I had to write something about this because I discovered this group to today and I think it is so remarkable, I really had to share it with the world. I write this as an educated American in the year 2011. Despite all of our scientific and social strides forward, this group persists. I speak, of course, of the Flat-Earthers. Yes, in 21st-century America, there still exists a group of people who think the world is as flat as a pancake.
When I discovered their online forum, I was naturally skeptical. “This must be a parody,” I thought, “This must be someone just having some fun.” Nope. On their FAQ thread, near the top, they state in no uncertain terms that they are sincere about their belief. That FAQ thread goes on for a while about some of the details of this “theory.”
I was, and still am, shocked. I have been exposed to numerous debates, many of which are difficult to settle. Is human cloning ethical? What is religion’s proper role in society? These are things that everyone has an opinion on and are difficult to settle. But is the Earth round? I thought that shit was settled.
Their beliefs get pretty crazy. The Earth is flat. The geographic north pole is at the center of the world and Antarctica is really a giant “ice dam” that keeps the oceans from flowing over the edge of the world. They even offer specific figures. The Sun and the Moon are both spotlights, which are 32 miles across and are both 3,000 miles above the ground. NASA is at the heart of a global conspiracy to keep the nature of the Earth’s flatness a secret from the general public so that they can just take the space program’s money for themselves. The Flat-Earthers believe that because gravity is just an illusion caused by the Earth’s constant upward acceleration, extended spaceflight is impossible.
I discovered this forum while I was eating lunch and I found myself pondering this group and its members for the rest of the day. How does one come to believe this? Further, how does one persist in this belief well into adulthood in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? I have come to the conclusion that some people just believe crazy things. That does not make a person crazy, though. Maybe some people just get so attached to an idea that they feel uncomfortable breaking with it and admitting they were completely wrong. It is not a rational response, but I think I can understand it.
Of course, this is a fringe group. They are not impacting politics or education on any significant scale, so I will not pay too much attention to them. I just had to say something because this group is so blatantly absurd. I would not try to engage the people who are really committed to the flat-Earth idea. I would try to convince them they are completely wrong and they will counter every shred of evidence I offer by saying it’s a lie.