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METEA MEDIA

The Flat Earth belief: beyond shape and magnitude

The+flat+earth+theory+is+not+about+the+shape+of+our+planet+%E2%80%93+it+never+was.
Sam Patil
The flat earth theory is not about the shape of our planet – it never was.

If you were able to look through the perspective of a person who thinks the Earth is flat, here is how you would see the world. 

The North Pole is right in the center, the continents splayed out over the plane. On the edges, you would run into a 150 foot wall of ice, guarded by armed NASA employees. 

The heavens are a dome that arc over the flat earth. The sun, the moon, the stars, they’re all just little balls of light in the sky that move around just above the Earth’s surface. 

There are loads of people who actually believe this, YouTube channels and Facebook pages have hundreds of followers, and Google searches for the term ‘flat Earth proof’ look something like this. 

Google

It has become incredibly popular. And recently, a poll showed that only 84% of Americans agree with the statement, “I have always believed the world is round”. 

YouGov

This is frustrating and every time I try to look into this and understand it, all I see is coverage of flat earther conventions and interviews with these people. The interviews are interesting, and they work really hard to prove it, but I want to understand how someone with access to an unprecedented amount of information can get behind this. What is this belief and how do potentially millions of people believe that the Earth is flat?

Flat earth ideology emerged in the past couple hundred years. By 205 BC, smart Greek scientists had already made experiments proving the shape of the earth was that of a globe. Any sort of flat earther movement did not really come around until science started to do extensive research and advancements. 

During the mid-1800s, a huge amount of scientific breakthroughs were happening. The scientific method was taking off and huge breakthroughs in biology, physics, anatomy, and mathematics were taking place. At the same time, there were also people who were becoming uncomfortable with how advanced scientific methods were getting. 

These people realized that there were so many new tools to inquire into the world and to understand reality, but these tools were getting too sophisticated, abstract, and theoretical. They were becoming more disconnected from what could be seen, touched, and felt. 

This argument of the flat earth gained a little traction in the 1800s but eventually died out. Until just a couple of decades ago. Flat earthers are back and they’re doing things similar to what some scientists did in the 1800s. They’re still zooming into horizons, but now they have a hoard of visual stuff to play around with, like airplanes and satellite imagery. They have the moon landing to dissect. Instead of trigonometry, telescopes, and canals, flat earthers today use videos and photos circulated on the internet.

Like the flat earthers in the 1800s, the flat earthers today, want to use their own intuition and senses to understand reality. In that process, they reject and ignore the huge body of science that we all live with today. 

Questioning reality is a part of the human experience. But in true internet fashion, this new current movement of flat earthers has become just a bunch of bumper sticker-type assertions and memes that are really easy to share, creating echo chambers that reinforce these convictions. Not knowing what or who to trust, leads not just adults but also children to grow up in denial of this growing body of science that we live with today.  

Although most of the students in school learn about a globe shaped Earth, there has been a lot of resistance from flat Earth believers all over the US demanding a balanced curriculum for both theories. While individuals have every right to tell their children that the earth is a blue and green pancake, the only responsibility educators have, in terms of teaching about the Earth, is to provide students with a view of reality that is in accordance with our best scientific reasoning and addressing these beliefs while respecting the student’s freedom of thought. 

The problem with a person’s freedom of thought may start to occur when and if some flat earthers try to convince non-believers that something they’ve been told all these years, is a blatant lie. It becomes especially easy if a non-believer isn’t interested in really finding out how science works and only entrusts what they can touch and feel as their predominant means of understanding the world. 

For the past couple of years, educational institutions have ignored and hoped that unconventional beliefs like such would simply go away, because the thing is, most of the knowledge we have about the natural world and the universe, we’ve never seen. We’ve never seen the exoplanets or the deep space telescopes that tell us so much about our universe. Instead, we read about this stuff, we benefit from the findings, and pay out taxes to fund more of it. 

As scientific methods become more sophisticated, they become harder for me and you to understand. The flat earth movement is a reaction to this. They are a call for a simplification of scientific methods and the return of the senses as the primary source to understand reality. This movement also has a lot to do with being skeptical of big institutions that are probably watching you, that may or may not be controlling your life, and that are likely feeding you bad information to retain power.  

Science is like a tall tower. Each individual researcher and institution adds a little brick to that tower. Each brick rests on one below it. No one person sees or understands all of the bricks. Instead, we have a system of debate, review, and scrutiny that only allows the most accurate information to be added to the tower. Humans aren’t well suited to adapt to this very impersonal way of understanding the world. 

We have evolved over millions of years with our senses as our main driver of survival, and now we live in a society that is run by big systems and impersonal institutions that we will never touch and feel, much less understand. And that is why we have people who still believe that the world is flat despite conclusive evidence to the contrary.

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About the Contributor
Sam is a sophomore and this is her first year on staff as Perspective Editor. She likes to listen to true crime podcasts, cook, violently organize, then reorganize. Some more practical hobbies include web design, graphic design, photography, and writing.  You can find her in the library or any large body of water housing ducks.

Comments (5)

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  • K

    Kevo,yoMar 21, 2024 at 10:31 pm

    “We have evolved over millions of years with our senses as our main driver of survival, “. If I use /rely on my senses, then I’m on a flat stationary earth, with the sun moving overhead.

    Reply
  • E

    EtDec 16, 2023 at 9:01 am

    Nowadays I understood that earth is flat.

    Reply
  • L

    Lynn KempenSep 20, 2023 at 7:17 am

    The shape of Earth remained hotly contested even at the turn of the 20th century.

    Reply
    • M

      MSep 20, 2023 at 10:43 am

      they didn’t have the technology we do now though. now we can physically see from space that it’s round

      Reply
      • J

        JjApr 2, 2024 at 11:33 pm

        U honestly think if the globers found out it was actually flat they would tell everyone and show they were either wrong or lying this whole time.. Everything they have to prove it’s round can easily be used to prove it’s not.. They have billions every year to prove space exist and the earth is what they say it is but still admit that every picture of earth fron nasa has been photoshopped to “enhance it cause it looks so flat and can’t have that”

        Reply