Is the Earth spherical or flat?

It’s a sphere.


What, you’re still here? You want me to say more?

I guess I could say some more. Let’s start with a question: How did you find out the Earth was a sphere? Answer: Somebody told you. Sure, you may have made the observation later on in life that the Earth was a sphere, but your first knowledge of the shape of the Earth was because someone told you, and you learned it. You didn’t conduct any experiments and you didn’t make any fancy observations, beyond maybe noticing that you can’t see the bottom of that ship off in the distance. You just learned what someone told you.

Why is this important? Because being told something is the same way that someone who believes in a flat Earth “learned” the Earth was flat. There’s nothing that special about how you learned the Earth is a sphere. There is no particular level of intelligence necessary to repeat back the words “the Earth is a sphere” beyond a capacity for speech. In fact, the spherical nature of the Earth has been pretty well known for thousands of years. You’re not special, and you’re not striking a mighty blow for science by engaging in a flame war with supposed flat-earthers (probably trolls) on the Internet. Pretty much everyone agrees with you already.

I suppose it irks me that I have to keep on hearing about flat-earthers and how dumb they are. Whether I’m faced with yet another article on those dumb flat-earthers and their dumb views, or I’m simply standing in a line at an amusement park and I overhear someone going on about some Facebook post he did that really put the flat-earthers in their place, the effect is the same: I’m left wondering why someone would waste their time on this subject.

Perhaps I’m simply a bad person, but I can’t help but think that obsession with arguing against the flat Earth idea is a sign of a mediocre mind that desperately wants to think that it’s actually rather intelligent. People like this can’t argue more complex scientific topics, so they latch on to flat Earth as something that’s easy to disprove with practical evidence (that someone else collected). That way, they can look smart to all their social media “friends” without having to put in the work to actually learn more complex scientific topics.

So, there you go. The Earth is a sphere. Or oblate spheroid. Whatever. Move on with your life, and find something more productive to do.

(I recognize that this post may be somewhat hypocritical of me, considering my previous post was about free speech, but I did note that more pressing issues should be addressed first. Myself, I’d address this after Justin Bieber.)

(Images contain photos courtesy of NASA Visible Earth. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Image by Reto Stöckli (land surface, shallow water, clouds). Enhancements by Robert Simmon (ocean color, compositing, 3D globes, animation). Data and technical support: MODIS Land Group; MODIS Science Data Support Team; MODIS Atmosphere Group; MODIS Ocean Group Additional data: USGS EROS Data Center (topography); USGS Terrestrial Remote Sensing Flagstaff Field Center (Antarctica); Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (city lights).)