is at least 9,000 kilometres deep”. OK, so what’s on the other side and why can’t we reach it?

    Do these people ever look into telescopes at the other planets? You can watch Jupiter spin before your eyes, so if the other planets are spheres, why isn’t Earth? Has every telescope maker since Leeuwenhoek embedded false images into their design to misguide anyone who looks through them? How do you explain circumpolar stars? How does the atmosphere stick to the planet at the edges? What’s a lunar eclipse?

    Aaargh! I’m getting myself all upset. I’ve got to get back to the Saucer book…

    - Jack

  9. Oops, I meant “Lippershey” not “Leeuwenhoek” in that post (Leeuwenhoek invented the compound microscope).

    - Jack

  10. Philip

    now Phil, is there a handy experiment to show the earth we stand on is actually spherical?

    I remember being a kid of quite a young age, when I started wondering why the oceans
    don’t flow over the edge of earth.
    Asking my parents, they told me that earth is a ball and has no edge.
    Basically I just accepted my parents authority on earths shape. But it left me wondering. Especially since I quickly found out that I wasn’t magnetic, which ruled out a known force, in my little universe, sticking us to the ball.

    Somehow I wonder wether flat earthers and other antscientists just stopped early in their intellectual development. Sad, very sad.

  11. This is ridiculous! Everyone knows the earth is round! And hollow. How else could the “little people” live in there if it wasn’t round?

  12. Sarcastro

    Mr Davis, a 25-year-old computer scientist originally from Canada,…

    So, for once, this isn’t Tennessee’s fault! As if we don’t have enough home-grown loons, we’ve got to import more from Soviet Kanukistan.

    I am somewhat disappointed the article failed to mention the “turtles all the way down” theory.

  13. It’s trolling on a larger scale. I think these so-called flat Earthers are having a laugh at the expense of skeptics that are so keen to attack ignorance that they suspend their critical thinking and fail to realize that their opponent isn’t serious.

  14. Todd W.

    I always thought that the Earth was a convex lens shape. That’s why the horizon is curved slightly…and also explains why Mars is a bit scorched…

  15. Ledo Satts

    Hypothesis: Earth is Flat

    Experiment: Get in boat. Sail west. Take picture of edge.

    Conclusion: Nobel Prize in Geography

  16. JackC

    Two things – first, you have written on this subject before – but it has been years. I recall writing that the group – in general – really doesn’t go about thinking the Earth is literally flat (though the persons quoted in the article appear to – perhaps as an aberration?) – but that “one should in general question what is put forth as truth” – something I find a bit of resonance with.

    Second, the article really is rather good – ending with this quote:

    “It is always good to question ‘how we know what we know’, but it is also good to have the ability to accept compelling evidence – such as the photographs of Earth from space.”

    As I read it – the article basically paints these people as common loons.

    JC

  17. rob

    this is from the/a flat earther website (http://www.alaska.net/~clund/e_djublonskopf/Flatearthsociety.htm)

    “In the small town of Grass Roots, MO, one of our members has successfully infiltrated the public education system. By being hired on as a teacher in the district, she was able to gain a foothold that has allowed us to ‘replace’ nearly every lower grade teacher in the entire town with loyal Flat Earthers. The students are now undergoing deprogramming measures and are expected to be released when they reach their mid-thirties.”

    Hmm…”Invasion of the Body snatchers” anyone?

    if they really want to prove their theory, all they gotta do is fly a plane from mcmurdo station to the 45 m ice wall and take some pictures. i bet the photos would make the cover of time magazine.

  18. BoC

    “And that, my liege, is how we know the earth to be banana-shaped.”

  19. rob

    wait a minute, the site i mentioned above doesn’t seem to legitimate. further inspection reveals this. (satire? hmm…)

    “After spending over sixteen million dollars and using over 48 thousand yards of industrial strength strapping tape, we of the Flat Earth Society were able to construct an enormously powerful neurotransmitter that can implant suggestions directly into the brains of the nearby non-Flat Earthers. Having set it up just outside of the Russian Antarctic exploration post (Vostok), we are awaiting word that all three scientists and 174 penguins have been shown the light.”

    apparently they *have* gone to antarctica already!

    a little further down they write:

    “Your dog has joined us.”

    when i get home i am going to ask my dog if this is true. if it is, he is not going to get a walk tonight.

  20. anonymous canuck

    Now I may be wrong but years ago I seem to recall seeing a photo in the Journal of Irreproducible Results of a “flat earth meeting” in Europe. Several people in hardhats were gathered around a giant screw in the ground (preventing plate movement). I think they were all scientists.

    If this is the same flat Earth group then they are definitely having folks on.

  21. William Hyde

    Philip,

    This:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Yule_Oldham

    was generally cited as experimental proof of the curvature of the
    earth until satellite photos became available.

