No, this is not an Onion article, there are actually people who still believe that the earth is flat. Cue the Flat Earth Society, a group that thinks the round earth theory was created by NASA and other government agencies as an elaborate hoax. According to the president of the society, Daniel Shenton, its membership has increased by 200 people per year since 2009. Most of members hail from the US and UK.
One might wonder what other crazy conspiracies Shelton believes in, but, surprisingly, the 33-year-old American from Virginia supports evolution, climate change, and doesn’t think the US government was involved in 9/11. Other than being a “flat-earther,” his views are quite normal.
Shelton and his cohorts have a special explanation for why they feel the earth is flat. To them, the world is a giant disc, with land masses spread across the plane (as they appear on two dimensional map) and with Antarctica on the edge.
He is mainstream on most issues, but not all. For when Shenton rides his motorbike, he says it is not gravity that pins him to the road, but the rapid upward motion of a disc-shaped planet. Countries, according to him, spread across this flat world as they appear to do on a map, with the Arctic Circle in the middle, and Antarctica as a ring of ice mountains strung around the rim.
They speculate that NASA employees guard the Antarctic ice wall to prevent people from traversing over and falling from the face of the earth. They believe that the Sun and Moon are 3,000 miles (4,800 km) above earth and and that the “cosmos” is 3,100 miles (5,000 km) above Earth, with an invisible “antimoon” that blocks out the moon during lunar eclipses.
Moreover, gravity is just an illusion. Objects do not accelerate downward; instead, they accelerate upward at 32 feet per second squared (9.8 meters per second squared), directed upwards by an inexplicable force called dark energy. When it comes to what lies beneath the disc of earth, most believers hypothesize that it consists of “rocks.”
But how do they explain photos of a spherical world? Flat-earthers think that those photos are photoshopped and that GPS devices are purposely rigged to make pilots think they are flying around a globe, when in reality, they’re moving in circles around a disc.
This ideology follows a doctrine called the “Zetetic Method,” a substitute for the scientific method (developed in the 19th century) whereby sensory observations rules above all else. “Broadly, the method places a lot of emphasis on reconciling empiricism and rationalism, and making logical deductions based on empirical data,” says Flat Earth Society vice president Michael Wilmore to Life’s Little Mysteries.
As for why the world governments would hide such a thing, the Flat Earth Society surmises that it’s for financial reasons. “In a nutshell, it would logically cost much less to fake a space program than to actually have one, so those in on the conspiracy profit from the funding NASA and other space agencies receive from the government,” their website claims.
These theories seem crazy enough to be satirical, but flat-earthers are genuinely serious. “The question of belief and sincerity is one that comes up a lot,” Wilmore said. “If I had to guess, I would probably say that at least some of our members see the Flat Earth Society and Flat Earth Theory as a kind of epistemological exercise, whether as a critique of the scientific method or as a kind of ‘solipsism for beginners.’ There are also probably some who thought the certificate would be kind of funny to have on their wall. That being said, I know many members personally and I am fully convinced of their belief.”
Do you think the flat-earth society is being sincere about their convictions?