The world is full of conspiracy theories. Some are fun, some are silly, some even cast a ring of truth, but most aren’t to be taken too seriously. And then, in a group all alone, there’s the theory of the Flat Earth.
Its proponents, the Flat Earth society, believe that the Earth is not a sphere, but is instead flat. The theory is tough to swallow for most people, but while discarding loads of concrete evidence that Earth is spherical, Flat-Earthers easily accept a checklist of propositions that some might deem absurd.
To give you a peek into their view: they believe the center of the Earth contains the Arctic Circle and that the geography resembles the image above. The Earth is bordered by a 150-foot-tall wall of ice that holds in the oceans. This wall is manned by NASA, who ensures that no one can get over it. Days and nights of earth are due to a sun and moon that follow a circular path above the plane of the earth, providing sun and moon light as they pass over. Gravity is an illusion, and objects stay attracted to the earth because it is accelerating upward at 32 feet per second squared (9.8 meters per second squared), driven by what they refer to as dark energy.
What about all of the scientific evidence that we have of a spherical earth? Easy. It was all faked. Images of the earth from space are Photoshopped, GPS devices are rigged. Trips to space were faked to gain an advantage during the Cold War. The Flat-Earthers even believe that most NASA employees are unaware of the true shape of the earth. That explains why, even though the space flights were faked, they depict a spherical earth. Simply, it’s what the people involved would have expected to find had they actually gone into space.
But….why? Well, it’s like many other conspiracy theories – this all somehow serves to keep the common man in his place. While particulars haven’t been “discovered”, the Flat-Earthers believe the reason is monetary or power-fueled. And while they today state that the group or its theories have no religious basis, this connection existed in the past. Charles K. Johnson, once President of the society, had flat Earth beliefs that were firmly rooted in the Bible. “If earth were a ball spinning in space,” he told Newsweek in 1984, “there would be no up or down.” “And if there is no up or down, Jesus couldn’t have ascended into heaven.”
There is a long-standing conception that the people of the middle-ages retained the belief that the earth was flat. It’s even said that Columbus, who sailed at the end of the Middle Ages, did so with a goal of proving to the church that the earth was a sphere. Not exactly. The reality is that it was speculated that the earth was spherical at least by the 6th century BC, when the Greeks philosophized about it. It became known in the 3rd century BC, when Hellenistic astronomy established the spherical shape of the earth as a physical given. Eratosthenes, a Greek geographer and mathematician, even managed to calculate the circumference of the earth within 2 percent of its exact measurement in 200 B.C.
What method does the Flat Earth Society employ that leads them to their findings? They follow a mode of thought called the “Zetetic Method”, which was developed by a 19th-century Flat-Earther. In short, sensory observations reign supreme. If the earth looks to be flat, then it must be. Supporting evidence is built to back the observational theories.
The society has been around since the 19th century, and while flourishing may be too strong of a word, it continues to gain members today. Mainstream acceptance may not be right around the corner, but this society likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.