How to argue with a 'flat earther' (and win)
Uncontested arguments against the pseudoscientific theory of the flat Earth, to win any debate.
Fashion is cyclical and seem to fluctuate for centuries. Little could Galileo suspect that the reason for the sentence that cloistered him in his home a few years before he died would again be on the lips of many people, apparently documented and illustrated, many centuries later.
Most of the arguments of the flat earthers are easily rebuttable, and come from a deeply anthropocentric and simplistic conception of the universe. On the other hand, the vision proposed by science requires a certain level of abstraction; that is, we cannot observe with the naked eye, nor experience through our own experience the phenomena that govern the universe. In fact, this is precisely what makes us human: the physical limitations we present, which prove precisely that we are not the center of the universe and probably not the only beings that inhabit it either.
The impressions that flat earthers have usually respond to a concurrent fallacy: they come from a false perception that things are perfectly designed, in detail, adapted to the human being. But what they don't realise is that the point of view from which they start is wrong: it is not nature that is adapted to the human being, but it is the human being himself who has developed perfectly adapted to all natural phenomena. For example, circadian rhythms coincide with day and night, but not because the Moon and the Sun are 'devised' to govern them respectively; and like this one, other examples account for the mistaken anthropocentric vision in which the flat earthers are situated.
The delicate processes that govern life (we could not live without the Moon, without the ozone layer, without the magnetic field) are not the product of an intelligent design adapted to life; rather, life emerges and adapts to the phenomena dictated by nature, and not the other way around. Easy, isn't it? Although it is natural that primitively we have that impression, for centuries science has allowed us to get closer to the truth and leave aside magical thinking.
Another fundamental pillar of flat Earth theory is the need to find a point of origin, an explanation for 'creation'. Intelligent design (a creator God) is the simplest explanation of the origin of the universe. As a result, many flat earthers are often believers.
The conception of the flat Earth does not only affect the design of the planet Earth; it also entails banishing all discoveries related to astrophysics (for example, the recent photograph of a black hole, a milestone in science), it implies systematically denying and condemning all progress of civilisation. And while the human being is not all-powerful, and many things remain unexplained (dark matter is an example), technology allows us to know little by little more details about the rules that govern the cosmos.
Finally, the third fundamental pillar is the conspiracy, apparently orchestrated by institutions, companies and even workers and citizens in a personal capacity to make us believe that we are not a hypothetical universal center. How and for what? They themselves do not give an explanation for this. Theoretically, to underestimate the importance of women and men in the cosmos.
The opinions based on the most pessimistic science believe that the human being will become extinct without fully understanding the universe. Other visions say instead that we will be able to transcend on a planetary level, and that we will be able to survive long after our planet ceases to be habitable (an example of such an opinion was Stephen Hawking), to continue exploring our cosmic neighborhood. But, in any case, the only thing we have as a basis to explain our world is what the progress of science has been gathering for years in data, human effort, technology and international cooperation. The rest, sorry, are more or less elaborate fabrications.
Flat earthers sound very convincing, but it is enough to invoke science to dismantle them? Many scientific disseminators (Quantum Fracture, Date Un Vlog, Plato's Robot...) try to fight against the disinformation raised by some spokespersons of the flat Earth by providing objective data that, well understood, are indisputable, and that turn the debate about flat Earth theory into an unscientific absurdity; but which is still interesting to analyse, to say the least.
In this gallery we compile the most important and definitive arguments against the flat Earth, which will allow you to win any debate.
First of all, we are going to understand the model proposed by the defenders of the Flat Earth.
According to them, the world in which we live is a disc (round, yes, but flat) on which is situated a celestial vault where the luminaries are 'embedded' (what we see as stars) and governed by two main ones: the Sun and the Moon, whose movements explain perfectly what we see in the sky (it should be pointed out that their proposal is somewhat convoluted so that it agrees with the experimental data). In addition, it would be surrounded by a giant wall of ice, which would be Antarctica.
The first time we heard about the flat Earth was from Samuel Rowbotham who published a book at the end of the 19th century exposing this hypothesis.
Now, let's get back to the arguments.
It is precisely in Rowbotham's book that the experiments known as 'Bedford level' are detailed. They are a series of classic tests of the convexity of the Earth's water carried out by Rowbotham himself, who lived near the Old Bedford Canal in England in 1838.
The experiment consists of placing flags on barges in the water along a straight line from the observer. Robotham was able to see with a telescope the flags more than 6 miles away (about 10 kilometers) when, according to the calculation of the curvature of the Earth, it cannot be seen beyond about 3 miles (about 5 kilometers). Robotham thus concluded that the Earth must be flat.
