The Reason I Love “Flat-Earthers”

You’ve heard of these people. right?  They’re the ones who believe that the earth is actually flat, and that attempts to make it look like our planet is a sphere are actually the results of a vast international conspiracy. They’re the ones who even Biblical literalists–people who believe that the earth is 6000 years old, that God killed everyone on the planet (other than Noah, his family, and two of every animal on the ark), and that a guy named Jonah spent three days inside the belly of a giant fish and lived, among other things… even BIBLICAL LITERALISTS are looking at them like, “Settle down, flat-earthers. Get a grip. Let’s try to use a little common sense, huh?”

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Which one is it? 

Anyway, I love flat-earthers. And it’s not because I love their minds. They’re obviously idiots. The reason I love them is because the clear idiocy of their argument makes it clearer–even to those bent toward conspiracy theory–that we need to return to a place where reason and rationality and evidence rule our conversations and our beliefs. It’s like if a climate denier was making her case, and someone chimed in, “I totally agree with you. And this is why it’s so important that make people aware that Obama is a SPACE ALIEN!” And then the climate denier is like, “Whoa, whoa… Let’s not get crazy.” When even the crazies think you’re crazy, maybe the pure stupidity of the conversation that’s taking place can jolt people into a realization that evidence matters… And there are some things we can know… And there is such a thing as truth. I think the whole “flat-earther” thing is just stupid enough to make people realize that there is truth in the world, and that we can look at come people and say with certainty, “You are 100% wrong. And here’s why.”

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Sure, you have all the answers on your cell phone… But no one taught you how to THINK. (Also, if anyone is looking for a Christmas present for me, this T shirt is it)

Google has made experts of everyone. We are living in an age where every single person has the answer to every single question inside of their pocket. It’s a time people refer to as “Post-Truth.” People believe they can’t trust anyone, and concepts like “reputability” have become a punchline. It’s the erosion of evidence. It’s expertise under attack. It’s “Any negative polls and fake news.”  It’s “I know you went to medical school for 8 years, but I saw this YouTube video….” It’s 58% of republicans think higher education is a bad for America. It is a direct attack on the truth. And when there is no truth, and every opinion is just as valid as every other opinion, liars and brutes rise to power. This is why this administration–with their “fake news” and “nothing burgers,” and with the full support and complicity of the republican party–is laser-focused on attacking journalism… attacking science… attacking education… attacking evidence.

And all of this coordinated attack on truth fits very nicely with religious fundamentalists who are desperately trying to hang on to the logically impossible story they have been presented. And so, when someone says, “Here is why we know for a FACT that the world is older than 6000 years.” Or when someone says, “There is a mountain of EVIDENCE showing that autism is not caused by vaccines.” Or when someone says, “There is SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS that human beings are causing the planet to warm up,” these statements cannot be attacked in a rational, fact-based way… So instead, people attack the concepts of FACTS and EVIDENCE and SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS.

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But there ARE facts in the world. There IS such a thing as evidence. Think about it… Even the concept of “lying” assumes that there is such thing as “truth.” It’s built into our language. We talk about things being “better” or “worse” all the time, and those very concepts of “quality” assumes that there is a “goodness” that we are either getting closer to, or further away from. When we make an “argument” for something, we are appealing to REASON as an authoritative means of settling things. “I believe this because of this evidence.” We break things down into axiomatic building blocks. “If we can know anything, then we can know [X]… And if we can know [X], then we can reasonably know [Y],” right? This is how we function. This is how we believe. This is what human rationality looks like. Words like “Why” and “Because” are as part of us as the concept of language. If we asked someone why they believed the things that they believed, and they answered, “Bleeds peanut butter average pumice,” we would know they are not playing by the same rules of rationality that we are playing by.

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Irrefutable evidence that the Earth is spherical.

Within these rules of rationality, the evidence is overwhelming. So in order to not give in to that evidence, the flat-earther (and many others) must instead give in to Conspiracy Theory: The willing to believe that EVERYONE IS IN ON IT. When faced with evidence that our beliefs are unreasonable, we find it easier to believe that the evidence has been faked (ignoring how unreasonable that possibility is). And this is where things get really dangerous, as far as valuing the truth is concerned. Willingness to believe that “everyone is in on it” at such a grand scale makes ANY lie believable. Consider centuries and centuries of scientific study, all falsified by the entire scientific community in order make people question the factual accuracy of the Bible… Or possibly to set us up for the most amazing April Fools joke ever.

