Flat Earthers P4

It’s been a while since I’ve sunk my teeth into the Flat Earth subject, but I stumbled upon a lengthy post about it here, and thought I would offer a few thoughts, a few questions, and a look at the response of the author (Hesedyahu) to a couple of queries.

Before I do so, I should warn that this post is likely to be very long, for Hesedyahu’s post is very long, and as such I may even split this into multiple parts. With that in mind, let’s begin. Where I am quoting Hesedyahu, their posts will be in purple text. I’m not quoting everything as I am not sure everything is relevant, but if you click the link above you can read their post in its entirety.

It started with reification, a logical fallacy. It wasn’t through reason and evidence, just all the maps and books, with the constant presence of globes in school, on TV, everywhere except in the natural world and my experience.

I’m assuming that the author is using the term reification in respect of treating an abstraction as though it were the real thing. As we read on, that might be in need of tweaking.

When it comes to the ball earth concept, that notion that the globes that decorate classrooms and science and geography books, that infest the media and movies even when not the subject of discussion, are representative of where I actually live, I understand that I only took that notion for granted. The teacher said it so it’s true. The book had a glorious picture of a globe earth amongst other globes, with lines to describe their path around a fireball, so it’s true. The books show the globe cut in half showing its yellow (meaning hot) centre, so it’s true.

So it started with a reification fallacy, treating an abstraction as if it were real, taking pictures and toys as if that’s truly my home.

I learnt on my travels about suspension of disbelief, that when it comes to movies that the mind will forget or set aside the fact that it is all a fiction in order to become invested in the plot of the movie. I also learned that people tend to believe what they see, that the mind and body cannot tell the difference between reality and illusion, and will at times react physically when watching pretense. It reminds me of young children who seem to accept whatever they see and what they are told. It’s like that part never leaves humans. That could lead to other subjects, but I’ll leave that there for now. But it’s not as though we’re simple tools to what we see and hear. It seems that people take certain things and hold it as a foundation or framework so that a person doesn’t end up believing 528 things in one day or month because everyone has different opinions. The question, though, is whether that foundation and framework gets tested, whether it is established on facts and solid reasoning.

Naturally any idea, any theory, should be subject to testing and examination. Science is constantly doing this. Nothing is static – look at the theory of evolution, which is always being tested. What’s not been tested as much as is the shape and nature of planet earth. For centuries we’ve had the technology to observe other planets and they have all been spherical. It was therefore quite logical to regard the earth as a sphere, and early rockets (such as the V2) proved this.

Further images would come as the Space Race heated up. Astronauts stood on the Moon and could see earth for themselves. Even before the Space Race, high altitude balloon flights recorded the curve of the earth:

This photo, taken by Captain Orvil A. Anderson and Captain Albert W. Stevens in 1935, shows the subtle curvature of the earth. Credits to the National Geographic Society

There are more examples of the curvature of the earth. This page contains a number of images, but sceptics are often quick to suggest NASA is involved in a conspiracy to hide the truth (why NASA would engage in such a hugely expensive exercise is something sceptics rarely even attempt to answer).

So all my life, until recently, I had, for the majority of my life, been told one thing: the ground that you live on is actually part of a rotating sphere that goes around the sun. I didn’t really care about or know the details of this idea; I simply held it. There was somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction within me to treat other ideas as things to ignore. I don’t remember ridiculing them, simply ignoring them.

Even when I started turning to geocentrism, where there is still a sphere earth but now the universe surrounded it, I still focused more on principles and evidences rather than the details of the idea.

But at the start of each journey into “insanity,” there was one question that pushed me into the unknown realms: why do I believe what I believe? When it was going from simply accepting the mainstream view of flying balls with the earth being one of them, I asked why I accepted the movement. I could not refer to what I had learned at school because, from what I could remember, the teachers never really focused on proving the concepts, only helping a student memorise them. So I had to search for the evidences that were previously used by the ancients to cause the belief to become so widespread. Let’s just say I was deeply disappointed with the quality of evidence. I wasn’t even focused on logical fallacies back then, but even then the evidence and reasoning were as flaky as hell. I sought to find out why Galileo was so persecuted, what evidences he presented. In the end, I found out that the story of Galileo was more legendary than historical, and that his evidences were crap in trying to disprove the centrality of the earth (sun causing earth tides, moons orbitting Jupiter, phases of Venus). But at least I did the footwork rather than simply believing.

Naturally evidence should always be scrutinised, and it is always wise to ask questions, but it’s equally important to listen to the answers. Yes, the education systems of numerous nations around the world tend to be more about giving us facts and figures than the how’s and whys, but the information we learn does not come out of nowhere. Whatever question marks Hesedyahu may have about how the ancient world drew its conclusions about the shape and nature of the earth, the fact remains that the idea took hold for a reason, across the ancient world. The Greeks observed how constellations changed. Islamic scholar Abu Rayhan al-Biruni conducted experiments using trigonometry that measured the earth’s circumference and he was very close to the correct measurement, despite working with the tools and knowledge available in the 10/11th Centuries.

So, whether or not Hesedyahu personally considers the evidence of the era to be flaky’, the bottom line is that there was plenty of it, from various sources and derived by various means. Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world (of which he did not survive) provided further evidence of the spherical nature of the earth. Many others carried out their own experiments and reached the same conclusion, but what of Galileo? Hesedyahu feels Galileo’s story is more legend than fact and that his evidences were ‘crap’. Some clarification here would be useful. What about the tides, Jupiter and its moons and the phases of Venus is so flawed? Is Hesedyahu’s argument here more to do with his objection to heliocentrism than a spherical earth, as I’m not sure?

Galileo produced observations that seemed to rubbish the idea of the earth being the centre of the universe and I’d like to know what is inherently wrong with his observations of the phases of Venus. He observed several moons of Jupiter and could see with his own eyes they were round objects orbiting a round object. He observed Saturn and could see Saturn is also round. Amateur and professional astronomers can see these facts for themselves. There are literally thousands of photos taken from astronomers around the world that demonstrate very clearly the principles and observations of Galileo.

But while I was reading De Labore Solis by Walter van der Kamp, he made an incredibly important point that stuck with me. I won’t quote what he said, only what I understood from it. It is easy for the mind to race into the world of imagination, as if being God standing in a place of perfect rest, to see what moves and what doesn’t. And that is what those books from school taught me to do, take flights of imagination in my mind to “see” things I couldn’t really see. I could watch the Milky Way galaxy from the outside, seeing its spirality, and see earth’s position in it. But that was in my mind. I can still see the “onion” picture of the globe earth with its molten core, the yellow stuff around it, the mantle and crust. But again, it’s in my mind. And that’s the power of the indoctrination, the way I was taught, the brainwashing. It’s really easy for me to retreat to this way of thinking, that because it is conceivable, it’s that bit more closer to truth. It’s like I’m turning to reification again.

But once I stop with the imagination and ground myself, starting from “first principles” and working from there using evidence and reasoning, then all of a sudden, the pretty pictures are gone. I don’t see this spinning, flying, sun system. I’m here, on earth, looking out of my eyes and beginning, once again, to use my senses and thinking.

Take a plane flight. Look out the window. Get a telescope and look at the planets.

The curvature of the earth is clearly visible

Amateur Astronomy UK is a great site showcasing how easy it is for anyone to observe the planets for themselves.

Given the size of Hesedyahu’s article, it seems that we’re going to go far beyond a Part 5, but I’m going to end Part 4 here, lest this post become far too bloated. Stay tuned for more!

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