It’s probably fair to say at this point that our Earth is absolutely, unequivocally a round globe. But not everyone is completely convinced by that assessment. Like a lot of science, it is based on a widely accepted assertions and a belief – after all, the majority of people have not, and will not see the Earth from space. That is, unless Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic get space tourism up and running in our lifetime. This area is a philosophical minefield. Even as the flat Earth topic was brought up in our office, the idea of whether we can actually believe anything we’ve been told – from the fact that we have a brain, to the fact that we exist at all – started being tossed around. Because as soon as you start to question one thing that has been taken as fact for so long, you’re almost required to question everything else too. There are philosophers who have suggested that our universe is a simulation, or that we are living in someone else’s dream. Anything that is part of the patchwork of reality can be questioned, and it is our ability to question such things that truly separates us from the animals. So, it is unsurprising that large swathes of the world’s population question that the planet is round, and these people are “flat-earthers.”
Once upon a time, the flat earth belief was held by pretty much everyone. It was assumed that the world was entirely flat, and if you got the edge, you would fall right off. Around 330 BC, Aristotle maintained on the basis of physical theory and observational evidence that the Earth was spherical. Then, in 240 BC, Eratosthenes determined the circumference. When Christopher Columbus asserted that he could reach India by sailing west from Spain, he too knew that the Earth was round. Reaching India would be rather difficult on a flat Earth, because it was blocked by Africa. But on a round globe, it is possible to reach India by sailing west, which is what he attempted – as we know, he ended up in America, but continued to assert that it was India – a misrepresentation that still persists to this day, with Native Americans being referred to as “Indians.” It soon became commonly accepted that the Earth was round, and when we first received images of our little planet from space, that really should have quelled all doubts and been the final end to the argument. But as is always the case with humanity, there are those who wish to go against the grain, and challenge popular opinion. Enter the flat-earthers.
Here is a model of the “flat Earth.”
Here is a model of the Earth, as most scientific consensus understands it.
In 1956, a man by the name of Samuel Shenton created the International Flat Earth Society in Dover, England. When the first satellite images of the Earth from space demonstrated that it was spherical, Shenton reportedly said “It’s easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye.” When Shenton passed away in 1971, Charles K. Johnson became the society president, and he grew the movement. He theorised that scientists were pulling a fast one humanity in order to discredit religion, and replace it with science. Much of the society’s literature in its early days focused on using information sourced from the Bible to declare that the Earth was flat. In an interview, Johnson said that “the spinning ball thing just makes the whole Bible a big joke.” In the same interview, he was quoted as saying “Wherever you find people with a great reservoir of common sense, they don’t believe idiotic things such as the earth spinning around the sun. Reasonable, intelligent people have always recognize that the earth is flat.”
Modern incarnations of the flat-earth movement are just as certain as Johnson was, even with all of the scientific advances we’ve made in our understanding of space, the universe, and our home. Right now, you can watch a live stream of the Earth from space, where it is quite clearly round. But proof like this doesn’t seem to sway hard line flat-earthers. We spoke with Jake Carmichael, a young Australian man and frontman of the band Grey Mantis. He told us that he first discovered the flat Earth theory “on YouTube, like every other conspiracy.” Though skeptical to begin with, his views soon changed. “I laughed at first and thought it was bullshit. But they had some good theories that made me begin to question the heliocentric model. So I kept looking into it. After months, I didn’t ‘believe’ it but I couldn’t deny the evidence of our reality did not match up to what we were taught.”
I asked Jake why the scientific community would push the idea of a spherical Earth if they knew that it was a lie. “Simple answer, it’s a religion. It controls our beliefs. We believe the heliocentric model to be true, and it hides God, it hides free energy, it hides what and who we really are, it hides our purpose in this life. We follow a 9-5 work based life, we worry about time and money, we crush each other to make a living. It’s all a control system!” Like Charles K. Johnson, Jake believes that the spherical Earth ideology is pushed on humanity by the powers that be as a way of stifling a greater understanding of life. While Jake acknowledges that the Earth is “possibly convex around the edges” he maintains that it is “100% not a sphere.”
The human population of the world can really be boiled down into two categories: the Mulders and the Scullys. In case you don’t know The X-Files, Mulder and Scully are the two main characters of that show. They’re government agents who have wildly different views about the paranormal, but work well as a team – Scully holds the view that science and logic dictate reality. Mulder thinks there are more supernatural elements of existence that cannot be explained. There will always be people who are determined to contradict widely accepted fact and knowledge for the simple reason of “I want to believe.” And perhaps the ability to have such different opinions of the nature of the world, and of ourselves, is what makes our species so great. In his song ‘Talkin’ World War III Blues’ Bob Dylan croons the lyric, “half of the people can be part right all of the time, some of the people can be all right part of the time, but all of the people can’t be all right all of the time.” Maybe we will never have a global consensus on anything – due to religious beliefs, fascination by the abnormal, or a simple desire to go against the grain, we will always have people who are convinced that a God dictates our every action, we will always have people who rely on science, and we will always have people who will believe that the world is flat, even in the face of insurmountable evidence. And isn’t that what makes our world great? The fact that so many people can exist under the same set of stars, and interpret it all completely differently. It just goes to show how truly unique we all are.