A recent Joe Rogan podcast has spawned viral TikTok videos promoting a strange (and false) theory about climate change, first proposed in a book that also claimed that Jesus Christ lived in India for 18 years and was abducted by aliens following his crucifixion.
In an episode released on January 18, the Joe Rogan Experience featured an interview with YouTuber and "investigator" Jimmy Corsetti. Rogan brought up the "Adam and Eve theory", a groundless idea first outlined in The Adam and Eve Story, a book written in 1965 by Chan Thomas, an electrical engineer who also claimed to be psychic.
The book, released in part by the CIA in 2013, claims that once every once in a while the Earth shifts in position, causing a great cataclysm to its inhabitants, shifting entire regions into a new position. The disaster, according to the book, hit Noah as well as other previous religious figures.
"It happens in cycles of 6,500 years and that it’s a 90-degree flip, but six days later, around the seventh day, it corrects itself," Corsetti explained to Rogan on the podcast, clarifying that it would be “a planet flip, 90 degrees, and that because of it the Earth essentially does a standstill, the sun will be direct – will basically stay in the same spot, causing heating like we’ve never experienced – and that the wind and the waters continue with their momentum, because essentially the wind travels at approximately 1,000 miles an hour [1,609 kilometers an hour] at the equator, so the theory is that when that event happens it’s going to be cataclysmic.”
Media Matters for America have identified clips from the interview which have since gained over 20 million views on TikTok, without the added context that it is pure nonsense. Rogan brought magnetic poles into the discussion, talking about the possibility of the poles switching at some point in the future and suggestions were made that it could be more catastrophic than scientists believe.
There is, of course, no evidence that the Earth shifts in position every 6,500 years. If such a thing did happen, and entire regions around the equator suddenly found themselves at the poles as they suggest, there would be a lot of evidence available.
“That is total bogus. If that’s what happened every 6,500 years, we would certainly see it; it would be in all the records," senior research scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center, Martin Mlynczak, told The Verge. "The amount of energy to bring that about is tremendous. And you know, there’s nothing to initiate it."
Flips of the magnetic pole are real, however, and happen once every 200,000 to 300,000 years, although it is most likely around 800,000 years since the last time it happened.
There might be problems for us, should the poles flip during our lifetimes. During the flip, for example, the Earth could be under increased exposure to radiation while the protective magnetic field is weak, though this remains speculative. We could also be at more risk of solar flares with a weakened magnetic field, which could disrupt electrical infrastructure, power grids, and satellites.
However, fossil evidence doesn't show any major extinction event caused by the flips, nor does the geological record show any increase in activity in the way of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. In fact, "there’s no evidence that Earth’s climate has been significantly impacted by the last three magnetic field excursions, nor by any excursion event within at least the last 2.8 million years," according to NASA.
Later during the podcast, Rogan talked about a potential pole shift – which according to all evidence will not be as catastrophic as the climate crisis – as possibly making climate change moot.
"It’s not to say that we aren’t polluting, we certainly are, and it’s not to say that we shouldn’t improve, we certainly should, but if the f***ing magnetic poles might shift and we might get hit by a giant rock from space, we might have bigger problems," he said, according to Media Matters. "If we’re going to be concentrating on nonsense, which is really par for the course with human beings, we’re going to be concentrating on these things we’re really not going to fix over the short-term, when something might happen that makes all of it a moot point.”
Media Matters called for TikTok to enforce its climate misinformation policy and note how it pervades into other conspiracy theories, and for Spotify to consider whether platforming misinformation is "worth the profit".
"While it was not written to provide an alternative explanation for climate change, The Adam and Eve Story provides a framework for interpreting its effects outside of an anthropogenic explanation. This narrative, which shifts blame away from our fossil fuel economy onto planetary forces beyond human control, can serve as climate misinformation," Media Matters said.
"In the past, the Earth’s orbit, the Sun, and cosmic rays have all similarly been used to provide alternative explanations for climate change," they added. "There is overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels. The only way to avert increasing social, political, and ecological effects of climate change is by transitioning away from a fossil fuel economy."