    William Hyde

  22. Robert Krendik

    PEOPLE STILL BELIEVE IN THIS!? O_O

  23. I thought the interesting bit of the article was the fact that flat earth theory isn’t some holdover from the dark ages, but that it was invented in Victorian times by anti-science people with a religious agenda. Plus ca change…

  24. IBY

    Phil, never underestimate the idiocy of woos and conspiracy theories. I did while reading Respectful Insolence, and I lost a few IQ points.

  25. Niels Myrtue

    I think they’ve achieved just about everything they wanted from this:
    People actually believe they’re being serious!
    The guy (John Davis) says he got his inspiration from reading literature from Flat Earth Society: http://www.theflatearthsociety.org/
    Skim through their FAQ section and it’ll be obvious to anyone that this is just a hoax. It’s pretty damn funny too!

    It seems that persistence is all it takes to blur the line between parody and the real thing.

  26. Chew

    BoC, tell me again how sheep’s bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes?

    The Flat-Earthers take biblical infallibility so much farther than other fundamentalists they are an embarrasment to the Creationists.
    The Flat-Earthers fill a much needed niche: as objects of scorn and ridicule for all fundies.

  27. JSW

    Ken B. Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 1:27 pm
    Just remember, “spherical Earth” is just a theory!

    And it’s full of holes, too! After all, tests have shown that the Earth is slightly thinner at the poles than it is at the equator. Therefore, the “round Earth” theory is no more valid than the “flat Earth” theory and both must be given equal time in public schools!

  28. Windyshrimp

    In order for their… hypothesis to work, it would need to be day everywhere on Earth at the same time.

  29. kebsis

    But, with water and bagels, you could have bagel-boat races!

  30. Maybe someday if I’m particularly bored — like say locked in a room with just water, bagels, and an internet-connected computer — I’ll write something up.

    Nah. I’ll bet anything you’d rather just look at pr0n.

    (Wow, in this font zeroes look remarkably cheerio-ish)

  31. Crux Australis

    I, too, agree that we shouldn’t take at face value things we are told…but where is the evidence for a flat Earth?

  32. Scott

    It’s a definite hoax. But one where the rule is not to let on ever that it’s a hoax.

    It’s like the game Mornington Crescent.

    -Scott.

  33. Scott

    I get flashes of Deja Vu of the hate mail over at venganza.org when reading this article and some of the comments.

  34. “The Flat-Earthers take biblical infallibility so much farther than other fundamentalists they are an embarrasment to the Creationists.”

    It’s for this reason that in a way, I actually have greater respect for the Flat-Earthers than the Creationists. Both are lunatic positions based on the rejection of evidence in favor of blind faith in strict Biblical literalism, so I have greater respect for the ones that go all the way with it. I say, if you choose to go that route in your life, don’t go halfway. Don’t pick and choose the bits of the Bible that you think are so blatantly, provably false they can’t be interpreted literally, and then claim your rejection of other science is based on Biblical literalism: If the Bible says the sun moves around the Earth, then it moves around the Earth, regardless of what the evidence says. *That’s* unwavering faith.

  35. The book by Garwood seems quite interesting. Perhaps rather than debunking the flat Earth theory (which I agree is a waste of time), you could read her book and write a review for us? More fun for everybody involved, I suspect. :-)

  36. Salvius, that’s not flat Earth, that’s geocentrism.

  37. Chew

    Pieter Kok,
    Salvius was using that as another example of biblical literalism.

  38. Davidlpf

    Geocentrists exist so do people who think the Earth is growing and there are no such things as plate tectonics and all other kinds of way out there theories.

  39. billsmithaz

    In the beginning…
    I’m sorry, I’ll read that again.

    When they started, I think the modern flat earthers were brilliantly satirical, and were definitely pulling our collective leg.

    The satire was so subtle and so well done, though, that I think they struck a chord with the lunatic anti-science conspiracy-minded crowd, and that a number of the current flat earthers are completely serious about their beliefs. The very nature of the belief, though, makes it difficult to tell who, if anyone, really means it.

  40. space cadet

    I wanna know more about that sheep bladder thing. San Andreas Fault is right off the coast over there.

    As for my dog, we haven’t really discussed it but I get the impression that he sees the earth as an essentially plane surface, thoroughly marked, with my backyard as its center. But then, my dog’s an idiot.

    (Sorry Hootie. I still love you.)

    (He reads this blog.)

  41. Years ago, thinking that the concept of being a card-carrying member of the Flat Earth Society was too good to pass up, I tried to join, but each Society I came across was a fake one created for laughs.

    I kept looking and finding fakes until finally I had a realization – I was in the movie scene from Apocalypse Now where Martin Sheen is looking for the officer in charge and not finding him, until he comprehends that there is no officer in charge.

    There is no real, Flat Earth Society – push your way through all the satire, and nothing’s left.

    Fascinating.

  42. Mr. President, I think that doing a debunking of this would be a nice practice for the 2012 stuff that’s right around the corner.

