While believers in a Flat Earth have always existed (even after it became widely understood that the Earth is a sphere), the number of “Flat Earthers” has grown (and continues to grow) at alarming rates. So how is a fact that has been proven thousands of different ways over a few thousand years rejected by roughly 6% of the global population. This movement is a prominent example of how we need to better understand and communicate the “Nature of Science.” First, the goals of science must be understood. A huge part of the Flat Earth movement is the idea of a government conspiracy using lies and “fake science” to fool its citizens. In reality, science is an objective process meant to discover truth. The scientific laws used to show the Earth is round have no political agenda nor are they subjective thoughts of a few individuals. Second, we must look at how the Flat Earth movement has incorrectly employed the Scientific method. Scientific studies often give results different from what you expect, but these results are still valid and important. Many Flat Earthers who set out to prove the flat nature of the Earth, however, have already decided what the outcome of their experiments should look like, and pick and choose the data that best supports their hypothesis of a Flat Earth. In other words, rather than conducting an experiment and letting the data lead them to a conclusion, they conduct an experiment with a conclusion in mind, and ignore any evidence that might prove otherwise. The Nature of Science is admitting that we may be wrong when we discover a new, more comprehensive way of explaining our observations. Understanding this nature, and how to properly use science, is crucial for our society to reestablish our trust in the scientific process.
In the documentary Behind the Curve, Tim Urban gives an excellent metaphor to understand the nature of science. I highly recommend this documentary to everyone, especially those interested in Flat Earth theories and the Flat Earth movement (it is available on Netflix).
(Urban’s metaphor, along with an actual experiment done by a Flat Earther occurs at 47:18 if you are interested in just that part).
2 thoughts on “The Resurgence of Flat Earth Theory”
You make some excellent points on the movement and I like how you mention that some Flat Earthers try to engineer results of their experiments in order for their views to be justified. Ironically they are conducting flawed experiments while accusing mainstream science of doing just that. What do you think it would take for the movement to die out?