Flat Earth Theory: A Defense of Science
Roddy Bullock, JD, BSME
"Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see is not designed, but rather evolved." --Francis Crick
It's a fact, the earth is flat. At least as a scientific matter. I know this because I'm a scientist who's been taught all my life nothing but earth flatness, it appears to me that the earth is flat, and, quite honestly, I like the idea of a flat earth (the implications of a round earth concern me). But more importantly, the overwhelming majority of scientists no longer question whether the earth is flat and I know that presupposing a flat earth in science establishes a powerful unifying principle (something of a rule one might say), ordering all the various concepts just so. As a scientist, I find that nothing in earth science makes sense except in the light of flatness.
You fool! you shout. Don't you know that the earth is round? Have you not seen the horizon? Ship's masts sinking into the sea? Pictures of the earth from space? I smile, thinking one must be careful with labels in the realm of science, where appearances are deceiving. One cannot rely on simple observations of natural phenomena to make scientific inferences; one must be guided methodically by a principle. And science is necessarily built upon the principle of flatness. Whether or not actually true, science must be practiced as if flatness is true. I view every observation, design every experiment, and analyze every result in light of an insistence that the earth is flat.
You seem shocked. I challenge you: tell me one area of science that does not work effectively with a belief in a flat earth (and which only works with an assumption of a round earth). Physics? Chemistry? Biology? Ecology? Zoology? Astronomy? You amuse me as you think yourself clever on that last one. Planetary appearances are simply the macro effects of micro-flatness, flatness extended in space, but flatness nonetheless. And on earth, the local flatness makes a flat earth the only reasonable theory in all of science. No matter what discipline of science you choose, it is abundantly clear that taking a flat earth as the starting point always works. For all practical scientific purposes the earth is flat and science's reliance on flatness is the key to true knowledge.
Let the evidence lead where it may! you declare, as if I ignore the evidence. But despite your clamoring I must insist that you have no evidence. What you presume as evidence of roundness cannot be evidence of roundness because the earth is flat. Maybe you are seeing edge effects, or perhaps relativistic effects of a space-time continuum. No doubt you see something you perceive as roundness, but I can't help but suspect you have a hidden religious motive, some "roundness of the gaps" urge that causes you to simplistically believe that what appears round is actually round. But science is uniform on this issue and it is no ruse; flatness is a fact, fact, FACT!
You look at me as if I'm the devil. Try to understand it this way (although I repeat myself in unrealistic optimism that you desire to understand): regardless of the actual truth of the matter (which we may never know), science is committed to a flat earth theory that must operate as if the earth is flat. Of course scientists sometimes make adjustments for various anomalies, but no theory of science is anomaly free. In fact, holding to a theory despite anomalies embodies the very nature of science. In contrast to the dogmatic claims of round-earthers, science demands tentativeness in the face of anomalies. Very simply, flat earth theory is the best scientific explanation we have for all flatness and apparent roundness in the world today. As a unifying theory of earth science, it permits science to operate free of faith-based beliefs in roundness, cubeness, Native American sacred hole-ness, Chinese cosmic egg-ness, and every other "ness" that purports to explain the natural world.
You mock methodological flatness as "flatnessism", as if the ism makes it evil. But it is you (to hint at a label) who are fooled by the appearance of roundness. After all, the study of earth science is simply the study of flatness that gives the appearance of roundness for a purpose. But such appearances are exactly why a rule of science is necessary--without it certainty gives way to science-stopping personal belief and conjecture--one may as well believe in a round spaghetti bowl monster! Besides, flatness of earth is an established fact, supported by a mountain of evidence. Don't you understand? There can be no true roundness because the earth is flat. What more proof could one wish for? Again, no true earth scientist questions the fact of a flat earth, and no amount of "round-earthers" who pretend to scientific credentials can change this fact.
I've seen your smug looks, your smile-filled seminars, your online diatribes against "flatulancism" and your websites that portray flat-earthism as the source of all cultural decline in this country. By believing the earth is actually round, you act as if science is evil for proving the opposite. But what you fail to realize is that science is limited in what it can investigate and discover, and the limitation is precisely what separates science from faith based systems of knowledge. You insist your belief in roundness is not faith-based, but what else can it be when all the scientific evidence points to flatness? Can you point to even one flat earth science journal that has published an article on round earth theory? You have a choice. Either base your beliefs on science or on faith, but don't try to bring faith-based ideas into science.