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Well now I don’t know WHAT to believe…

But what’s so genuinely gross about this way of looking at things is what it says about our view of human nature. In some dark corner of the internet, someone is convinced that science has already discovered that all it takes to cure cancer is shoving a whole clove of garlic up your butt while sniffing vaporized lavender oil before you go to bed… But the “scientists” and “big pharma” don’t want you to know about it, because that’s how they get rich. “Follow the money, man,” they say. But what they’re REALLY saying is that everyone who is involved in cancer research is the sort of despicable human being who would rather withhold a cure–watching kids and parents and grandparents die miserable, painful deaths–than tell the truth about a cure that would save countless lives, all because there’s money in it for them. Not one or two greedy, immoral scientists. ALL of them.

And that same level of evil conspiracy is what it would take to pull off something like trying to convince everyone that the world is a sphere when it was actually flat. Everyone who works in GPS, everyone who works with satellites, every astronomer, every astronaut, every meteorologist, every person sitting at a computer photoshopping pictures of the planet–taken from space–to make it LOOK like the Earth is a sphere, countless others… Every one of them is in on it. Conspiracy theory is a disease of the mind, and it’s a disease to which only those of us with the very lowest view of humanity are susceptible. 

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I know, I know… It feels weird to me as well. But sometimes we actually ARE right.

The PROBLEM comes with the fact that liberals and progressives aren’t very well-suited to combat this disease of the mind. We like to pat ourselves on the back for “seeing both sides of things.” Many us have landed where we have landed as a reaction to fundamentalism… And anything that feels even remotely close to the “I’m right/You’re wrong” brand of certainty (that was forced on us in our youth) sets off a sort of PTSD reaction inside us to the fundamentalism we rejected. We rejected their intolerance. We rejected their exclusion. We came to think of tolerance and inclusion as virtues.

And what happens (and what many of us have seen happen and experienced many times) is that people throw those words right back in our faces. “Oh sure… You ‘liberals’ are really ‘tolerant.’ You don’t seem very tolerant of my desire to use the N-word! And as soon as I want to pass legislation taking away rights from gay people, all of a sudden I’M the bad guy. Some ‘inclusion.'” But tolerance and inclusion are not the goals. The goal is getting closer to Goodness… The goal is the Truth. People functioned for a very long time under the belief that intolerance and exclusion were Good and True, and you thought we were attacking Goodness and Truth. But what has happened is NOT that we have rejected the idea that there is Goodness and Truth in the world… What has happened is that we have encountered a better argument. 

I mean, is anything settled? What this comes down to is an ideological battle between Truth and Moral Relativism. But if reason is of any value at all, then moral relativism is a self-defeating ideology. With it, we land in a place where the only thing that is “wrong” is to tell someone else that they are wrong. And besides the self-evidence of that logical paradox, when we land there, we can’t “know” anything… And who wants to listen to the opinion of someone who believes that we can’t know anything? Not me…

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Dip shits. No shame here… I’ve been a dip shit before. Just own it, change your mind, and move on.

Fundamentalists and conservatives think young adults are getting “brainwashed” when they go to college. We’re not getting brainwashed… We’re getting exposed to better arguments. We’re having conversations with people who think differently than us. We’re learning that much of the certainty we inherited as we grew up was misplaced, but this realization doesn’t mean we don’t believe in the ability to KNOW anything. Our rejection of old time religion does not mean a rejection of spirituality. Our intolerance is not for you… It’s for your irrational and immoral arguments. And as far as “inclusion” is concerned, we’re not saying that you’re not allowed at the table… We’re just saying that you’re wrong. We have to be able to embrace those words: You are wrong. We’re so afraid of becoming fundamentalists, we are afraid to say, “I am right about this. And that makes you wrong.”

And this is why I love the flat-earthers. They are so CLEARLY wrong that it allows us (some of us, at least) to overcome our liberal sensibilities and say, “That is the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard.” Because sometimes that needs to be said. Telling someone they are wrong is NOT dehumanizing. Sometimes it is the process by which we protect something as precious as The Truth. You want to see a “Snowflake?” Watch what happens when a progressive tells a fundamentalist they are wrong… It’s like, “Wait. I thought you were supposed to accept me as I am! What happened to inclusion?!?” Inclusion doesn’t mean that we have to include your bad arguments with our better ones. Tolerance doesn’t mean tolerating lies. I’m sorry if we gave you the impression that we don’t believe in Truth. We are not saying that no one can KNOW… We’re saying that our argument is BETTER than yours. Progressive doesn’t mean “There is no Truth.” Progressive means that we are getting progressively closer to the Truth than we used to be.

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11 Responses to The Reason I Love “Flat-Earthers”

  1. Tucker Carlson says:

    Write less. This isn’t a long-form medium. And what’s up with this page design? Is this a WordPress theme? I’m trying to read you on the biggest iPhone they make and your body copy is unseeable. If you have something to say, get a Responsive, mobile-first layout and keep your audience.

