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Life Arts    H4'ed 9/3/21

If the Earth is not flat, then who am I?

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A vision of a flat Earth.
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By Bob Gaydos


The Earth is not flat.

UFOs do exist.

In this debate about the nature of the universe, I am definitely taking sides.

A bit of explanation: Firmly ensconced in the second year of Covid-inspired couch-surfing, we stumbled across a documentary called "Beyond the Curve." I can't shake the topic flat earthers. Even in this era of anti-science, conspiracy-obsessed politics, this one baffled me. Still does.

The movie focuses on three main characters, none of whose names I will use here so as not to give them any more notoriety than they already have. The main character is the apparent flat-earth guru, a middle-aged guy with a YouTube show, who, for reasons that still escape me, decided at some point in his life that the Earth is not round. This, even though he can't prove it. And even though flat earthers' own experiments in the film indicate otherwise.

He believes the Earth is a flat disc surrounded by a wall of ice and covered by a gigantic dome on which someone (the government) projects images of the sun and the moon, which move continually across the fake sky.

There's also another, angrier wanna-be guru, who resents the main character's influence among the believers, and a woman who has become a YouTube star among flat earthers with her "reporting" on the issue. The group has annual international conferences.

It's difficult for me to be as respectful of the believers as the film is because no one in the film ever explains why he or she believes the Earth is flat. Nor does anyone disprove the existing science that proves otherwise. And, as I've said, the believers' own experiments disprove their belief. So something else is at work here.

Before I speculate on that, let me address that debate I introduced at the top. Obviously, UFOs exist because there have been countless sightings of unidentified flying objects by all sorts of people, including Navy pilots. It doesn't mean these are necessarily spaceships from somewhere else in the solar system, piloted by aliens, but I believe the odds are much greater of this possibility than that we are living under a gigantic dome. I paid attention in science class.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I must report that I live in an area that has been described as the UFO capital of the Northeast. I myself have never seen a UFO, but the hamlet of Pine Bush has a UFO festival every summer, including a parade down Main Street. There's even a museum. And yes, there have been numerous reported sightings in the area.)

I guess I'm with Enrico Fermi on this. His paradox wonders why, given the preponderance of information that suggests a seemingly limitless universe, filled with countless planetary bodies, no one has apparently yet decided to pay us a visit. Maybe we haven't noticed or maybe they can't get through the dome.

Which brings me back to the Earth is not flat. To me, saying the Earth is flat without providing any evidence and indeed, in the face of evidence to the contrary, is akin to saying a presidential election was rigged without providing any evidence and in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It's akin to saying vaccines don't protect people from viruses and face masks don't help stop the spread of viruses based solely on a "belief" and in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It's akin to saying there was no violent effort to prevent certification of a presidential election at the United States Capitol on January 6 when I saw the insurrection with my own eyes on TV, along with millions of other people.

Some people, for whatever reason, are easily swayed. They will accept even the illogical because they can feel part of something. It provides an identity. Some people, for purely selfish reasons, gain their identity by swaying people to accept even the irrational. If people stop believing what they say, they lose their identity.

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Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)
 

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