In order for society to function properly, certain assumptions must be made. Every morning, the sun will rise, and every evening, it will set. If you drop a bowling ball, it will fall to the ground. The world is able to make these assumptions because everybody has experienced the sun rising or a dropped object falling. As for the reason why the sun rises or a ball drops, people generally choose the most convincing theory and stand behind it. Does a bowling ball truly fall to the ground because of gravity? Most people would agree that the existence of gravity is a proven scientific fact, but it really isn’t. In fact, gravity is just a theory. Similarly, only a few hundred people have ever been to space to know
for sure that the Earth is round— yet most people accept the idea without question. There are some, however, who have an alternate theory to explain that which the rest of humanity assumes without question. These people are called Flat Earthers, because they believe the Earth is flat.
Of course, there are many problems that come to mind when thinking of the flat Earth theory. The Flat Earth Society’s website addresses many of them. For instance, aren’t there images of a spherical Earth out there? Those who support the theory that the Earth is flat believe these images are fake. If the Earth is truly round, meaning the sun can only shine on one half of it at a time, then why is it that every picture of the Earth shows it to be vibrantly and hyper-realistically colored? If you look at many pictures of Earth from space, you can find duplicate clouds and other blatant photoshop anomalies. As for the reasons why the images might be fake, different Flat Earthers have varying opinions. One common belief is that, during the Cold War, when the United States and USSR were racing to space, the United States faked the moon landing. Since then, the Flat Earthers believe that the United States has discovered the Earth to be flat, but cannot compromise the legitimacy of the moon landing for fear of losing political respect and control. As such, Flat Earthers believe the government continues to release doctored photos of the Earth, despite their knowledge of Earth’s flatness.
Anybody who has traveled the world in a plane might argue what seems to be proof the Earth is round: if one flies west from the United States, Asia can be reached, and if one flies East from the United States, Europe can be reached. In fact, people have circumnavigated the globe. To address this problem, Flat Earthers assert that the world is a circle, not a sphere. The countries are aligned like we know they are—all except for Antarctica, which actually circumscribes the entire planet, forming a natural border between civilization and the edge of the world. The North Pole is in the center, meaning north points inward and south points outward. With this model, one can still travel from continent to continent as if the world were spherical.
Most middle school students know the Earth is a sphere because gravity causes objects to become spherical over time. With science’s current understanding of gravity, the flat Earth theory is simply impossible. Because of this, Flat Earthers believe science misunderstands gravity. All one can truly observe about gravity is that objects fall. Beyond that fact, theories govern all remaining rules. Gravity is not the only way to explain objects falling, though. Some Flat Earthers believe the Earth is universally accelerating upward at 9.8 m/s2. Others argue that electromagnetism causes objects to be attracted to Earth. Perhaps there is something to do with the falling object’s density in relationship to the density of its surrounding matter that causes it to move downward. There are many theories explaining that which the world currently calls gravity, each equally convincing to an unbiased mind. If one of these theories were as widely accepted as the theory of gravity, then gravity would seem like the abstract and baseless idea.
A common misconception is that Columbus and his men feared sailing to what would eventually be called the Americas because they worried about falling off the edge of the world. The New World Encyclopedia, however, says most people in the fifteenth century believed the Earth to be round. In fact, people may have held this belief as early as the time of Pythagoras, around 500 BCE. The belief spread rapidly, and by 330 BCE, Aristotle also held the belief of a spherical world. If the idea that the Earth is round has existed for millennia, why would anybody doubt the idea today?
In short, because it’s important to doubt that which we most strongly assume. As critically thinking human beings, we must question the truth of everything we hear. Scientists say the Earth is round, but unless we somehow observe that for ourselves, we simply do not know. When we begin to question ourselves, we find inconsistencies within our logic and work to fix them. The process of trying to prove that which we think to be certain is not only a rewarding mental exercise, but it also allows one to understand the thinking of others. Remember that dress that broke the internet last year? Some people saw it as white and gold, and other people saw it as blue and black; either way, everybody was positive their version of the truth was correct. The dispute over the dress became volatile enough, and it was a subject that didn’t matter at all. People are similarly stubborn about more serious issues—issues that incite hatred and war. Every time a person refuses to see the credence in another’s views, humanity divides a little more. For the world to begin to seek peace, everyone must learn to understand those who think and believe differently. Whether it’s the Flat Earth Society or a terrorist organization, until the world learns to empathize a little more, harmony will never be achieved.