Let's start with "Burden of Proof"
« on: October 06, 2020, 09:29:52 PM »
So here we are, none of us know the truth 100% but we accept there are two scientific models that could possibly explain our world: flat-earth theory and round-earth theory.

The wiki's FAQ states:

"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 find this proposition fascinating because it forcibly makes most debates between the two models follow this formula:
A) round-earther poses a "proof of spherical earth" such as boats disappearing below the water, space flight, astronomy, etc.
B) flat-earther counters that proof with an alternative explanation for the phenomena such as psychological biases, the NASA conspiracy, and any alternative scientific explanations
C) the debate ends in a standoff. Both sides simply accept and are comfortable with their own explanation and fail to make the other side uncomfortable enough with their model to switch views.

I'm a round-earther. But I don't want this post to be a debate on any specific phenomena or scientific theory. Rather, I'd like to challenge flat-earthers with the following philosophical questions:

1) The burden of proof is actually shared. I'm failing to understand how "one quickly finds that the notion of a spherical world is the theory which has the burden of proof". I am a tiny speck on an enormous world. The world is so enormous that my senses alone could not detect whether or not the curvature in the world if it existed. If you think you would be able to detect the curvature of the earth from your human senses without being really high up, you misunderstand how large the world is. Therefore, I find that the burden of proof is shared between both sides
2) According to Occam's razor, one should select round-earth theory. Cartesian doubt, mentioned in the wiki, means that you start any line of thinking by acknowledging that you don't know most things and there are only a few ground truths you can rely on. So let's say from the beginning, one does not know the shape of our world. Next, they learn some of the essential phenomena that would occur in both models. For example, in the flat-earth model, there is a wall of ice beyond which is the edge of the world. In the round earth model, Antarctica is a continent on the bottom of the planet. If the burden of proof is shared equally between both sides (as I proved in point 1), the flat-earther simply needs to provide evidence for the wall of ice and the round-earther simply needs to provide evidence for Antarctica.

Here is my evidence for Antarctica: the second image on this webpage: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a003400/a003402/index.html

Now, I know for a fact that flat-earthers have counter-arguments against this image's validity. But because
the burden of proof is shared, this is still the winning empirical evidence until there is an equal or more convincing image of the wall of ice or whatever lies beyond it. In other words, Occam's razor says you should select the theory with fewer assumptions. For flat-earth theory to be true the assumption is that there is a global conspiracy centered around NASA. For round-earth theory to be true, the assumption is that there is no picture of an ice wall because there is no ice wall. Which is the lesser assumption, the existence of a global conspiracy, or the non-existence of a mysterious ice-wall?

This leads me to my third point:
3) Flat-earth theory, while claiming to be a science, is believed unquestionably and without doubt or scientific rigor. A scientific theory must be falsifiable. And the degree to which a theory is true directly corresponds to how rigorously it has been tested and proven to not be false. The round-earth theory is extremely falsifiable. If space travel is not possible, simply show me a picture or video of the edge of the world from a plane, boat, or antarctic expedition.
If I saw a valid picture of the edge of the world and came to terms with NASA being a conspiracy, I would change my belief. This however makes me even more confident in my round-earth belief, because I know no such image of the ice wall exists. So I ask flat-earthers, if a picture of Antarctica is not enough, what makes your theory falsifiable? What evidence could possibly exist, that would make you change your belief? What evidence would you expect to exist if the round-earth theory was true that you are missing?
« Last Edit: October 06, 2020, 10:12:31 PM by james38 »

Re: Let's start with "Burden of Proof"
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2020, 07:57:32 AM »
So here we are, none of us know the truth 100% but we accept there are two scientific models that could possibly explain our world: flat-earth theory and round-earth theory.
I actually don't accept that.
There is no coherent flat earth model which has any explanatory power.

A rotating globe earth which is tilted on its access and orbits a distant sun explains night and day, seasons, the "sinking ship" effect simply.

To explain these things on a FE ad hoc mechanisms are needed. Let's take the sun. What is making the sun go in a circle above us? Circular motion requires a force, what generates that? If the seasons are explained by the diameter of the sun's orbit changing then what causes that? Another force is required. And what makes the sun speed up such that the 24 hour day length is maintained as the sun's orbit increases in diameter. What makes it slow down as the orbit decreases? That's a 3rd force. And what makes the orbit's diameter "flip" every 6 months so for 6 months the diameter increases then for 6 months it decreases?
Why doesn't the sun fall on us? What makes the sun work if it's local and small? How could something that small generate that much energy and heat for all of recorded history?

