Why Flat Earth?
Travel for me is about diving into culture and atmosphere, and becoming a part of it. Understand why things are the way they are, and how people get through everyday life. I decided to apply this curiosity to the Flat Earth Revolution.
This is not a story about how I believed strongly in science and turned to Flat Earth. I don't believe in Flat Earth, and I'm still a "globetard" when you've read to the end. But I wanted to go beyond the ridicule of something I don't fully grasb, and really give it an honest try with an open mind, and see if I could understand why more and more people seem to abandon the globe model.
Before we start
If you're reading this a flat earther: I'm a globist, but will tread lightly and try to get things right. I promise to treat your belief with respect and dignity. I might make a few jokes, but I mean no ill intent. We're all friends here :) No matter if we believe in the Flat Earth model or the Globe model.
Entering the world
Imagine that you're not too much into science or the scientifc method. Not in the sense that you're in any way less capable, but you had other interests than astronomy or chemistry earlier in life, so you're not familiar with the core principles of science. Science may even seem a little arrogant, claiming it does everything the right way and finds the ultimate truths. We will address this later.
Imagine that maybe your government has let you down in a number of ways. The policies aren't really working and promises were broken. Maybe you're at a place in life where you need a new flame or passion - you need something that excites you.
Maybe you're at a point in life where you question the purpose. Things don't seem "real" and there are many things that cannot be explained.
Then you stumble on this video. You first dismiss it as "nonsense". But it's somehow very interesting and intriguing. It grabs you. And over time you start to find yourself attracted to it. It fills a void with something fascinating. Something that can occupy your mind and drives you to dig deeper and learn more. Something that makes you feel a little special, because who else believes in this? Not many.
Imagine you're overwhelmed by these 35 points, presented as fact. Because of your distrust in science and the public you might want to believe they are bad. Your bias is against them. At the same time, all you have to do is look out the window or take a plane ride to observe for yourself that you cannot see a curve with the naked eye. It's actually quite convincing!
It's like falling in love with an acquaintance. You didn't really consider anything interesting in the beginning, but over time it starts snowballing. You may even realize it's not real love, but there's just something exciting and fascinating about this person.
Flat Earthers don't claim this model is definitive, and some factors are actually creatively thought up and explained. I'm not saying they're true or that they don't hold inconsistencies. But you have to admire the effort in always working to adapt critisism into a newer version of the model.
This is in fact no different from how we ordinarily treat scientic theories. The Big Bang Theory didn't come into existence overnight. It packed a lot of dismissable "nonsense" through time, as it matured into a theory that holds up against the equations and metrics it has to satisfy.
The most popular Flat Earth model of today state that:
- Ships don't disappear in the horizon because of a round Earth, but because of light refractions and distortions.
- Ships don't fall off the Earth because all of it is surrounded by an ice wall. The ice wall is the same as Antarctica on the globe model.
- We can't look all the way across the oceans from one city to another, because of the a biological limitation in our vision*
- Antarctica - the "ice wall" that surrounds the Earth - receives 24 hour daylight at certain times of the year, because the light travels along the lower curve of the dome the Earth resides in.
- The sun is around 4,800km from the Earth and is a "spotlight source" that lights up around half of the planet, and then circles around to light the other side.
- Eclipses occur because the sun and moon travel at around the same height, but occassionally get in front of each other
- Seasons happen because the sun gets closer or further away, depending on the time of the year
- True GPS coordinates are masked by a set of fake coordinates in GPS receivers to correspond with the globe model
- Gravity does not exist
*) To this day I haven't gotten a solid argument as to why we can't do it with a telescope
Remember, let's keep an open mind and this is not about debunking. Flat Earthers don't mean any harm, they just believe something that doesn't fit the logic of our beliefs.
Why even lie about flat earth?
The religious motive
If Earth is flat it would point to the requirement of a creator. Earth as presented in the Flat Earth model can't come into existence under any known physical or cosmological laws. In that case, the secret society that groomed the heliocentric lie would want to disguise the existence of a creator or God.
The welfare motive
So, in this theory the conspirator is actually somewhat of a good guy, at first. The idea is that knowing we lived inside a dome might feel like living in a prison.
How can you motivate your work force if they feel enslaved? But the conspirator isn't interested in making you feel fulfilled at your job! No, just want you to keep working hard as a mindless slave of the predatory economic system. The expanded idea of freedom is simply an illusive reward down the road.
The money launder motive
Space programs, satellites and related technology cost billions of dollars. Money that mostly originate from taxing the public. Some conspiracy theorists believe space programs are actually just a front for secret government projects.
The purpose of NASA and space agencies is to make it look like they're launching satellites, sending people into space, etc. while funnelling most of the money off to secret research facilities.
