A while back, I spent an evening with a few acquaintances. It was at first to be nothing more than gathering of enthusiastic drinkers, smokers, and other minor deviants of the sort. Yet the night proved to be far more interesting than a mere occasion of laughing drunkenly at tall tales. Instead, it hosted perhaps one of the tallest tales of them all, “The Flat Earth Story.” A myth that I cannot bear to stand hearing. Yet as I was not in my own home, I was compelled to be polite and listened to the words of either the misguided or plainly insane. However, another motive came to mind as my brain was assaulted by the endless ramblings of idiocy: Perhaps I could hypothesize on why there are those who could be swayed into a belief system, one that a six year-old could easily disprove.
It is necessary to say that these acquaintances of mine are both graduates and students of various universities. They are not boors who barely know how to read and write. Thus a question surfaces, “Why do these educated individuals choose to reject all the provable—or at least possible—wisdoms they’ve learnt for years?” Surprisingly enough, the reasons are many: the first being the rejection of science as a sufficient lens for understanding natural phenomena, another having to do with politics, humanity’s odd fondness for conspiracies, and even the Devil. Yes, that being of pure, unadulterated evil.
To further elaborate on the backgrounds of my acquaintances, while it is true that while they are educated, they may have not been the brightest pupils. Although a few were from the natural sciences branch of academics, they too imagined that the earth was flat. Hence I asked each one of them why they think that our planet is not spherical, and their answers were particularly fascinating. For them, the laws of physics that dictate the whys and hows of a planet’s formation does not matter. To paraphrase their words, “Science is a propaganda tool utilized by governments and secret organizations to manipulate the masses,” a claim confidently made even though not a one of them has ever read an astronomy book. Why these organizations and governments lie has rather simple answer. It is to gather as much wealth as one can, or in other words for financing society’s one-percenters.
All the funds that go to the creation and development of satellites, telescopes, scientific organizations are all daylight robbery and nothing more. Despite the fact that groups such as NASA are one of the most underfunded government entities amongst the various other governmental branches. Thus, we have the flat Earth societies’ idea that NASA and its kindred are practically government-supported swindlers. And this meme has infested the minds of flat-Earthers, driving them to despise or at least be very suspicious of anything related to science.
Yet the suspicion of theft by astronomy is not the only cause for rage within the flat Earth societies. Another, is religion. For you see, another purpose of lying to the public about why the Earth is round is to support the Devil—Lucifer, Satan, Al-Massih ad-Dajjal, or whatever name he goes by these days. A pillar provided by the aforementioned one-percenters. Science being an apparatus of the one-percenters is then by extension, also a tool of the Devil and his allies, used to taint the minds of man into disbelieving the holy scriptures of the gods. For few gods had ever stated that the Earth is a sphere. They speak of it, via their proxies or directly, as if the world they had created is flat and that it is also the center of the universe. Hence, with science declaring that the words of the gods are false, they must certainly be in league with the enemies of the gods.
So far, I have spoken of two roots of the flat Earth belief—ones that I could see, though undoubtably there are endless more. But there lies one other that I have yet mentioned, merely alluded to. I have written in one of the first few paragraphs that my acquaintances are not the most intelligent individuals on the planet. They frequently fail to achieve excellence in academics. Failures that likely led them to speak of any matter involving academia with a tone of disgust and contempt. At this point, I am forced to hypothesize, as I know of no theories related to the topic of humanity’s fondness for conspiracies (my field is International Relations, specifically matters of national security). Thus I ask for forgiveness from you, dear Reader, that I cannot provide concrete evidence and merely offer my speculations on the subject at hand.
It appears to me, that my acquaintances harbor a certain kind of hatred towards academics. It is something that have caused them many hardships and led them to failures that perhaps irreversibly damaged their self-worths. Which birthed suspicion and loathing towards science—the proverbial body which has botched their attempts at their respective understandings of success.
And so my acquaintances, and maybe many other flat-Earthers are shepherded into distrusting science by the scars left on their egos. Either from their time at educational institutions or personal experiences. Why should they believe the words of the things and peoples that have hurt them, made them feel that they are idiots? They have no reason to do so, and because of this lack of motive, they turn to other things. Absurd conspiracies akin to the one we are currently discussing. All for the sake of disproving the laws, theories, hypotheses, they could not grasp. Similar to revenge for personal satisfaction, but one that is sought in the realm of abstractions.
Here we can finally conclude our discussion. There is no doubt at all that the earth is round, that the laws of physics dictated it to be so, and the human species is not at the center of the universe. Why people continue to choose to believe otherwise remains a great mystery to myself.
So far, the only clues I’ve found are a fondness for conspiracies that speak of individuals secretly running the world behind the scenes, reaping resources for the sake of the Devil, alongside a distrust born out of painful experiences regarding academics. To cleanse the world of such erroneous beliefs such as that of the flat Earth tale, there is no solution but greater socialization of the values of science, clarification of even its most basic subjects, and a convincing enough argument that classrooms are not the Devil’s homes. A daunting task, but one that is necessary should we wish that humanity’s progress in understanding the universe not be halted by the misinformed.