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Has the “Flat Earth Theory” Found A New Audience?

It’s the last thing that most would ever think they would have to make a case for in the modern world: why the Earth is indeed a globe, and not a flat plane covered with topographical features like mountains and valleys, drifting along like an island in space.

Strange as it may sound, this was precisely the kind of argument I recently found myself having to address, in response to a discussion that took place on an online radio show which apparently brought the so-called “flat earth theory” back into question… at least in the minds of some.

The host in question, Rob Skiba, had been interviewing a fellow named Mark Sargent, a man with a background in graphics and CGI, in which the two men had a lengthy discussion about whether evidence supported a cover-up to withhold information about Earth’s true shape from the public (to his credit, and I want to be clear about this, Skiba made it known at the outset that he doesn’t believe in the idea that our planet is literally flat, though admittedly, a strong sense of favor toward the idea seemed to remain present throughout the discussion).

One of my readers contacted me about the interview, and asked if I would consider listening to what the men had to say, which I did. Among the kinds of points addressed were the fact that NASA and other space agencies have continually released CGI representations of Earth over the years, and that only one supposed “photo” released by NASA actually exists, purporting to show our round globe. Furthermore, anecdotal claims have arisen over the years about visitors to Antarctica being driven away “at gunpoint.” Paired with the fact that world organizations such as the United Nations feature flat earth symbolism in their logos, all of these points are believed to be “evidence” that our world is, indeed, a flat circular plane contained under a dome… a reality which elitists are working hard to hide from the public.

The fact that such “flat earth theories” have lingered into the present day is really nothing new; consider websites like that of The Flat Earth Society, which just last year announced its intention to expand its social media presence. “To kick this off,” one flat-earther had written at their site, “we’ll be running a celebratory campaign that showcases our supporters all over the Disk… We will be regramming the photos across our social media network so people can see our supporters all across the world.”

One must ask themselves, how could someone really believe that the Earth is flat, despite what are now centuries-old determinations first made by the likes of Eratosthenes, who as far back as 235 BC was able to prove its roundness using mathematic calculations?

Let’s remember that Eratosthenes was able make such determinations about our Earth’s shape based on differences in the length of shadows cast by objects in two separate locations, one being the ancient Syene (now Aswan), and the other at Alexandria, on the day of the Summer Solstice. This story was illustrated famously by Carl Sagan in an episode of the classic Cosmos television series, as seen here:

Despite being able to use mathematics to determine the Earth’s roundness as far back as 235 BC, the pseudoscientific interpretation of various data in modern times has nonetheless contributed to the continuation of “flat earth” theories. For instance, as discussed during Skiba’s radio program on the subject, many have taken issue with the fact that images that purportedly feature our planet are “digital composites,” which some interpret to mean that they are purely fabrications using CGI technologies.

In response to questions my reader had asked about such things, I recommended a page where several photos of Earth taken in recent years could be viewed, all of which are composites that were assembled from photos using satellite imaging technologies:

http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=79787

To give an idea of the language that I think has led to misunderstandings of what a “composite” or “synthesized” image actually is, I’ll include one of the captions from the images, which reads as follows:

“Over a period of six orbits on on February 3, 2012, the recently launched Suomi NPP satellite provided the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument enough time to gather the pixels for this synthesized view of Earth showing North Africa and southwestern Europe.”

Let’s look at precisely what “composite” or “synthesized view of Earth” actually means. What we’re talking about here are sets of images that cover large portions of the Earth, and at considerably high resolutions. Experts will take the entire set of images, and then collect and combine the most visually useful portions from specific frames, and produce new composites that help reduce the presence of things like cloud formations that might obscure visibility of geographic features below. Using this technique, famous renderings such as the various incarnations known as “The Blue Marble” have been achieved, and while assembled from more than one image, they are by no means complete CGI fabrications. Again, my impression is that during the “flat earth” interview in question, images like those linked above were interpreted as being entirely digital renderings, which simply isn’t the case. As far as their source, most of the images in the link above were obtained either via the Suomi satellite, or the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra research satellite.

