Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Disassembling Dubay

As I've mentioned before, I am writing a new edition of The Earth Is Not Flat, which I plan to have ready for release sometime this spring. It won't be just expanded, but mostly rewritten, for since I published the book, I have had far more exposure to the world of flat-Earthers, and I've come to see the phenomenon in the broader context of how nonsense and pseudoscience spread via the Internet.

But one of the valid criticisms of the first edition of the book was that it didn't spend enough time addressing the arguments of flat-Earth proponents. At the time, I hardly felt it necessary, since that's not what I thought the book was about. But it seems to be something my readers want, and so, somewhat reluctantly, for it's the sort of thing that can get swiftly out of hand, the second part of the book will be devoted to showing that the Earth is not, in fact, flat.

Even more reluctantly, I will be addressing the short book by Eric Dubay that I am so often referred to, 200 Proofs the Earth Is Not a Spinning Ball. But I don't want to make a refutation by the numbers, not because that would be difficult, but because it would be exhausting for my readers.

For Dubay's litany of "proofs" is incoherently organized, and extremely redundant. To get the count to 200, Dubay played some annoying games, and I don't want to just continue the trend.

So, to organize my thoughts about responding to these claims, I literally took the book apart. I printed a copy, cut out each "proof" individually, and sorted the clips into envelopes so that I could address each kind of argument with its kin, and, with luck, bring some flow to the process.

I'd already read the 200 "proofs," of course, which hurt my head terribly, but sorting them this way was kind of revealing. In the mangled ordering of the original book, it is hard to realize just how many of the "proofs" don't have anything to do the the shape of the Earth or its motion.

Proof 191, for example, just claims that all the scientists who gave us the globe and heliocentrism were Freemasons. Several other "proofs" are nothing but unsupported descriptions of how the flat-Earth model is supposed to work. Still others are ravings (often quoted from others) about how absurd the heliocentric model is, in other words, arguments from incredulity.

And then there are a number (I haven't counted them yet) of examples of "this object is this distance from this place, and so you shouldn't be able to see this object." Each of those is counted as a separate proof, and none of them has any supporting documentation for verification, or indeed any data that would allow the reader to make a proper calculation.

And the list goes on.  I hoping that the result of all this sorting and the painful revisiting of this horrid, often-cited work is a thorough tearing down of not only the work itself, but the thinking that goes into it, something that others can refer to whenever flat-Earthers claim to have 200 proofs that the Earth is not a spinning ball.

Because, as we all well know by now, there are not 200, and not one of them proves anything.

6 comments:

  1. That sound like a seriously onerous task. Love the idea of sorting into groups. How many groups did there turn out to be in your sorting opinion?

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    1. I ended up with eight envelopes, somewhat condensed from my original set of ten piles. I decided that arguments about flight paths belonged in the same category as arguments about sea reckoning relative to the circumference of the Earth at a particular latitude, because they rely on the same bad information and bad math. And the first two arguments don't go with anything else, but I put them in to avoid using an envelope for two bits of paper.

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    2. Well there's 8 chapters for a book, or 8 videos in a series :)

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    3. We'll see about videos. Maybe someday. As to the book, I don't think there's really even eight chapters worth to debunk Dubay. Condensed to eight categories, his "proof" looks even simpler to dismiss.

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    4. If you ever want a voiceover for a video I'd be happy to record your fine words in my best BBC voice. :)

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    5. I appreciate the offer, but I do my own voiceover. :)

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