Monday, November 28, 2016

Why I Don't Debate Flat-Earthers

I have many times been offered the opportunity to debate on the topic of whether or not the Earth is flat. And I have declined. I've been accused of being afraid to engage in such a debate, but really the reasons have nothing to do with how I might fare, and everything to do with the nature of the debate itself.

There Is No Debate

The shape of the Earth is not a matter of opinion, it's a matter of fact. The Earth's curvature can be directly measured, and has been by geodetic surveyors over the last 200 years or so. Photographs of the Earth have been taken from space, and however much the flat-Earthers cry "fake," they have never been able to prove the claim, and never will be able to, because the photos are genuine.

The flat-Earth model, such as it is, can easily be disproved by something as simple as a sunset, no matter how many torturous hoops flat-Earthers jump through, and no matter how much they have to make up out of whole cloth in trying to prove otherwise.

In short, it would be like having a debate on the topic of triangles: "A triangle has three sides. Pro or con; give reasons for your position." There's just nowhere to go.

Undeserved Respect

Agreeing to debate on a topic on which there is no valid controversy gives the topic an aura of respect that it does not deserve. It elevates the purveyors of those ideas to a status they have not earned, relieving them of the burden of intellectual rigor of any kind, and encouraging anyone with a silly hypothesis to pass themselves off as an original thinker, or worse, a "true scientist."

The notion that all ideas have equal validity is something pseudoscientists use to play to people's sense of fairness and to gain a tactical upper hand by proposing that their "evidence," not matter how spurious, be given the same weight as scientific fact. But accusations, assertions, and outright lies are not facts and should never be treated as such. Ridiculous ideas deserve to be ridiculed, not debated.

Flat-Earthers Don't Do Debates

A debate is a formal argument on a single topic. But go to YouTube, search for any flat-Earth "debate," and you'll find that there is nothing formal about it, nor are any of these (often excruciatingly lengthy) "debates" held to a single topic, not even one as broad as "is the Earth flat?" They are nothing but a free-for-all, with plenty of personal insult and off-topic rambling, and whenever a flat-Earther gets backed into a corner on one aspect of their "evidence," instead of defending the indefensible, the flat-Earther will change to a completely new tack, hoping that the shifting of gears will throw everyone off the scent.

And for these reasons, whenever someone asks me to debate Jeranism or Jeffrey Grupp or DITRH, I just say no, knowing that nothing will be gained, either by me or by the quest for the truth, from such an exercise.

And I suggest that anyone else avoid this useless path as well.


  1. My favorite quotes on this subject:
    "You cannot convince a man he is not Napoleon"
    "Do not try to teach a pig to sing. It will be unsuccessful, and you only infuriate the pig."

  2. G'day Gordon,
    A couple of years ago i became enamoured with the FE theory, & decided to do my own investigations. Needless to say, after much photography at eye level heights between 1 Mt to 500 Mt to targets up to 100 Km, the truth became apparent.
    But i still have 2 problems you may be able to help with.
    No1: I feel that this planet is much, much larger than than the figures show, & the only figures i can find on this today are still Eratosthenes figures ... Can you please give me a link to modern investigation as to the size of our planet.
    No2: I have a problem with the Sun, it's size & it's distance from us ... 3 days ago, (7th of June) standing in my back yard in western Sydney, Australia, at 4.30PM, i saw the full Sun to the WNW, perhaps 20 degrees above the horizon, while, at the same time, the near full Moon was in the ENE, at about 20 degrees above the horizon.
    The problem is that the Moon had a crescent shadow on it's SE side. My brain refuses to compute this.
    It would not matter if the Sun was smaller & closer, as per the FE theory, & yes, i realise that i am in the Southern Hemisphere, & there is a lot of planet Earth above me to the North, (hence the question on size), but we here are only 13 days from the Solstice, & the Earth will not travel much further South in that time.
    Not one of all the phases of the moon in relation to the Earth & Sun i have studied can explain this to me, not when i see them both stand free & clear of this planet. Distance has nothing to do with it ... Perspective? ... Hmmmm.
    I do hope you can help here.
    I offer here my condolences on your loss, & hope both you & yours are well.

    1. We've come a long way since Eratosthenes. There is an entire field, geodesy, dedicated to measuring the precise curve of the Earth, and it was geodetic surveyors who verified Newton's prediction that the Earth should be slightly wider around the equator than from pole-to-pole.

      These things are not matters of speculation; they have been precisely measured and cataloged, marked and put to practical use.

      The distance to the sun was measured using some very clever insights by the astronomer Edmund Halley, employing the transit of Venus, but that was a couple of hundred years ago; we have much more precise methods now. Again, this isn't speculation.

      To reconcile your observations of the sun and the moon, you need to think in scale. Distance does, in fact, matter. Keep working at it; the standard model really does make tremendous sense once you're tuned into it.

    2. Vsauce did a video about the moon terminator illusion. I suggest watching it.

    3. jim fox - you need, when observing sun and moon, and trying to reconcile the placing of the crescent, to consider two things. Your position on the Earth, and how this affects your viewing angle, assuming you are viewing the Moon whilst standing upright at your stated location, and; the axial tilt of the Earth in relation to the Sun at the time of year you make the observation

      You are at one point of a triangle, with the Sun and Moon at the other two points. However, you are not aligned to the plane of the triangle, due to the two factors mentioned above.

  3. Wow! You never answered his question... you in fact "completely changed to a new tact, hoping that no one would notice" lol

    1. Hard to take seriously someone who misquotes me and doesn't know the difference between tact and tack.

      What would you have me do? I can't suddenly get someone's head around the visual incongruity that occurs looking at a sun and moon that are disparate distances by a factor of 400 (something worked out by trigonometry more than 1000 years ago, by the way). I pointed him to geodesy, mentioned the methods of Halley. There are no secrets here; this stuff is even easier to find than flat-Earth garbage. For those willing to do real research.

      Which I suspect does not include you.