Kushay's Matter Bank Science and Technology

[AK] How Flat Earthers Think

This note will discuss the fallacious thought process of flat earthers. Source:

Flat Earthers seem to trust and support scientific methods. What they don’t trust is scientists, and the established relationships between “power” and “knowledge”. On their discussions, they often repeat phrases like “accept possibility that you might be wrong”, and “try to have as much verifiable evidence as possible”.

Their discussion however often did not revolve around the models of earth they propose (flat, orb, etc.), but on broader issues of attitudes towards existing structures of knowledge, and the institutions that supported and presented these models. Also, Flat Earthers were encouraged to trust “poetry, freedom, passion, vividness, creativity, and yearning” over the more clinical regurgitation of established theories and facts.

Why did this happen?

This is the relationship between power and knowledge: Knowledge is created and used in a way that reinforces the claims to legitimacy of those in power. At the same time, those in power control what is considered to be correct and incorrect knowledge. According to Foucault, there is therefore an intimate and interlinked relationship between power and knowledge.

In the past, control of knowledge shifts from religious institutions to centralized government and experts. Now, knowledge is no longer centrally controlled and – as has been pointed out in the wake of Brexit – the age of the expert may be passing. Now, everybody has the power to create and share content. Even Michael Gove, a leading proponent of Brexit, proclaimed: “I think the people of this country have had enough of experts”, it would seem that he, in many ways, meant it.

Moreover, it is also clear that we’re seeing increased polarization in society, as we continue to drift away from agreed singular narratives of knowledge and move into camps around shared interests.

The conclusion? Science is increasingly facing problems with its ability to communicate ideas publicly, a problem that politicians, and Flat Earthers, are able to circumvent with moves towards populism. Scientists and mainstream media are seen as “detached elitists” that the masses shouldn’t trust.

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