There is no FE model which can make predictions and there's no working map. I don't accept there are 2 models which could explain our observations.
"On a very clear and chilly day it is possible to see Lighthouse Beach from Lovers Point and vice versa...Upon looking into the telescope I can see children running in and out of the water, splashing and playing. I can see people sun bathing at the shore
- An excerpt from the account of the Bishop Experiment. My emphasis

Re: Let's start with "Burden of Proof"
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2020, 04:07:16 AM »
@james38

Models are meta-scientific tools.  They are not for explanation or understanding.

They are always wrong, but are limitedly useful for a finite time.

RE has profound amounts of assumption, so no - occam the monk does not help you or your case.  Anyway, that was intended for scientific theory, which the "globe model" is not.

The burden of proof is on the claimant.  If a flat earth researcher claims that the earth is flat - the burden of proof would fall on them.  If the flat earth researcher claims nothing, the burden of proof is still required of the presumptive model.

All round earth believers declare (implicitly or otherwise) that the earth is spherical with conviction and certainty. It is a dogma of their faith, and they are punished for dissent (the church never changes).  As such this claim necessarily requires proof (by the convention) in the first instance - and no more "debate" can happen until that is forthcoming.  It always seems easy to RE believers initially, until they try and do it in earnest.  Many flat earth researchers start out this way - trying to disprove this "stupid/crazy/misguided little cult" and such things, and after encountering significant difficulty, begin questioning their beliefs masquerading as fact and science.

In any case, debate is not useful to determine what is going on in reality. That's what science is for!
« Last Edit: October 14, 2020, 04:16:30 AM by jack44556677 »

Re: Let's start with "Burden of Proof"
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2020, 03:32:53 AM »
@ jack44556677, thank you for your response. I hope we can have an interesting conversation.

I'd like to get on the same page as you. If I'm understanding you correctly, a model is not an explanation. Rather, it is for generating hypotheses to conduct scientific experiments on.

If "The burden of proof is on the claimant" you must agree that we have two claimants, FEers and REers. As you stated, if a researcher claims nothing the burden of proof lies with the presumptive model. Ok. So far I think we are still on the same page. But if we are on the Flat Earth Society's "Flat Earth Theory" forum, I think Flat Earth in this context is the presumptive theory.

As such this claim necessarily requires proof (by the convention) in the first instance - and no more "debate" can happen until that is forthcoming.

As I mentioned before, proof is to test a hypothesis on a falsifiable theory. The globe model is falsifiable. If we fly into space and look at the planet and see that it is flat, we have proven the null hypothesis. However, we flew into space and saw the Earth was a globe. This is disproving the null hypothesis, and thus scientific evidence.

All round earth believers declare (implicitly or otherwise) that the earth is spherical with conviction and certainty. It is a dogma of their faith, and they are punished for dissent (the church never changes).

This is not true in the slightest, at least in this conversation. I have come to this forum hoping for a scientific/philosophical conversation based on evidence, facts, and logic alone. So let's leave out any of talk of society's influence so we can have a pure discussion of the evidence and our lines of logic.


It always seems easy to RE believers initially, until they try and do it in earnest.  Many flat earth researchers start out this way - trying to disprove this "stupid/crazy/misguided little cult" and such things, and after encountering significant difficulty, begin questioning their beliefs masquerading as fact and science.

I am not slandering you or anyone in this forum in that way. From what I've been experiencing, FEers are sincere scientists and thinkers with a theory, and I am coming here to have a respectful conversation.

Also, I have so far encountered zero difficulties. I made one point (as an example) about NASA's image of Antarctica. This was my disproof of the null hypothesis. I have requested that a proponent of the opposing theory (FE) to state what would make their theory falsifiable, and show me the evidence that disproves their null hypothesis.