  43. Sam

    My brother (a big BA fan) used to frequent a flat-earth website.
    This website was replete with:
    – Very intelligent people touting flat-earthism as truth;
    – Very intelligent people touting flat-earthism as lies; and
    – Complete dumbass, unintelligible, conspiracy nutjobs from BOTH sides of the fence that the rest of them tried to ignore the spirit of good intellectual debate (as it is on any internet forum).

    What I found most interesting is the level of science that the website went into: the fundamentals of HOW a flat Earth were well-documented and the admins and members have gone a VERY long way to explain just how a flat Earth would be physically possible. I was very impressed as to just how much astronometric data they’d got accurrate and how it all bound together into one coherent theory.
    There were a few glaring holes that were simply excused away, of course, but the whole package was very in-depth and cogent.

    What made me smile most of all was that the admins and upper-echelon users seemed more to be simply having fun debating, and the whole thing seemed a game, an intellectual exercise.

    That’s the term I was looking for: Intellectual Exercise – that’s what the theory seemed to be.
    And there’s NOTHING wrong that at all – it keeps the mind sharp and can lead to inspiration for real-world theories.

    It’s just a shame the site attracted so many illiterate idiots who think they can afford to be choosy on laws like gravity.

  44. L. Zoel

    Some part of me still doubts solipsism?

  45. Charlie

    Check out the FAQ at http://www.flatearthsociety.org. They get some science ridiculously wrong, like the relationship between the Earth and the heavens:

    Q: “What about the stars, sun and moon and other planets? Are they flat too? What are they made of?”

    A: The sun and moon, each 32 miles in diameter, circle Earth at a height of 3000 miles at its equator, located midway between the North Pole and the ice wall. Each functions similar to a “spotlight,” with the sun radiating “hot light,” the moon “cold light.” As they are spotlights, they only give light out over a certain are which explains why some parts of the Earth are dark when others are light. Their apparent rising and setting are caused by optical illusions.

    But they nailed the Coriolis Effect!

    Q: How come when I flush my toilet in the northern hemisphere it goes counterclockwise but I have this friend in Australia and when he flushes it goes clockwise?

    You’re mistaken. On a round Earth, the Coriolis effect adds at most one (counter)clockwise rotation per day; fewer as you get closer to the equator. The water in your toilet/sink/bathtub/funnel spins much faster than that (probably at least once per minute, or 1440 times per day) so the additional/lost rotation from the Coriolis effect wouldn’t be noticed.

    I vote that this is just a funny hoax.

  46. Chew

    space cadet,
    please refer to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Act II, scene 1.

    Charlie,
    it ain’t a hoax. They have a long history, including a long drawn out court battle in the 19th century when a flat earther offered a reward to anyone who could prove to him the earth was not flat and someone did prove it but the flat earther refused to pay.

  47. Though I’m sure some of these flat-earthers are crazy misguided loons, the majority are not!

    They actually believe the Earth is round like the rest of us and are simply pretending to believe in a “flat” earth. The reason for this is primarily that they want people not to necessarily accept facts given from authority at face value even when they’re right! Though the vast majority of people believe the Earth is round, almost all would be stumped if asked to explain how they KNOW the Earth is round besides “I read it in a book” or “everybody knows it” or “somebody told me” or “I saw some photos from space”.

    The idea is to get people to think critically by making them think more about why they believe things to be true instead of always accepting facts from authority without question, a problem that’s quite serious in our modern society and indeed in all past human societies as well. For example, WMDs in Iraq? There were satellite photos provided as evidence for THAT TOO.

    If you’re still not convinced they’re not serious about their beliefs, check out the arguments in their forums. You’ll notice they don’t resort to profanity and insults and ad hominem attacks when their beliefs are thoroughly questioned, behavior strikingly unlike that of all the other types of conspiracy theory nuts.

  48. DaveR

    I’m pretty sure most, if not all, Flat-Earthers are in it for the lulz…

  49. MarkH

    Why not have these “flat-earth” folks talk (and i mean talk) to a Marine Corps sniper. Let him explain the them that when he is calculating the trajectory of the bullet, he has to account for wind, barometric pressure and CURVATURE of the earth, along with other factors. If the earth was flat, it seems to me this would be one less calculation to add to the mix.

  50. Flat earthers, I’ve always assumed, are just old-fashioned crazy, or they’re taking the piss out of whomever they’re talking to.

    It’s the hollow earthers that really irritate me. They have all the elements of a great bit of anti-science… they explain the round earth, the coverups, and even UFOs depending on the flavour of nutter that you meet. And more to the point, they’re absolutely serious.

  51. Sir Eccles

    All this talk of bagels makes me think. Maybe the earth is bagel shaped. This would mean that the Arctic and Antarctic bits are actually one and the same. Think about it!

    Mmmm, lox spread.

  52. I’m an oblate spheroidist.

  53. Bruno Domingues

    … Like, flying over the South Pole and…

    Next thing you know…

    … ?!? We are in SPACE?!?

