In the post-truth age of fake news and alternative facts leaning towards conspiracy theories, what would be the ‘biggest lie’ that they could have have covered up? Of course the answer could vary depending on whom is asked, but the most on-the-nose claim is the true shape and size of the earth.
Flat-earthism is hardly a twenty-first century phenomenon. The scientific approach to this conclusion goes back to the nineteenth century under the title of Zetetic astronomy whereas the mainstream conclusion of spherical earth goes back all the way to ancient Greece. Most people are taught this mainstream knowledge during their first years of schooling, or as FEs like to put it, a first-stage indoctrination.
They have a point! Most people accept that the earth is spherical since they were taught so and would never attempt to discover this for themselves. Of course they would have done certain control experiments with a single preconceived model and would draw their own, almost predetermined, conclusions. As for truly finding out for themselves about the exact shape of the earth, most people either take their early education for granted or would simply dismiss any contradictions outright. Others simply ignore them and disregard them as mere trivialities and move on with their lives – to each, their own. These attitudes are the main fuel of conspiracy theorists to forward their assertions in order to liberate ‘the sheeples’ form them and their manipulations over the masses.
Given the widespread and spreading arrays of conspiracy theorists via social networking technologies, it is safe to say that the conspiracy theorists’ method is working. By inciting a shadow of a doubt that the masses are ignorant and has been suppressed all along, such a notion would only grow and eventually bear certain fruits, no matter how rotten.
THE RELIGIOUS APPROACH
The first thing that ought to be understood about conspiracy theorists is that a majority of them would assert towards a certain religion, if not cults or varying beliefs. This religious approach is best understood in contrast with its opposing view of skeptical agnosticism, if not outright empirical atheism.
Most atheists, usually the popular ones with high educations, became by default. Not one of them decided to become atheists, their atheism was the result of their studies and research and experiments and observations and plain old logic. In the spectrum of beliefs, atheism fails to see the need of god in any form to make sense of the world, metaphysically or metaphorically – i.e atheism doesn’t directly disproves god, it simply implies that there being a god or not is irrelevant. This perspective have lead believers to categories atheism as simply another set of belief, if not a whole other religion. This false equivalence speaks for itself but if atheism was to be categorized as a religion, it would be the oldest religion of them all, one before we even learned to speak.
As for most believers, unlike most atheists, they are born into a certain religions, almost always their parents’ religion (shocking, right?). For some reason, they don’t seem to regard this as an indoctrination, none that can either be experimented or tested, let alone modeled and concluded. For some, the very act of disregarding their parents’ beliefs is unquestionable and seen as disrespectful. From then on, everything they learn, observe or witnessed MUST conform to those sets of beliefs.
Conspiracy theorists tend to have this religious mentality. Like most religion, there has to be a world order under an omniscient and omnipotent authority and there must be a scapegoat to dissuade this knowledge. Although this authority works in mysterious ways, comes in many forms and only conveniently reveal themselves to believers since their inception, the new scapegoat in these technological and scientific age are them. The axiom of conspiracy theorists is that mainstream science works under the umbrella of authorities whose ‘secret’-science is decades, if not centuries, ahead of what they reveal to the sheeples. What are these ‘secret’-sciences? Why hide them? Why, to control and manipulate the sheeples, of course.
And who are these scapegoats, these authorities of science? NASA, who else? According to FEs, NASA is much more militaristic than scientific with the sole agenda of keeping the sheeples believing that the earth is spherical, that humankind is barely a blip in the vast infinity space and time, that the existence of life is merely accidental. This leads to the most striking contrasts between atheists and believers.
OUGHT TO BE OR NOT OUGHT TO BE
The religious perspective of atheism often falls under one view – that atheists are nihilists, in both beliefs and behaviors. This misconception is hardly accidental since most believers tend to monopolize on morals and ethics. Since morality and ethics exists independently of and prior to all beliefs, the simple conclusion is that atheists are more than capable of morality and ethical behaviors.