Later, in 1870, Alfred Wallace, William Carpenter and John Hampden met on the same channel to refute this experiment (given that science had already demonstrated by other means that the Earth was spherical). In fact, they obtained the expected results. By placing 3 bars on barges in the water, they observed that the third one appeared a few inches lower according to the observers' reference, coinciding with the curvature of the Earth.
To the explanation of why Robotham was able to see his flags at such a distance must be added the phenomenon of refraction: it is produced by the Earth's atmosphere, and is basically a reflection produced in water, with the same logic as mirages in the desert.
A more detailed refutation of this experiment can be found at refutandotp.blogspot.com.
If we could tell a microbe living in a hot air balloon that his world is actually spherical, he would look at us incredulously, assuring us that his experience tells him it is flat. Evidently, to our eyes, the territory on which we move miles around will have the appearance of being flat; a trap of the senses when we forget that we live in a geoid body of 510,072,000 km² of surface. It is impossible to notice the curvature when we work with such immense sizes in comparison.
In fact, we do have a perception that objects 'sink' into the horizon (to pose a test related to our own perceptions).
For flat earthers, the fact that the polar star, as well as the rest of the celestial bodies that 'organise' around it, does not move is extremely suspicious.
Not to mention that it is proof that the celestial vault is actually static, and that the 'luminaries' embedded in it are simply that, and not balls of gas burning thousands of light years away. In the classic The Lion King there is a conversation between Simba, Timon and Pumba; the latter was ridiculed for his detailed (and correct) explanation. For Timon, on the other hand, "they are just dots".
The stars rotate in different directions at the North Pole and South and the constellations do move, but we move with them. In fact, this is, for many, a definitive proof that the Earth is spherical, and especially popular because anyone can do it from home, as long as they have a friend on the antipodes (which today is easy with the help of the internet).
The disseminator José Luis Crespo details this experiment in his YouTube channel Quantum Fracture. It consists of making a time lapse of the night sky at night, and we will obtain an image like the one illustrated in this section (known as star trails or circumpolar photographs). In the northern hemisphere, stars rotate counterclockwise; in the southern hemisphere, they rotate clockwise.
According to the flat Earth model, the stars, satellites and planets that we observe from the Earth would actually be luminaries, a kind of disc placed in the celestial vault voluntarily to illuminate us. They argue that, when observed with a telescope, they do not resemble what the science books describe to us, but are perceived as a bright disc with multiple colors.
As he detailed in an interesting informative video Aldo, from Plato's El Robot channel, in José Luis Crespo's Quantum Fracture channel, this is the usual appearance of stars (not other bodies as planets) when observed with a Newtonian telescope. The reason for the brightness and multiple colors is due to the refractive effect produced in our atmosphere, in addition to the fact that street-standing telescopes are not powerful enough to observe phenomena so far away (they cannot be compared with large telescopes such as Hubble). On the other hand, closer objects, such as planets or our own Moon, can be perceived in a somewhat clearer way.
The assertion that gravity does not exist often accompanies the idea that the Earth is flat. Denying gravity, flat earthers affirm that the Earth is permanently accelerating, and this physical process (observable on the Earth) would keep us stuck to the ground.
But let us remember that acceleration cannot be increased, since it is impossible to overcome the speed of light because of a phenomenon called temporal dilatation. According to General Relativity, accelerating in space, as we get closer to the speed of light, time for us would pass more and more slowly, so that we could never experience such a speed (approximately 3-10⁸ metres per second).
For flat earthers, air travel should be shorter in the direction of the Earth's rotation, since this movement would 'shorten the distances' and make the planes arrive earlier at their destination; conversely, in the opposite direction, the movement of the Earth would push the plane further and further away from its destination, and it would need more and more power and speed to complete the journey.
In fact, this difference in speed that the flat earthers speak of exists, although it is so small that it is imperceptible to our experience (again it is a trap of our senses). What happens is that airplanes, like all of us, rotate with the Earth, so this rotation is again imperceptible.
On the other hand, there is an interesting verification that the Earth is spherical, using the same logic as flat earthers. The Sydney-Buenos Aires flight, 11,800 kilometres away, could not be made on a physical map like the one posed by the flat earthers.
Within the pseudoscientific model of the flat Earth, this is one of the least serious arguments in the entire collection.
In the same way, flat earthers argue, in very irrational ways, that water does not make 'jumps' or navigate 'uphill' on the earth's surface, adapting to geographic features.
As if the counterargument were necessary, let's go there: whatever its container is, water tends to stabilise and level itself, always towards the center of the Earth.
