Flat Earth, the Conspiracy and Canard

Please allow me to open this essay by quickly stating that my intention is not to mock or deride members of the Flat Earth Community. My primary objective is to shed light on the concept of Flat Earth by clarifying the positions and scientific credibility behind the Flat Earth Society. The globally discussed conspiracy shared in what is known as “Flat Earth Society” is a relatively self-explanatory mission centered around the archaic concept that the earth is not round but disk.

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Anyone could come to this conclusion: Seeing is believing, right? Haven’t we all wondered at some point if perhaps not everything is as it seems to be? I intend to touch on the facts and the fiction behind the enigmatic Flat Earth Society. It is my perspective that, after careful and methodical research, the Earth is most likely to be spherical. I will provide direct quotes from experts in the related fields, photographic evidence as a visual aid, and testimonial evidence to further substantiate my claim that the Earth is indeed spherical. My aim is to inform and educate those who are unaware of the aforementioned society and elaborate on the likely justifications that members of the society will utilize as evidence.

Although the idea of a flat Earth may sound rather far-fetched to most, I’m inclined to point out a few possible explanations as to why the members of Flat Earth Society are so confident about their positions. In addition, I intend on narrowing what happened to attract attention to the flat Earth concept so quickly, and discuss possible variables that could have acted as catalysts to the swift and relatively unexpected resurrection of the concept of flat Earth, which had, until very recently, long since been disregarded.

There are several factors to consider when determining what attracts people to the Flat Earth Society. Although I’m sure that it varies greatly, there seems to be a noticeable cause-and-effect relationship between cognitive functions, mental health, social media influence, and the current amount of new members admitted to the Flat Earth Society at any given time. Firstly, regarding the relationship between cognitive functions and conspiracy, there exists an intriguing potential justification. What precipitates “Flat-Earthers” to believe so wholeheartedly in what they do? The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias wherein those of low ability or competence tend to feel an erroneous superiority and mistakenly interpret their ability as better than it is.

On the other side, those with higher ability and competence tend to wrongfully assume that their knowledge is more common, which causes their own self-awareness to be skewed in the opposite direction in which they believe that they are the same or in some cases even inferior to their colleagues. Thus members of Flat Earth Society are often very confident in their position, which not only attracts new supporters but it also leads onlookers to believe that the person dictating a speech or writing the website is much more knowledgeable than he or she really is. This effect stems from a significant lack of self-awareness along with a serious misunderstanding of ones own metacognition, or to state more plainly, “Thinking about one’s own Thinking”(Chick). I feel as though there is a strong correlation between avid supporters of the flat Earth concept and the widespread tendrils of the Dunning-Kruger effect in today’s society. The immense number of people afflicted with this cognitive bias is truly baffling to me. Frustratingly enough, those with inferior skill usually appear more confident and this often causes said people to be given more power and opportunity, whereas the highly skilled people on the sidelines remain diffident. This cognitive bias seems to cause a chain reaction, where the metacognition of nearly everyone could be affected. With global ignorance of self comes along some potentially disastrous consequences; For instance, if an unskilled person is placed in charge of directing an important task and fails terribly; Regrettably, no highly skilled person will know to take control and offer assistance due to their lack of self-awareness. An environment like this can be a perfect breeding ground for conspiracy.

As John Locke, the influential seventeenth-century philosopher, states wisely,
“The understanding, like the eye, whilst it makes us see and perceive all other things, takes no notice of itself: and it requires art and pains to set it at a distance and make it its own object….If by this inquiry into the nature of the understanding, I can discover the powers thereof; how far they reach; to what things they are in any degree proportionate; and where they fail us, I suppose it may be of use to prevail with the busy mind of man to be more cautious in meddling with things exceeding its comprehension; to stop when it is at the utmost extent of its tether; and to sit down in a quiet ignorance of those things which, upon examination, are found to be beyond the reach of our capacities”( Locke).

One of the most crucial factors to consider in the popularity of Flat Earth Society is the rise of social media. Over the course of a few weeks, rapperB.o.B. wrote several tweets and even released a diss track claiming that the earth is flat. The night of Wednesday, January 17, 2016, Neil deGrasse Tyson made an appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” to call attention to B.o.B for spreading conspiracies and misinformation. “There’s a growing anti-intellectual strain in this country that may be the beginning of the end of our informed democracy,” deGrasse Tyson, leader of the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium in New York City, so eloquently claimed on the show. “Discovery and exploration got us out of the caves, and each generation benefits from what previous generations have learned,” he added. “Isaac Newton, my man, said, ‘If I have seen farther than others, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ Can I get an amen? So that’s right, B.o.B ?”when you stand on the shoulders of those who came before, you might just see far enough to realize the Earth isn’t f*****g flat.”

Tyson stopped for a moment, and then finally said, “And, by the way? This is called gravity!” He drops the mic (Moorehouse). It has become increasingly common for flat Earth theorists to use various social media platforms to create a larger following. Tyson believes that could become a serious problem. In the case of rapper B.o.B, he used his large social media following to post about flat Earth theories, collect new recruits to join the Flat Earth Society, and uncover the “secrets” of the planet. It has become undeniably more difficult to distinguish between truth and falsities online at this point, as misinformation runs rampant within social media sites. We have reached a point where we have discovered a way to access any and all available information in the entire world but, the more information is available, the more misinformation spreads. For example, despite the fact that the planet Earth has been widely accepted as round for nearly a thousand years, through the use of advertisements, social media, and celebrity endorsement. The theory that was considered outrageous when Samuel Shenton proposed it has now become a hot topic for debate once again.

Storytelling has I believe this tradition continues for two reasons….Firstly, to explain and justify the world around us. Secondly, to give our own individual lives a sense of existential purpose.).

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to immediately change a conspiracist’s mind with simple photographic proof or even countless examples of visual and photographic evidence. To place your faith in a theory like this, you must stray far beyond the usual threshold for questioning experts and universal intellectual knowledge. For most of us it can be quite entertaining to have our perceptions of reality dissected; However, we only experience satisfaction when also offered a means to piece information back together in a manner which we can comprehend effectively. Those who fervently believe in a flat Earth have already determined in advance that their own collective realities cannot feasibly be as they seem; Therefore, a merely speculative theory becomes a gratifying way of conducting a conclusive explanation of what may otherwise seem to be a perplexing world.

I am without a shadow of a doubt that many of you are asking to yourself, “how do we really know that the earth is round?”As much as I’d like to tell you how simple and easy it is to understand, the actual truth is a bit more complicated. In a more relatable and everyday context that the general public tends to actually care about, the truth depends mainly on testimony. We can count on the verity without exception, that every educated astrophysicist, geographer, astronomer , or cartographer never stops to ponder if the earth may possibly be flat. Is the question still bothering you? If so, I can at least close this essay with an explanation of a few proofs that you can do yourself at home to observe the curvature of the earth.

One of the most effective recorded methods for determining Earth’s curvature was first done by ancient Greeks. The effect was achieved by comparing the shadows of sticks in different locations. While the sun was directly above in one place, the stick there cast no shadow. At the same time in a city about 500 miles north, the stick there did cast a shadow. If the Earth truly is flat then the two sticks should display the same shadow (or lack of) since they would be placed at the same angle facing the sun. The ancient Greeks realized the shadows weren’t the same because Earth is curved so the sticks were at different angles. They next used the difference in the angles to calculate the circumference of Earth. They were able calculate it within 10% of the true value ?“ pretty effective for 250 B.C (Whittaker).

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