One of these projects could be the protection of the ice wall. Something that is estimated to require a 10,000 man strong operation.
The surveillance motive
The conspirator designs a number of theories and presents them to the public. Those who accept the theories are considered unproblematic citizens, but those that question them and dig deep needs to be surveilled, so they don't end up trespassing near bigger and actual truths in the future.
The hidden land motive
"Beyond Antarctica" - what according to flat earthers is the ice wall - there could supposedly be more land and more resources. Exactly what is on this land and why's it's a secret is not adressed in bigger detail. Not yet, anyway. However, the theorists who believe in this motive, are certain the conspirators already have access.
There's talks of a "summer gate", which is a hole in the ice wall which grants access to another ocean which holds more continents.
I once believed a conspiracy theory
I even went to online forums and debated that the moon landing was fake, and fiercely presented the same points made in the documentary.
But then there was this guy, I don't even remember his username. But he actually debunked every one of my points - and then I turned back to believing it was true, and have done every since.
But it still took me a while to realize how insanely one-sided the documentary was. NASA had no speaking time in the documentary, they never even had the chance to defend themselves. To someone who was at most 15 years old with little experience in source critisism, that took a very wrong turn.
Is it really about flatness?
I believe a lot of Flat Earthers aren't really interested in the shape of the Earth or the science that propels it. It's a completely different motivator, namely being part of something bigger. Revolutions and conspiracies are exciting and fascinating, and I can certainly understand the appeal to feel you're 'in on something' that most people don't realize.
I read about two subliminal drives, but they are two sides of the same coin. One is - as just described - the sensation of realizing something the ordinary person doesn't. Understanding the bigger picture and being part of something that's so huge and unbelievable. Should the conspiracy turn out to be true, the Flat Earthers were the ones to call it. They would be respected and looked up to for generations to come.
The other side of the coin is how we humans deeply hate being tricked and lied to. It's like when you hear a suspicious sound in your home at night, and you yell "I know you're there!", when you don't really know who or what made the sound. It's the same thing, really. They fear the secret society that conspired against the world is laughing behind their backs, and that they are being played for fools. If they're calling out the conspirators they can swipe that unpleasant mockery off them.
When you've dismissed trust in the government, school books and NASA, then what's left to believe in? What you can see and observe. And the Earth definitely looks flat from down here, and even from many kilometers into the air. So it becomes your reality. Those you dismissed were not dismissed beceause they were wrong, but because you don't trust them or don't want to listen to them.
The time you invested in the conspiracy theory also matters, obviously. The more time you put into it, the more difficult it will become to admit you're wrong. If you've spent years believing it and you deeply, honestly and really want it to be true - even if a part of you may have doubts - you stick to it. It's not really different from having an ambition. You keep fighting, even if others tell you it's impossible. Even if you, yourself, sometimes have doubts.
Because, essentially, it's not really about the science and the facts. It's about fighting and winning when everyone else tells you, you can't. We love the story of the underdog.
Is science doing any favors?
But the door essentially opens because some of the core principles of science and the scientic method could be misunderstood.
The use of the word "theory" is the first culprit. Many take "theory" to mean it's still just some drawings and equations on a paper - nothing more than a wild guess. Whereas, those of us who love science articles and documentaries know the word to usually means it's very, very well tested and there's a mountain of emperical data backing up the theory. Not proving it, but backing it.
Then there's the next challenge: Nothing - except maths - can be proven 100%. Some conspiracy theorists cling onto this minimal uncertainty. And that's okay. People of science should still consider this minimal uncertainty. History shows we should. But this uncertainty is maybe why it's treated like a sport for Flat Earthers. The door to beating it is considered slightly open.
Many of us don't understand how you can dismiss what we could consider scientic facts, but I think these two concepts are why. Some mistakenly think scientists prove things beyond any doubt, and boast around to the world how they're perfect facts. But scientists factor in their uncertainty in their discoveries - and that is often overlooked. Not with ill intent though.
Science isn't always thought of as a dynamic and fluid state of facts - that are only used as facts until something better comes along. It's considered a belief system that has shot holes in itself thousands of times through history, proving itself wrong, and thus degrading its own credibility. It's like when a criminal keeps changing the story about where he was last thursday around 10PM. It doesn't look good, even if the change was for the better.
If Flat Earth was somehow proven to be true, you would go down in history as one of the few rebels who overthrew the greatest conspiracy of all time, when everyone else didn't even realize the truth. Can anyone of us honestly say we would never ever be drawn to such a flame?
I hope you enjoyed this perspectivating view at the Flat Earth movement. I will now continue my journey around the world ;-)