The Reason Flat Earthers Exist
You would think that we wouldn't have to debate whether Earth is flat or round in the 21st century. Hello? Wasn't the matter settled, like thousands of years ago? Turns out, even crystal-clear pictures of Earth taken from above fail to convince some people.
It may seem strange that in the era where we're celebrating the inauguration of commercial spaceflight and getting to see images of billions of years ago, people are gravitating toward the concept of Flat Earth. But it's the reality.
Why do people believe in the flat earth theory? There are many reasons for this. One major reason is that science has gotten incredibly complex over the last century. When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, people had the chance to experience the invention in their day-to-day lives. But modern science isn't only limited to practical innovations. It is full of unproven hypotheses and theories that often contradict each other.
For example, the scientific law that governs celestial bodies is inapplicable to subatomic levels, and general relativity – which predicted black holes – doesn't work in the centre of black holes. With the help of sophisticated technology, scientists are discovering new information and rewriting our perception of the world every now and then. Nowadays, every scientist knows that the hypothesis they proved today might not be verifiable tomorrow. The contradictory and evanescent nature of scientific theories shakes the foundations of our belief that science is infallible and makes many people distrust scientists and their claims.
One word is heard anytime a telescope's picture is released – composite image. The term means combining data of different wavelengths and then composing them into one image using analysis software. For example, James Webb Telescope captures infrared rays. Logically, we wouldn't able to see a thing if these pictures of infrared ray were presented to us because it is beyond our vision range. So, what astronomers do is that they put this data in image analysis software which produces coloured images. But since this term is confusing, many people take composite for "photoshopped image" and distribute propaganda that NASA is showing them fake images.
Another issue that helped elongate the theory of flat earth is the easy access to social media. Nowadays, anyone can post a video on YouTube explaining why they think the earth is flat. Now, if a person watches conspiracy theories like the fake moon landing or anti-vaccination stance, YouTube would recommend similar conspiracy theories like flat earth theories to their feed. Some people may watch flat earther videos to indulge their curiosity. As these videos get more clout, they get recommended on more people's feeds. In childhood, if your teacher only taught you that the earth is round and didn't show you why it is so, you would easily fall for these explainer videos that demonstrate that Earth is flat within two minutes. This explains why people who previously believed that the earth was round now converted to flat earthers.
If the earth is flat and the NASA is hiring actors to act as astronauts, then it gives an explanation to people to get angry about paying their hard-earned taxes to the government. Distrusting the government is easier than understanding why billions of dollars are going into chasing abstract concepts like dark matter – especially when your government isn't so transparent itself.
Flat earthers say that believing in flat earth gives them raison d'être, their reason to exist. Contrary to the belief that we live on one of the countless planets in the galaxy and that there's nothing special about us, believing that we live in the centre of the universe makes some people feel that their life is purposeful and exciting.
Everyone wants to stand apart from the crowd. Flat earthers like to think that rebelling against all the clear evidence makes them look clever, but does it, really?
Youtube.com (2020). Why People Think the World is Flat – Johnny Harris
Youtube.com (2017). How Average People Fall For The Flat-Earth Conspiracy – BuzzFeed News
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