The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

I really don’t get people

As of right now, a very large proportion of our very large population has access to almost every bit of information our species has ever discovered. At the push of a button, you can, if you choose, learn almost everything there is to know. From the advance to heliocentrism, to why we no longer suffer from smallpox or polio, to the many and varied ways we know that the Earth is around 4.5 billion years old, and that mankind evolved from apes. It’s even possible to find out why Kim Kardashian is famous, although I admit to that knowledge being currently beyond my grasp.

And yet…

We also live in an age where an increasing number of people believe that the Earth is a flat disk, with the North Pole as its centre and a giant wall of Antarctic ice as its circumference. Yes, seriously. Lots of people also believe that vaccines cause autism, or that man was created 5,400 years ago out of a ball of mud, or that the recent bushfires were lit by the Greens, or that 5G technology is going to destroy us all. Oh, and a large number of us apparently also believe that anthropomorphic climate change is a worldwide scientific hoax designed to either turn climate scientists into billionaires (somehow), or create a gay trans commie green socialist utopia where you’ll suffer the indignity of universal healthcare and free education and fewer catastrophic weather events. Which would be awful, obviously.

Like I said, sometimes I really don’t get people.

___

I first discovered that flat-earthers (still) exist when my brother recommended I watch the Netflix documentary Behind the Curve. The two-part series follows a few of the movement’s leading lights as they attempt to free the rest of us from the debilitating burden of curvature. It is best summarised by the opening scene, in which a man named Mark Sargent looks out across a bay towards Seattle and says, “See? It looks flat”.

No, I am not joking.

How is it that in the year 2020, some 2,600 years after Pythagoras discovered that the Earth is a sphere, and 2,200 years after Eratosthenes calculated its circumference, do we have a large number of ostensibly intelligent people with access to almost limitless information concluding that we live on a flat disk? It is almost completely unfathomable, except that we can see with our very own eyes that Mark Sargent and his fellow flat earthers have somehow managed to fathom the crap out of it.

If you listen to Mark himself, he will tell you you’re a sucker. But he will also tell you that he read a few books and thought about it for a while and worked out that there is a huge worldwide conspiracy to trick us all into believing we live on an oblate spheroid. The first thing to note is that “oblate spheroid” is a great term, and we should all use it more often. The second things to note are that:

  1. As far as conspiracies go, the oblate spheroid hoax would have to be up there with the worst ever, being neither clever, funny, nor financially exploitable; and
  2. Despite humans exploring this flat disk for tens of thousands of years, no one has ever managed to find the edge.

There are, of course, a multitude of other reasons why Mark is comically incorrect. And yet, like most people, I have never personally investigated the matter for myself. I haven’t looked into how Pythagoras managed to work out that we live on a sphere, or how Eratosthenes calculated its circumference. In fact, besides being mildly surprised that Pythagoras hadn’t concluded we live on a right-angled triangle, I hadn’t even heard of Eratosthenes when I started writing this blog, and I’m guessing you hadn’t either. Can any of us really be said to know that the Earth is spherical, if we haven’t actually investigated and concluded the matter for ourselves?

Thankfully, there is a simple answer to that question, and it begins and ends with a huge “Hell yes”.

___

As I mentioned above, this phenomenon isn’t just limited to the nuffies running around in the flat earth movement. Almost everything humans have ever done or discovered is buffeted by a raging sea of disbelief, from the space cadets who believe the moon landing was faked, to the outright wänkers who have similar beliefs about the Holocaust. Of course, if you don’t know enough facts to deny any, you can always just make shït up, which is why we have Mormons.

The really scary thing, however, is that this phenomenon seems to be getting worse. What on flat earth is going on?

To be honest, I really don’t know. But in true actuarial fashion, I can still throw out three different possibilities without making a definitive conclusion.

Hypothesis 1 – People are stupid

Stupid people have been around since people were invented. It’s likely that they’ll be around forever, too, because you have to be a little bit smart to open a condom. It’s possible, then, that we have the same number of stupid people we’ve always had, but we just hear about them more now because they’ve somehow learned to use the internet.

But here’s the thing. Mark Sargent gives the strong impression of not being stupid. Renowned Holocaust-denier David Irving apparently went to school and seems to be an OK speller. Tony Abbott was a Rhodes Scholar. I know a very intelligent Young Earth Creationist who believes the earth is 5,400 years old and Noah’s Ark was a real thing. Andrew Wakefield, the amazing young man that pretended the MMR vaccine causes autism, was a medical doctor until the General Medical Council kicked him out for pretending the MMR vaccine causes autism. And speaking of vaccines, apparently most anti-vaxers are “college-educated white women making decent money”.

So stupidity doesn’t seem to be the problem.

Hypothesis 2 – It’s all the Internet’s fault

As I said at the beginning, we now have access to more knowledge than in the entire history of mankind, which is an amazing thing. Unfortunately, the same can be said for our access to an unlimited supply of boneheaded, asinine nuffery.

Have a slight inkling that a moon landing would have been quite difficult in 1960? Have a google and be amazed to discover that people with absolutely no idea what they’re talking about think it was faked. Think white people are superior in every way? Say hello to The Bell Curve, and be sure to not read any opposing views. Slightly worried that anthropomorphic climate change is real and potentially disastrous? Andrew Bolt will make you feel better. Have any kind of undeniably stupid opinion that you haven’t thought about and aren’t even remotely qualified to offer? Help is on its way!

At first glance, I thought this hypothesis had some merit. But when I thought about it, I realised that moon landing and holocaust deniers, white supremacists, and climate change sceptics all existed long before the internet.

So there must be something else.

Hypothesis 3 – Arrogance

Suppose you were a world-renowned heart surgeon, and you diagnosed a patient with acute aortic stenosis. What would you call it if they told you they had googled their symptoms in the waiting room and had decided it was gas?

Idiocy? False confidence? Hubris? Idiocy? Arrogance? Idiocy?

I don’t know because I’m not world-renowned a heart surgeon, but I’m sure you’d call them something. Karen, perhaps.

Anyway, the point is that this patient apparently thinks that their pretend research overrides the actual research and collective knowledge of the thousands of anatomists, scientists, doctors and heart surgeons whose combined knowledge has led to the conclusion that the acute aortic stenosis is definitely not just gas.

Yeah, I’d call that arrogance.

___

So there you have it folks. For some reason unknown to most of us, certain people think that their limited understanding of a multitude of subjects overrides the collective knowledge of thousands of people past and present who have studied those things for a living.

And if that’s you, you really need to stop.

Or get your oblate spheroid examined.

Category: Uncategorized

Tagged:

Leave a Reply