Why do some people still believe the Earth is flat?

Although scientific evidence says the Earth
is a sphere orbiting the Sun, there are some people around who still think our planet is
flat… and social media plays a role too… If you type ‘flat Earth’ into Google, you’d
be joining a group of people that have helped to triple the search term over the last couple
of years. In fact, two-thirds of Americans aged between 18 and 24 believe that the Earth
is round. Interest in most of these other far-fetched
theories remains stable but the flat-Earth movement is growing, particularly in America.
And it has some high-profile supporters. From basketball players to musicians, rappers
to TV hosts, a number of celebrities are jumping on the flat Earth bandwagon. Members of the Flat Earth Society claim to
believe the Earth is flat. Walking around on the planet’s surface, it looks and feels
flat, so they deem all evidence to the contrary, such as satellite photos of Earth as a sphere,
to be fabrications of a “round Earth conspiracy” orchestrated by NASA and other government
agencies. So what’s causing a renewed interest in something
that’s been scientifically disproven for the past two thousand years or more? What does
it say about social media? And how did we actually establish that the world is round
in the first place? Rounding out the world
Once upon a time, it made sense for people to believe that the Earth was flat. Ships
would sail off toward the horizon and often never return, and those people left behind
didn’t really have access to information outside of their communities.
Greek philosophers established that the Earth was round as far back as the third century
BC, but it wasn’t until the 15th century that it became commonly accepted.
The first scientific estimates of the Earth’s circumference were made by the Greek mathematician
and geographer Eratosthenes in 240 BC. He noted that on the 21st of June that year,
in a town called Syene, the reflection of the sun could be seen in a deep well, meaning
that it was directly overhead. But in Alexandria, around 800 kilometers away
and almost directly north of Syene, at noon on the same day, the angle of the sun was
about seven degrees. If the Earth was actually flat, the angle
would be identical in both places. Distrusting the experts
So why, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that the Earth is an “oblate spheroid” � is
the flat-Earth movement gaining traction in the 21st century? User-generated content is the lifeblood of
social media. If it weren�t for status updates, tweets, and video uploads, social media feeds
would be empty. It�s in the best interest of social media networks to encourage their
users to keep posting content to the platform, no matter how dubious it might be. And it�s especially effective when famous
people are involved. In 2017, NBA star Kyrie Irving went on a podcast
and claimed the Earth was flat. Twice. Being a professional sports star, he held the attention
of millions of followers. In social media parlance, he�s an influencer. Despite eventually
disavowing the belief, Irving spurred on an untold number of people in thinking the world
is flat. Thanks to him, classes of middle-school students had begun to embrace the theory. He�s not the only one. NFL star Sammy Watkins
says he believes the Earth is flat. Wilson Chandler of the Denver Nuggets came out in
support of Irving. Rapper B.o.B got into a Twitter feud with
celebrity physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson over the shape of the Earth then uploaded a track
on Soundcloud all about it. It now has over a million plays. Tila Tequila, who garnered
her own reality TV show after becoming the most popular person on Myspace, used her significant
social media presence to promote the idea that the Earth is flat. In a move that was
most likely a cheap ploy for attention, notorious YouTube celebrity Logan Paul spoke at a flat
Earth convention and voiced his support for the theory. Whatever the motivation, each time a celebrity
comes out in favor of flat Earth theory, millions of social media users pay attention. But the internet isn�t solely to blame.
After all, social media platforms only want to give people what they want. It�s what
they�re designed to do. If you watch a YouTube video about flat Earth theory (as you do now),
the algorithm will continue to recommend flat Earth videos. If you follow a prominent flat-Earther
on Twitter, the platform will recommend other flat-Earthers to follow. Among all the wild beliefs humans can have,
a flat Earth theory is a rather harmless one; it doesn�t really hurt anybody. For most
people, it doesn�t really matter if the Earth is flat or not as long as it is a place
where they feel like they belong. If there�s one thing flat-Earthers and round-Earthers
share, it�s a passion for the truth. We all want to make sense of the world around
us. And sometimes understanding means accepting answers we don�t like or ones that require
us to connect with people we don�t agree with. We cannot isolate ourselves; we need
outside perspectives to keep ourselves in check. The cores of our belief systems have
to be subject to scrutiny. Otherwise, they become rotten with confirmation bias.


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