I have recently had the experience of discussing and debating with people on Twitter who believe the Earth is a flat disk. To my normal readers, yes, these people do exist, and in numbers greater than even I had assumed.
Like any I debate with, I tried very hard not to be personally insulting. For some I exchanged with, they did not stick to the same mantra, insisting on insulting me, my family, and I even had one call me both an anti-Semite and a Zionist. That particular individual, I think was doing everything they could to maintain their cognitive dissonance, so I do not fault them as much as I pity them.
However, I did interact with a few supporters of the Flat Earth Model who were pleasant and polite (At least as much as I am with theists, for many of the same reasons).
They do have some interesting arguments, and their ideas of optics and physics are, at the very least, unique. However, I am not going to discuss the physical, evident arguments against the Flat Earth Model. I feel others have gone over that ground for the past, say, 2,300 years to my satisfaction. Instead, I am going to discuss the question from a more modern perspective, one that appears, on the surface, to be philosophical, but has some serious implications.
The issue I have with the Flat Earth Model
The issue I wish to discuss here is the simple question as to why there is a huge conspiracy to hide what Flat Earth Model supporters consider to be the truth.
Before I begin, I want to make it clear that Flat Earth Model supporters range in the reasons they support the model. Most I interacted with, but not all, were hardline Christians. They take Isaiah 40:22 literally (See the image linked to the right). Not all were even Christian, though, so I will try to keep specific religions out of it as much as possible.
Let’s examine what it would take to maintain such a conspiracy.
First, it would take complicit agreement from every single scientist who deals in any related subject, from every television meteorologist to every astronomer, from every cartographer to every climatologist. We’re talking tens of millions of people involved n the conspiracy, and that is just at the science level. In addition, the mathematicians who convert from the circular to spherical measurements, coordinates, and the like. Before the advent of computers, this would have requires someone on staff with any company or government dealing in the southern “hemisphere”. Today, it would require specialized software designed to make those changes. Bear in mind that all of this would have to be kept under wraps; any software to do this could under no circumstances be leaked or the ruse would be over.
Next, every inhabitant of South America, Africa, Australia and any islands south of the equator would have to either be in on it or not known enough to realize their land was much wider than it should be. In the Flat Earth Model, the outer circumference of the Earth, what we #globetards (one of the colorful insults lobbed by a Flat Earth Model supporter I dealt with) call the South Pole, would be 49,802 miles long. I won’t go into specifics, but, basically, the further “south” one would go, the further apart longitude lines would be. On a spherical Earth, the lines converge at the poles. On a flat Earth, they would converge at the North Pole and spread further and further apart to the “South Pole”, at which point each degree would be nearly 140 miles apart, instead of convergent. Land in the southern “hemisphere” would be similarly distorted, meaning land plots would be much larger than on a spherical Earth.
Santiago, the largest city in Chile, for example, is at a position of 33°27′S 70°40′W. At the equator, one degree of of longitude is about sixty miles. At 33 degrees on a spherical Earth, it would decrease to just a hair under fifty and a half miles. However, on a flat Earth, the distance increases to ninety miles, nearly twice the distance. That would mean every plot of land, including the city itself, would 80% larger. The land area would go from 248 square miles to 446. That’s a lot of extra land.
Let’s pretend, just for a moment, that Chileans are horrible at math, or are complicit in the cover up. Sydney, Australia is at nearly the same latitude. And it is a much, much bigger city. On a flat Earth, Sydney’s land area increases to 8595.36 square miles, from 4775.2 square miles. That’s a difference of 3,8020.16 square miles. The difference would allow ten of my home towns, Indianapolis, Indiana, to fit snugly without changing the population density of Sydney at all.
Granted, only about 10% of the world population lives below the equator, but that would still mean that over seven hundred million people are either math dunces or are in on the conspiracy.
That’s a lot of people
So, at the moment, I am guesstimating that at least 400,000,000 people would need to be in on the conspiracy. And, the conspiracy would have to be so perfect that no evidence of the conspiracy itself would ever be leaked. And, this is a conspiracy stretching 2,300 years, ever since Eratosthenes computed the circumference of the earth.
And we come back to the main question I have. Why? Why devote such enormous resources and recruit so many people to cover up something so large?
The common argument of most Flat Earth Model supporters is to not really have one. Websites such as the Flat Earth Wiki allude to a loose set of correlating conspiracies and mathematical errors that have somehow worked together to dupe the planet.
Other people claim it to be a conspiracy again their chosen god. To date, most of these supporters I have dealt with have been Christian, although I did run into a Hindu, whose explanation was even more supernatural than that of the Christians.
That still fails to answer the question. Why is this hoax being perpetuated? How has this hoax been maintained for over two thousand years? Religions rely on claims that cannot be falsified, yet science does exactly the opposite, encouraging falsification and even rewarding it. We live in an era that is on the verge of private space travel, with Elon Musk and SpaceX launching craft into orbit and then landing them back on Earth. The moon landing, which is a hoax in the Flat Earth Model, has been confirmed visually by the Chinese, who have no reason to support the accomplishments of the United States. We have people parachuting from the edge of space. With each push towards a space-faring culture, the Flat Earth model has to account for new information, when they are still struggling to account for every-day phenomena (What keeps the sun and moon in a stable place above the flat Earth, for example).
However, I am straying from the focus of my post.
It really boils down to one of two possible claims. Either there is an active conspiracy of hundreds of millions of people and potentially trillions of dollars, or all of science has just somehow missed the evidence, which is a claim nearly as outlandish s the first. What are your thoughts?