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Reality vs. belief about the shape of the Earth. .
There‘s no shortage of strange beliefs out there, and not all of them involve having a firm grip on reality. But it‘s truly bizarre to see one from the latter camp have a sudden surge in popularity and attention millennia after we knew it was wrong. But when it comes to the idea that the Earth is flat, centuries of accumulating evidence don‘t make much of a difference—its adherents have centuries of history of ignoring it, along with at least one not-nearly-as-famous-as-it-should-be instance of threatening a prominent scientist along the way.
That was Alfred Russell Wallace, one of the two co-developers of the theory of evolution.
This is our first try of a new video format where we look at controversies that, well, really shouldn‘t be controversial. While we may get back to Wallace and his theory, for the most part we‘re going to focus on cases where the motivation for the controversy is a bit less obvious. What drives people to believe in ideas that are blatantly, obviously divorced from reality? Or to reject ones that have a solid foundation of evidence?
The idea of a flat Earth is a good place to start with this, given that the evidence for its spherical nature goes back to long before the existence of science as an organized activity. For many centuries, disbelief in the idea was probably a combination of a lack of awareness and its appearance of flatness in everyday experience. But it wasn‘t too long after the idea of science took hold in the general public that people were proudly proclaiming that they‘d obtained evidence that the Earth was flat.
But scientists are a resourceful bunch, and some have used that as an opportunity to study how humans form their beliefs. So, we use this video to look at both the history of the belief and what may be driving it.