Do they really think the Earth is flat?
In the 21st Century, the term “flat-earther” is used to describe someone who is spectacularly - and seemingly wilfully - ignorant. But there is a group of people who claim they believe the planet really is flat. Are they really out there or is it all an elaborate prank?
My grandfather was one of these people who believed the first flights into space were fake, and the mission to the moon was all fake. He said it was all created by Hollywood to fool the American people, but he could not provide possible reasons for going to such extremes to fool the public. There are still many people who would agree with my grandfather, that we are all being fooled. But I don’t think my grandfather thought the Earth was flat, yet there are some who still in 2008 who believe the Earth is flat.
On 24 December 1968, the crew of the Apollo 8 mission took a photo now known as Earthrise. To many, this beautiful blue sphere viewed from the moon’s orbit is a perfect visual summary of why it is right to strive to go into space.
Not to everybody though. There are people who say they think this image is fake - part of a worldwide conspiracy by space agencies, governments and scientists.
Welcome to the world of the flat-earther.
We may question if flat-earthers really do exist in these modern times of space travel and exploration, wondering how anyone can possibly still believe such things despite evidence to the contrary, but as BBC News reports:
Flat earth theory is still around. On the internet and in small meeting rooms in Britain and the US, flat earth believers get together to challenge the “conspiracy” that the Earth is round.
“People are definitely prejudiced against flat-earthers,” says John Davis, a flat earth theorist based in Tennessee, reacting to the new Microsoft commercial.
“Many use the term ‘flat-earther’ as a term of abuse, and with connotations that imply blind faith, ignorance or even anti-intellectualism.”
How many flat-earthers are still around?
Mr McIntyre estimates “there are thousands”, but “without a platform for communication, a head-count is almost impossible”, he says. Mr Davis says he is currently creating an “online information repository” to help to bring together local Flat Earth communities into a “global community”.
“If you will forgive my use of the term ‘global’”, he says.
And what about the vast quantify of evidence that proves the Earth is round, the photographs, the many men and women who have gone up in the space capsules and shuttles?
“The space agencies of the world are involved in an international conspiracy to dupe the public for vast profit,” says Mr McIntyre.
John Davis also says “these photos are fake”.
And what about the fact that no one has ever fallen off the edge of our supposedly disc-shaped world?
Mr McIntyre laughs. “This is perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions,” he says. “A cursory examination of a flat earth map fairly well explains the reason - the North Pole is central, and Antarctica comprises the entire circumference of the Earth. Circumnavigation is a case of travelling in a very broad circle across the surface of the Earth.”
Debating these flat-earthers seems like it would be even more exasperating than arguing with religious fundies. They make up answers for every question, and they reject the proven science and believe what they choose without scientific evidence.