    For me, the best part from the BBC article, is this:



    “If you will forgive my use of the term ‘global’”, he says.

    I can only imagine in at the pub with the mates:

    “…AHAH! And I even got this BBC interview!! HiHiHi! …”

  54. themadlolscientist

    But……but……..but……….. the world is flat. Don’t you people read Terry Pratchett?

    @ Sir Eccles: If it’s true that the earth is bagel-shaped, we all know what global warming will do to the cream cheese……..

  55. Snoof

    I know the Earth is locally round, at least, by watching ships ‘rise up over’ the horizon as I stare out to sea. That and the way the horizon is noticeably curved.

    How those poor landlocked people can know the Earth is round is another matter. :P

  56. kuhnigget

    Great timing on this post, Phil. There’s a terrific new book out titled Flat Earth – The History of an Infamous Idea by Christine Garwood (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press).

    It’s a great read, filled with an assortment of characters that make you realize today’s nutters are just the latest in a long line of charlatans and morons.

    And as someone who refuses to let the loons off the hook (hence the ridiculous longevity of the UFO threads), it was heartening to read that previous generations of rational skeptics have had to put up with same idiotic arguments, repeated ad nauseum, as today’s clear thinkers.

  57. kuhnigget

    Oops. Posted too quickly. Book already got a plug. Hadn’t yet reached that far in the BBC story. Back to the flying saucers for me….

  58. Alan

    From my fallible memory, a leading Sceptic in Newcastle Australia is or was a member of the Flat Earth Society. I haven’t heard anything much in the last decade or two and the Flat Earth Society on the interweb could be different to the one I knew of 20 years ago.
    I think they are mostly Sceptics who use satire to point out the fallibilty of anyone who just accepts dogma as fact.

    Phil, Don’t get too heated up over the Flat Earther’s. I don’t think they are dangerous like young earther’s and IDers !
    The simplest primary (Grade?) school physics knowledge shows that the Earth isn’t flat (or the universe must be plain crazy), and these guys must have their tongues in their cheeks every time they write something.

  59. Craig

    This is obviously and fake. Just by reading the website you can see that its not real…..

    “Three loyal Flat Earth Society members, during a camping trip to the small African nation of Tunisia, came across a privately-owned 59 minute photo stand in the isolated northernmost corner of the desert country. Employing guerilla warfare techniques learned under Mao Zedong in the early 1920′s, they were able to effortlessly seize control of the stand and are now using it to distribute pro-Flat Earth propaganda throughout the West African region.”

  60. JACK McC.

    Actually, the jury’s still out on that “Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope” thing.

  61. Richie

    Hoax. These people have gone so far over the whack job side that they’ve come right back around and hit themselves in the back. Which naturally, they deny is possible.

  62. Quiet Desperation

    Isn’t it pretty well established that the flat earth society is a goof? I remember reading that *30* years ago when I was a teen. Omni Magazine, I think. Picking on them is like kicking a puppy.

  63. dave

    “It’s like trying to disprove solipsism; why bother?”

    Even solipsism has more going for it than flat earthers. Solipsism is impossible to disprove. Just fly around the world and you’ll disprove flat earthers. Well Ok, it does take some money…

  64. GrimaH

    I am convinced that the Earth is flat.
    I will now proceed to masturbate upon this revelation.

  65. Noam Zur

    I saw the original post in the BBC and I think I even commented on it. Either there, or on Dawkins’s website, not sure where. Many (though not all) of the “flat-Earthers” apparently go to these societies not because they believe the Earth is flat (BUT IT IS!!! ;p), but rather to hone their debating skills against arguments which are overwhelming. I am still not sure whether I am in favour of this or not, though.
    As for my reply to the original post, it went something like this:
    The Earth actually is flat and infinite in diameter, just like Mr. Davis says. In fact, if you think as one of the poles as the center of the disc, the size of the disc is so huge that it actually curls in on itself and the diameter meets itself on the other pole. In fact, you could rightly think of the whole thing as a globe. Who’d have thought reading “Brief History of Time” so many years ago as a teenager and trying to understand Hawking’s theory of time would come in useful against flat-Earthers one day :)

  66. slang

    These guys have exceptional strength in the muscles controlling both tongue and cheek. It’s wonderful seeing people raging and ranting on one of the forums, and the “flatearthers” will calmly rebut every attempt at debunking them. After enough beer it makes sense too. One hilarious thread I read concerned the spread of dinosaur bones worldwide.

    “Hah! Got you! How can you explain THAT without pangaea?” *does victory dance*
    “Dinos made boats. Made of wood. Hence no fossils of them”
    … *gasp* … “WHAT!?!?! Impossible!!!”
    “Why?”
    “No TOOLS!!!!”
    “Says who?”
    “Small brains!!!!”
    “Size doesn’t matter, they could work together.”

