The Earth is flat.

It’s true.

Or at least, it is as true as any other scientific statement. You see, I think that scientists are wrong. About evolution, about atomic energy, about astronomy and about the life, the universe and everything. (42.)

Now, I am not about to dismiss science as the thing to which all intelligent apes should aspire. And I am not about to subscribe to “Creationist Weekly.” (Their slogan? ‘God made it in a week. And so do WE!’) But I have some issues with science, generally accepted scientific truths, and the way that we simply accept them.

There is this trend in which the theories of before are ridiculed and debased before the altar of contemporary science. Today’s scientists may be standing on the shoulders of those that came before, but they’re kicking a few heads as they stand. Old theories are taught in schools with scorn and the invitation to join in the learned chuckling at those poor silly buggers that came before.

The Earth is flat. This was the prevailing theory for hundreds of years. And the chances are that you were probably taught this in a “How could they be so stupid?” way. I know I was. But the problem is this. At the time that the statement was first made, the theory was sound. It made sense. All the bright sparks agreed. It become public knowledge. And you know what? To the average layman, the earth MAY AS WELL BE flat. Does the curvature of the earth really effect your day? Really? No. But  you see, at some point, this theory was binned in favour of the shiny new theory that the earth was round. And public opinion was once again changed, and flat-earthers were regarded as morons. The problem is, you see, that the earth ISN’T round… never was, never will be. It’s geoid. (Which is a fancy way to describe a slightly flattened ball.) Now that we know that the earth is geoid, we can safely regard ourselves superior to both flat-earthers and round-earthers.

We have all seen the evolution of astronomy, and we all know the stories about how the universe was formed. Sure you do. First, the sun and all the planets revolved around us. Then, they didn’t, we revolved around the sun, and the universe revolved around us. Then, it didn’t, and we became just one planetary system in a large universe, all expanding away from some central point. And now, now we don’t even have that. Now, we are in a universe that is both infinite AND expanding. (Don’t ask what an infinite universe can be expanding into, your head will hurt.) Also, despite the theory of red and blue light shift and our means for establishing relative distances between stars and galaxies, apparently, we are now ALL simultaneously at the centre of the universe, and we are ALL moving away from one another. See… I am not sure what you were taught at school. I was taught that once upon an instance (because before the instance, there was no time. Geek joke, sorry)… there was a sigularity. And that singularity existed at a point where time had no meaning. t=0. Something happened, some critical mass was reached (Don’t ask how something unaffected by time can undergo change, your head will hurt…) and it blew up. Bang! BIG bang! And from that moment onwards, the universe basically exploded outwards into a uniformly expanding hole. That’s what I was taught, and that was what passed for public opinion.  Now.. it is one step behind the curve. And I am sure that in a few generations, children will be indulgently taught just how quaint we were at the turn of the century, just how mislead and ill-informed we were. And perhaps we are. But as right as scientists may be in the future, they only go to demonstrate that until we have an absolute truth, we can only be correct until someone improves on our theories.

Newton. Arguably the greatest mind our race has ever known. Have a flick through The Principia if you have any doubt, and remember that he did it all by himself. He gave us universal gravitation and the three laws of motion. (As well as a LOT more.. Newton was a very busy boy.) He was a bright lad, and he revolutionised science. But even he was proven incorrect (or at least partially incorrect) by the brighter boys of the twentieth century. Atomic gravitation and particle theory changed the way we look at gravity, and well… basically, Newton may have laid the foundations, but someone else is going to decorate the living room.  (Newton had a few other failings as well… he remained convinced until his death in certain basic theories of transmutation of elements. He believed that it was indeed possible to turn lead into gold, make himself invisible, and a bunch of other things.) But the thing is… in time, even Einstein and Hawking will be proven incorrect, or improved upon in some fundamental way.  (Einstein may already be on the way out, a science team has recently determined that the speed of light is NOT necessarily a constant in a vacuum. )

Evolution is another thing that is evolving. (Cough)

There was a time when the best of the biological world were firmly of the opinion that life as we know it is the way that life has always been. This despite some embarrassingly big bones that were being discovered. Along came Darwin, and his theory of adaptation determining the survival of a species. It was violently opposed (Not least by the Church… but seriously, I am not going to bring them into this… suffice it to say that the Church has always been the grumpy old man of the human race, resistant to change and demanding of respect for tradition.) by basically everyone at the time. In retrospect, they were perhaps not all that incorrect in doing so. There are a few issues with the theory of evolution, and even Darwin was said to have despaired of trying to explain the evolution of the eye. Now, I am not saying that evolution was wrong. The fossil record clearly demonstrates that creatures evolve, and then some. My contention is that the Theory of Evolution, like most scientific theories is subject to correction subsequent to advances in the field. Who is to say that we are not going to find something out in the next decade or two that will force us to rethink our current truths? As it is, anthropologists are divided over the diaspora of the human race, how it was that we spread from Africa to India, what happened to our tools along the way (apparently, after mining for flint, crafting flint tools and using them for almost a million years in the Olduvai Gorge, we somehow forgot how to use them on the way to India and the Asian sub-continent. It is something that has yet to be explained.)  and why we decided to go to India in the first place…. I mean, have you seen what they eat?

 

I guess what I am trying to say is this:

Flat-Earthers, Creationists and other non-believers are wrong. But in a few generations, so might we be.

