Like anyone with a Wi-Fi connection and a morbid curiosity as to the strangest things real humans believe, I’ve been amused for years by the Flat Earthers — those dogged skeptics who insist our globe is no globe at all, but altogether more pancake-shaped. YouTube, Facebook, and other social web platforms have brought these self-taught astrophysicists together and fueled a pronounced expansion of their movement. Flatheads host conventions to discuss research and swap theories. Neil deGrasse Tyson has repeatedly debunked their claims, but his desperate lessons aren’t sinking in.
If there’s one quality that unites the Flat Earthers, who subscribe to a vast range of planetary models despite more or less agreeing on a basic premise, it’s their confidence. They know, with complete certainty, that scientists have lied to us about the cosmos and how we fit into it. This week, a British man was delighted to report that several bookmakers had rejected his proposed bets — of up to £100 — that Earth is indeed a level surface. “I think the reason that they won’t accept my bet is because they know that I am right in saying that the Earth is flat, and if other people joined me in placing the bet they could lose millions,” he said. I’m more of the opinion that the bookies turned him down because, as deGrasse Tyson could probably tell you, these folks have a way of dismissing any evidence of Earth’s roundness; there’s literally nothing you could show them to disprove what they hold to be verifiably true.
So, fine. On behalf of all us brainwashed dupes who never questioned the accepted idea of a spherical Earth, I’m throwing in the towel. You win: Earth is flat. Now what?
I’m serious. You’ve convinced me that water doesn’t stick to a spinning ball and that observing solar eclipses as we do would be impossible on curved ground. I’m sure Shaquille O’Neal wasn’t just trolling when he said, “I do not go up and down at a 360-degree angle, and all that stuff about gravity, have you looked outside Atlanta lately and seen all these buildings?” Everything adds up here. Thank you for opening my eyes, really. But also, uh, what the fuck do you want me to do with this information?
I ask this because sometimes I get the feeling y’all haven’t considered your long-term goals. You know, beyond securing bragging rights for when the United Nations accepts your arguments as fact and NASA is formally dissolved. What do we gain by coming to your side? I suppose they say knowledge is its own reward. Still, that would be kind of a cop-out, right? And while a few Flat Earthers are coming from a place of Biblical literalism, it seems as if many more disavow any religious affiliation, meaning there’s more to your crusade than making god happy. I’ve been messaging your august organizations to understand where a consensus on Flat Earth theory might take us as a species, and, I gotta tell you, I’m a little annoyed that I keep getting the brush-off. Sadly, I’m not finding anything in the Flat Earth Society FAQ section regarding next steps.
Honestly, I respect your commitment. I like that you resist assurances from experts and trust in the empirical data available to your senses. I’m concerned, however, that once your persuasive memes and thought experiments break the dam of propaganda that keeps the world blind to Flat Earth, you won’t have much left to do but say “Told you so!” You should be examining what a Flat Earth means for projections of climate change and intercontinental travel, how it could revolutionize our view of earthquakes or the fossil record. And if you can’t even decide what’s on the other side of Flat Earth, how the hell are we going to explore it? The masses may not be ready to handle your radical refiguring of the solar system, but you’re not prepared to act on it! For crying out loud, at least pick up a telescope and start scouting out some other flat planets to colonize!
It’s only natural, at a moment when the Flat Earth hypothesis invites knee-jerk scorn and mockery, that your focus would be largely devoted to outreach and basic reeducation. But it’s never too early to start planning for the Flat Earth utopia that awaits us — and how to make the most of it. Correcting the greatest misapprehension in history is no small job, as you’re well aware, though the work hardly ends there. When the awakening comes to pass, there will be further confusion, new questions, perhaps fear and hysteria. We will turn to you, oh wise prophets of a limitless horizon, for comfort and guidance in the change. Do not fail the delicate souls you’ve led out of the dark at last.