24 January 2009

The Flat Earth Society

There are a few things you can count on as you go through your life. 2 + 2 will always equal 4, the Cubs are not going to win the World Series, and the fall TV schedule will bring another slew of irresistibly stupid reality shows. But above all these, we know when we walk along our city streets, play our Xbox 360s, and eat at our favorite restaurants, we are doing so within the confines of a round planet Earth. This is what is considered "common knowledge" by those of us who have been educated beyond Kindergarten. While not everything we learned in elementary school was accurate (for instance, the world--particularly sailors--had long accepted the Earth's roundness by the time Christopher Columbus came along), I'm going to go out on a limb--just this once--and say that I believe without a shadow of doubt that the Earth is indeed spherical in nature.

There are those who would disagree.

Meet the Flat Earth Society. At first glance, the site, which consists of nothing more than a message board, seems as though it has to be the product of someone's very dry sense of humor. I read entry after entry, convinced this must be the case. My friends, after long and thoughtful pursuit of this topic, I am no longer convinced. These people--these sad, sad people--actually believe the Earth is flat. As I read through the "literature" and "arguments" presented on the site, I felt a strange mixture of head-shaking-bewilderment and nervous glee. I don't think I have to explain the former. The latter I felt because I think I may have finally come across a site that fulfills a lifelong ambition of mine: to find the dumbest people on the Internet. I thought this mission was already fulfilled after studying the individuals who post comments on Youtube, but this had to take the cake.

In case you're reading this, scratching your head, and asking "How? How could they believe such a thing?", I shall take the liberty of reproducing some select choices from their FAQ. All your answers are inside. Delightful from the very start, the author of the FAQ informs us that he created this list after the society realized that for someone coming from a "round earth" background, the Flat Earth theory would appear to have some holes. Well, you have to give them credit for at least a modicum of self awareness. Here are some of the Flat Earth's Society's most frequently asked questions:

Q: "Why do you guys believe the Earth is flat?"

A: Well, it looks that way up close. In our local frame of reference, it appears to take a flat shape, ignoring obvious hills and valleys. Also, Samuel Rowbotham et al. performed a variety of experiments over a period of several years that show it must be flat. They are all explained in
his book, which is linked at the top of this article.

This is perhaps the most enlightening thing a prospective reader will take from the site. Indeed, "Well, it looks that way up close" is the primary basis for the Flat Earth Society's belief in their doctrine. The book they mentioned was published in 1881 and, while we had made some important scientific and technological discoveries by that time, let's just say that we've learned a lot since then. Well, some of us.

Q: "Why do the all the world governments say the Earth is round?"

A: There exists a conspiracy among world governments claiming to have space programs and has disseminated the lie to the other governments, the media and the general public. The conspiracy hides the Earth's true shape from us for unknown objectives.


Q: "What about NASA? Don't they have photos to prove that the Earth is round?"

A: NASA is part of the conspiracy too. The photos can be faked using simple imaging software.

Do you see how close to the satirical line they travel?

Q: "If you're not sure about the motive, why do you say there is a conspiracy?"

A: Well it's quite simple really; if the earth is in fact flat, then the governments must be lying when they say it isn't.

Folks, there's no arguing with logic like that.