The Flat Earth Phenomenon

The Earth is round. All the evidence going back thousands of years is undeniable. Despite the myth that it wasn’t until Columbus sailed the ocean blue when it was proven, scientists and philosophers had known this fact since ancient times. In fact, Columbus’ belief in the size of the Earth and not its shape was found to be incorrect when he discovered the New World. It turned out to be much bigger than he had anticipated. And yet in modern times there is a small, but growing, number of people who believe that the Earth is flat. The reasons behind this are much more than simple ignorance or mental disorder.

How much they actually believe their own theories is up for debate. It is hard for the majority of “civilized” people to get their head around why someone would ignore all evidence to the contrary. These are the very questions that drive the movement. They represent more than an uneducated few, but a new vision of the future returning to the simplicity of the past. One that never actually existed, but still a past that was mythologized by the educated that now mock them. They are almost a metaphor for how the world has progressed in science and technology, but regressed in social cohesion to fractured tribalism.

Flat Earth believers are characterized as the stereotypical Christian Evangelical Young Earth Creationist Fundamentalist. A starting point for the belief in a “pancake planet” is the Biblical description of the Earth with a domed sky. However, quick Internet research of those who are part of the group quickly dispels such a narrow categorization. They may use the Bible as evidence, but not always for the same reasons. It can be anywhere from religious devotion to a recognition that it is one of many ancient sources untouched by a modernity that has lost its way. It doesn’t matter if the individual’s politics is left or right. What they all seem to have in common is conspiracy theories about population manipulation by government elites. The flat Earth theory is secondary.

As a hint that “flat Earth” isn’t the real issue, it was interesting to see what one believer said when asked what they thought of a round Earth when given a replica to hold. They started listing all the horrible, destructive, violent, almost monstrous actions of the human race. It wasn’t about the physical shape of the planet at all. What they are trying to do, it seems, is control the narrative of the future for themselves. In a world that has gone completely insane to them, knowing a “fact” that the “sheep” have been “force-fed” by the all powerful governments and elites keeps them separated from the chaos surrounding them. They don’t have only science issues. They have trust issues.

Some polls (if you believe in such things) have indicated that almost half of the U.S. population believes not just in the existence of alien life, but that they have or continue to visit the Earth. A popular series with multiple seasons is based on the idea that ancient people were visited by Extra-terrestrials, while modern society rejected them. There is also a large number of people who believe things like Bigfoot and ghosts despite those who try hard to debunk them. Those who believe in the flat Earth, small in size as they may be, often fall in the same category. They feel there is knowledge about to be discovered that will open the eyes of a sleeping and propagandized population. They distrust modern scientists. They distrust what the government tells them.

All of this could be dismissed as an anomaly in the modern world with no basis in fact or coming from far afield. That is the consensus, but it isn’t the reality. The governments have lied to the people. They have experimented on unsuspecting citizens. They do start and continue unnecessary wars. Scientists are often more concerned with politics than education and discovery. Popular science supporters argue against bad science while propping up transgenderism and the 32 and counting genders. They still insist global climate change (that used to be global cooling, then global warming) exists because of 50 years (among millions of years) of arguable hockey stick computer models where none of the predictions have come true. Elites do look down on the masses as dupes who must be controlled for their own good. God is dead. Life has no meaning. It is enough for a few, and growing, to find the biggest stick an average person can have and use it as a trolling tool of rebellion.

The point of all this, besides the fascination with a small mostly insignificant group, is that governments no longer have moral authority. They may have a huge armed military with legions of in-the-pocket scientists, lawyers, and public relations media giants. What they no longer have is unchallenged control. When feelings and political correctness instead of facts, unless those facts are able to prop up the feelings, are the basis of “truth” then it isn’t surprising others will challenge the very nature of truth. It happened against the traditionalism of the past. It is starting to happen toward the politicism of today. The flat Earth movement is the canary in the coal-mine. Those in power and public opinion makers have distorted the world and the Earth will be made flat.

There are a few things to learn from the misguided flat Earth believers. Religious people have an opportunity to reassert themselves in the public imagination as a challenge to, rather than a part of, the slow disintegration of elite society. They shouldn’t turn to conspiracy level arguments, but they can become a counter culture. Be proud and embrace subversive traditionalism based on ancient moral codes and ideals. Point out the destructive coercion of modernity and point to a better future built on the fight against the control of the powerful. Don’t be afraid. Be unique.

19 thoughts on “The Flat Earth Phenomenon

  1. Actually the earth was proved to be round and the diameter was measured by Eratosthenes in 240 BC. Educated people in Columbus’ time know the earth was round and the idea that he ‘proved it’ is a myth.