RE has profound amounts of assumption

Every theory has assumptions. What makes a theory more complex is having relatively more assumptions than the other. So based on one piece of evidence we have (NASA image of Antarctica), let us look at the two assumptions:

1) The earth is a globe. This is why we saw Antarctica.
2) The earth is flat.  We saw Antarctica because there is a global elitist conspiracy that produced it as a hoax. There is no Antarctica because it is an ice wall. The human race, despite its technological progress, has been unable to get an image or evidence of this ice wall because of "XYZ"...

Which one of these two theories has more assumptions?

So far, at least in this conversation, it is you who has encountered difficulty. You avoided and did not answer my most important original question:

What makes your theory falsifiable? What evidence could possibly exist, that would make you change your belief? What evidence would you expect to exist if the round-earth theory was true that you are missing?


In any case, debate is not useful to determine what is going on in reality. That's what science is for!

Debate is a part of science, hence "scientific debates". And science is ultimately governed by the philosophy of science. And I respect you all as scientific thinkers which is why I came here seeking a philosophical/scientific debate, as scholars do.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2020, 03:40:14 AM by james38 »

Re: Let's start with "Burden of Proof"
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2020, 04:51:27 AM »
@james38

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I hope we can have an interesting conversation.

Interesting and productive/effective I hope!

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If I'm understanding you correctly, a model is not an explanation. Rather, it is for generating hypotheses to conduct scientific experiments on.

That is a fair interpretation.

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But if we are on the Flat Earth Society's "Flat Earth Theory" forum, I think Flat Earth in this context is the presumptive theory.

That's a thought!  Possibly some here may agree with you, however I personally (just an internet rando, not a TFES representative or otherwise able to speak for anyone but myself) have a few issues with the premise.

First, there is no flat earth theory in a scientific context.  Theory has a hallowed place in science, and what fledgling science exists for this subject is not there yet.

Second,  you may have read this on the wiki (and if you have not done so, I recommend a read through or two!), but there is a critical and often neglected distinction between belief and knowledge.  Many, if not most, people will admit/attest that they "believe the world is round" (they rarely say "spherical", "oblate" etc. but we know what they mean.)

They use the verbiage of belief because it is earnest and accurate, as well as colloquial.  There are almost no people in the world prepared to claim and defend that they KNOW what the shape of the entire world is.  Personally, and I am not alone - though may not be the norm in TFES (I'm new-ish), I have no idea what the shape of the entire world is.  I lack the verified and verifiable data to make that determination with certainty - to ACTUALLY know it, as opposed to merely believe as most all else do as a matter of educational requirement/rote.  For this reason, I do not claim that the earth is flat - I claim that it (most likely) cannot be spherical.  My "kind" is often referred to as globe deniers or globe skeptics.

Thirdly (and finally), much of the products (conclusions, analyses, data/observations, experiments) of flat earth research are not so much toward the creation of a new replacement theory, as they are against the presumptive model that is mandated in schools since early childhood with no dissent allowed.  For example, in my research (historical analysis, in this case); I found that not only had plato's unvalidated assumption, of the earth being spherical, never been validated but during all that time it had been taught disingenuously/erroneously as fact to children (like eratosthenes and columbus) for millennia before NASA et al FINALLY validated it in the "space age" (If you believe everything you see on tv...)

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However, we flew into space and saw the Earth was a globe.

And if we didn't do that?  What if that only took place on TV and not in real life.  What then?  This may appear to be a wildly speculative hypothetical, but I assure you it is anything but.  This is a worthy question to consider and research regardless of your position.

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I have come to this forum hoping for a scientific/philosophical conversation based on evidence, facts, and logic alone.

Excellent, me too! Converse! Just don't debate - it's not for smart people.

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So let's leave out any of talk of society's influence so we can have a pure discussion of the evidence and our lines of logic.

If you think it will help us discuss, very well.  However, it is important that you understand the point here - as it is at the crux of your post.  The "default" position (dogma) for anyone "educated" is that the world is spherical.  It is the claim most at issue in the discussion, and it is profitless to pretend like it isn't your claim because TECHNICALLY you didn't say specifically that just now.  Debate is a stupid game.  Rational discourse is much more rewarding and valuable, however it pays to be honest (with yourself and others). It would be dishonest to claim that you earnestly do not believe/claim the world to be spherical, would it not?

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From what I've been experiencing, FEers are sincere scientists and thinkers with a theory, and I am coming here to have a respectful conversation.

