About this time last week, a friend of mine “introduced” me to a friend of his who is a proud proponent of the Flat Earth Theory. I place “introduced” in quotes because I’ve never met this gentleman, rather I was given his name and urged to friend him on Facebook because I “gotta see this.”
The Flat Earth Theory is exactly what it sounds like; the archaic notion that our world is not in fact a globe revolving around the sun, but rather a flat disk over which the moon and sun traverse the heavens. I’ve known for some time that Flat Earth Theorists were a thing, but I’d never had the chance to talk to one outside internet forums and discussion boards solely devoted to the topic. As has been my experience with such things, one cannot generally show up and start asking questions. Internet forums are like digital tribes; you can’t just show up and become one of them, and you sure as shit can’t appear one day, start asking questions and casting doubt on the way things are done. This is a surefire way to end up with you head decorating a stick on the outskirts of the village.
Facebook, though, is a different beast. It’s a little less insular. Yes, there are Facebook groups, but that wasn’t the direction I was travelling. The gentleman in question proudly posted his view and welcomed questions right there on his home page, in view of all his friends and/or family, where he could be properly humiliated. In interest of full disclosure, there was a part of me that wanted to walk in and make a complete stranger look foolish. I don’t know why. It’s a less-than-enviable habit of mine to meet what I would call ignorance with disdain and scorn. Worse, when I encounter something which is wrong, something I know to be wrong, something I can prove is wrong, it’s difficult for me to resist the urge to correct it. I usually try to accomplish this in a humorous manner, casting out hyperbolic analogies which reflect the targets own views back at them in a fashion they find objectionable in hopes that it might spur them to re-assess their own opinions. I don’t know if I’ve ever been successful, but I have fun doing it.
Flat Earth Theory is a thing which, at face value, I would normally reject completely. It is the epitome of willful ignorance. It’s the science equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and going, “Lalalalalalalala…” as loud as possible. That’s the view I held going into this thing.
So I send a Friend request to a complete stranger and, to my surprise, he accepts almost immediately. Steeling myself, I tentatively click over to his page to see what the daily “Flat Earth Fact” is. I told myself before doing so, “Just ask questions? Make no statements. Be polite and respectful. This guy knows someone you actually know in real life, no reason to make things weird for him by being rude to his friend.” Then this happened:
“Flat Earth Fact # 102, (Perspective) The Sun & Moon are the same distance from the earth as California is from New York & the same size as the island i live on Oahu, Hawaii. Both the sun & Moon are 37 miles in size & 3,300 miles above earth.”
To my heliocentric globeist mind, everything about that statement is wrong, and my first reflex was to say so WITH CAPSLOCK!!! But I didn’t, I took a deep breath and kept reading through the conversations, encountering such gems as: “The moon is made of a hollowed out unpolished white moonstone. The inner hollowed out sphere contrains Freon and aerosol type halocarbon…” and “…the sun being contructed of mostly a thin sheet of gold…”
My brain could take no more, I had to say something. Quiet, respectful, questioning, not condescending:
“Wait… The sun and moon are both 37 miles in size? Is the 37 square miles, as in the area of a circle? I’m assuming you mean square miles because you compared it to the area of the island of Oahu. It’s just, you said the sun is a 2D disk (ie: thin sheet of gold) but the moon is a 3D sphere (or opalescent stone). If they’re both a mere 37 miles in surface area, the moon would appear way, way smaller than the sun if they were equidistant from the earth.”
Dammit. I’m an asshole. But, at least I questioned it on its own terms. I kept at that for a couple of hours with a series of questions and answers and I think I did really good. Not at convincing anyone they’re wrong, rather, keeping myself from being a complete shithead. I questioned the geometry, the shape and size, the measurements, the math; I tried really hard not to belittle the idea of a smaller moon/sun combo or a flat earth. Instead I stuck to the numbers, using my 8th grade geometry knowledge, and handful of triangle proofs and Google’s plethora of online calculators and equations. Ultimately we agreed that an error had been made and that each of these celestial entities must be 37 miles in diameter (rather than surface area) for the math to work out and reconcile with observable measurements. I was proud of me.
The next morning I was greeted by a handful of lengthy private messages from this gentleman. They were each surprisingly pleasant. He thanked me for my attention to detail, and my efforts in helping him refine his theory and spot his error despite my obvious globeist leanings. This was certainly not what I had expected. But I shot him back a few messages, answered some more questions and we traded messages for a few hours on a Saturday morning. Ultimately, and here’s the important part of this, I learned some stuff; about math, astronomy and about myself. I learned what and arc-minute is. I learned the difference between a mile and a nautical mile; and why they’re different. I taught myself the basics of how to use and apply a god-damned sextant from watching YouTube videos; all to explain to a complete stranger how the math in his theoretical Flat Earth model doesn’t work. When I was in school, I can recall hearing teachers tell my mother, “Adam’s a smart boy he just needs to be challenged.” I don’t think any of them took that literally enough. They all acted as though it meant I just needed more difficult schoolwork; that I needed to be in the honor’s level classes and such. Unfortunately, I lost focus in those just as much as the regular classes. No, judging by this weekend, I can say with some confidence that if the teacher had stood before the class, took something I knew to be true and straight up told me I was wrong; I would have studied my ass off just to show them how right I was. If my Calculus teacher had said, “Adam, someday you’ll need these skills in order to show people they’re wrong.” I’d have memorized every damn theorem, proof and equation I could get my hands on.
I know for a fact this would have worked because I can remember being in 10th Grade Chemistry and the teacher was explain how when substances get colder they condense and when they get hotter they expand. My hand shot up and I asked, “If that’s true, how come water expands when it freezes?” I didn’t ask because I actually cared about the unique properties of water (which was the answer I got, a shrug and, “That’s just one of the unique properties of water.”) I wanted to argue with her.
That’s how the public school system failed me. They told me things I agreed with and let me believe I was right.
I might have a problem.