Monday, April 17, 2017

Advertising Belief in a Flat-Earth

At one point last week, I was driving on a highway after work, and as I was passing  a mini van, glanced at a bumper sticker that made me do a double take. Suddenly, it was hard not to notice, and wanting to take another look, even though I had already passed, I went to the right lane and slowed the car down, hoping that the guy, who was now a couple of car lengths behind, might catch up.

However, he was going fairly slowly, and it seemed that despite how much slower I was going, he was still somehow falling farther and farther behind.

After a while, it was getting hopeless, so I just went on ahead and towards my destination, resuming my normal daily routines.

Still, there was a determination to go online and try and find that bumper sticker, to see if there was some irony, or if it was some kind of a prank, or something.


Because the bumper sticker read "The Earth is Flat." Plus, this guy had two of them, one on top of the other, just to make sure that people got the message twice over.

What made me really take notice is that this was the most vivid example of someone who was questioning not just long held understandings of how the world worked, something that we all learn and have come to understand, but also questioning science, period. 

There are things that perhaps we should question, but many people never do. In fact, they get offended when someone suggests that these things should be questioned. To me, I am always perplexed at what people choose not to question, such as the notion that the United States is the greatest country in the world, or the country that God chose to be the "shining city on a hill." Questioning those notions also makes you question just what right we have to launch missiles and bombs at countries thousands of miles away indiscriminately, often without any sense of wrongdoing. That said, we sure understand what is wrong with bombings and attacks and such when we (in the West) are on the receiving end, such as with Pearl Harbor, or September 11th, or the terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, Spain, or the United Kingdom. 

Or, we can choose to question our consumerism, which is not entirely divorced from our sense of "American exceptionalism." While it is true that more Americans are starting to spend their money not on amassing more consumer goods, but rather on experiences (such as traveling), there is still no shortage of crass consumerism in the West, and nowhere is crass consumerism more obvious than right here in these United States. Perhaps this trend by Americans towards spending their money more on experiences than on material goods even is a form of questioning our traditional lust for amassing more consumer goods. 

Yet, there are some things that people are questioning which just seems absurd to me, kind of like an anti-protest. Or, perhaps, it is just typical unnecessary needling, debasing themselves and their own grasp of basic knowledge and reality before everyone else in order to challenge things that are not worth challenging. Suddenly, we are questioning whether what 97 percent of what scientists believe, that climate change is real and caused by human beings. I remember perhaps thirty or so years ago, when skeptics outright challenged the very notion that the Earth was generally warming up. When some huge natural catastrophes started showing up with an alarming degree of regularity, and so-called "100 year storms" started making yearly appearances on our nightly news, many of the skeptics came around and admitted that maybe there really was something to this whole climate change thing, although now, they challenge the belief that this was caused by human beings, and suggest that human beings are basically too insignificant to make that much of an impact on the world. The fact that the Earth has been completely changed in what is the blink of an eye in terms of the history of the Earth is something that they do not want to acknowledge, in their very selective, hand-picked arguments that also have the benefit of being extremely self-serving. 

Many of these same people also challenge the notion of evolution. They are trying to get their preferred version of "natural history," which bears an awful strong resemblance to religion, into our science classrooms. They do not want to believe that humans evolved from ape-like creatures, or that we are related to apes and monkeys in any way, although their version of trying to disprove this is to essentially drown out all other viewpoints with their loud voices and their relentlessness, even though the volume and repetition of their arguments does not raise the validity of those same arguments. If they wanted to truly "prove" creationism, then they would need to do it the hard way, which is to say they would need to disprove the mountains of evidence that clearly implies that evolution, not creationism, was really how modern human beings came to be.

So, is it any real surprise, then, that some people are beginning to question whether the Earth really is flat or not? Once again, the science has been proven, and this was not a recent discovery, but one stretching back centuries ago. Back to an entirely different age in history, back to the days when names such as Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo were not seen as brilliant scientific minds that brought illumination and understanding to an often close-minded outside world, but were still seen as dangerous radicals trying to upset the Church's teachings, and thus the authority of the Church. Since many of these same people are now living in the United States, they are even going against the understanding of the world that allowed Christopher Columbus to become the first major European explorer to "discover" America (of course, the whole notion of whether Columbus could have "discovered" a place where tens of millions of people already lived is another discussion for another day). 

If the Earth was flat, then why is everything else in the galaxy round? We see some of these things clearly every day, particularly the sun and the moon. But we can also see other planets, and other galaxies and stars. We have learned that the universe does not revolve around the Earth, and that moreover, the Earth is just a tiny speck of a pebble on a huge shore that is only what we know of as the visible universe. There is so much more than all of this, although you might never know it if you only accept the traditional belief that the Earth is flat, and that everything in the sky revolves around us. 

For that matter, if the Earth was flat, why would we see a roundish, oval shape covering the moon during lunar eclipses? How would flat earthers explain that?

So, it seemed to me that since they obviously could not refute the science, that they had to be ironic about these "beliefs" of theirs.

Except that they are not. Many of them are quite serious. And not surprisingly, many of the people who believe this most firmly are some of the most religious people you could meet. This would be an example of when religion gets in the way of progress and deeper understanding of ourselves, and literally, how our world works.

It was bad enough for religious leaders and "authorities" to try and force men like Galileo from sharing their ideas of how the world and the universe works. Indeed, many religions (particularly Western religions) still have a hard time accepting Darwin's findings that strongly suggest proof for evolution. However, for people to seriously believe that the Earth is flat in 2017, people with access to information and pictures on the internet and at the library, is just utterly absurd!

Once again, such extremes makes one wonder just how far some people are willing to go to live in their own personal tycoon, and to hold a grudge towards the rest of the world about that feeling that we all get sometimes, that we are being lied to. Indeed, on many levels, we are, but if anything, the idea that flat earth was the protected lie that had to be painfully challenged and, eventually, toppled with an abundance of scientific evidence seems to have escaped them.

Make no mistake about it, flat earth was a theory - you could even call it a myth - that was taken for fact for all too long. We know better now, because people were willing to stand up and challenge the notion, previously uncontested, that the earth was flat.

Again, this is another thing that is not up for debate. Either the Earth is flat, or it is not. There is no debate, one position is right, and the other is wrong - at least if we are questioning the facts. And there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that the Earth is round. Go to the beach, and look out on the world covered in water before you. You know it is round, because you can see the slightest curvature. You know that the sun rises in the east every morning, and sets in the West. We know that people have sailed and flown across the world, that there is definite geography there that cannot be denied, unless you really feel that a huge percentage of people - even more than the 97 percent of scientists who believe that climate change is real - are somehow out to get you, trying to trick you into believing something that simply is not true.

And the question, then, is why would they do that? To what ends, for what benefit?

It just amazes me these days how much some people seem willing to literally challenge anything and everything, but they do not bother to bring their reasoning and/or their objectivity and common sense into the equation. Perhaps it should not be surprising in a world where everything from who shot JFK to men landing on the moon to whether or not FDR knew about Pearl Harbor or George W. Bush knew about 9/11 or whether or not planes actually hit the buildings on 9/11, let alone the more commonly accepted ones in the United States, such as climate change skepticism and a belief in creationism.

Still, it surprised me to find someone who so proudly believes in a flat earth that he wants to advertise the fact by putting up a bumper sticker so that everyone know their position.

Truly staggering!

Are Flat-Earthers Being Serious? By Natalie Wolchover | October 26, 2012

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