Offline edby

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Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« on: May 10, 2018, 10:14:22 AM »
Hi, I have just joined this forum. My main interest is in the question of human rationality. Are humans rational? What do we mean by ‘rational’? Why do some people believe things that the majority of other people regard as not rational? My background is logic and philosophy, as well as the history of science and the question of scientific methodology. I am the co-author of this book https://www.amazon.co.uk/Duns-Scotus-Time-Existence-Interpretation/dp/0813226031 on medieval logic and philosophy.

I am also fascinated by fringe and unorthodox theories, such as the phantom time hypothesis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_time_hypothesis and things like that.

My question is whether it is rational or not to believe in the Flat Earth hypothesis. Some thoughts. (i) the fact that great majority of people disagree with you, including the scientific establishment, is not enough to prove irrationality. Irrationality is the persistency of maintaining a belief which is inconsistent with what is self-evident. (ii) For the same reason, it is not necessarily irrational to ignore pictures taken from space, authoritative statements from the scientific establishment etc. The pictures could be fake, the authorities could be misleading us. ‘Argument from authority’ is one of the forms of fallacy. ‘Authorities say that p’ does not imply ‘p’. (iii) But it is irrational to maintain what is logically inconsistent. If p logically implies q, it is inconsistent and irrational to accept p but deny q.

I never questioned RE before. I was shown a globe at primary school. This does not prove RE, of course. I was also familiar with the usual stories about ships disappearing below the horizon, and I knew that the ancient Greeks had established RE by a simple experiment by Eratosthenes, a Greek astronomer who had heard that in Syene the Sun was directly overhead at the summer solstice whereas in Alexandria it still cast a shadow. Aristotle also observed that there are stars seen in Egypt and Cyprus which are not seen in the northerly regions.

When I looked more recently I was interested to find so many simple demonstrations of RE. I won’t go through these here, but as a traveller I am interested in flight times. Flight times in the Southern Hemisphere are seemingly inconsistent with any kind of flat projection. For example, if I print out a flat projection, I measure the map-distance from London to Cape town as 6cm, Miami to Cape town as 10 cm. But the ratio between these is different from the flight times. You can repeat this for many other destinations: the result is always inconsistent with a flat projection, but consistent with the standard RE model.

There are other simple experiments. I was fascinated to learn from another site (mythbusters) that simply by standing up you can reveal a lot more of objects apparently below the horizon when sitting down. I don’t understand the geometry of this, but it is compelling.

Sorry for such a long OP. In summary, I am interested whether FEers are rational or not, and I would like to understand their take on the apparently simple demonstrations of the RE model (as opposed to demonstrations based on the authority of the scientific establishment, the government, experts etc).

Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2018, 07:39:49 PM »
Does dismissing all evidence for a round earth count as irrationality?

I am asking because I am not sure I understand your meaning of irrational. As a word, it is something that gets thrown around so often that it's meaning is more "felt" than "defined". But I "feel" that the continued dismissal of evidence with no reasonn for that dismissal is as irrational as it can get.

Offline edby

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Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2018, 08:08:40 PM »
Does dismissing all evidence for a round earth count as irrationality?

I am asking because I am not sure I understand your meaning of irrational. As a word, it is something that gets thrown around so often that it's meaning is more "felt" than "defined". But I "feel" that the continued dismissal of evidence with no reasonn for that dismissal is as irrational as it can get.
It's a slippery word. I take it to mean simultaneously accepting things that cannot together be true ('contraries').

I think I suggested that continued dismissal of evidence was irrational in that the refusal to accept it suggests fear that one's belief is false, and so in some sense implies a belief that one's belief is false. This would of course be irrational.

An example someone gave me in a seminar many years ago was of someone who totally believes that spiders cannot sting, yet scuttles out of the way of a spider.


Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2018, 07:06:49 AM »
Does dismissing all evidence for a round earth count as irrationality?