  2. Yes, that is what I stated with less detail in the first paragraph. Ironic enough it was educated teachers that started the myth Columbus set out to prove the world round. Not that every ancient educated civilization believed the roundness, hence Flat Earther’s using some ancient records as evidence.

  3. Jett, could it be that many people are just lying to the pollsters about believing in a flat earth, just to mess with them?

    Trump winning after all the polls saying he would lose illustrates that either pollsters lie, or people lie to pollsters, or both. (Or that the voting process in several states was corrupted.)

    After all, it’s not illegal to lie to a pollster. So why not have a little fun?

  4. Bookslinger, I have considered that in this post actually, with statements such as:

    “How much they actually believe their own theories is up for debate.”

    “Some polls (if you believe in such things),” although this is talking about paranormal and UFO beliefs in general.

    “besides the fascination with a small mostly insignificant group”

    One of the reasons I started doing research on exactly who they are and what they believe is celebrated science supporters argued against Flat Earth believers. I was wondering why anyone would take the time to even try to pretend there was a group of people who believed such a thing.

    That said, look up “Flat Earth” on youtube. I was surprised for and against videos were easily available. This made me wonder about the motive for this strange set of beliefs. What I discovered was they often held on to other conspiracy related ideas like 911 was an inside job and other anti-government sentiments. I came to the conclusion it wasn’t about the shape of the planet, but what this OP tries to describe.

  5. LOL now that’s an idea. I used to do it for political polls before I had our landline taken out.

  6. “I was wondering why anyone would take the time to even try to pretend there was a group of people who believed such a thing.”

    They need something to talk about and denounce, a cause. They need to be heard, and to feel important. Signalling. Filling air-time.

    “That said, look up ‘Flat Earth’ on youtube. I was surprised for and against videos were easily available. This made me wonder about the motive for this strange set of beliefs.”

    Ditto.

    I have this URL memorized, which sort of encapsulates it:
    http://www.xkcd.com/386

  7. Good points.
    I agree that government can no longer be trusted. Both parties lie. “You can keep your doctor.” , “Vote for us and we will end Obamacare (or the deficit, or the war, or poor education, etc.).

    I fear government regulating Facebook, because it will actually strengthen their monopoly and make it harder for newcomers. Government picks big winners and casts off the little guys. This is why Trump was elected, to drain that swamp. However, i don’t think he can do it, as he also seeks to pick winners and losers, instead of opening up the free market.

    In the free market of ideas, we will find flat earthers and global climate changers. And that is good. We must ensure government stays out of the way, and allow truth to float to the surface through evidence, reason and discussion, and not remain submerged by government propaganda.

    Hitler, Lenin and Mao gained power by controlling propaganda and the definition of truth. 1984 isn’t very far off. Ronald Reagan said that the loss of freedom is always only one generation away.

  8. I know a Flat Earther. He has no religious background except maybe his mom was vaguely Buddhist. He’s an intelligent guy, a software engineer, and was at first into 9/11 Truther stuff, Alex Jones/Natural News, etc. and then after the 2016 election seems to have dropped Jones in favor of some really out-there conspiracy stuff. He now believes in a flat earth, dinosaurs being a NASA hoax, and all kinds of jaw-dropping stuff. I’m not too clear on *why* he now thinks that evolution is a scam, but it’s not because he was raised YEC or even Christian. I think he does really like to think that he knows secret truths that make sense of the world.

    I used to think that Flat Earthers were contrarians in it for the laughs, but that was before the Youtube videos started. Now there seems to be a small but vocal group of true believers.

  9. Fixed delusions are beliefs that have no basis in reality but which are so firmly believed by the deluded person that there is little chance of changing their mind.

    So long as a fixed delusion regarding the shape of the earth doesn’t make a person dangerous, it’s harmless. But as delusions regarding the shape of the earth become correlated with aggression, then we have a problem.

    A while ago I posted a video from a psychiatrist at Columbia University Hospital whose brother had been delusional. For years the psychiatrist tried to tell his brother how wrong the delusions were. But then the psychiatrist learned to reach out to the delusional brother in love, validating the brother’s feelings while gently refusing to agree that the delusions were real.

    I know how to deal with a delusional individual in a compassionate manner. But it’s hard to deal with a movement, much less a series of YouTube videos.

  10. In addition to lying to pollsters and respondents, it’s even easier to believe that many people don’t really understand, or just simply misunderstood the question you’re asking.