Faith based? you ask with a stunned look (slack-jawed, I muse, suppressing a smirk). You call photos from outer space showing a round earth "faith based"? You call the shadow of the earth on an eclipsed moon "faith based"? No and no. And once again, you are not listening to me. I don't deny that photos from outer space show what appears to be a round earth (in fact, there may be true roundness in outer space, but not on earth). But it's not the photos that are faith based; it's your assumption of actual roundness that is faith based. Because the earth is flat, the roundness shown in these photos can only be apparent roundness, and because you believe it is true roundness it proves that you are basing your belief on faith, instead of science. Science is by definition the activity of seeking flat earth explanations for all earthly features.
Instead of accepting science you debate me with convincing-sounding arguments and slick presentations in forums packed with like-minded round-earthers. You constantly point to apparent roundness of the earth as if apparent roundness alone is proof of a round earth. You have your round-earthism "scientists" with their so-called research showing actual measurements of roundness. You have your campus clubs where you bring in special speakers espousing "earth curvature" as if re-naming your movement changes its unscientific foundation. I tire of your unending obstinacy. You never seem to get the point of science. For the last time: of course there is apparent roundness of the earth, but because the earth is flat, such apparent roundness cannot be evidence of actual roundness. Why can't you separate scientific thinking from other forms of thinking (including, I reflect privately, delusion).
I'm not, as you always assume, anti-roundness. In fact I believe in roundness. I've found that studying a flat earth is perfectly compatible with a faith-based belief in a round earth. Recent court decisions have shown that science and faith should be viewed as different ways of understanding the world rather than as frameworks that are in conflict with each other and that the evidence for earth flatness can be fully compatible with roundness faith. Science and faith simply ask different questions. Science asks how the world works and seeks explanations that assume a flat earth, seeking to find flat explanations for perceived roundness. Belief-based systems ask how roundness informs other aspects of the world, and may find utility in other disciplines such as the humanities. You accuse me of being "flat earth only" by insisting public school science classes teach only evidence of a flat earth. But I'm not "flat earth only", I'm "science-only".
To be honest, in times past I've harbored doubt about a flat earth. And even now I occasionally entertain the idea of a round earth. I sometimes ask myself, what would the earth look like if it were actually round? But here is where my scientific thinking prevails, separating science from other pseudo-science faith beliefs. First, by your own admission the earth is not perfectly round. What kind of a round earth is not perfectly round? I could reject a round earth theory on that basis alone. But more importantly, all true earth scientists are trained to constantly keep in mind that what they see is not round, but rather flat. It's science. It's what we do.
You will no doubt claim "truth" as the ultimate afflatus against flatness. I sigh as I wonder if it's worth the effort to even reply. You frustrate me with your failure to understand science, which is not meant to be a tool for finding all truth. Science is simply the best method available for determining how the world can be explained in terms of flatness. Therefore, science has limits, and you, in trying to introduce roundness into science, are attempting to expand science beyond its legitimate boundaries. So pulling the trump card of truth does little to persuade me.
You can have truth, I'll take science.
Roddy Bullock, JD, BSME, is the Executive Director of the Intelligent Design Network of Ohio (www.idnetohio.com) and is the author of The Cave Painting: A Parable of Science, published by Access Research Network. Send comments to: email@example.com.
Copyright (C) 2008 Roddy M. Bullock, all rights reserved. Quotes and links permitted with attribution.
References and further notes:
Actual quotes of evolutionists adapted for this essay:
Opening quote: Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit, Basic Books, New York, p. 138, 1988.
"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" is the title of a 1973 essay by the evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky. The essay was first published in the American Biology Teacher, volume 35, pages 125-129.
" . . . the overwhelming majority of scientists no longer question whether evolution has occurred." National Academy of Sciences, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, 2008.
"Evolution is a fact, fact, FACT!" Michael Ruse, Darwinism Defended: A Guide to the Evolution Controversies, , Addison-Wesley: Reading MA, 1983, Third Printing, p.58. Emphasis Ruse's.
"Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1996, p. 1.
"Pretend as they will to scientific credentials, the anti-evolution propagandists are always religiously motivated, even if they try to buy credibility by concealing the fact." Richard Dawkins, Introduction to the 1996 edition of The Blind Watchmaker.
". . . science and religion should be viewed as different ways of understanding the world rather than as frameworks that are in conflict with each other and that the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith." National Academy of Sciences, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, 2008.
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