The debate over the shape of the planet that we live on has gotten back into full swing recently. It seems that people everywhere are professing a belief that the world is in fact flat. Surrounding this rejection of a spherical earth are other doubts about other theories of nature, such as gravity. Suddenly it has become popular to believe that the knowledge about nature we take for granted is wrong.
There was a point in history in which humans believed that Earth was at the center of the universe. When Copernicus and Galileo came along insisting that the world was revolving around the sun, they were scoffed at by all of the ‘rational’ people of the time. And even though the logic supporting geocentrism was not able to withstand the scientist’s new model of the universe, people persisted in believing we were smack dab in the center of the cosmos simply because everyone else seemed to believe. Geocentrism was popular knowledge, and in almost all cultures throughout history, popular knowledge always acquires more widespread acceptance than fringe ideas, even when those outlier ideas have superior reason and evidence supporting them.
Now, I am not saying that in the current debate that flat-Earthers are engaged in is supported by superior reason and evidence. But it is quite true that most of the people opposing the idea that our planet is pancake shaped are themselves only using an appeal to the majority as the basis of their argument. I have not seen many people dropping some serious science on flat-Earthers, but rather just generally deriding them and their belief from a position of ideological superiority supported only by the idea that something must be right if everyone else believes it. Especially the ‘experts’.
It is one thing to have trust in people who have devoted more time to studying a phenomena than you have. We cannot possibly all test every human idea, so it becomes necessary that we place some basic faith in others to help us understand our reality. However when that faith is transmogrified into absolutism and certainty, then it quickly goes from rational to irrational. Unless you have hurled yourself away from the gravitational pull of this planet and made several passes around it to verify the shape of the planet yourself, your own belief in a spherical Terra is merely a matter of faith. Yet what I am seeing in social media is a lot of certainty about the roundness of our planet. And in almost all of those cases that certainty is unjustified.
I myself have never hopped off this planet to make a qualified measurement of its shape for myself. While I suspect that the ball model works better than the pancake model, I am not certain. I am certainly not certain enough to begin deriding others for their equally uninformed matters of faith. For all I know the planet could be shaped like one half of a giant bunny rabbit that was hollowed out. And since for all intents and purposes I am pretty much unaffected by planetary geometry, I don’t really mind that some people have wacky opinions about it. In fact, truth be told, my opinion may seem to you to be the wackiest of all.
No matter what side you take in the planet shape debate, you are starting from the assumption that the planet is a Thing which precedes humanities conscious ideas about the planet. This is another dogma I am not too quick to buy into. What if the planet is just a manifestation of our perceived notions about what the planet is? What if our collective beliefs about the planet are able to influence how we perceive it, or even what it ‘is’? What if nature and all of reality is not a noun thing, but a fluid verb that responds to our ideologies about it? You cannot have an idea about what something IS without having an idea. It is therefore not rational to rule out that what we are observing is some feedback of ideas, and not a universe that exists independently of them. You cannot think of a thing that exists independently of thought without thinking. It is therefore far more logical to assume that whatever reality is, it has a direct relationship to our thoughts about reality, not that they are separate or independent of one another.
So who knows. Maybe at some point in the past, conforming to the beliefs about what it was in conscious beings, the earth was flat. And as those beliefs changed to one in which the world was round, well so be it. And maybe the beliefs about planet shape are shifting towards the flat and astronomers in a few hundred years will send us evidence from space showing that the planet is actually a giant frisbee, while Round-Earthers are derided in public for their silly archaic notion that the planet is shaped like a ball.
And maybe all of these people who are professing to believe in a flat earth are in fact some kind of social magicians using the flat earth idea as a way to illustrate our awkward obsession with unearned certainty and the dogma it necessitates. Or maybe it is some unfamiliar sect of Discordians collaborating in a giant mindfuck in order to derail the Illuminati’s plan to immanentize the eschaton through very obscure methods. I don’t know. And neither do you. The only thing you can be certain of is that you exist. Everything else requires an open mind and sense of humor.
And also, the Earth actually is shaped like a hollowed out half rabbit, though you aren’t ready for that knowledge yet. But your kids are gonna love it.