  67. Ummm… It’s a joke, guy. Making fun of conspiracy nutters. I can’t say a lot about the founders, but the members are laughing at you for trying to argue. At least, that’s how it was ten years ago when I joined.

  68. Robert Carnegie

    That isolated tribe discovered somewhere in South America recently may believe the world is flat, although I’m told one report of that event included a Google Earth reference and directions to find them. I think the flat-earthers nearer at hand may be seen as useful unambiguous examples that someone who apparently sincerely believes they’re right about something can be not even a little bit right, and that is important when it comes to arguments on compromise or “teach the controversy” lines.

    Incidentally, I am in a “logically impossible for the Big Bang to come out of nothing before it” argument at forum thread http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbradio4/F2766778?thread=5752906 – also BBC – membership free.

  69. Alcari

    Uhm, to anyone slightly versed in internet memes, it’s obvious this guy is pulling a prank.

    References to “Over 9000″, and “Profit” and he admits he’s a computer geek? This has to be someone from 4chan’s /b/ boards, or someone else trolling the BBC.

    For your reading pleasure:
    http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/Profit
    http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/Over_9000

    those two links are SFW at the time of posting, but no guarantees for the rest of the website.

  70. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    It’s the ultimate in Morton’s demon.

    And for pretty much the same reason it appears, if the interesting BBC article is correct. Apparently Garwood claims in her book that organized flat earthers is a Victorian religious invention to throw science of tracks.

    Is it a coincidence that both the leading creationist (and HIV-denier) and the leading flat earther are named “Johnson”?

    I think not. If you are interested in joining the newly started “Suck on my Johnson, says the church” Conspiracy Society, contact me.

  71. Kate

    Even if the “Flat Earthers” are simply taking the piss, then a rational response is still warranted. If they see it as a “joke”, as has been suggested, then they’re certainly immoral idiots who lie for entertainment value. They ought to be treated as though they are stupid enough to actually believe such garbage until they are exposed as liars who are simply seeking attention.

    Lying is wrong, boys and girls, even when you think it’s “funny”. (Though how anyone can find lies funny, I’ll never understand.) Oh, sure, you can try to rationalize it by saying that your silly lie hurts no one, but the funny thing about lies/liars is this: If you’re willing to tell one whopper, chances are you’re willing to tell a thousand others. This doesn’t make you a “fun-loving” person, it means you’re someone who can’t be trusted, a person who will deny/obfuscate reality for their own ends.

  72. Quiet Desperation

    53 comments and no Discworld references. I’m disappointed, people.

  73. Anyway, it’s curious to see that Creationists despise Flat Earthers when it’s obvious that the Bible supports a Flat Earth.

    So, we have theistic evolutionists despise intelligent-designers; intelligent-designers despise Old Earth creationists; OECs despise Young Earth creationists; and YECs despise Flat Earthers. Well, the list does not end here, because North Pole-centered Flat Earthers are at odds with Jerusalem-centered O/T Flat Eathers.

    As Phil Blait, disproving solipsism is useless. However, disproving Creation or Flat Earth can be done through the Occam’s Razor. Even, solipsism can be disprove, because a Mind needs some external support (like a brain in a vat) and it’s easy to suppose that the perceived external medium is a reflection of the real external medium…

  74. MoMan

    Mark H., where in the world did you get the “fact” that snipers take the curvature of the world into account (about eight inches per mile, as I remember, so not really a number of any consequence)? I was my state’s rifle champion and shot on the Army’s rifle team, so I’ll feel confident in saying that you spoke to some Jarhead who believes in that myth and you bought into it without a proper degree of skepticism.
    As for the earth being round, didn’t that fellow in (fill in the name of the movie here) throw a coke bottle off the edge? Or was that a myth? It would be an interesting way to get rid of our trash.

  75. Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say that there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.

    Frank Zappa

  76. antaresrichard

    You say that and you’re on a boat?! Phil, you’re braver than I thought! For sure, for sure, you’re gonna sail off the edge according to them. Watch out!

  77. Al

    I don’t know about snipers (although there are apparently rifles that will shoot to 2km, at which range a 20-25cm error could be significant) but the mechanical computers for battleships in WWII made some allowance for the rotation of the Earth at extreme ranges, Flat Earth theory would seem to predict a variation of accuracy depending on latitude that wasn’t observed in practice…

  78. Joe Meils

    I think this is a conspiracy hatched by Terry Pratchett. :)

    And I’m not sure if the internet really exists or not, Phil. I’m starting to side with Descartes on this one… and Plato may be right as well… you could all be just shadows on the monitor-cave wall…

  79. Even Stephan

    If you want some more dumbosity, be sure to check out the interview of stem cell research Robert Lanza in the September 2008 issue of Discover magazine.

    You’ve said physical laws are exactly balanced for life to exist.

