Thinking that the earth might be flat appears to have grown in popularity in recent years. Indeed, flat earthers are gathering for their annual conference this year in Birmingham, just two miles from my own university.
But the earth isn’t flat. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t hard to prove. But as scads of YouTube videos demonstrate, these proofs fail to convince everyone. A glance at the comments show there’s still vitriolic disagreement in some quarters.
Philosophy can explain why. Consider one, standard, flat earth line: “Can you prove the world is round?” Maybe you point to the (often artificially assembled) photos of Earth from space. Or possibly you rely on the testimony of astronauts. The flat earther knocks it all back. The standard of proof is higher, they say. You haven’t been to space. You haven’t seen the round earth.
Perhaps you then start to appeal to science. But unless you’re unusual, you probably don’t know all of the details of the scientific proofs – is it something to do with ships and horizons? Or eclipses? And even if you know the details, unless you’ve indulged existing flat earth literature you are unlikely – right here, right now – to be able to cogently, concisely and comprehensively respond to the lengthy rebuttals flat earthers will give to each and every scientific proof.