Flat Earthers Aren’t As Crazy As You Think

“Let he who is without crazy cast the first stone” — Jesus

The list of cognitive biases is long, chief among them is a doozie: Wikipedia calls it the “Bias Blind Spot”, but I call it the “other people are idiots fallacy.” It tends to be much easier to see problems in other people’s logic than your own. The Flat Earthers aren’t crazy, they’re just ignoring vast piles of evidence — just like the rest of us. They’re right about something, you have to be quite lucky to have direct, first-hand, straightforward evidence (“I saw it, it was round!”) of the earth’s roundness. Only astronauts have that distinction. Everybody else just has to rely on photographs (I’m talking to you, gopro on a weather-balloon guy!).

Among conspiracy theories, though, the flat earth one holds a unique position: it is relatively easy for one person with limited resources to prove that the earth is round. Eratosthenes did it in 200bc. It doesn’t surprise me at all that flat earthers haven’t done this one for themselves. We are trained, as a people, to trust what we are told. We are punished for doing otherwise! The flat earthers just trust someone else than most people, even if it’s themselves.

I challenged myself to think of all of the personal evidence — things I have directly observed — for a round earth (and a heliocentric earth). I challenge you to do the same! Only include stuff that you’ve seen with your own eyes — and try to think of novel ways to explain it.

In the end, the most compelling piece of personal evidence I have witnessed was visiting Alaska in the summer. Watching the sun wheel around and around the horizon day in and day out gave me the visceral sensation of being on a gargantuan top. The list is long, but I love adding new items to the “personal proof of earth’s roundness” list.

The other side of the coin is to see if you can identify biases in your own thinking. You don’t need to have first-hand proof for everything you believe, first-hand experience can help you or send you in the wrong direction (the earth does look flat from 6ft above it). Sometimes, it can be used to eliminate obviously false things, but it becomes harder and harder to back up modern science with just your eyeballs, ears, hands, and brain.

So, the next time you hear something crazy, especially if it’s from someone near you — try to figure out how they got to where they are, and figure out why you believe what you believe. Do you believe that homeopathy works? Why? Do you believe in God? Why? Do you believe vaccines are a good idea? Why? Do you believe we landed on the moon? Why?

Counting the number of ways you’ve deluded yourself is a great way to grow a heart about the ways in which other people have deluded themselves…