Lunacies: On Finland and Flat-Earthers

Vice, from December 2016: This Dude Accidentally Convinced the Internet That Finland Doesn’t Exist.

The article touches on how some people will believe anything, and the notion of Poe’s Law

There is an internet adage named after a commenter by the name of Nathan Poe, who was arguing creationism on Christian forums (because of course he was, this is the internet). Poe’s Law states that “it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views so obviously exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken by some readers or viewers as a sincere expression of the parodied views.”

“I like to think that the Finland conspiracy is a perfect case study of that,” Jack told me. “I would say 90 percent of people view it as a parody and joke and can take it as such. But there are 10 percent of people who genuinely believe it’s something that needs ‘proving’ or ‘debunking’ from both sides.”


And from July, the Denver Post covered a meeting of people who believe the Earth is flat. These Coloradans say Earth is flat. And gravity’s a hoax. Now, they’re being persecuted: The Flat Earth movement is growing in Colorado, thanks to technology and skepticism about science.

At the Tuesday night meet-ups, dubbed “Flat Earth or Other Forbidden Topics,” believers invite fellow adherents to open discussions in which the like-minded confirm one another’s hunches and laugh at the folly of those still stuck in the Enlightenment.

“There’s so much evidence once you set aside your preprogrammed learning and begin to look at things objectively with a critical eye,” says Bob Knodel, a Denver resident and featured guest at a recent Tuesday meeting. “You learn soon that what we’re taught is mainly propaganda.”

“They want you to think you’re insignificant, a speck on the earth, a cosmic mistake,” Sargent says. “The flat earth says you are special, we are special, there is a creator, this isn’t some accident.”

As with creationism (and belief in God for that matter) you can see psychological motivations at work. The need to feel special.

Jerry Boyne noted this on his blog, er, website: Flat Earthers are still with us!.

This would seem to be the height of lunacy, even dumber than creationism, but it’s not all that surprising. If you can deny the evidence for evolution, which is as strong as that for a spherical Earth, why not deny that round Earth?

This is also partly about what I’ve referred to as ‘intuitive physics,’ a deep-seated suspicion that the world is nothing more than what can be immediately perceived. Have you ever been to Finland? Have you ever floated in space and seen the round Earth? No one can have personal experience of everything it is reasonable for most people to believe is true. How it is some people develop that attitude of reasonableness (what I think of as ‘savvy’) and a few don’t. This kind of rote suspicion is akin to the children of creationists taught to challenge biologists about evolution: “Were you there?”

Well, no. Have you been to Finland? There are many indirect ways of knowing things, and many reasons not to think that everyone is trying to put something over on you.

Later, Jerry Coyne reports that Four flat-Earthers write in and quotes from their comments.

Some people really do think that if the Bible something (the ‘firmament over the Earth’) then it must be literally true. Some are convinced there is “overwhelming evidence in favor of a geocentric universe with an immovable Earth as a flat plane and the stars, moon and sun all contained within the firmament.” And some deeply resent experts who claim things outside their own intuitive local experience, e.g. “bullshit spinning ball nonsense that the media NASA and the government shoves down our throats.”


Around the same time we got reports of celebrities who believe the world is flat, including a rapper named B.o.B., who wants to prove it.


And just a couple days ago: This man is about to launch himself in his homemade rocket to prove the Earth is flat.

Will be fun to see how that works out.

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