Flat Earth Theory Explained


Since the Hellenistic period, humans have known that the earth is indeed spherical. However, despite an abundance of scientific evidence, the befuddling Flat Earth theory continues to attract more followers. In case you are unfamiliar with the Flat Earth theory, it is the conspiracy that the earth is not a globe, but instead a flat disk. Therefore, Earth’s land masses lie flat on the same plane. The recent growth of the Flat Earth community has left many who believe the “round earth hoax,” as Flat Earthers call it, confused as to how such a large group could dismiss the science. 

The Flat Earth theory contains several supporting experiments, observations, and sub-theories that refute common arguments for a round earth. One of the most famous pieces of evidence supporting the Flat Earth theory is the Bedford Level experiment. English writer and inventor Samuel Birley Rowbotham conducted a series of experiments in which he observed a sailboat traveling down a six-mile length of the Old Bedford River to measure the earth’s curvature. Rowbotham believed that after the sailboat had traveled six miles from him, he would no longer be able to see the boat because of the curvature of the earth. When Rowbotham was able to see the sailboat after it had traveled well over six miles, he claimed that the earth must be flat. Other observations like Rowbotham’s such as our inability to see the earth’s curvature and to feel the earth’s rotation have led people to believe the earth is not round.

Explaining the evidence supporting a round earth model to a Flat Earther is no simple task. One of the most common questions Flat Earthers hear is “Why haven’t we fallen off the edge?” Flat Earthers believe that Antarctica forms an ice wall around the edge of the Earth that keeps the water in and keeps us from falling off. Another common piece of evidence used to refute the Flat Earth theory is gravity. Masses as large as the earth and other planets are round due to the fact that their gravitational fields pull their mass to the center of gravity. This argument does not work on Flat Earthers either because they simply do not believe in gravity. Instead of objects falling toward the earth’s core, they believe that the flat earth actually accelerates upward at a speed of 9.8 meters per second. In regards to the seasons, Flat Earthers will tell you that the sun travels in a circular path above the earth to create a day and night cycle and the seasons change as the sun nears and moves away from the Earth. It appears that Flat Earthers have an argument prepared for every scientific fact you throw at them. 

While one might find enjoyment in laughing at these conspiracies, the Flat Earth community highlights a larger issue that has become more concerning over the past few decades. When you point out the photographic proof of a round earth, Flat Earthers claim that it is not solid evidence. The Flat Earth Society says on its website, “In general, we at the Flat Earth Society do not lend much credibility to photographic evidence. It is too easily manipulated and altered.” Flat Earthers, and more generally, conspiracy theorists, tend to share a common distrust toward powerful people or groups such as the government or government-sponsored NASA. While the Flat Earth theory itself is harmless, the mindset can be dangerous.