Being call a flat Earther, for most people, is insulting. Flat Earth is not only a false notion, it’s also a model for wrongness. This is because most people who are call flat Earthers don’t believe the Earth is flat. Flat Earther, is simply scientifically season variant of idiot.
Recent example: US President Barack Obama expressed frustration with climate change denier’s persistent objections by saying, We don’t have the time for a meeting at the Flat Earth Society.
The real Flat Earth Society released a statement supporting the hypothesis of anthropogenic global climate change in a move one could either read as very lucky or very unfortunate.
How do we respond when someone believes that the Earth is flat? This was the question B.o.B, an American rapper, recently asked. It seems that the usual route is block. It’s hard to insult someone using a term they happily use.
The Edge Of The Flat World
What exactly is the flat Earth theory? There has never been a flat Earth theory. Different cultures have presented a wide range of worldviews at different times. This makes it difficult to sum up the idea of a flat Earth theory as only the West has one.
Even a cursory historical overview will show that the notion that the Earth is flat was share by a wide variety of cultures, and linked to vastly different metaphysical systems.
It was common belief in ancient Greece as well as India, China, and a wide variety of indigenous or pre-state cultures. Homer and Hesiod both described a flat Earth. Thales, who was consider to be one of the first philosophers, Lucretius (avowed materialist) and Democritus (founder of atomic theory), maintained this view.
The ancient Greek concept has many parallels to that of Mesopotamian and early Egyptian thought. Both believe that the Earth was a huge disc that was enclose by a massive body of water. Although the Earth was flats to the ancient Chinese, they were almost unanimous in their belief. However, in this system the heavens and Earth were spherical.
Ancient Indian Concepts
Many ancient Indian concepts, which are similar to Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, link their cosmography with botanical images. The earth made up of four continents that surround a mountain. This is analogous to how petals surround a flower’s bud. Ancient Norse thought suggest a flats, circular Earth that was surround by a sea and inhabited by a giant snake.
Others, such as the Mountain Arapesh of Papua New Guinea see a world that ends at the horizon. This is the point where huge clouds gather. Even though there are commonalities across these traditions and many different metaphysical or cosmological narratives, the stakes are high.
To make matters worse, we have to add intellectual traditions and cultures to this mix. For them, the shape of Earth is irrelevant. For example, many pre-state or tribal societies don’t care about cosmography.
All The Way Down Turtles Flat
The theory of a flat Earth started to lose popularity around the 6th century BCE. The idea of a spherical earth is now commonplace among educated people, by the time we reach Aristotle in 4th century BCE. It is now a well-known fact by the 1st century BCE. The theory of a flat Earth is still a minor thought tradition, just like a few theories in science such as Lamarckianism or vitalism.
Despite historical trends having already turned, the 20th century saw establishment of the Flats Earth Society. It was founded in 1956 by Samuel Shenton. Charles K. Johnson, a retired mechanic for aircraft, continued his work in 1972.
California, where else? Johnson served as the president of The International Flats Earth Society. Johnson was the International Flat Earth Society’s spokesperson. He made several claims that are now widely known outside of flat Earth communities. These included that the Apollo moon landings were fabricated and that the correct view is the Christian version of the Earth being flat.
Johnson was not only wrong in his cosmology, but also his history and theology. Since at least the 5th century, Orthodox Christian thinkers have supported the idea that there is a spherical earth, from Bede to Thomas Aquinas.
Jeffrey Burton Russell, University of California historian, has shown that very few people educated in the West after 3rd Century BCE believed the world was flat. This is contrary to the belief that the Earth is flats, which was prevalent in medieval times.