Why flat earther’s raise an interesting point about humility

I truly don’t understand how people can believe the Earth is flat. Back in the 1400’s, sure, I get it. There’s no such thing as internet, no pictures from outer space, no obvious proof that the earth is a big ‘ole beach ball.

Today, though? I struggle to understand why people today can honestly believe the Earth is flat.

There’s more ridiculous examples of people with some questionable hypotheses. Doubters believe things such as:

  • Dinosaurs didn’t exist
  • That the Earth is, in fact, completely hollow
  • That the earth is run by reptiles (sorry, 12 million people who believe this!!)
  • The moon does not, in fact, exist

There’s a lot of psychologically interesting research about why someone would believe a ‘conspiracy theory’ like this. We all know people who would argue a completely crazy idea just to stir the pot.

However, the conversation regarding a ‘flat earth’ and other unique theories tend to concentrate around a single question. The question that most people ask others when they hear about crazy theories, such as the ones above, is:

How the hell do people actually believe that???

It’s a fair question, and one I raised myself in the first paragraph. There’s just so much technology and evidence the Earth is round.
But that’s not rocket science, and it’s certainly not worth a post here. It’s also extremely outwardly focused. So let’s talk about the other question, the introspective one:

How do I actually know it’s true?

Well, in the case of the flat earth, let’s go back and look at the evidence. While there are literally thousands of data points that prove the earth is round, there’s three big pieces of evidence that are hard to ignore. They are:

  • Photos of Earth from space
  • Plate tectonics
  • Gravity

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The absolute evidence is incredibly powerful. It’s again why the common response to flat earther’s is “How the hell do people actually believe that?” Look at this photo! Look at it!!

To be clear, I’m 100% sold. I think the earth is round, and will believe that to my dying date.

So what is the point of all of this then? Why are Flat Earther’s raising an interesting point about humility? And why did I highlight the word think?
it goes back to my second, introspective question above: How do I actually know it’s true?

To that end, let’s look at the three pieces of evidence raised above (photos from space, plate tectonics, gravity)

  • I’ve personally never been so space (and guessing 99% of those reading have either!). I can’t say I’ve seen what the earth looks like from up there.
  • The last class I attended that discussed plate tectonics was 10th grade physics, so I certainly don’t have the knowledge to run a rest that proves the Earth is round. Also, I suck at science.
  • Ditto with Gravity, another remnant of 10th grade physics. Ditto on the sucking at science.

To be clear again: I’m not saying there is some massive conspiracy that doctors photos from space or some bullshit like that. I’m saying I haven’t seen space through my own eyes.

So in actuality, I, Dean, myself, know nothing.

Sure, I know E=MC²

But do I really know? I haven’t dedicated my life to this topic the way Einstein did. I can recite the formula, as almost everyone can, but I don’t know how to design an experiment to prove it. I can’t do the math and see for myself exactly why E=MC². I just trust that Einstein and other scientists are telling me the same thing.

Same thing for a round earth. I can’t do the math myself to prove it, and I don’t currently have $20m to pay for a trip to space to see it myself. But I trust and rely on astronauts, NASA, and I guess Elon Musk, when they say that the Earth is round.

So, I know nothing myself. I rely almost exclusively on others for 99% of what is in my brain.

Here’s another one: I’ve never been to China. I can’t say anything about it with 100% certainty because I’ve never seen it with my own eyes. Sure, I can recite facts like the capital is Beijing. Have I ever been to the city and walked by the Zhongnanhai to know that it’s the capital? Nope. Again, I know nothing, so therefore I trust others.

This is where the humility comes in
So often, we get wrapped up in what we personally think is right. We ignore others and push forward with our own ideals, our own perspective, and our own conclusions. We all know that person who pounds the table and says they are right. Most of us have sometimes been that person as well.

Or, some take the opposite approach and completely reject society. They acknowledge they know nothing, but make blanket statements saying the rest of the society knows nothing either. They make bold statements about the futility of humanity, or perhaps use the extremely common phrase: “I have trust issues” or “I don’t trust anyone.”

The word trust here is really important. If you accept that you know nothing (you do!) and you want to learn more (you probably do!), it means you need to trust.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum of belief in the world, we all rely on each other for so much. Each one of us only truly have complete knowledge about what we personally experienced. I can tell you what it’s like to win the Presque Isle Ice Cream eating championship. I can’t tell you a billion other things that I’ve never done or experienced.

We rely on others for learned knowledge, and learned knowledge is 99% of what we know.

So that’s why flat earther’s raise an interesting point about humility. They remind me that I know nothing, and how much I rely on others.

So what’s next?

Moving forward, society can continue to be wrapped up in their own ideals and claim that they themselves are right. It’s a downright pessimistic attitude and it’s an outright reject of all the learned knowledge you can gain from talking to others.

Me, I’m optimistic. I’m aware that I rely on others-it’s why I make a point of talking with Uber drivers. It’s why I try things to build confidence-so I can speak to and learn from others who understand the science of E=MC² and those who say Justin Bieber is a reptile.

And the constant reminder of how little I know never ceases to build my faith in people. I can’t wait to meet you all

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