Why do religions monopolize morality? Why, to assert the ultimate moral figure, the judge, jury and executioner of all, of course. The very act of doubting or questioning is subjected to punishment. Small wonders why the religious-minded must first believe in order to understand, if ever. Under this authority figure that often reflects and legitimize the morals and ethics of certain peoples, suddenly, everything that follows become significant.
Intellectual atheism, comprising of a spherical earth in the vastness of space and time, an unforeseeable evolutionary outcome, without the need of acknowledging a supreme authority to make it all happen, implies a lack of significance to human existence – at least, less significant than those of religious approach. The lack of preordained purpose or meaning to our existence is barely significant next to the idea that this universe was made by god especially for us. In hindsight, could you blame them?
Just as the religious minded longs for significance, so do the conspiracy theorists. For a conspiracy theorists, almost everything that happens, usually things out of their control, must be significant. A simple test would be the following question:
Is it possible for the most powerful person in the world (i.e. the POTUS) to die either a natural or accidental death whilst in office?
To most conspiracy theorists, this can never happen simply because it isn’t as significant as some underlying ulterior motive by unknown forces-behind-the-scenes. The same could be said for ‘god’s mysterious works’ or ‘karmic cycle’ on tragic events. These are more significant and more attractive than the possibility that some people are simply luckier than others, that our existence in the vast universe and our exceptional survival as a specie could have been sheer luck.
To most believers and conspiracy theorists, this very notion could throw them into severe existential crises. They would be forced to ask ‘why are we here?’ and ‘what does it all mean?’ all over again, only this time, they must draw their own conclusions. Would that be the worst possible outcome? Hardly!
TO KNOCK DOWN TOWERS
Existential crises can only occur after individuals’ quest to ‘know thyself’ concludes on their own terms. This begs the question of what ‘knowing’ or ‘knowledge’ is? Fortunately, philosophy have provided three methods of acquiring knowledge – those are idealism, rationalism and empiricism. All other things remaining equal, every knowledge could be categorized into one of these methods. Each have their own advantage over another and each have their own fault.
Idealism: Idealism is the favorite for the masses as a whole. Idealism is what binds people together as one tribe. Idealism can be applied in all aspects of a society. Ideas from ‘an eye for an eye’ to ‘freedom of self-expression’ can be found in the most starkly different societies. The advantage of idealism is that, if everyone accepts them, then we could easily construct a utopia and live happily ever after. The downside is that idealism can be enforced on the masses in favor of those in power. Everything from slavery to child sacrifice are also ideals and before anyone notices, the utopic promise land has turned into utter hell on earth. The worst case scenario for idealism is that they are enforced and thus becomes extremism.
Rationalism: The basis of rationalism can be simplified as ‘everything happens for a reason.’ This implies a unifying ’cause-and-effect’ that could be used to explain everything. Although this is hardly unreasonable it is also impractical. The advantage of this mentality is that it forces the individual to think outside the box, to be creative and imaginative, to acknowledge that somethings are simply unknowable. The upside is that it generates a certain level of humility. The downside? It forces the individual to form non-existent conclusions, such as superstitions. For everything to be, there has to be a cause, a prime mover of some kind, one that must hold everything in order. The best ones are often scientific and observable whereas the worst ones are borderlines on paranormal and supernatural. These intuitive solutions comes in various forms and are often the rational basis of certain idealized society, such as karma, zen, sin, yin-yang, miracles or prophecies. The best outcome for rationalism is that it forces the individual to use abstractions and the worse it that it forces the individual to see patterns where none exists and draw the wrong conclusions. (It should be noted that atheism is a rational conclusion.)
