Most people do not question the shape of the Earth.
It is something explained to us as children that we accept and move on. However, for some, the shape of the Earth matters significantly, especially to those who believe it is flat.
A group of people called Flat Earthers who believe the Earth is flat and the concealment of it is a deep conspiracy has long existed. Recently, though, the group has gained a larger audience on social media.
The Flat Earth Society has more than 62,000 followers on Twitter and the idea of a flat Earth has been referenced by celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal and Kyrie Irving.
“We are actively promoting the view that the surface of the known Earth (that is, the continents currently known to mankind) is roughly flat,” Pete Svarrior, a member of the Flat Earth Society wrote in an email.
The second part of the Flat Earth Society’s mission is to encourage skepticism and questioning of everything, “especially authorities,” Svarrior wrote. “The layout of the continents is not dissimilar to that depicted in the United Nations emblem, and the emblems of many international organizations.”
The Flat Earth Society does not expect people to believe the Earth is flat; rather, organization members want people to experience it, Svarrior wrote.
“One of my favorite examples is the Bishop Experiment, an observation of the water and coastline across Monterey Bay which should be impossible under the Round Earth model,” he wrote.
Flat Earthers are a diverse group, Svarrior wrote.
“Many Flat Earthers we encounter outside of the Society are deeply spiritual or religious, which is perhaps less common within the FES (although certainly not absent!),” he wrote. “I’ve also encountered some groups which are much less accepting of dissenters – those who still accept the mainstream Round Earth cosmology as the accurate model. I’d like to think that we’re more dialogue-oriented.”
Matt Long, creator of FlatWorth.com and FlatEarthPodcast.com from Fort Worth, developed his belief of a flat earth from studying the Bible. Long said he and flat Earthers he interacts with do not associate with the Flat Earth Society.
“I didn’t come into flat Earth through any other conspiracy theories; some people jump from one conspiracy theory to the next and then they end up with flat Earth,” Long said. “I came to it from a Biblical search.
“I believe that we are in a world that is not a ball flying through space. That is still is motionless and that everything you think is outer space stars and things like that, outer space does not exist to me. But the sun, moon and stars exist but they are much smaller and much closer around us in a circle above our head we do not go around them or anything like that. And I base that on first and foremost the Bible.”
Long said he started his Biblical journey 10 years ago. Even though he always considered himself a Christian, he had never read the Bible.
“Once I started doing that I couldn’t believe how different it was. I was intrigued by how for example you couldn’t believe the Bible and evolution because the two are mutually exclusive,” he said. “I couldn’t believe the Biblical account of kinds producing after their own kinds and the Darwinian ideals of evolution.”
Long said he looked at the “geological column,” for example, and saw that Noah’s Flood better explained fossil layers than catastrophic processes.
“When I started reading this,” he said, “I started saying, ‘Oh man, I kind of need to make a decision. Am I going to believe the Bible or what I call scientism, which is the religion of science, which is the act of removing God from all theory in relation to the place that we live?’”
Long said he and the flat Earthers believe that the North Pole is the center of the Earth and the outer ring is Antarctica.
“If you want to circumnavigate the earth, if you want to leave in the east and come back in the west, you can do that because the North Pole is the center and everything just lays out flat,” he said.
When Long started doing research into the different subjects mentioned in the book of Genesis, he came across a video on YouTube from Rob Skiba that talked about flat Earth.
“I had never read the Bible looking for flat Earth clues, but as soon as I did I was like, ‘How could I read this any other way?’ When you read it literally the Bible is unequivocally a flat Earth book,” he said.
In short, Long said the Bible talks about Earth set on pillars under a dome. Psalm 104:5 in the King James Bible reads, “Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed forever.”
Genesis 1:2 in the King James Bible reads, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
The Earth cannot have a face if it is a sphere, Long said.
Genesis 1:7 reads, “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.”
Long said these verses confirm his beliefs that the Earth is flat and is covered by a firmament or a dome.
“It either comes to rest in Antarctica or beyond Antarctica. It is possible that is comes down far beyond Antarctica,” he said. “There is actually more land that we don’t even know exists beyond Antarctica.”
Dr. Gladys Childs, Texas Wesleyan’s interim dean for the School of Arts and Letters wrote in an email that most Christians would disagree with Long’s beliefs.
“While most modern Christians also accept science as a basis for truth in our world today, there still remains a small fraction of believers who completely reject science and modern thinking in favor of radically literalistic approaches to interpreting the Bible,” Childs wrote. “Once such approach is found in flat Earth theorists.”
After examining the verses Long uses to prove flat Earth in the Bible, Childs wrote that he is a “good example of when someone can be sincere; but, be sincerely wrong.”
“If we were to take all the scriptures extremely literally, then eventually, most human beings would become murderers,” she said. “For example, in Deut. 21:18-21, the Bible says we should stone all children who become rebellious. What parents have children who have not at some point rebelled?”
