• Diane

Flat Earth Movement: Who is to blame

Finding ways to communicate about complex topics such as climate change can be a major frustration for the science community. It involves a host of issues due to the nature of the topic, the fact that it is in many peoples immediate best interest to not do anything, and how easy it is to distance oneself from the issue. Yet now, we seem to have gone backwards in time and are trying to get people to accept the most simple of scientific principles.

The earth is round. Why does this need saying? I mean, after kindergarten when you learn this fundamental fact.

While there may be some ambiguity about what will happen in the future due to how we are treating the planet, there is absolutely about the shape of it. For 2,000 years, well before we had images of the earth from space, there was no question. So with people doubting the most obvious of scientific facts, is there any hope for getting across the message of climate change?

Of course! Scientists do not make their conclusions based on the outliers in their studies and we shouldn’t allow for small groups of people to discourage our efforts.

Why do flat earthers seem so prominent in our world? Because we can’t stop talking about them! I have never come across everyone that questions the earth’s shape but I hear about them constantly. We are fascinated by them. We love to speculate about who could think something so outlandish. We give them far too much prominence in our world view.

People believing this kind of thing is nothing new. They’ve always been around. It’s the internet that joins them all together. Before, you would have that one person in your town that everyone would avoid getting pulled into a conversation with. They were isolated. Their message went nowhere. They were harmless. Now that same guy can go on his computer and find someone on the other side of the globe that thinks the same as he does. Then on and on until they have a group, all confirming each other's beliefs.

So now all the town outcasts can talk to each other. That would still be fine. It’s when we get a whiff that this is going on and make a big thing of it does it explode. Most of us wouldn’t have thought that anyone in the world believed this stuff, but now we all know about them. Most of us just make fun but they are salient in our minds. We help them grow as well. It’s also salient in the guy's mind that had his trust in science broken, or the lady that wants to belong to something, or the teenager that just wants to rebel and have a reason to argue with everyone. What’s the first thing they will think of? Well, the thing they’ve been hearing so much about all over the media.

Flat-earthers are fairly harmless. They are probably not going to help us progress as a society, but they aren’t hurting anyone. When you switch the topic to anti-vaxxers or white supremacists though, things change. People die.

So maybe the next time a group starts with ideas that go against all reason, let’s not help them. Let’s not make them a household term. Why not instead, let them be, bounce their ideas back and forth in their tiny circle of the internet and not spread their message for them.

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