Empiricism: Empiricism takes a blunt disregard for anything unknowable. What is regarded as unknowable is usually base on the available senses to each individual. If no senses can detect it, it is as relevant as non-existent. Note here that non-existent is not a zero but a negative and one cannot prove a negative one. Empiricism takes full regards only what can be played, sensed, observed, experimented, tested, manipulated, controlled, compared, contrasted with. Things regarded as an unknowable holds no value. Because of this, empiricists is the mother of the scientific method which could draw stark and direct conclusions to certain questions. The scientific progress in all aspects is the ultimate upside to empiricism. The downside is that these drawn conclusions provides no deeper meaning or underlying purpose. Such a cold conclusion is obviously unattractive to those looking for some significance in their long, suffering lives.
As mentioned atheism is a rational conclusion since there’s no such thing as an absolute atheist, not in ancient Greece, not in the modern world. At face value, everyone believes in something, and thus, takes somethings for granted. This is why you could come across scientists who are believers, if not religious. This is also why the notion that scientists cannot be believers is a misconception. If anything, scientists would believe in the scientific method. This is also why the root meaning of ‘atheism’ isn’t directly ‘disbelief in god’ as is in the modern sense of the word, but simply ‘non-belief.’ This is also why most proclaimed atheists tend to dislike the term since it’s a negative and thus imply an unknowable positive. Since the modern concept of belief implies a belief in god, metaphorical or metaphysical, the terminology of disbelief would also hold as a direct contradiction.
A FLAT FIXATION
Since belief (in anything) is a rational intuition, conspiracy theorists would also fit the bill. Unlike belief in god, believing in the shape of the earth can be easily determined. If there is one evidence that FEs refer to as the ultimate determiner of the shape of the earth, it is that water always finds its flat level no matter what body of water and that the horizon remains a straight line. One reason that FEs are fixated on this observation is how apparent this is to anyone. There is no need for NASA, nor mechanical devices, nor complex theories nor equations to refer to, nor even a college degree.
Unfortunately for them, this is only a single perspective of a single physical/observable source. Naturally one sole conclusion could be drawn. But a change in perspective will always result in changes in appearance. Since flatness is simply a third-dimensional perspective of straightness, one can play around to determine the exact appearance from all available perspectives.
For example, if a perfect circle is drawn next to a perfect straight line, a clear distinction could be seen. Now, if one zooms in close enough on the circle next to the line, one would see two very parallel, very identical lines, which is not the case. Or, if one zooms out far enough, both the shapes would be no more than two indistinguishable dots.
Another example would be to draw a series of perfect parallel lines. If viewed from certain angles, one could see that the lines approaches one another and would meet at a certain point. Since the line is parallel, this is proven to be impossible.
There are various examples of this, from a cube shown from one angle, could be mistaken for a simple square or that a litter of black cats would determine that all cats are black. Base on this alone, the flatness of water level and the straightness of the horizon neither proves nor disproves the shape of the earth – merely falls under the category of ‘not-enough-information.’
So what would be the best method to apply this concept, where there is no need for NASA, nor college degree, just simple observations? The answer lies in the stars.
LOOK TO THE STARS
To fully understand this method, one must first approach with a blank slate and have no prior preconception towards a particular shape of the earth nor any evidence to either, however, one is determined to find out using perspectives of what’s only physically observable. Having done that, all one needs is a decent digital camera with good exposure and skills in taking time lapse photography and/or videos.
So, the first thing one would notice on our own is that the sun rises one place and sets in one place. Lets designate the rising place as ‘east’ and the setting place as ‘west’. When the sun is up high and alights the sky, let’s call it ‘day’ and when the sun is down and the sky darkens, let’s call that ‘night’.
The next thing that could be noticed is that the stars and the moon is much brighter during the night. Take time lapse photos of these and you’d notice that the stars tend to move towards where the sun set and the moon seem to shine towards where the sun was. Could these be a mere co-incidence? Maybe. Let’s put a pin on that for now.
To further the experiment, more perspectives are needed. Let’s determine the path of the sun, let’s call this path ‘the equator’. But the sun doesn’t always remain at the equator, does it? There are times of the year where the sun is furthest possible from it in both directions, let’s call them ‘the tropics.’
