Buy Christine Garwood‘s Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea
Crackpots are fascinating people. What makes a person cling to irrational beliefs in the face of mountains of evidence? Holocaust deniers, moon shoot doubters, and young Earthers all have their charms, but the flat-earthers are the cream of the nut crop.
Some of my friends who reject evolutionary theory claim that they don’t trust anything they can’t observe directly. Their basic position is something like “I interpret the Bible literally and the Biblical texts tell me that God created the earth and everything in it and exactly seven days and that is that.” Their position is a weak one, but I can understand their point of view. They apply a fundamentalist interpretation to the Bible, human knowledge contradicts that interpretation, therefore they don’t trust science. Fine.
But the flat earthers go beyond mistrusting science. They destroy science. They are science Luddites! What makes them so nutty is that we don’t even *need* science to observer the rotundity of the Earth. Just watch a ship disappear over the horizon and you can see that we live on a globe. This fact is so obvious, so tied to our physical experience, that a globe-shaped Earth has been the standard position of educated Earthlings for about 3,000 years. By the time Columbus set sail, everyone already knew the earth was a globe. Even the most strident Biblical fundamentalists don’t claim that the earth is flat! Yet a handful of plane-loving yahoos insist that we live on a disc-shaped plane.
Garwood’s survey of flat earth believers is mildly disappointing in that there isn’t a lot to know about them. First, there just aren’t many of them around. Sincere flat earth beliers are extremely rare, so Garwood is only able to profile fewer than a half dozen of these people. Second, the foundation of the flat-earthers’ belief is so weak that it’s not even interesting. Their cranky view of topology is based on extremely fundamentalist, literal readings of Biblical texts, like a poor man’s young earth creationists. There’s just no arguing with a regligious fundamentalist who looks to infallible sacred texts for geological knowledge.
Christine Garwood does an entertaining job of documenting all there is to know about the flat-earthers. Sadly, there just isn’t much to know. They’re crackpots, and not very interesting ones at that.
Flat earth resources
Here is a list of flat earth links from the bibliography. Brace yourself for extra nuttiness:
A hundred proofs the Earth is not a Globe
“De Sun Do Move” Sermon by John Jasper (1812-1901)
The late Bob Schadewald interracted with several flat-earthers and wrote about it. His website offers links to some of his work.
If anyone knows about the hollow-earthers or geocentric earth people, let me know. I won’t call them movements, but they are persistent.