    If there were one-billionth of a difference in the mass of the Big Bang, you couldn’t have galaxies. If the gravitational constant were ever-so-slightly different, you couldn’t have stars, including the sun, and you would just have hydrogen. There are 200 parameters like this. We now have people out there talking about an intelligent design, saying “God” is the explanation. But it is really because quantum theory is right: Everything is observer-determined and the past and present are relative only to you, as the observer. It all fits, but the problem is, you then do need to accept what people will not accept: When you turn you back to the moon, it no longer exists.

  80. Boomer

    I love my geocentrism “Teach the Controversy” t-shirt!

  81. Teakwood

    They ought to be treated as though they are stupid enough to actually believe such garbage until they are exposed as liars who are simply seeking attention.

    That is an utterly pathological attitude.

    Lying is wrong, boys and girls, even when you think it’s “funny”.

    Gosh, thanks, mom.

    (Though how anyone can find lies funny, I’ll never understand.)

    You just wrote off parody, satire, humorous fiction and most jokes in the world, which are all little lies in various forms.

    Oh, sure, you can try to rationalize it by saying that your silly lie hurts no one, but the funny thing about lies/liars is this: If you’re willing to tell one whopper, chances are you’re willing to tell a thousand others.

    Yes! And this is true of every person in the world because people are not individuals who can perceive the difference between jokes and harmful lies! Oops! That was sarcasm- another type of lie that we’re no longer allowed to laugh at in your presence.

    This doesn’t make you a “fun-loving” person, it means you’re someone who can’t be trusted, a person who will deny/obfuscate reality for their own ends.

    You must be great fun at parites. Get over yourself.

    You know how much I trust someone who has admitted to lying? Slightly more than someone who claims to have never lied.

  82. Irishman

    MoMan said:
    > Mark H., where in the world did you get the “fact” that snipers take the curvature of the world into account (about eight inches per mile, as I remember, so not really a number of any consequence)?

    1 mile is 5280 ft. Snipers shoot 2000 yards easy. 2000 yards = 6000 ft, greater than 1 mile. Curvature of 8 in/mile means they have to account for over 8 inches of drop to shoot 2000 yds.

    Remember that snipers are going for a target about 6 inches across. Not “center of body”, they’re going for “center of head”. If they neglect curvature, they miss.

  83. NM

    Ok, again, this flat earth thingie is a joke. The flat earth web site’s FAQ states that the earth sits on the back of turtles. Got the reference? Alright, YHBT. HAND.

  84. kuhnigget

    @Kate

    I agree. I suspect talking to these funny people would be akin to trying to have a conversation with someone who mistakes hipper-than-thou irony for humor. Which is to say, pretty much like jabbing a fork in your ear.

  85. GaterNate

    The Flat Earth Society isn’t who we should be worried about. It’s those crazies in the Man Will Never Fly Club you have to watch out for.

  86. Eric

    Philip asks:
    “now Phil, is there a handy experiment to show the earth we stand on is actually spherical?”

    The greeks knew the earth was spherical by noticing the earth’s shadow is always circular during a lunar eclipse, and using that measured the circumference by comparing the angle of the sun at noon in two places (one pretty much due north of the other). Simple geometry then gets the circumference.

    More interestingly, Gauss showed that you can measure curvature intrinsically on a surface. In this case, measure out an east-west line of about 6 miles (10 km), then head due north (90 degree turn) from the endpoints to construct a square. If you measure the distance between the endpoints of the northern end of those lines, you will find (in the northern hemisphere) that they are less than six miles. If you assume constant curvature, you can get the radius of curvature out of that.

    Mark H. asks:
    “Why not have these “flat-earth” folks talk (and i mean talk) to a Marine Corps sniper. Let him explain the them that when he is calculating the trajectory of the bullet, he has to account for wind, barometric pressure and CURVATURE of the earth, along with other factors.”

    I think (and MoMan also pointed out) that snipers don’t normally take the curvature of the earth into account. (Nor barometric pressure) But as Al noted, battleships firing their big guns *did*, as do artillerymen (since the ranges of these ballistic weapons are on the order of 30-50 km).

    Alan says:
    “The simplest primary (Grade?) school physics knowledge shows that the Earth isn’t flat ”

    Ummm- no, not really. Indeed, during freshman physics, the curvature of the earth is ignored (i.e. gravitation is assumed to be perpendicular to a flat plan) when deriving the path of a thrown object as a parabola (also air-resistance is ignored). The actual path (since the lines of force would meet at the earth’s center, and so are not parallel) is a piece of ellipse.

    This is essentially the difference seen in the ballistics of artillery (plus air resistance, and the earth’s rotation which must also be dealt with).

    cheers all-
    Eric

    The Turtle Moves!

  87. Tyler Durden

    “If someone showed them my page, they’d probably just deny the existence of the internet.”

    There is no Internet. The government has merely installed super-advanced Artificial Intelligence on every computer which displays things as though they were being pulled up from remote locations.