I am asking because I am not sure I understand your meaning of irrational. As a word, it is something that gets thrown around so often that it's meaning is more "felt" than "defined". But I "feel" that the continued dismissal of evidence with no reasonn for that dismissal is as irrational as it can get.
It's a slippery word. I take it to mean simultaneously accepting things that cannot together be true ('contraries').

I think I suggested that continued dismissal of evidence was irrational in that the refusal to accept it suggests fear that one's belief is false, and so in some sense implies a belief that one's belief is false. This would of course be irrational.

An example someone gave me in a seminar many years ago was of someone who totally believes that spiders cannot sting, yet scuttles out of the way of a spider.

Maybe he’s afraid that they can bite!

Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2018, 07:04:54 PM »
No.
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Offline hexagon

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Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2018, 04:01:43 PM »
I think this is a matter of perspective. If look out of your window and everything you see looks flat it is somehow irrational to think in reality everything is not flat. If you stick with this, the flatness of the earth is self-evident. Imagine you would be alone, without the ability to travel over large distance, it needs quite some effort for someone like that to find out by himself that the earth is not flat. Almost no one in the world would take the efforts to find out by himself. And most of the people anyway don't care what is the shape of the world.
 

Offline edby

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Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2018, 04:16:34 PM »
I think this is a matter of perspective. If look out of your window and everything you see looks flat it is somehow irrational to think in reality everything is not flat. If you stick with this, the flatness of the earth is self-evident. Imagine you would be alone, without the ability to travel over large distance, it needs quite some effort for someone like that to find out by himself that the earth is not flat. Almost no one in the world would take the efforts to find out by himself. And most of the people anyway don't care what is the shape of the world.
 
Right. I have been recording some of the comments on YouTube videos such as this.
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‘someone name the experiment that proves we are on a spinning ball cause I can name one that proves we are motionless. Now i think about it no teacher K thru 12 ever proved it or explained how its proved except for that stupid ship over the horizon crap that someone used in their argument with me. lol Crazy is not questioning the status quo. crazy is believing it with no demonstration that its true’.
There are many on this line. It must be so because it looks that way. Not really irrational, it does indeed look that way. Also, water must be flat because water ‘finds its own level’ whatever that means. None of these people, except for the professional Flatters, have bothered to open a book on the subject or do careful research. This is not irrationality, rather pig ignorance. And as you say, doesn’t enter into your personal or work life, unless you are a surveyor, airline pilot, astronaut.
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I fly for Qantas, although not on the 747 which does that route. The flat earth does not work for people like me.

Offline hexagon

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Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2018, 12:47:52 PM »
Yes, it is not irrational to discuss laws of physics, it is not even irrational not to believe in them. Even in our modern world average people have no need to know much more about physics than people in the dark middle ages to survey in their daily life.

It starts to be irrational if you approach the area of pure denial and conspiracy theory. The question of the shape of the earth was finally solved unquestionable when it was the first time directly observed from space to be indeed a globe. Such an observation is an ultimate proof. If you want to believe after that in a flat earth you have no other choice than calling this observation fake. And you only can call this fake, if you call everything related to this observation also fake. And then you are directly into a conspiracy theory. And usually you cannot present any valid proof for this conspiracy, so you are left with pure denial. And in the light of all the consequences this conspiracy theory has (number of people involved, international collaboration, non-existence of everyday used technology, etc.) , I would call this irrational.     

Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2018, 01:02:38 PM »
...And as you say, doesn’t enter into your personal or work life, unless you are a surveyor, airline pilot, astronaut.
I work in fields supporting and relying on satellite payloads in LEO, geostationary and Molniya orbits. If these are fake and these services are somehow being performed by methods other than satellites, the US government agency is carrying out a hoax on itself; and a very clever one indeed since there's no way I know of to pull off such a magic trick.