Antarctica

Antarctica

Moving along to address other points, let’s head further south, and around to the idea that Antarctica holds the key to unraveling the “flat earth” secret. Specifically, I’m interested in these anecdotal reports that suggest how those who have attempted to go there and investigate have “been driven away at gunpoint.”

Sure, Antarctica seems like the last place many would actually choose to visit, and hence the place no doubt maintains an air of mystique about it. This is especially the case when considering all the rumors associated with “dangers” Admiral Richard E. Byrd purportedly encountered there during the ill-fated Antarctic expedition called Operation Highjump, which some have associated with post-war Nazi conspiracies.

The truth about our coldest continent, however, and the visitors it receives, is a very different story. It was estimated in January that some 37,000 tourists will visit Antarctica this year alone (though around 10,000 won’t actually set foot on shore), as discussed in a BBC article earlier this year that examined such things as the environmental impact of such heavy visitation. Additionally, as many as 5,000 people actually may reside there annually, at any of the various research stations located on the continent. In summary, if people visiting there were being “turned away at gunpoint,” it seems that at least some of the 37,000 or so planning on visiting would have said something about this.

Conspiratorial scenarios such as those addressed here help show us one thing: that those who become proponents of ideas such as a “flat earth theory” have convinced themselves that their proof lies not in tangible facts or data, but within the evidences of a perceived conspiracy to conceal the “real truth” from the rest of us… which is nonsense. This is not “proof” at all, and such ideas have little — if any — reliance on real facts. On the other hand, a broad history of testable, repeatable data spanning more than 2,000 years proves for us, without a doubt, that our Earth is indeed a globe; just like our moon which we can see clearly on most nights, and several planets further away that are very much like our own, made visible with as little as a telescope one can purchase online.

bluemarblewest

In conclusion, I would like to observe here that, generally, the attitude conveyed by many within the modern skeptical movement toward those who propose such “fringe” ideas tends to be one not only of dismissal, but also ridicule. In fairness, I think I can understand their frustration, especially in this case; it is indeed troubling that ideas such as this might find an audience today, despite centuries of scientific work aimed at properly educating the public at large, with hope of preventing such falsehoods from finding their way into modern belief systems.

Years ago, when Carl Sagan was met with pseudoscientific claims like these, of course he would differ just as strongly; but he would also rely on an evidence-based approach to refuting such ideas that was both educational, and conducive to dialogue on the issues, rather than being purely confrontational. He was a gentleman, in other words.

Somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost the idea that discourse in relation to such ideas can occur in a civil fashion, and without having to rely on heavy cynicism and ad hominem attacks to get our points across. Therefore, here I hope the discussion presented has been, perhaps in the most literal sense, “civil discourse”, but also that the point has been made effectively too: any remaining advocacy of a “flat earth theory”, however absurd it may be, will hopefully be viewed with a bit more scrutiny by any proponents reading about it here. I think it is fair to call the idea absurd, as most would agree: but by the same token, having such an absurd debate is important, in my opinion, because it outlines how easily people can fall into fallacious thinking, despite the vast amounts of knowledge at our disposal in the present day.

I maintain that it’s alright to “ask questions”, and yes, I also think that doing so is at the very heart of good skepticism. But what also must be considered is whether the questions we’re asking send us along the best lines of thought that we could be following, and whether their outcome will present us with logical conclusions, or merely opinions based on circumstance, in the absence of any real facts.

This fundamental differentiation is the key, I think, and mastering this skill may be the best way to know what it truly means to be asking the right questions.

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  • DOCS

    Stupid people can be so entertaining sometimes…

  • Quilan Hanniffy

    I’m pretty open minded and into a lot of alternative media. The flat earth crew simply does my head in, I simply cannot understand it, I actually stay clear from it now. It makes no sense at all. Mostly because their explanations make kinda sense. I choose to live on a ball, as it just makes more sense.

  • J.Griffin

    It seemed more to me that he was stating at the end of his “little essay” that if we are really that much smarter we should stick to the facts (like Carl Sagan) and not just become so scathingly derisive and pointlessly confrontational as so many on the “internut” (sic) are these days…
    like yourself.

    Unfortunately,
    you seem to have missed the point.