Long said that people who object to the idea of a flat Earth often ask why people don’t fall off the edge of the planet.
“With Antarctica and the dome, it is impossible to fall off the edge,” he said.
Long said people also question how sunrises and sunsets are possible if the Earth is flat. He said viewing sunrises and sunsets is all about perspective.
“If you are standing on a street downtown and you see street lights and they get lower and lower as they go on towards the horizon,” he said. “That is essentially what the sun is doing. The sun makes circles above us.”
Flat Earthers also view outer space differently than other people.
“While I agree that there are lights in the sky and there are some lights that don’t follow the same rules as the other ones, as the fixed stars, people refer to them as planets, I refer to them as wandering stars,” he said. “I think they are there. I just don’t think they are a place I can get on a rocket ship and land on.”
Long said that once he came to understand the notion of flat Earth, it changed his outlook on everything.
“I watch a sunset and I think about the sun going further away from me as opposed to the ball rotating,” he said. “The same thing with the sunrise. I look at the moon very different now because the moon in our model and according to the bible gives off its own light.”
Long said a huge question people often ask when trying to debunk flat Earth is how could people have gone this long thinking the Earth is a sphere when it could be flat? How could it be flat if images from space are public and America has been to the moon?
Flat Earthers believe there is a bigger plan to deceive people into thinking that everyone is just a tiny part of an infinite galaxy, whereas people are much more significant than that.
“I think the whole lie is to convince us that we are not powerful individuals, we are slaves and we need to do things a certain way in order to not disrupt the laws of society and if we don’t abide by those we are going to be thrown in prison or worse,” Long said.
When Long developed his beliefs in flat Earth, it made him wonder what else he could potentially be lied to about. The first thing he looked at was 9/11 and he does not believe what the public was told.
“I am not saying it was this person or this person, I am just telling you, I don’t believe it,” he said. “I think the whole notion of countries and governments is a way to control people in tiny little pockets. This notion of patriotism, that we are better than someone else, is flawed to the extreme.”
As for the moon landing, Long believes it is fake because he views the sun, moon and stars are inside the firmament, only thousands of miles away at most.
“The moon landing in the 60s, we have been saying we are on a globe for 500 years and that was actually the first time we supposedly, only had the opportunity to go high enough to look back and see if we did live on a ball,” he said.
“By the way, we haven’t gone back.”
Long said it blows his mind when people say the shape of the Earth doesn’t affect them.
“I cannot understand if you were a dog living in someone’s backyard and you got outside the fence,” he said, “you don’t think that would affect the dog’s mindset like, ‘Wow, what else is out here?’”
Dr. Chad Pevateaux assistant professor of philosophy and religion said the notion of a flat Earth is nothing new.
“The ancient Babylonian cosmos was a circle with flat Earth at the center and then the heavens were up and the abyss was down,” Pevateaux said. “Christians are going to overlay that with still a flat Earth, everybody who had anything to do with what was written in what we call the Bible, what Christians will designate with Old and New Testament, everybody who had anything to do with that, believed the world was flat.”
However, there is a mismatch between present knowledge and previous knowledge, Pevateaux said.
“The Bible has a flat Earth view of things, but that is the thing,” he said. “These ancient stories no longer really fit our modern mentalities.”
In some ways, the values and language used in ancient times still affect us today, Pevateaux said.
“’Up’ and ‘down’ are pretty key ways to think about it because up in our modern scientific knowledge, ‘up’ is not what it was for the ancients. For the ancients it was a stable thing,” he said.
Because the Earth is spinning rapidly through space, “up” is a changing, fluid thing, he said.
“Also, down, we would love there to be a firm foundation, we would love for there to be a flat Earth that was stable, but we actually know with plate tectonics and things that down is not what we thought it was,” he said. “The firm foundation is only relatively firm.”
Dr. Bruce Benz, biology professor, said much of Flat Earthers’ understanding is willful denial that comes at a cost.
“In order to understand some of these things, it takes time and effort to embrace how the relationship between particular observations can make sense of the universe and that isn’t something trivial in many cases,” Benz said.
Benz said that every object in the solar system that science has attempted to describe and then accurately depict through imaging is spherical or nearly so. It is because the Earth is spherical that the cycles of night and day exist.
“If it weren’t spherical there would be different cycles,” he said. “We could predict different cycles because it would flat.”
Benz said if someone is exposed to the sun, they would be in sunlight and the moment they stopped being in sunlight, it would be dark.
“In no place except the tropics does sunrise and sunset appear abrupt. There in fact is supporting evidence that it is spherical because as you move away from the equator, dawn and dusk are long-term phenomena,” he said. “Why is that? Because of the sphericity of the earth.”
Long said that anyone interested in the notion of a flat Earth should do the research on their own because the evidence is out there.
“I believe we have the ability to recognize truth,” Long said. “If we have the love for truth in us, I think we are able to recognize it when we see it.”