I watched our last payload launch and I can track now track it's location. We're passing data when it's in view. We're not when it's not. It would be an awful lot of trouble create a decoy, perfectly fake the tracking so that it only looks like something is in orbit obeying rules for a globe earth, and accomplish the service of the faked satelllite through some other secret mechanism, all to hide the fact from all those involved -- government, military and contractor alike - that the earth is flat.

Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2018, 11:17:25 PM »
Can I suggest something?

If The Bible included passages which stated that the earth was spherical and it revolved around the sun, would we have the current situation with flat earth believers?

I think for most - for the religiously-motivated - it's less about an irrational belief in the shape of the earth, and more about being forced to perform mental gymnastics which appear irrational in order to support the notion that their holy book is literally word-for-word true.

Biblical Literalists would be just as against the flat earth theory as anybody else, if their holy book said the earth was a sphere (i.e., if those long ago Jews had figured it out and written it down, rather than either: a) not figuring it out; or b) not writing it down).

Conspiracy theorists, on the other hand...
This website is weird. It's basically one guy backed into a corner, batting off facts and evidence with flimsy hand waves and appeals to nonsense. To all intents and purposes he's the world's most sophisticated and infuriating troll-bot. Indefatigable. Undefeatable. Absolutely immune to logic and reason. And still they come to knock him down; and still he stands, and marches on.

If I'm so smart, why do I spend time debating flat earthers?

Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2018, 12:42:05 AM »
Can I suggest something?

If The Bible included passages which stated that the earth was spherical and it revolved around the sun, would we have the current situation with flat earth believers?

I think for most - for the religiously-motivated - it's less about an irrational belief in the shape of the earth, and more about being forced to perform mental gymnastics which appear irrational in order to support the notion that their holy book is literally word-for-word true.

Biblical Literalists would be just as against the flat earth theory as anybody else, if their holy book said the earth was a sphere (i.e., if those long ago Jews had figured it out and written it down, rather than either: a) not figuring it out; or b) not writing it down).

Conspiracy theorists, on the other hand...
For what it's worth, very few modern Flat Earthers are religious.
You don't think I'm going to post here sober, do you?  ???

I have embraced my Benny Franko side. I'm sleazy.

Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2018, 12:55:27 AM »
For what it's worth, very few modern Flat Earthers are religious.

Are you sure? Some of the most prominent certainly are.
This website is weird. It's basically one guy backed into a corner, batting off facts and evidence with flimsy hand waves and appeals to nonsense. To all intents and purposes he's the world's most sophisticated and infuriating troll-bot. Indefatigable. Undefeatable. Absolutely immune to logic and reason. And still they come to knock him down; and still he stands, and marches on.

If I'm so smart, why do I spend time debating flat earthers?

Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2018, 04:09:20 PM »
Also, according to this yougov poll, 75% of flat earthers consider themselves at least "somewhat religious", while another 8% are "a little bit religious":

This website is weird. It's basically one guy backed into a corner, batting off facts and evidence with flimsy hand waves and appeals to nonsense. To all intents and purposes he's the world's most sophisticated and infuriating troll-bot. Indefatigable. Undefeatable. Absolutely immune to logic and reason. And still they come to knock him down; and still he stands, and marches on.

If I'm so smart, why do I spend time debating flat earthers?

Re: Is it irrational to believe Flat Earth?
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2018, 05:44:08 PM »
For what it's worth, very few modern Flat Earthers are religious.

Are you sure? Some of the most prominent certainly are.
I guess I can only speak for my decade or so of experience within the Flat Earth Society. Of course, there are other Flat Earth organizations or individuals that are religiously motivated, but at least the type around here tend towards agnostic/atheist.

Polling Flat Earthers in general is a difficult proposition. We rarely have large in-person meetings, and online polls rely on self-identification. When you consider that Flat Earthers are both a minority opinion, and one that is often mocked, it's easy to see the data as less than reliable.
You don't think I'm going to post here sober, do you?  ???

I have embraced my Benny Franko side. I'm sleazy.