“Every aspect of Nature reveals a deep mystery and touches our sense of wonder and awe. Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. They avoid rather than confront the world. But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.” – Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Questioning mainstream science by invoking conspiracy is not a novel phenomenon and has existed in a variety of forms which have waxed and waned throughout history. Individuals driven by conspiracies whom would normally stand on their own, nowadays find like-minded people on social media. The most notorious of these movements are of course the flat earthers. What follows is a list of observed traits, which are not always applicable to one individual within this movement.
Selective distrust & skepticism. Whoever accepts mainstream science is someone who could never possibly be trusted: Because science has to be wrong by default. Skepticism is used to an unnecssarily ridiculous degree. Whoever opposes mainstream science, no matter how shady or ridiculous they sound, they are instantaneously trusted and supported where any claim is blindly accepted on faith.
Lack of education. Those who are adament the science material is wrong and thus is used purely for indoctrination usually, are the same people who know the least about said science material, as is demonstrated by their inability to recite the science accurately. This leads to erroneous statements that are easily shown to be wrong.
“Independent research”. The research they perform is based largely on guessing, eye-balling and false information, leading to incomplete or downright demonstrably false conclusions. This has resulted in, for example, butchered versions of what they perceive perspective and refraction to be.
“Think for thyself. Wake up Sheeple!” If you accept a particular scientific conclusion they don’t like, you’re not thinking for yourself. Nevermind the observations and experiments which demonstrate the scientific conclusion. You’re just a sheep. Meanwhile you’ll be an independent thinker if you accept these extraordinary claims made by flat earthers who never provide actual evidence beyond shoddy misinterpeted experiments.
Dunning-Kruger. The less they know, the more confident they are they actually do know.
Fallacy Galore. A number of fallacies flat earthers employ:
- Moving the goalpost: Requiring a greater amount of information/details, which is of no relevance to the goals of the original claim, where the inability to meet this new claim is seen as the inability to meet the original claim.
- Gish Gallop: Listing numerous claims with disregard for the quality of the claims, as such the opponent is discouraged from engaging in conversation, which is seen as the inability to meet the list of claims.
- Cherrypicking: Using one single observation to determine or fortify one’s worldview, as opposed to acknowledging all data points or more data points that contradict this worldview, which the individual is most definitely aware of.
- Straw man: Ridiculing a scientific fact by misrepresenting that scientific fact and omitting important information. “You can’t stick to a spinning ball hurtling through space in four directions”.
- Circular reasoning: P1. The Earth is flat. P2. Can we observe an apparent curve across the surface? C. Then this is necessarily how it works on a flat earth because P1. the earth is flat.
- Fallacy of composition: Someone at NASA may have lied about something. Therefore everyone at NASA is a liar and must be lying to you right now.
- Non Sequitur (Does not follow): CGI can be used to create digital media that looks real. Therefore CGI has been used to fake ISS footage.
- Slippery slope: If you accept the world is a globe, then clearly you’re also a heliocentrist (ignoring geocentrists), also supporting evolution (ignoring young and old earth creationists), and clearly an atheist (ignoring the majority of religious people). This is nonsensical reasoning. The earth being a globe does not depend on the universe being heliocentric and vice versa. Each claim should be evaluated on its own merits.
- False Dichotomy: If your claim is true about X, then you must be acting as if you know everything. Therefore your claim about X is false, because clearly the only alternative is that you know nothing. Meanwhile, let me make wild claims about perspective and the earth being flat whilst claiming I have God on my side.