  11. “For years the psychiatrist tried to tell his brother how wrong the delusions were. But then the psychiatrist learned to reach out to the delusional brother in love,..”

    That touches on something that psych professionals probably have a name for. That if something is stated with hatred, opposition or other negative or toxic emotion, the hearer may instinctively judge the speaker to be his “enemy” and then conclude that the thing that was said to be wrong.

    And if not an “enemy”, then perhaps a lesser form of “otherness”, such as ill-informed or non-initiated, and therefore not to be trusted.

    It’s not just delusional people; it probably applies to all old-order/new-order and insider/outsider dynamics. Look at the vituperation Meg received from established Mormon historians when she came up with a new way to interpret and connect the dots of Nauvoo history. She was personally attacked by critics whose remarks indicated they didn’t even read her book (or failed to read/grasp the essential points.)

    I think I even see a gospel tie-in. Our natural distrust of the “others” and outsiders can be overcome by the Holy Ghost, which may be one reason why we are instructed: If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach. DC42:14.

    The recent passing of Art Bell reminded me of a few things.
    1. there are actual crazy and deluded people out there.
    2. there are actual stupid people out there, many of which overlap with #1.
    (Remember, half the population is below average, or below the median to be technical.)
    3. some non-stupid/non-crazy people say stupid/crazy stuff just to get attention.
    4. Some crazy, non-crazy, stupid, and not-stupid people sometimes enjoy listening to crazy and stupid people blather. I point to the popularity of many TV shows as examples. Perhaps it’s reassurance that the viewer is not the only one who sometimes does/says stupid things. And perhaps it’s schadenfreude, allowing the viewer to feel superior.

  12. I have found that we shape our beliefs and what is acceptable by our perception in what “feels right” and not necessarily on evidence alone. We are eadily duped if its something that fits our generally accepted rules of perception. I always bring up the UFO story I have because it challenges perceptions and trust and how our minds prejudge others without knowing it. I can tell a person I went fishing and caught a 20″ brown trout and without showing pictures, or any other details almost everyone will accept tgat story. I can stretch it though and say I caught a 40″ brown trout and they will start to question, want some evidence, etc. There is that point where in our minds the criteria in prejudgment already filters what we “feel” is acceptable and what isnt.
    So, when I tell people I believe in UFO’s it doeznt raise many eyebtows and they can accept that and still retain a certain level of “trust” in me- similar to tge 20″ trout story. But when I tell them I have had a very close encounter with an actual UFO it doesnt matter how much a person trusts me, all that goes out the window because I have failed their prejudgment criteria for what is acceptable. Isnt that interesting? Their thought process says its okay to believe in something that may be possible but if it turns out it very well is possible then suddenly its not okay. Its like having a buffer on perception and how we create security for ourselves with only what we wish was or is true so that it doesnt create fear. Very intetesting indeed.
    BTW, I have caught a 20″ and 40″ brown trout and had a close encounter with an actual UFO. Oh, and to challenge your perception I am lying about one of those three events.

  13. Could it also be just one form of escapism among many, all forms of escapism becoming addictions (pornography, videogames, alcohol, drugs, monster drinks, watching too many sports, following the latest development in national politics and geopolitics every day at the expense of scripture reading–I am guilty of that last one sometimes…)
    In the first world, many people have too much income and time and can pretend that Star Trek and Star War conventions are the real thing. And hey, why not change gender too. One of the “revelations” I had after receiving a testimony and joining the church, was that our Heavenly Father’s children who have not been ministered to and converted live in a dream. A sort of opium. False religion can be the opium of the people, as Karl Marx said, but there are many other opiums as stated above. True religion is not the opium of the people. It is an awakening from a dream. Awake, arise, O Zion. Once the truth sets you free you are able to choose between two types of addictions:
    1. Addiction to the Third Member of the Godhead through obedience and covenants, which leads you to the Father and the Son and your Heavenly Family.
    2. All other addictions, which either slow you down on your path toward the Father and the Son or send you in the opposite direction.

  14. Not a fan of Marx either… Marxism-Leninism is definitely another “opium of the people”, a false religion. But religion before it was indeed used to perpetuate social injustice.

  15. I had to look up brown trout on wikipedia to see how big they can get. 40″ is possible.

  16. Yeah, Im still searching to catch that 40″ brown. Almost caught him last year but pulled the lure out of his mouth when he turned near the boat.

  17. Great article. I think that science cedes some of its authority every time scientists overstep the data. I agree with many of the examples you listed jetboy. The problem for science is that we ‘know’ so very little, and we guess about and theorize about the rest.

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