In addition, obviously, water does not adhere to any sphere, but to the great massive sphere that is the Earth, just like the rest of the elements that make it up (including us).
In the flat Earth model, Antarctica would be a large block of ice surrounding the entire terrestrial disk. In order to argue this, the planets rely on the fact that Antarctica has a temperature much lower than the Arctic (which according to them would be located in the center). Furthermore, the expeditions to this part of the planet are very tough, and nobody has managed to go beyond a certain geographical point.
In fact, the argument of the explorations is somewhat inaccurate. Numerous expeditions have been made to Antarctica, some of them with the trajectories shown in the image (extracted from refutandotp.blogspot.com). Green shows the route of Ramon H. de Larramendi, Juan Manuel Viu and Ignacio Oficialdegui in 1949; red shows the route of the explorer Felicity Aston in 2012, which made her hold a world record; yellow shows the route of the exploration group The Coldest Journey in 2013... and many others, which do not fit here.
Geographical routes as described by explorers are simply impossible in the flat Earth model.
In addition, there are different options for explaining why Antarctica is colder; one reason is the hot and cold water currents, which help maintain biodiversity and ocean temperatures.
Many videos circulate on the Internet with somewhat inaccurate and snarky comments about the apparent falsehood of astronauts' stays on the International Space Station denying zero gravity (from being held by invisible cables until the effect of zero gravity on hair is the product of lacquer). By the same logic, in addition to denying the existence of our natural satellite, they deny that man has stepped on the Moon.
(If necessary, here is some evidence of the arrival of the Apollo 11 mission).
Centuries of scientific research shows us that gravity is one of the forces governing the cosmos. Moreover, although gravity was a force devised by Albert Einstein in the early 20th century, its existence not only fits all predictions about the universe, but we can experience it. For example, the Cavendish experiment is one of the classic proofs of the demonstration of gravity. It consists of detecting the movements of a bar, which is attracted at its ends by two masses.
In addition, evidence has been obtained from the model of General Relativity through, for example, the detection of gravitational waves, among others.
In the image, the recreation of two neutron stars about to merge. The detection of gravitational waves from the collision of neutron stars is one of the checks of the General Theory of Relativity.
This is one of the most repeated arguments, and it alludes to the idea of conspiracy. Apparently, all the satellite images are false and the fact that they are 3D recreations and we barely have the 'real' images confirms this.
Evidently, many of the images that we use to understand the universe are recreations made by computers (always conveniently indicated by astronomers), thought as informative material; that is to say, since we cannot obtain a real and faithful image of the most distant objects of the cosmos, but its description with precise data captured by the telescopes, a representation is made as faithful as possible to what should be the celestial object as such.
In near objects or in auto-photos (images of the Earth) it is also frequent to combine many images captured by different satellites, in order to obtain a complete photograph of the Earth (that's why expert eyes used to editing images on the Internet will find some clues to these recreations. PhotoShop? No; a faithful recreation by computer, yes.
Again, this argument comes from ignorance of how scientific research works, combined with anthropocentrism.
Our perception is limited and the instruments used in the exploration of the universe capture data at frequencies that the human eye is unable to detect (such as infrared); hence they have to be 'translated' in order to be understood.
In addition to the incontestable satellite evidence provided by space exploration, there are many other arguments that the Earth is spherical that planets cannot refute. For example, the coriolis effect, i.e. the cold and hot water currents of the oceans, which can only be explained by the rotation of the Earth.
Other arguments would be eclipses, tides, the Earth's magnetic field (produced by the dynamo effect, the different rotation speeds of the Earth and its nucleus)...
Amateurs have spent hours refuting the postulates of the flat Earth model, and it is enough to dive a little over the Internet to find excellent and complex jobs using physics, mathematics, geography... For their part, the authorities have preferred not to pay attention to the delusions of the flat Earth community.
If there are so many arguments, why is the flat Earth hypothesis so famous? Surely, the conspiracy element has a lot to do with its popularity. The explanations that carry with them a conspiratorial element (about authorities capable of massively deceiving the world population) have a great attraction.
According to the flat earthers, all institutions of science (not just NASA, but scientists, astronomers, telecommunications engineers, road engineers...) millions of people would be engaged in a worldwide conspiracy to hide the true aspect of the Earth and our true place in the universe. For what reason? nobody knows; they speculate with the idea that some kind of elite wants people to feel 'inferior' to who they really are, that we have the impression that we are just a speck of dust in an infinite place. And if not, and we really are the center of creation, why would anyone want us to believe otherwise? Besides, how is it possible to convince such a large number of people to deceive the rest?
There are no further questions, Your Honour.