Let’s face one of the directions of the tropic and call it ‘north’. If one travels in this direction and constantly takes photos of the stars, an odd movement could be seen. Instead of directly following the sun, the stars begin to circulate. Now if one travels north enough, with time lapse photos and videos, one could see that the stars rotate around a particular point in the night sky – let’s call this point ‘the northern celestial pole.’ Another thing one would notice is that the circulating stars moves in one direction around that point, let’s call it the ‘counter-clockwise’ movement.
As one approaches this northern celestial point, one also notices that this point tend to get higher and higher and eventually, there would be the highest point. Let’s call this point the ‘the true north’.
Now, let’s get back to the equator and this time, one travels in the direction of the other tropic, let’s call it ‘south’. Towards the south, one would also notice the change in the movement of the stars, they begin to circulate. As one goes further south, the stars begin to circulate around a certain point. Let’s call this point ‘the south celestial pole’. As one approaches this point, it get’s higher and higher until the highest point. Let’s call this point ‘the true south’. But then you notice one other thing, the circulating stars rotate in the exact opposite direction to the stars in the north, let’s call this the ‘clockwise direction.’
Occam’s Razor: All other things remaining equal, the simplest explanation is the best.
From the observed stars, moon and sun, one should be able to draw three interconnected conclusions about the shape (and movement) of the earth. The reason that this ought to best determinant to the shape of the earth is because one need no external evidence. There is no need for NASA nor any space agency, no need for complex calculation or technology, not even a college degree. Therefore, anyone on earth can witness these stars and draw these conclusion.
Since we’ve established a blank slate prior to the experiment (i.e. tabula rasa), having no preconception to the shape of the earth, one has established the first part of Occam’s razor – all other things remain equal. The final thing to do is to draw the simplest possible conclusion that would easily fit ALL these phenomenons without having to refer to models or any other external evidence.
The three interconnecting conclusions are a) the earth is spherical due to the two poles in opposite directions, b) the earth is spinning due to the movement of the sun and the in rotation of the stars and c) the earth is spinning on an axis west to east due to the rising and setting of the sun along the equator and the clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation of the stars in the southern and northern respective parts of the world.
A fourth conclusion could be drawn, d) the earth tilts due tot he movement movement of the sun above and below the equator. In fact, more conclusions could be drawn in regard to the shape sun and direction of light to explain why when it’s day in one part of the world, it’s night in the other. Another conclusion could be made by observing the face of the moon and why it flips from different sides of the equator.
Having traveled to all parts of the earth, one could conclude that there are no more perspectives available to the movements of the stars, unless one goes up. The movement of the stars can also be detected during the day with a high-exposure cameras. If there were to be more possible perspectives, then of course, they must be accounted for but only from ground level. But since there has yet to be, these observations will have to do.
THE SIMPLEST EXPLANATION
The three conclusions fits all three phenomenons quite obviously, particularly the difference in rotation of stars in the opposing parts of the world. By those alone, one could draw the three conclusions. The movement of the sun could be use as directional indicator (i.e. east-west).
Now, what happens to regular evidences of a spherical earth when given to FEs? The first thing they could do is dismiss the evidence as fakes or hoax. The second thing they could do is claim that said evidence is not good enough to determine either conclusions. The third thing they could do is intricately build a model to explain how certain evidences/phenomenons could fit on a flat earth.
So the trick is to find the particular phenomenon that could be witnessed and observed by anyone in any part of the world. One that is fool-proof to the point where any amateur could use as a convincing argument to the particular shape of the earth. So far, FEs, have models to explain how the sun and moon appears to move. They drew a decisive conclusion based on the observation of water level and the horizon. They dismissed NASA, and all things related, as part of the conspiracy. They claim that all airliners and their travel routes are in on it. They claim that no one has ever really been to the Antarctic region, and those who claim to have been only went to places that appears like it (if at all).