  2. skyride says:

    “Conspiracy theory is a disease of the mind, and it’s a disease to which only those of us with the very lowest view of humanity are susceptible.”
    😦
    “disease of the mind,” like, craziness? Mental health issues? Also, pathologizing conspiracy theorists, as if Mad people don’t already experience too much stigma?

    cheap laughs at the expense of Mad people = super unloving and not cool, my friend.

    • Gosh, Skyride. The inability to distinguish fact from fantasy or fiction is indeed a hallmark of insanity or mental illness. I find no cheap laughs here and your accusations towards Chris and this article are suspiciously like a diversionary tactic for deflecting criticism of intellectual bankruptcy.

    • Cherit says:

      There isn’t anything wrong about pathologizing certain behaviors or thought processes. Pathologizing something does not have to include stereotyping, belittling, stigmatizing, maligning, or abusing. It is simply categorizing it as outside the range of normal or healthy.

      There is such a thing as “normal”. Acceptable behaviors and ideas, physical and mental abilities, etc exist on a spectrum but there is a finite range which is considered “normal” and under which most people operate fairly comfortably.

      “Common sense” defines the range on this spectrum where, given certain basic information, we take it for granted that virtually everyone can almost immediately understand and agree upon certain logical conclusions or realities about our existence.
      Sensibilities and the ability to understand, comprehend, reason about the world around you, and to evaluate others’ actions also exist on this spectrum.

      Many conspiracy theories rely on the “everyone’s in on it” trope and it is rarely true or comprehensively provable. Arranging something on that scale is simply implausible. The common sense about the issue is that that many people could not be trusted to keep it a secret and there is no real motive. It seems silly. It would require too much work with far too much pointless waste of resources to perpetuate a farce with no reasonable benefit. The illusion is too flawless and there are far too few “glitches in the matrix” for anyone to believe it.

      • skyride says:

        Too sad, hurt, and tired to respond to sanist comments right now.

        https://lifemarginally.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/compulsory-able-mindedness-ii/

      • Cherit says:

        I wasn’t quite sure what the term “sanist” entailed exactly so I looked it up… Not particularly impressed with your assessment and labelling of me. The world isn’t nearly that black and white.
        I’m not opposed to people thinking differently but we’re talking about people who believe things which seem obviously untrue to the public at large, take instances of pain/discomfort and seem to inflate them to world-ending proportions, or who come to wildly irrational conclusions based on innocuous evidence.

        Do you have a real life example of a time when someone was treated as less than human for not being “able-minded”? I agree that abuse is uncalled for but there are certainly instances of a person being a legitimate danger to themselves or others.

      • skyride says:

        “Do you have a real life example of a time when someone was treated as less than human for not being “able-minded”?”

        Yes. This has happened to me and several Mad people I know. Had you read my blog post, I feel like you might not have bothered to ask that nor to make that “legitimate danger” comment.

        I’m not here to impress. Saying things like “There is such a thing as ‘normal'” is sanist. I’m not impressed with sanism and not impressed with you.

      • Cherit says:

        Surely, there are types of madness, thought processes, or states of being which need to be controlled. Having suicidal thoughts is not the only type of “madness”. Do you believe that there is any type of neurodivergency or “madness” which we as a society should seek to “normalize”?

    • theboeskool says:

      Sorry, Skyride… I’ve been meaning to respond to this, but I’ve been busy/keep forgetting.

      This is/has been a very interesting thread for me to read through. So if I am following you, do you believe that if “Person A” calls out a certain way of thinking as “less than” or “worse” than another way of thinking, then Person A has demonized or dehumanized someones else who may deal with disordered thinking? I was going to write “STRUGGLE with disordered thinking,” but I thought that maybe referring to it as a struggle was making a value judgement…

      Do you believe in the concept of “healthy” or “sound” thinking? Is rationality “better” than irrationality? Is consistency “better” than inconsistency? It seems like even the concept of “mental health” might seem offensive to you, because it assumes that one way of thinking is better or “healthier” than another.

      I have grandparents who dealt with dementia… I don’t think that I am devaluing them by saying that a demented person is unfit for many things–Most of all, the presidency.

      I’m struggling with this, because it feels like this is the pinnacle of relativism. And if one way of thinking is not “better” than another way of thinking, then why in the world would someone try to make an ARGUMENT (based on rules of rationality) to make her case. That feels like what you’re doing… Am I way off?

      Also, please forgive me if this comes off abrasive or unkind. That is the furthest thing from my intent. I have always enjoyed when you show up… I’m just trying to get where you’re coming from.

      • Cherit says:

        Likewise, I am struggling to understand. I’m not trying to offend. I’m genuinely confused by the assertion that trying to reign in neurodivergency is an act of dehumanization. In an extreme example, Jeffery Dahmer was likely neurodivergent. He killed and ate random people. There was some seriously atypical stuff going on in his head. Trying to change those tendencies is not dehumanizing by nature. I’m sure there are some therapies which might be demeaning or cruel and should be avoided.

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