Aside from the sheer lunacy here, I’d like to know who would gain from such a lie. Globe manufacturers and cartographers? Holy shit, what morons. I never would’ve dreamed we’d be dealing with such rampant, easily disproven ignorance in the 21st century.
The Flat Earth movement is just one part of the current rise in anti-intellectualism and assault on science in this country. That isn’t a conspiracy theory. Nearly every day one reads about lawmakers trying to shoehorn Creationism into schools to be taught as fact, or the anti-vaccine crusade that is having real consequences as seen in renewed measles outbreaks. Peddling ignorance and pseudoscience has always been profitable but now it is affecting those of us who don’t subscribe to such nonsense. It continues to build among a minority of the population who still believes in a god but doubts the findings of evolution, doubts that humans walked on the Moon, or refuses to accept that our universe is 13.8 billion years old.
It’s become like a snowball rolling downhill, growing larger with each year despite humanity possessing more access to knowledge than at any time in history. And in the Unites States of all places, which despite long-term downward trends remains the powerhouse of science and education in the world.
On one hand it could be just another harmless trend. On the other, it could be representative of a segment of the population who refuse to accept modernity even while enjoying its benefits. The very act of using a mobile phone or anything utilizing GPS technology should invalidate their Flat Earth fantasies right there, but it doesn’t. It’s like driving a car but denying that the laws of thermodynamics or magnetism work. But there’s a deeper disconnect going on here. Some people cannot process that the universe is infinite, at least in human terms. Some cannot reconcile their current form, homo sapien, with evolution and our genetic relation to practically every living thing on this planet. Like one Flat Earther said in the YouTube clip, they believe it’s flat because they’re not just monkeys running around on the surface. Another proclaimed that the Sun and Moon are much smaller and the stars are mere motes of light in the sky. That there is nothing else out there. I suppose all of those Hubble images are just psychedelic art.
I’ve encountered young children with more complex fantasies than this.
What I see here is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of not being able to process such revelations, some of which have been in our corpus of knowledge for decades, if not centuries. The modern world continues to change at a rapid pace and these people are unable to deal with it. It’s little more than a cult that loves to be the misunderstood underdog, and that fetishizes perceived victimhood (they resent the rest of us thinking they are idiots). It’s also incredibly lazy, creating a comfort zone for those who cannot or will not comprehend the vast universe around us. Expressing such a belief is ultimately a denial of what our species has achieved. Our civilization has managed to launch humans into space and these endeavors have in turn returned irrefutable proof that we dwell on a sphere. But all of those achievements are denied as fakes, lies created by those who don’t want us ‘to know what’s really going on’. I’ve got news for them: there are no powerful masterminds controlling the world. One look at our current travesty of a president is proof of that.
I’m willing to bet many of these Flat Earthers believe other irrational things as well. I wonder how many of them are religious fundamentalists, how many are anti-vaxxers. How many of them deny climate change. I’m not a betting man, but I’d guess the probability is high. You can’t convince these people, either. Engagement with them is pointless. The more evidence they are given, the more they mentally dig in, the more persecuted they feel, and the more they think you’re part of the big cover-up. This is true of any conspiracy theory advocate, from dedicated UFO believers to right wingers in fear of the so-called ‘Deep State’. There is no meaningful discussion to be had.
If that comes across as intolerant, so be it. I’m not in the mood to tolerate such idiocy any more. Fools should never be suffered lightly. I’m reminded of when Bill Nye debated Kenneth Ham about Creationism vs. Evolution. I admire Nye but he shouldn’t have bothered. To debate them is to give them credibility. These people have every right to believe whatever they want, but I have every right not to listen to it or give it any credence or respect. The media needs to stop giving these ideas a platform.
And that leads to the real danger of these movements: humanity faces its greatest challenge thus far in climate change. It is no longer something to worry about in some distant dystopian future, it is affecting our lives now. More than ever we need science and the strength of our knowledge to help find a solution to this issue. The problem is more societal than technical, true, but science is how we learned about it in the first place, and science will play a significant role in how we deal with and hopefully survive it.
Ignorance such as that displayed by the Flat Earth movement is a serious handicap to our society. It is intellectual poison. In the years to come this movement will only hinder the rest of society as it deals with rising temperatures and worsening weather. They will only spread fear, a fear born out of ignorance. The snowball will grow larger, adding more extreme fringe movements that could make Flat Earthers look rational. Movements that will undercut public trust in science and reason to a degree that our society will rot from within. Like the National Geographic interviewer told the Flat Earther in the clip, their ideas could move us back to the Dark Ages. This is not hyperbole.
The sad part is that these people claim to be in search of the truth…but they are lying to themselves. Especially since they have been shown the truth, over and over. They make me think of infants who are afraid to leave the crib because the outside world is too big, complicated, noisy and scary for them.
It’s time we melt that damn snowball before it grows larger. The best way to do that is to remain steadfast in our democratic institutions, to support science education and research. To advocate reason over hysteria.
To stop being afraid of what we do not understand and engage with it instead.