Are you a flat earther
Where did the flat earth theory come from
The earth is spherical. But in recent years one can find representatives of the flat earth theory more and more often in social networks. This says that the earth is actually flat - and we are all making a big mistake. You can read here where this misconception comes from, why people are so convinced of it and why it is problematic.
The earth is spherical. But in recent years, representatives of the flat earth theory can be found more and more often in social networks. This says that the earth is actually flat - and we are all making a big mistake. You can read here where this misconception comes from, why people are so convinced of it and why it is problematic.
The British fantasy author Terry Pratchett became famous for his novels about the Discworld. All sorts of strange (and immensely entertaining) things happen in it, but the strangest thing is the shape of the world: it is a disk that is carried by four elephants, which in turn stand on the back of a gigantic turtle.
Of course, Terry Pratchett didn't really believe that such a world could exist. Rather, he wanted to make fun of the opinions that were already circulating in his day, according to which the earth was actually flat - and most people only too "blinded" to recognize that. Pratchett could never have imagined the reach this absurd idea had in the age of the Internet.
The earth has always been a sphere
Even in antiquity - and presumably since people lived in communities - there were strange, crude theories that contradict not only the state of science, but often also it common sense. One of the most famous is the claim that the earth is not a sphere - but a flat disk.
Humans have always thought about the shape of the earth they live on. The alexandria article "The spherical shape of the earth" shows how the search for the correct shape of the earth was one of the first great achievements of science. Thinkers like Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle agreed: the earth must be a sphere. And they also had good reasons for doing so, as you can read in the article.
But of course there have always been numerous other ideas. For example, there is a passage in the Old Testament that suggests that the earth is flat. In the book of Isaiah it is said: "It is he who is enthroned over the circle of the earth ..." The translation is problematic: The Hebrew word for "circle" can also be translated as "ball", and in fact is in modern versions the Bible speaks of “the world around”. But some flat-earthers have always referred to this point, most prominently the so-called Flat-Earth-Society. As early as the 19th century, voices were increasing who rejected the spherical shape of the earth for religious reasons. There were several reasons for this: Above all, the Flat-Earthers did not want to accept that the Earth as a sphere is no longer the focus in our known universe. They saw this as a violation of God's omnipotence. One of the presidents of the Flat Earth Society, Charles Johnson, tried to explain himself and his worldview in an article in the New York Times: A flat earth is only logical, after all, there is no “up and down” in the world. His wife, for example, who came from Australia, which would have to be "below" for a spherical shape of the earth, was not upside down there either. Johnson did not want to make sense of the concept of gravity.
Dark Middle Ages, bright present?
You have to know that the spherical earth has been accepted from all sides over the centuries - even in the Middle Ages. For example, the Romanist Reinhard Krüger has evaluated a large number of texts from the Middle Ages. In doing so, he realized that the idea of a flat earth prevailing in the Middle Ages is a myth that only emerged in modern times. They wanted to stand out from the "dark" Middle Ages and enhance their own time. But at least as far as the shape of the earth is concerned, the astronomers and thinkers of the Middle Ages were right: the spherical shape of the earth was generally known and recognized. The well-known debate revolved rather around the position of the earth within the universe: Here the church represented the geocentric view of the world for a long time, which positioned the earth in the center of the universe. But only very few theologians questioned the spherical shape of the earth.
Nevertheless, in recent years theories about a flat earth, especially in social networks, have re-emerged. Religious belief still seems to play a big role, as with the Flat Eart Society, according to a survey by YouGov. But you can also become a convinced "flat-earther" for completely different reasons. A report by CNN reported about a flat-earth conference in Dallas, US, with over 600 participants that was held in 2019. Lectures such as “Space is Fake” could be found there. Along with the assumption of a flat earth, other beliefs are shared: For example, that the world does not turn, space does not exist and the moon landing was one big lie. The force of gravity is also questioned - after all, no one has ever seen it, as Robbie Davidson, the organizer of the Flat Earth fair in Dallas, said.
What inevitably sounds like an absurd performance hides a bigger problem. What many flat-earthers have in common is a pride in not believing in what is spread in the “mainstream”. They see themselves as critical, self-thinking spirits and in this sense not as anti-science. They just don't believe in what experts and recognized scientists claim - especially not if it is the prevailing opinion in politics.
It is important to understand that critical thinking does not mean to be completely against everything that is generally accepted. Often one does not know how scientists work and what science can (and what cannot) achieve. This can lead to a pronounced distrust of scientific results, as they cannot be understood. Even if their own values do not match the scientific facts, people begin to refer to science as the “machine of lies”.
Be critical - but be correct
Skepticism can be a good tool to learn more about things and to deal with them in more detail. Sometimes beliefs believed to be certain turn out to be false. But sometimes skepticism is just a pretext to dismiss facts and figures that do not fit into your own worldview as lies. Here everyone: r has to ask himself how neutrally one has actually dealt with the facts, with which method the presented facts were researched and how well they can be reconciled with other research results.
If you do that, you will quickly see: Of course the earth is a sphere. The flat earth theory is interesting for another reason: It does not get us any further when we are researching new knowledge about our earth or the universe; but it shows what mistrust in science and politics can lead to. Conversely, this also means that a society must think about how it can communicate scientific results to its citizens in an understandable way. NASA, for example, has created a program that prepares complicated astronomical processes for schoolchildren. One of the contributions deals - of course - with the spherical shape of our earth.
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