But what about the movement of the stars towards the north and south? So far, no FEs have provided a clear-cut conclusion to their movements. No one has even been able to explain why there should be a southern celestial pole of a flat earth AT ALL. Some of them even outright dismiss that there is a south celestial pole (the Sigma Octantis) as mere myth even though ANY amateur photographer or astronomer could detect them. Some even claim that the reversal rotation of stars is an oversimplification due to some unknown form of optical illusion. And some even claim that it is virtually impossible to take take lapse photos/videos of the stars when the internet itself is teaming with DIY instructions for any amateur with a camera to photograph them.
To dismiss the south celestial pole, the rotation of stars and the method of taking time lapse videos/photos is to claim that ANY amateur photographers/astronomers are part of the conspiracy. A truly bold claim, and you thought that ‘flat-earth’ was already bizarre.
At this point, what does it mean when certain groups of people dismiss and dislodge evidence to support their own agenda? Are they still conspiracy theorists or have they become conspirators? It is one thing to make claims and imply a certain significance to one’s existence which is, at best, empathetic , and at worst, misguided. But to outright exploit those already more than willing to believe? Should they be allowed to carry on? Should they be tolerated at all?
If atheism could be regarded as a whole other religion (if not simply a set of beliefs), what of the flat-earth movement? Are they merely a cult? An internet troll? In the internet age where fake news are often exploited and easily spread and facts are cherry-picked, what would happen if anyone could simply pick and choose which evidence they preferred to justify their beliefs? What becomes of their children or their society? What becomes of the future?
Most mainstream globe-believers give no regard and often merely laugh at the notion of a flat earth society. If their intentions are noble and their goal utilitarian then they should, at least, be treated genuinely so. To dismiss them outright is to fuel their conviction to spread their messages further. In the age of the spreading alt-right movement across the globe, the simple fact that FEs could outnumber the rest of us cannot be dismissed out of hand anymore. Something has to be done.
When I was first implored that the earth was flat I was just as perplexed as you’d expect. The very good friend of mine was a rather lifelong conspiracy theorist and religious in his own way. As always I listened to his notion, giving him the benefit of the doubt and asking questions which, at some point, he either dismissed as a hoax if not used it to support his claim. He even recommended the popular two-hours long YouTube video going up to two hundred evidence in support of flat earth. This was two years ago.
I never bought into the video. Of the two hundred alleged evidences, only two were intriguing while the rest of them were merely circumstantial. One of the two being the claim that planes do not fly over the south pole which I always assumed was the case but never sought to find out the reason for myself. The other one eludes me but I remembered it not being so convincing. The video also dismisses gravity, evolution and really asserts a religious conclusion, which I thought was jarring but inconsequential.
But aside from laughing at my friend and dismissing him, I came to a realization that I could barely prove to myself that the earth was what I thought it would be without referring to external sources, such as NASA. I discovered this to be a personal flaw and set about proving it to myself where I stumbled upon the reverse movements of the stars between the north south celestial poles easily observed by any amateur astronomers/photographers. In hindsight, I should have thought of this right away.
I even trolled the online flat-earth forum threads looking for the explanations for the movement of the stars. There are even prominent FEs who seek to understand this phenomenon and good on them. I’ve even come across models displaying how the reversal movements could fit on a flat-earth model. Although they shown conviction, they were hardly convincing.
I must admit that I was overjoyed at having reached this conclusion. But then I realized that this would not have been the case had my friend not asserted his notion of flat earth. For that alone, I am indebted to him and, having proved to myself, I realized that it mattered very little to me personally what he believes and why he believes so.
This is why I urge anyone who might have come across a FE and, instead of dismissing them outright or laughing at their faces, take it as a personal challenge. I urge you to either observe these stars for yourself, photograph them or contact your friends in other parts of the world and ask them to do so. Most are already available online, either on YouTube or photography websites. There are several DIY websites and manuals techniques to taking these photos and videos.
I strongly urge anyone to try out this method. Remember, you gain more from convincing yourself than convincing others.