Is NASA just a means of protecting civilization from the actual truth that the Earth is flat? Are scientists hellbent on replacing God?
Sometime around 330 BC, Aristotle woke up and said to himself*, “Ya know what? Fuck this flat ass Earth. I’m tired of people telling me this place is flat because I know it sure the hell isn’t” and he presented empirical evidence to the courts in Athens and they said, “Ah shit. Ari is drunk again” and he rebutted, “no it’s true fuckheads.” And thus the spherical Earth model was born.
That model has held up pretty damn good for two thousand years now (which is like a million years in modern scientific time) and still not everyone is convinced. Even to this day, with the James Webb Telescope leering billions of light years into Outer Space and never once even remotely finding anything like a flat planet, Flat Earthers are clamoring (somewhat) louder than ever.
Because of fucking course they are. It’s 2022 and the internet just simply exists.
So where did this theory come from? What paranoia birthed this bizarre argument to begin with?
Modern Flat Earth believers would tell you that the Bible has always suggested the Earth is flat. But it was widely accepted that the Earth was a sphere until somewhere during the 19th century when some English shithead decided to measure some ditches around England and figure they all seemed pretty flat. Therefore the rest of Earth had to be flat. And he also tried to get the rest of the world to eat beans for breakfast but that one was met with notable resistance.
After hanging out in ditches, Samuel Rowbotham decided that he cracked the case and as quickly as he could took his new found truth on the road. Once even being chased out of town for not being able to explain if the Earth was so flat than why did the hulls of ships disappear before their masts when sailing out to sea. But after some trials and triumphants, he wrote a book about it, honed his craft at arguing pseudoscience, became a pro at bullying scientists and then married a 15 year old well into his 40’s and had like 600 kids with her.
In a leaflet he published titled, The Inconsistency of Modern Astronomy and its Opposition to the Scriptures he argues that the, “Bible, alongside our senses, supported the idea that the Earth was flat and immovable and this essential truth should not be set aside for a system based solely on human conjecture.”
He was also completely sure both the Sun and the Moon were 3,000 miles above the Earth and the rest of outer space or, “cosmos” as he put it were a mere 3100 miles above Earth. So.. yeah.
Eventually, all of this would lead to a society as these things seemed to do back in the day and the Universal Zetetic Society was born. Which would later be renamed and reinterpreted as, The Flat Earth Society by founder, Samuel Shenton in 1956.
After Shenton died in 1971, Charles K. Johnson would take over leadership of the Flat Earth Society and lead it to it through its most prosperous era. Johnson distanced himself from the Bible-Literate arguments of the past and created a more conspiratorial commentary railing against the United States Government among other major institutions.
Although recruitment during the 80’s and early 90’s was effective through Anti-United States Government (particularly NASA) rhetoric the group under Johnson would return to its religious roots with Johnson citing the Bible for his beliefs, while also accusing pretty much anyone listening that the forces that be were replacing the Bible with science.
By the late 90’s the society’s numbers were dwindling, and had as low as 250 members left. Many writings, literature and member contact information would be lost in a house fire and Charles K. Johnson would be dead by early 2001. With no leadership and next to no base it looked like the end for The Flat Earth Society but alas, the internet.
Enter Daniel Shenton, (coincidentally of no relation to founding member, Samuel Shenton) who resurrected the group on an online forum in 2004. Shenton wrote a seven page essay defending his flat Earth hypothesis that I’m not stupid enough to pay for. Essentially the spark notes version of his argument is, “if the earth wasn’t flat I’d always feel like I’m walking up or down hill” or something fucking terribly dumb like that.
As of, 2017 there are reportedly over 500 members in the Flat Earth Society (which has since splintered off into different sections themselves). One is biblical literalism and another group is less religious and more distrustful of just about… everything on Earth.
Yeah, yeah, so.. what’s the point of all of this? Why is this even a thing?
Flat Earth has yet again exposed the ignorant teeth of fanaticism. Certainly not an issue completely unique to the United States but very well perfected here. Christian fundamentalists weaponized a holy book to selfishly demonize any line of thinking outside of their very small and narrow viewpoints on the universe. And more importantly their place in that tiny flat universe.
For the others, the less biblical, straight forward science deniers it’s simply a hard case of Dunning-Kruger. Dr. Joe Pierre, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, blamed the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which people who know very little think of themselves as experts. Along with other science denying conspiracies, Flat Earth Theory has been lumped in with other more hateful and toxic Q-ANON theories (i.e. misconceptions of Transgendered people, birthers and Pizza-Gate)
There is an even smaller third splinter cell of the Flat Earth believers that actually think the US GOVERNMENT (again) is actually in control of the Flat Earth Society and is using it to make a mockery of true flat Earth believers. If that was real and an actual job then I finally have found my dream job.
Living in the peak years of the age of Disinformation and knowing the internet for the cesspool it actually is, I’d guess that roughly 50 to 75% of Flat Earthers don’t actually believe the Earth is flat. They will tell you they do for attention, to argue, to sow seeds of doubt in any little pocket of social media or just for fun. Just to rattle cages. Those people, I could care less about. Their problems extend way farther than denying astronomy and thinking NASA is hiding a wall of ice from them.
The only people I feel bad for are the true, genuine believers. The ones who have to suspend all reason and believe because what the Bible says is their ultimate truth. The fanatics that not only deny themselves the wonders of the universe but have also created a God so weak in their minds – that it’s flame could be extinguished so easily by such an inconsequential lie. A God that needs protection, a God that rejects infinity.
You would think it would be so easy for some just to embrace God’s infinite creation, an endless universe, a beautiful spherical earth (the true unexplained miracle of life that we all share) but at the end of the day, even the most basic of concepts can be difficult for some to wrap their head around.