Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Meet the Flat Brainers!

When it comes to science, the rule of thumb is that we should always challenge everything, in order to make new discoveries and advance our knowledge. After all, if we were to sit around content with the knowledge we have, there would be no drive towards the unknown. Nevertheless, there are certain scientific facts that are so well established, that they just can’t be challenged, unless by a brilliant genius who sees what everyone else misses. Read this carefully : An average Joe, with no training in the field he’s seeking to reinvent has just as much chance of succeeding as an ID proponent has to make sense. And those are pretty slim odds.

One of those well established facts in science is that the Earth is round, not flat. That was established eons ago. There are countless photos, videos and what have you to demonstrate that. Anyone who’s ever set foot on a plane has seen with their very own eyes the slight curvature of the earth’s surface. Yet, as unbelievable as it may sound, there are still people out there who think this whole round Earth thing to be nothing but a vast, world-wide conspiracy. They still believe the eart is flat, infinite and 9,000 kilometres deep (about 5,600 miles) and get this, it stretches infinitely horizontally! You can’t make this stuff up. You can only whole-heartedly believe it.

Flat earth theory is still around. On the internet and in small meeting rooms in Britain and the US, flat earth believers get together to challenge the “conspiracy” that the Earth is round.

“People are definitely prejudiced against flat-earthers,” says John Davis, a flat earth theorist based in Tennessee, reacting to the new Microsoft commercial.

Why are people so fascinated with the idea of a “conspiracy”? How many of these so-called conspiracies can the world governments have going at the same time anyway? The UFO proponents cry conspiracy. The flat earthers cry conspiracy. Almost any thing can be imagined and the lack of evidence blamed on a governmental conspiracy. These folks believe in their weird hypothesis precisely because they can’t find any evidence to back it up. Talk about weird! String theory has got nothing on these nuts!

Prejudiced? Of course I am prejudiced against flat earthers. They are,at the worst complete idiots, and at the best, self deluded, hallucinating, mentally ill people. There is a certain egotistic trend with all such people. They seem to think to be in on something that the general public doesn’t see. They seem to think they’re smart because they have “uncovered” these hidden secrets that “normal” people were never meant (and thus they are better than normal people) to uncover. To me they are like little boys pretending to be superheroes and getting that instantaneous gratification.  All the guys out there know what I’m talking about.

“Many use the term ‘flat-earther’ as a term of abuse, and with connotations that imply blind faith, ignorance or even anti-intellectualism.”

Blind faith…check! Ignorance…check! Anti-intellectualism…Double check!  The fascinating thing however, is that they blame us, the sane ones, of blind faith, ignorance and anti-intellectualism, because you see we aren’t smart enough to see through the veil that the world governments have woven over our eyes. But they can! And they have no evidence to back it up. And that is precisely how they know they’re right. You get the (il)logic there?

“I came to realise how much we take at face value,” he says. “We humans seem to be pleased with just accepting what we are told, no matter how much it goes against our senses.”

And he offers a perfect example of accepting what we are told at face value…himself!

Mr Davis now believes “the Earth is flat and horizontally infinite – it stretches horizontally forever”.

“And it is at least 9,000 kilometres deep”, he adds.

And here’s another, slightly different take:

James McIntyre, a British-based moderator of a Flat Earth Society discussion website, has a slightly different take. “The Earth is, more or less, a disc,” he states. “Obviously it isn’t perfectly flat thanks to geological phenomena like hills and valleys. It is around 24,900 miles in diameter.”

I see it’s either infinite or 24,900 mile disc. I guess they both think the other is part of a conspiracy to hide the true “truth” about our beloved planet.

What about all the photos from space that show, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the Earth is round?  The space agencies of the world are involved in an international conspiracy to dupe the public for vast profit,says Mr McIntyre.

John Davis also says “these photos are fake”.

Of course, the folks at NASA are all millionaires and getting richer by the day.

And what about the fact that no one has ever fallen off the edge of our supposedly disc-shaped world?

Mr McIntyre laughs. “This is perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions,” he says. “A cursory examination of a flat earth map fairly well explains the reason – the North Pole is central, and Antarctica comprises the entire circumference of the Earth. Circumnavigation is a case of travelling in a very broad circle across the surface of the Earth.”

Oh the humanity! The poor, poor humanity!

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How Anecdotal Evidence Can Undermine Scientific Results

Posted in General Science, Medicine by Skepdude on August 2, 2008

The recent medical controversy over whether vaccinations cause autism reveals a habit of human cognition—thinking anecdotally comes naturally, whereas thinking scientifically does not.

On the one side are scientists who have been unable to find any causal link between the symptoms of autism and the vaccine preservative thimerosal, which in the body breaks down into ethylmercury, the culprit du jour for autism’s cause. On the other side are parents who noticed that shortly after having their children vaccinated autistic symptoms began to appear. These anecdotal associations are so powerful that they cause people to ignore contrary evidence: ethylmercury is expelled from the body quickly (unlike its chemical cousin methylmercury) and therefore cannot accumulate in the brain long enough to cause damage. And in any case, autism continues to be diagnosed in children born after thimerosal was removed from most vaccines in 1999; today trace amounts exist in only a few.

Read the rest of Michael Shermer’s article at Scientific American.