What is the Flat Earth Theory?

In recent times the flat-earth theory has made one of history's greatest comebacks. Against all odds, the flat earth movement has grown and even found celebrity endorsement.

The theory claims that there is no such thing as Planet Earth. There are variations of the theory but the most well-known version is quite constant: We live on a flat circular world with some form of dome overhead. It's based on historical scriptures such as the ancient Israelite view of the Universe pictured below.

Early Hebrew Conception of the Universe
Early Hebrew Conception of the Universe
Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Importantly, almost all flat-earthers reject the entire idea of outer space as we know it. They don't just believe the Earth is flat, they believe the Universe as explained by scientists doesn't even exist. The flat Earth version of the Universe is much smaller and simpler. It consists only of the Earth and whatever is immediately around it; anything beyond that is part of the heavens or other supernatural realm.

Modern flat-earth theory is heavily intertwined with religion, most commonly biblical creationism. The flat-earth theory is basically a very literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. Although not all flat-earthers are religious, it is extremely common.

The most common map of the flat Earth is shown below. This is actually a real map of the globe Earth using a view called "Azimuthal equidistant projection". Like any 2-D map of a globe, everything has to be distorted to fit on a plane. The flat-earth theory, however, claims that this is a literal undistorted map of Earth.

Earth Azimuthal equidistant projection
Earth: Azimuthal equidistant projection
Source: commons.wikimedia.org

As you can imagine, there are many problems with the flat-earth theory. What is surprising is the number of rebuttals and counter-arguments from flat-earthers. You might think that you can easily dismiss a flat-earther with challenges such as:

These are valid questions but flat-earthers have answers to them all, and they're often well-prepared for many other arguments. If you want to debate a seasoned flat-earther, it pays to understand their talking points first.

To get yourself debate-fit, start with our Flat Earth FAQ.

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Author: Dave Owen