    But the data is actually being generated on the spot, locally, in your computer. That’s why cable Internet companies are so profitable. They don’t provide a service so they have no overhead.
    :P

  88. Quiet Desperation

    Man Will Never Fly Club

    Well, Man doesn’t. Man’s devices do. ;-)

  89. “Not “center of body”, they’re going for “center of head”. If they neglect curvature, they miss.”

    Er, how exactly? Don’t they actually LOOK at their target before pulling the trigger? If you do, you don’t need to take the curvature of the Earth into account, it’s already built into the location of the target. Of course, 8″ over 1 mile is much more likely to be overwhelmed by the topographic variations in the Earth’s surface so you’d never notice the curvature anyway.

    On the other hand, *gravity* I bet they have to account for.

  90. Even Stephan

    Sorry for the open tag. No preview button.

  91. Todd W.

    @John Weiss

    No, see. They need to account for the curvature of the Earth for those instance where they have no scope, but do know the height and exact coordinates of their unmoving target on a level plain with no hills, ditches, etc.

    And it’s not gravity they need to account for…it’s all those annoying intervening magnets that the enemy puts in the way to draw the bullet off its trajectory.

  92. GaterNate

    Well, Man doesn’t (fly). Man’s devices do.

    Of course that’s what they want you to believe!

  93. GaterNate

    I wonder if in about 10,000 years people will be making fun of the “Faster-than-light travel is impossible” society, a group that will claim all the other solar-systems we visit are not trillions or quadrillions of miles away but only mere millions, and that it’s all a big conspiracy.

  94. Ken Just

    “is there a handy experiment to show the earth we stand on is actually spherical?”

    Yes there is! I wanted to prove that the earth was round for fun once with experiment data that I could get for myself. I found a great experiment that proves the earth is round and you can figure out what the circumference is too!

    You need two points due north of each other. My two points were Los Angeles and Mammoth Lakes, CA. Take two poles and put them in the ground. Use a plumb bob to make sure they are vertical. Then measure the length of the pole and the length of the shadow cast by each pole at noon. The distance (for me) between the poles is known (310 miles). You calculate the arc (4.4 degrees). And the you get the Earths circumference: 25363 Miles (Not too bad considering all the errors in my experiment). If the earth were flat the shadows would be the same length. My kids loved the experience. Go science.

  95. Don Snow

    I didn’t know, until today, that anybody still paid any attention to Flat Earthers.

  96. Messenger of A'tuin, AKA themadlolscientist

    53 comments and no Discworld references. I’m disappointed, people.

    I made one last night – but for some unknown reason, it’s stuck in the Black Hole of Moderation. Maybe because I put a link in it?

  97. Messenger of A'tuin, AKA themadlolscientist

    Testing……….testing……….WordPress just ate my comment…….

    @ Quiet Desperation:

    53 comments and no Discworld references. I’m disappointed, people.

    I did last night, but it’s stuck in the Black Hole of Moderation. Maybe because I put a link in it?

  98. Gary Ansorge

    The Flat Earth Society is a satirical endeavor that’s been around for decades. Started as a joke on those whose beliefs were in direct contradiction to reality. RAther like the Flying Spaghetti Monster,,,

    See, satire hard. Banana jokes easy,,,

    GAry 7

  99. Harvestar

    Satirical?

    hardly.

    My husband’s Earth Science teacher was a Flat Earth Society member.

    Needless to say, they didn’t learn much. She ended almost every sentence with “but this isn’t really true.” or other such things.

    grrrrr….

  100. “If someone showed them my page, they’d probably just deny the existence of the internet.”

    Classic. I had a good laugh over that line.

  101. Kol

    Sometimes, to make your point, you have to defend the opposing view with vigor. Only then can it be seen as obviously ridiculous.

    This seems to have been a sarcasm experiment gone wrong.

    I’ll join the brigade and fight this fire by starting with my children.

    Honestly, it looks like someone rolled eyes at a silly notion, presented this tripe as sarcasm and some people fell for it.

  102. Ronn! Blankenship

    # Quiet Desperation Says:
    August 12th, 2008 at 5:05 am

    53 comments and no Discworld references. I’m disappointed, people.

    – - – - -

    I was at the library today and one of the new arrivals was the hardcover edition of “The Discworld Graphic Novels,” if that helps . . . :)

  103. IVAN3MAN

    Did you know that Sir Patrick Moore is a member of The Flat Earth Society?
    Look him up on Wikipedia and scroll down to the Personal Life section. Also check out the link at Ref. 7.

  104. Quiet Desperation

    I was at the library today and one of the new arrivals was the hardcover edition of “The Discworld Graphic Novels,” if that helps . . .

    It does!

    (Clicks away to amazon.com)

  105. Unfortunately, he is the one talking out of ignorance. He didn’t even finish the article let alone research any literature on the flat earth theory. I understand his frustration. However, hopefully he realizes he is indeed the pot calling the kettle black.