I'm pleased that has been your experience.  I fear it is not the norm for people foraying (or attempting to) into this subject.  There are many disearnest, disingenuous, and profiteering in this space.

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I have requested that a proponent of the opposing theory (FE) to state what would make their theory falsifiable, and show me the evidence that disproves their null hypothesis.

Interesting approach.  What if the picture you posted from nasa was doctored/manipulated, or if the world is flat and antarctica does not encircle it as a wall?

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Every theory has assumptions.

Absolutely, all philosophy is built on them.  The question is which one has more of them.  However this is all non-sequitur because occam's razor is for scientific theories and neither the globe model nor the flat earth model (which does not exist in a scientific context either) are scientific theories.  It's also a rule of thumb, not a binding principle towards truth everlasting.

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1) The earth is a globe. This is why we saw Antarctica.

This assumes much.  Certainly we can't conclude the shape of the entire world by merely looking at a picture of antarctica... right?

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2) The earth is flat.  We saw Antarctica because there is a global elitist conspiracy that produced it as a hoax. There is no Antarctica because it is an ice wall. The human race, despite its technological progress, has been unable to get an image or evidence of this ice wall because of "XYZ"...

Some are convinced that antarctica is an ice wall (or connected to it) and encircles the world. Personally, I have doubts about things I don't know for certain.  The speculation is interesting, and maybe even possible, but depending on it to determine the shape of the world seems unjustified given the little amount of evidence I estimate there is to support it.

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Which one of these two theories has more assumptions?

We may have to define some terms.  I'm kind of a stickler meeseeks.

Occam's razor is for scientific theories, not theories in the colloquial sense - as you just used it.

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What makes your theory falsifiable?

Karl popper's fringes are not part of the scientific method proper, however I do agree with this one in any case.  In order for a scientific theory to be valid, it must be falsifiable.  Let's say that these words did not have rigorously defined definitions in a scientific context - and there are 2 "theories" going head to head.  RET says the earth is round.  FET says the earth is flat.  Why do/would you feel either is unfalsifiable?

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What evidence could possibly exist, that would make you change your belief?

This is your question! You thought it was directed at me, but it wasn't!  You should answer this one (or give it a shot, anyhow)! I am rubber, and you are glue!

Seriously.  You should answer your question above for yourself about yourself. In the meantime, I will answer your question.

First, belief has no place in knowledge/fact, least of all scientific.  If you believe that the earth is flat, round, spherical or any other shape - you have faith, not fact.  I KNOW that the assumption the earth is spherical is over 2 millennia old and has never been validated in all of human history (until arguably NASA et al and their MIC affiliates, if you believe everything you see on tv).  I KNOW that the surface of motionless water under natural conditions (of sufficient quantity and barring negligible surface tension artifacts) is flat, level, and horizontal; and that that natural law of hydrostatics has stood unchallenged for centuries - very much including today.  Because of these things I know, i have deduced that the world is (most likely) not spherical, and cannot be.

To change what I know in this regard would require altering (refuting / changing / updating) the 2 statements that I know are factual above (due to thorough research), or determining the shape of the world in a sufficiently validated and validatable (with independent oversight etc.) manner.  There is only one way to determine the shape of objects in manifest objective reality with certainty, and the earth is no special case.

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What evidence would you expect to exist if the round-earth theory was true that you are missing?

The physical measurement (validation/confirmation) of the sustained convex curving of water's surface required by the globe model.  It is perpetually calculated, but has never been measured in all of human history.  This is odd, especially considering it has been taught to children as fact erroneously/disingenuously for millennia.

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Debate is a part of science, hence "scientific debates"

Debate is not a part of science.  It isn't part of being president either, but the bloodthirsty meat puppets really like carnage.

Debate is base pageantry for the egotistical sycophants who perform and the entertainment of the audience and judges.  It has no place in effective communication/learning, or science.

Science, despite what we have been incorrectly taught to the contrary, is only what rigorously adheres to the scientific method (with the caveat of natural law, established by rigorous and repeated measurement alone) and colloquially to the body of knowledge that that method produces.  There is no "get audience and judges together for pageantry" nor "debate" step in the scientific method.  We don't argue/debate our way to figuring out how the world works.  That's what science is for!

I look forward to more discussion!
« Last Edit: October 19, 2020, 01:23:49 PM by jack44556677 »