I have a sneaking suspicion that at some point, someone is going to have a good look at Quantum mechanics and is going to point out that really, honestly, truly, it’s bullshit. It has been said of Quantum mechanics that anyone who is not outraged at the description of its base theories has not understood them. And I think that that statement may be more prescient than originally thought. Consider… we are currently unable to explain the actions of certain particles. Thus, it is theorised that the particle is both a particle and a wave. It requires a fair amount of mathematical hokum, but the numbers eventually work. So now we have something that is two things simultaneously, but assumes the form of only one when it is being observed. The same applies to the half-lives of certain radioactive isotopes… they only degrade if they are not being observed. It’s tantamount to suggesting that as long as you stare at your banana sandwich, it will never go bad. Patently, something is happening, and my argument is that we simply can’t understand it.

This has happened before in science… hell, it happens ALL the time. When we lit a fire, we were not witnessing an exothermic reaction of particulate matter… rather, we had succeeded in igniting the phlogiston contained within the item we were burning. Mountains were not formed from the grinding together of tectonic plates, but rather had always been there, formed during the formation of the planet. Meteor impact craters were not the result of strikes from extra-planetary bodies, but the result of underground steam explosions. So perhaps… just perhaps, quantum mechanics will someday be exposed as an understandable error based on the knowledge that mankind once possessed.

 

We are constantly evolving. Not just biologically, but in philosophy and mentality too. Our children ARE more advanced than we were. They’re exposed to concepts far more advanced than those we were taught, they are kept at the cusp of our understanding. They stand on our shoulders, and we stand on the shoulders of giants. All we need to remember is that one day too, we will be kicked by those above us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About TheValentineYeti

Dragons slain. Dreams pursued. Horizons attained. Words written. Books read. Blogs posted. Life enjoyed. Friends appreciated. Stories composed. Novels completed. Submissions abundant. Rejections collected. Confidence unshakable. Positivity maintained. View all posts by TheValentineYeti

3 responses to “The Earth is flat.

  • Steve

    I feel like a reply in a comments box is a poor way of responding to one of your “massive missives”, but I MUST respond to some of your points,

    Science and scientists don’t really stand up all proud and proclaim “Ha! Newton was totally wrong!” – in fact, the example of Newtonian physics versus Einsteinian physics and quantum mechanics is perhaps the best COUNTER-example to your basic thesis (namely – and correct me if I’m wrong here – that we might be completely wrong and future generations will scoff at us just as we scoff at those who were wrong in the past).

    Newtonian physics isn’t “wrong”. No-one stands up and says Newton was wrong. In the vast majority of situations he’s still perfectly right, and it’s only under the most exotic of circumstances (vanishingly small, extraordinarily fast) that his mathematics (based soundly on his observations) fall down and prove to be inaccurate. Not wrong mind, but INACCURATE. Newtonian physics is generally completely acceptable and the inaccuracy it generates in the 25th decimal under normal circumstances isn’t very meaningful given that we may be discussing the motion of something that we can’t measure beyond three decimal places anyway.

    What I’m trying to say is that Newton while Newton’s wrong at 99% of the speed of light, or at 10^-12m, for most situations that we encounter everyday, he’s still right and no one will take you to task for using Newtonian physics in calculating your bungee jump instead of Einsteinian relativity. You won’t even die from the inaccuracy 🙂

    The “flat-earth” theory, on the other hand, is only good as long as you never travel north or south. It therefore doesn’t fit – and never did fit! – the observable universe unless you were sat firmly on your arse in your village for your entire life. And while yes, historically most people did not leave their places of birth, some did and it was well-known in ancient times that if you travelled any appreciable distance north or south the constellations would appear very different. As soon as people started thinking about this (Aristarchus, for example) it became obvious that a flat earth didn’t fit the observed universe. As an approximation for what we observe, it’s pretty poor for all but the most trivial of situations (i.e. the non-moving situation). The observation that the earth is round(ish), however was not accepted and the dogmatic view of a flat earth prevailed for centuries, THAT is why the flat-earthers get so much scorn.

    In a long-winded roundabout kind of way, I’m trying to say that scientific progress is usually a process of refinement. More observations and better accuracy allow scientists to improve their view of the universe and revise their theories about it. The theories all fit the facts and answer questions according to observations. When new observations come to light, old assumptions can be reviewed and initial assumptions can be revised. That’s not saying the older views were wrong – it’s saying that they weren’t accurate enough, or lacked data.

    You shouldn’t worry – no one’s gonna think our generation were idiots for “believing” in the big bang. The big bang theory is an important step on the road to the next theory – whatever it is – and the one after that, and the one after that, all of which will be more and more accurate thanks to our current viewpoint, observations, and experimentation. It’s only when and old, inaccurate, data-deficient point of view is retained even when the evidence is blatantly against it, that the supporters of that particular point of view are rightly scorned and ridiculed. As creationists are today by all right-thinking, sane individuals.

    Damn, did I say that out loud?

  • Steve

    Wish we had an edit button for comments… couple of mistakes above.

    Anyway, as an addendum, science is pretty big on saying when someone/something is wrong. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the whole point of science is to show us what is wrong; science can’t actually say something is “right” – only that it’s “good enough right now and maybe we’ll figure out something better later”.

    It should go without saying that this is in direct contrast to dogma and belief, in which something is held to be a “truth” without ever requiring a shred of evidence to back it up and indeed evidence to the contrary is blatantly ignored.

  • nige

    Improving our knowledge based on observation is a very human condition and thankfully more prevalent than sticking our fingers in our ears and saying some deity or another did it.
    I believe, though I could be proved wrong by future generations, that children are our future…..no wait….that 99.9% of scientists acknowledge those that went before. Perhaps we as mere mortals scoff occasionally at some more arcane ideas but often we were misled by teachers at school that told us things like “people thought the world was flat” when in fact people didn’t. But enough from QI.
    Quantum mechanics may only be partially right or perhaps the wrong equation giving the correct answer but for now it’s the best answer we have and if it means my computer works then I’m happy with it 🙂

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