There’s a curious story on the BBC website which highlights the fact that, despite the ready availability of pictures like this:
There are still people out there who think that the world looks more like this*:
To be fair, not everyone agrees about the turtle and elephants. In fact, in the classic conspiracy theorist/maverick manner, the two ‘zeteticists’ interviewed were really only in agreement about the non-sphericity of the Earth – John Davis thinks that it is a 9000 km thick slab of infinite extent, whereas James McIntyre believes it to be a disc 24,900 miles in diameter.
Out of curiosity, I clicked through to the Flat Earth Society forum, which James McIntyre moderates. Here are some highlights from their FAQ.
Q: “Why do the all the world Governments say the Earth is round?”
A: It’s a conspiracy
Q: “What about NASA? Don’t they have photos to prove that the Earth is round?”
A: NASA is part of the conspiracy too. The photos are faked.
Q: “What is the motive behind this conspiracy?”
A: The motive is unknown although it is probably money
Q: “If you’re not sure about the motive, why do you say there is a conspiracy?”
A: Well it’s quite simple really; if the earth is in fact flat, then the governments must be lying when they say it isn’t.
Q: “How are the world governments organized enough to carry out this conspiracy?”
A: They only appear to be disorganized to make the conspiracy seem implausible.
Q: Why hasn’t this site been shut down by the government?
A: Doing so would prove that the government is hiding something.
Q: “What’s underneath the Earth?” aka “What’s on the bottom?” aka “What’s on the other side?”
A: This is unknown. Some believe it to be just rocks, others believe the Earth rests on the back of four elephants and a turtle.
Reading that, I find it difficult to quell my nagging parody sense. However, the real reason for my browsing was to see what the flat-earth explanation for ships disappearing over the horizon was. Obviously, any coherent theory would have to explain this easily observable phenomenon, which is commonly ascribed to the curvature of the Earth’s surface. And, indeed, there is at least one thread devoted to this question. Not to answering it, mind; one person points to a book written in 1881 (which, as far as I can understand, tries to write it off as a trick of perspective, although quite why the the bottom of a not-particularly-tall object is being visually compressed so much more than its top is rather obscure) but other than that there is merely lots of hand-waving about how all us ‘globalists’ are only seeing what we’ve been brainwashed to see.
The BBC article concludes with an interesting discussion with Christine Garwood, a historian who has written what could be a rather interesting book:
Perhaps one of the most surprising things in Garwood’s book is her revelation that flat earth theory is a relatively modern phenomenon.
Ms Garwood says it is an “historic fallacy” that everyone from ancient times to the Dark Ages believed the earth to be flat, and were only disabused of this “mad idea” once Christopher Columbus successfully sailed to America without “falling off the edge of the world”…
…Theories about the earth being flat really came to the fore in 19th Century England. With the rise and rise of scientific rationalism, which seemed to undermine Biblical authority, some Christian thinkers decided to launch an attack on established science.
Is it just me, or does this sound rather…familiar?
*One of the inspirations for this article is apparently a new Microsoft advert which compares all of the people who are not buying Windows Vista to flat-earthers. Which just goes to show that there are still uncharted depths of self-delusion to explore, even for the nuttiest of us.