  106. Ruprecht

    LOL at this Iraqi TV Debate between a fundamentalist and a physicist : Is the Earth Flat?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wppjYDj9JUc

  107. Dave W

    Hey Phil-
    Have you heard of Poe’s law? It’s an internet law in the style of Godwin’s law, etc… Poe’s law states, basically, that it is impossible to write a parody of fundamentalist thinking that is so off the wall that it will not be taken seriously by someone. Another implied aspect of the law is that it is impossible to distinguish between a fundamentalist website and a parody of one.

  108. kuhnigget

    Okay, way late, and probably way beyond the who cares stage, but I’m afraid my estimate of the book “Flat Earth” by Christine Garwood just went down a notch.

    Check out this howler, from page 232:

    In April that year Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov became the first man to complete a space walk, during the Voskhod 2 mission. Predictably, Shenton (a flat earther in the U.K.) advanced cutting criticism of the footage of this remarkable event, contending ‘The argument that everything is carried round with the Earth by the force of gravity is now destroyed – the films show Leonov in a state of weightlessness and clearly beyond any supposed force.’ In fact, Leonov’s weightlessness was to be anticipated because gravity does not exist far beyond the earth; consequently the footage provided acceptable proof that he was in space.

    Um…”gravity does not exist far beyond the earth”????

    I know this is more history book than science textbook, but…it’s the history of a scientific argument.

  109. mercury

    If earth was like a disk, all of the world would be day or night at one specific time, and not part of it night and part of it day, and changing gradually to day or night, of course this explanation is for flat earthers ! And you don,t need to claim the satellite photos are fake, what do you say about regular airplanes when you see by your own eyes at high altitudes ?

  110. You know, some of you people think you are SOOO smart, don’t you?
    You’re so smart in fact, that you don’t even understand the true nature of the website and/or its members.
    Instead of talking out of your collective arses here where you think you are safe, go here: http://theflatearthsociety.org/forum/index.php , sign up and prepare to defend yourselves. You have no idea what the website is about. Well, I’ll admit that some of you have an idea and others have even hit the nail on the head, but the majority of you are too full of yourselves to go and have a sensible debate about what you THINK you know.
    Our website challenges you to use your brain. It challenges you to think for yourself. It has even renewed some people’s interest in astronomy, physics and oh, check this out – debating.
    Obviously, some of you are only going to believe what you want (as evidenced by those of you that completely ignored the people on this site telling you what the site is REALLY about) and will only get mad, frustrated and driven to drinking, but some of you may actually get the hint and have some fun.
    Go on now, I dare you.

  111. The Creep

    The Earth is flat.

  112. paul meyer

    Suspect the flat earthers are folks who have never been more than 20 miles in any direction from their place of birth, and think that’s all there is to the world. And they dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, and flunked any science class they took, if any. It’s hopeless to enlighten authoritarian ignorance. Just ignore them if they aren’t in a position to influence public or educational policy.

  113. dave

    GET.A.SENSE.OF.HUMOUR

  114. Peter

    If you have ever read there FAQ it says that sustained space flight is not possible and Temp flight is,Therefore the 2500+ satellites orbiting earth, The signals received are faked by towers or some other devises totally absurd.
    Since anyone with binoculars can see the space station pass by since it orbits every 90 mins. This made me laugh till my ribs hurt.
    I wonder what size of tower it would take to fake a satellite signal and where are these towers or devices that make up the 2500+ satellites orbiting earth?LOL I don’t think they truly Believe.
    I think they laugh just as hard as I do, when they try to debate they deflect and avoid they will attack spelling punctuation, seems they won’t actually give a straight answer I have tried for a few hours to get them to show me a few of these towers that can fake a satellite signals to no avail but I have been having so much fun at their expense now they are probably going to change the FAQ and try to explain how the satellites can orbit a infinite flat earth,If that is even possible.

  115. FES

    Hello,

    I am a member of the Flat Earth Society. You should not take our position so lightly. Indeed, we ran several experiments and all conclude that the Round Earth Theory is invalid.

    Most pictures of the round earth are the result of perspective and distortion due to photoelectric distortions of the atmosphere. We are also verifying if the Flat Earth model is not in an Orlando-Ferguson state.

    Best regards with due respect,

  116. The simple fact of the matter is you don’t need blind faith, ignorance, and anti-intellectualism to think the Earth is flat. To assume otherwise not only highlights your ridiculous close mindedness, but also highlights a fundamental misunderstanding of science on your part and of what we believe. Its unfortunate one would publish material concerning someones beliefs without first checking them.

    The long and short of it is we use science, and we don’t ignore its results. The earth being flat isn’t some high held dogma we refuse to separate from due to religious concerns.

    This kind of writing always brings to mind the mentality behind the anti-Christian “They thought the earth was flat and columbus was a hero” rhetoric which has obviously since been shown to be false.

  117. Puddingsan

    @ John Davis: You might wish to check out the following Wikipedia article:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denialism

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