I’ve become oddly obsessed with The Flat Earth Society website of late—which is a work of such unbridled idiocy that I feel sure only an intellectual powerhouse can be behind it. I initially thought that it must be a hoax, but after idling a few lunchtimes away trawling the forums, I’ve now been convinced of its all-too-disturbing veracity.
Basically, as the name suggests, these folks believe that the Earth is flat, not spherical, and they validate their assertions by concocting a number of slightly differing theoretical perspectives, which can be broadly grouped together under the umbrella term ‘Flat Earth Theory’ (FET). Armed with this ersatz ‘theory of everything’, society members can explain away gravity, satellite imagery, seasons, long-distance air travel and much more besides, and I can’t help but find their obdurate belief in FET strangely compelling.
One of the more generally accepted theories in FET circles is a process called Universal Acceleration (UA), which is used to counter the troubling notion of the Earth’s gravitational field. In UA, the Earth—disc-shaped, flat and surrounded on all sides by a 150-foot wall of ice protected by specially-appointed guards—is travelling upwards through space at a fixed speed equal to 1G, meaning that when you jump in the air, the ground comes up to meet you, rather than you descending to meet it. It really is ingenious stuff.
Those few who try to unsettle the members’ quasi-religious faith in FET—usually by citing scientific evidence, however flimsy—are forced to confront the self-fulfilling prophecy that drives the society forward, which basically posits that anything outside of FET is conspiracy, and is therefore inadmissible as evidence. A more watertight exposition of self-denial you are unlikely to find, and it is demonstrated ad nauseum by the society’s more stalwart members.
Prior to activating this escape clause though, the members usually refer the query to the FAQ section—a sacred enclave of the website where the central and immovable tenets of FET are carved in stone. For many of the members, this knowledge bank is irrefutable, and serves as an essential resource when it comes to defending FET from attack. Once theories enter the FAQ, they are enshrined in a self-perpetuating truthfulness, however ludicrous that may seem to an external observer. Here, for example, are some of my favourites:
Question: “NASA and other world space agencies have pictures of the Earth from space, and in those pictures the Earth is clearly a globe; in this day and age, hasn’t it been proven beyond any doubt that the Earth is round?”
Answer: NASA and the rest of the world’s space agencies who claim to have been to space are involved in a Conspiracy to keep the shape of the Earth hidden. The pictures are faked using simple imaging software.
Question: “What about Lunar Eclipses?”
Answer: A celestial body, known as the antimoon, passes between the sun and moon. This projects a shadow upon the moon.
Question: “What about the stars, sun and moon and other planets? Are they flat too? What are they made of?”
Answer: The sun and moon, each 32 miles in diameter, rotate at a height of 3000 miles above sea level. As they are spotlights, they only illuminate certain places. This explains why there are nights and days on Earth.
If you should have the gall to doubt these ‘facts’—and many do—you are either dubbed a conspirator or referred back to the FAQ for further schooling, which in a fairly neat way renders all debate with the members entirely pointless. For those belligerent few who do choose to persevere, the message is unambiguous: persistence is futile.
God bless the internet.