  • I am growing tired of people who feel they can brush aside any research because “others have done it.” You have written a one sided and terribly researched article. But, it does not matter because the truth is coming and only then will you feel ashamed for turning your back on humanity because you were afraid of being unpopular.

    Why don’t you measure the curvature for us all and show us the 789 mile high curvature between California and Hawaii. Go ahead. You can believe what you want and trust who you want but truth is truth and the truth is, there are men in this world that hate the idea of God so much, they set up their own religion of evidence, peer review, testing and facts… and then snuck a few by and told you that those who think otherwise are stupid. We shall see who is stupid eventually. Stay flat

  • Billy Boone

    He can’t prove it Jeranism because it’s not provable. Even at 40 miles across a lake, you should be able to see the curvature with a high powered lens and a simple camera. Buildings and boats should appear under the horizon. This is definitely not the case. I’m not sure why he is so insulted by our questions..oh ya, because they won’t go away. Kind of like us. Surely this would be easy to prove if it were real.

  • Simon

    In my mind…if you can not prove curvature…then the Earth is flat…however unpalatable that may be for the masses. Its the acid tests of acid tests where globe v flat earth is concerned. Globalists conveniently ignore it …and want to throw the inconvenience of curvature away..by diverting away from an inexplicable fact.

  • stitchgrimly

    Because they’re bullshit and require fundamentally flawed logic using insufficient data and inefficient methodology by any chance?

  • Richard Smart

    Can I take it that you’re actually espousing a flat Earth? Because, if you are, you are a total, complete and utter WINDOW LICKER who really needs to take his or her head out of their ass so you can have a loo at the real world. Flat Earth? REALLY?

  • Maria C Camacho

    Sen your proof to scientists then and perhaps you might get a Nobel Prize Lol

  • Ned Weatherby

    Are you on acid? Hope you had a nice trip. Guess what – you can see the curvature from an AIRPLANE. And you can see it from the beach, if you believe an airplane is some sort of magic.

    The arguments that begin with a basic misunderstanding of a simple spirit level amaze me.

    BTW, I have some ocean front property for sale in Arizona, if you’re interested.

    It’s as real as all those fake stars and fake moon you see at night. Please send me a blank check.

  • I know well. Do you know how to figure out how much should be hid behind the curvature? 8″ x distance^2 so CA to HI is 2500 miles and that means from CA, HI is or should be behind the curvature 789 miles. Sorry, it isn’t real. It is all pretend.

  • xanuser

    sure, right after you tell us how all those microwave data links from the mainland to HI or , japan for that matter, are working out first. oh wait…

  • Yeah, great idea. They will publish my paper that points to their fraud right away

  • Richard Smart

    So you are by definition a religious moron who believes nothing that wasn’t written in a book of fables? Just checking, since last I checked, the Bible wasn’t ever really meant to be taken literally. WHY DON’T YOU MAYBE TAKE A TRIP TO ANTARCTICA/THE SOUTH POLE? Perhaps, when you don’t fall over or even discover the edge, you can take down all the bullshit Youtube videos and maybe apologise to everyone for having LIED to them with such abandon and in such a fervent way. Just a suggestion, because you really are a total horses cock. Seriously, we have KNOWN that the Earth is spherical since before even Eratosthenes, yet YOU decide that science is wrong and the Bible is right? Why the fuck can’t you accept little things like FACTS and PROOF.

    So I’m CALLING YOU OUT – EITHER COME TO THE SOUTH POLE, OR TAKE DOWN THE BULLSHIT AND APOLOGISE TO EVERYONE FOR HAVING LIED TO THEM. I await your response, although I somehow doubt very much that you will even bother providing one.

    BUT UNDERSTAND THAT IF YOU REFUSE TO ANSWER, ALL YOU WILL BE DOING IS TO PROVE YOURSELF NOT ONLY WRONG, BUT A COWARD AS WELL.

    I LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR RESPONSE, THOUGH I DON’T EXPECT YOU TO FURNISH ONE…

  • Maybe you should pay some attention. I do not believe in any book. I am not a Christian. I know you get off in the easy ones but you won’t find that here.

  • J.Griffin

    Flat earth or hollow earth….
    can’t really be both,though.