The Flat Earth | Vol. 3 / No. 3.1

The Flat Earth; Orlando Ferguson, 1893, Wikimedia Commons
The Flat Earth; Orlando Ferguson, 1893, Wikimedia Commons

They can’t be serious… can they?


It’s Monday and I’m a little under the weather, so this is just a short one. In one of the most spectacular examples I’ve ever seen of Poe’s Law — the fact that in the age of the internet it’s damn near impossible to tell crazy from parody because crazy is just too crazy these days — I bring you the FAQ of the Flat Earth Society.

Is it a real society? Definitely yes. Do they believe the Earth is flat? Definitely… maybe. Definitely some of them?

There have been genuine, true-believer Flat Earthers over the years. This history of the idea of the flat Earth is really informative in that regard. But is the Flat Earth Society and its forums really full of people who really, genuinely believe the Earth is flat?

According to their FAQ, yes:

Q. “Is this site a joke?”

A. “This site is not a joke. We are actively promoting the Flat Earth Movement worldwide. There are, admittedly, several non-serious flat earth posters, but they are fairly easy to identify.”

But then, if you were making a parody Flat Earth society, of course you’d say that, wouldn’t you? And then there’s the next exchange:

Q. “What evidence do you have?”

A. “The evidence for a flat earth is derived from many different facets of science and philosophy. The simplest is by relying on ones own senses to discern the true nature of the world around us. The world looks flat, the bottoms of clouds are flat, the movement of the sun; these are all examples of your senses telling you that we do not live on a spherical heliocentric world. This is using what’s called an empiricist approach, or an approach that relies on information from your senses. Alternatively, when using Descartes’ method of Cartesian doubt to skeptically view the world around us, one quickly finds that the notion of a spherical world is the theory which has the burden of proof and not flat earth theory.”

I mean that’s just too crazy not to be tongue-in-cheek, right? Flat cloud bottoms = flat Earth? An adherence to sensory experience alone even when we know that things we don’t sense directly are very real?

There’s no way… right?

The site maintains, as far as I can see, a very convincing appearance of “teaching the controversy” as it were. Live Science definitely thinks they mean it and tries to explain just how anyone could. I am certain that at least *some* of the people on the forums genuinely believe every bit of spaceflight has been faked or profoundly profoundly misunderstood, but I just… maybe I just refuse to believe people are that crazy? I don’t know.

Go look for yourself. Me, I’m going back to bed.

Happy Monday, everyone.


Richard Ford Burley is a writer and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and techno-futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.