Confusing Won’t with Can’t

Flat-Earthers like to confuse won’t with can’t. If they notice an act that would support spherical Earth, but we do not do, they will incorrectly claim, “it must be impossible because Earth is flat.”

There are many things we can do but decide against doing for various reasons. In other words, “we can but won’t.” The fact that we won’t do a thing does not necessarily mean we can’t do it.

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Nobel Disease

Nobel disease is a phenomenon where a Nobel Prize winner endorses a pseudoscientific concept in their later years.

Conspiracy theorists use these endorsements as “evidence” science supports their crank ideas. In reality, science relies on the scientific method to discover what is true, rather than the authority of any individual, not even Nobel Prize winners.

We have no problem saying that psychic is pseudoscience even though some Nobel prize laureates at one point endorsed it. Just because renowned scientists like Pierre Curie, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein supported psychic, it does not mean it is scientific.

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Force the Line

“Force the line” is a method proposed by flat-Earthers to determine Earth’s shape. It is an unrealistic method involving building a very long structure that is maintained flat for its entire length.

“Force the line” is just an exercise of one single proof fallacy. They ignore the overwhelming amount of evidence in support of spherical Earth, withholding their judgment for that one specific method, which is very difficult to execute and prone to errors.

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Anonymous Authority

The fallacy of appeal to anonymous authority occurs if an unspecified source is used as evidence of the claim, and it is impossible to verify the source & the argument’s credibility.

Many flat-Earthers claim to know someone who knows someone who knows a pilot, surveyor, scientist, professor, etc., who has proven Earth is flat. But it is impossible to verify these supposed “experts” & their views directly. Inventing an “expert” to support their position is the fallacy of anonymous authority.

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Education vs. Propaganda

In our education, we are told that the Earth is a sphere because it is a sphere. It would be wrong if our educational system were to teach us that the Earth is flat.

Flat-Earthers claim that our educational system is a form of propaganda & indoctrination. In reality, we were told Earth is a sphere because it is a sphere. It would be misleading if they told us other than that. Propaganda & indoctrination is what is actually happening in flat-Earth communities themselves.

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Fallacy of Overprecision

The fallacy of overprecision occurs when an overly precise number is used to give the appearance of truth and certainty.

Some prominent flat-Earthers like to use overly precise long digits of numbers to give the bogus impression of science. And those susceptible to believing a flat Earth tend to be intimidated by math, and it is easy to awe them with meaningless numbers.

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Conspiracy Theories are Immune to Evidence

Conspiracy theories are immune to evidence. They are inherently self-sealing. Evidence that disproves a conspiracy theory is reinterpreted as originating from the conspiracy.

When faced with evidence that disproves flat Earth, rather than considering the evidence, flat-Earthers will simply invent an “explanation” that the evidence was fabricated by those in the conspiracy & include those who told them the evidence as being part of the conspiracy. Sometimes even evidence that can be personally verified also gets the same treatment.

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Theories of Gravity

Gravity is a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass or energy are brought toward one another. Today, gravity is explained by two theories: Newton’s law of universal gravitation and Einstein’s general relativity.

Flat-Earthers treat the existence of the two theories as a supposed conflict, and they use it as “evidence” of wrongdoing. In reality, these are two separate theories that explain the phenomenon of gravity. Einstein’s is more accurate yet more complex. In contrast, Newton’s is simpler but less accurate. Despite having been superseded, Newton’s gravity continues to be used as an excellent approximation of the effect of gravity in most applications.

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Unhealthy Skepticism

Flat-Earthers like to employ an extreme, unhealthy “skepticism” toward scientific concepts. We can demonstrate its absurdity by applying the same level of unhealthy “skepticism” toward everyday things that we have taken for granted. We would not be able to know these things and cease to function like normal humans.

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Quote Mining

Quote-mining is the fallacious tactic of taking quotes out of context to make them seemingly agree with one’s position.

Quote-mining is a common flat-Earthers’ tactic. They take statements from scientists, pick a small part, and remove the surrounding context. The information no longer resembles the initial meaning, but then it is attributed to the original author or speaker to exploit or discredit their names and reputations.

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Cult of Personality Accusations

Flat-Earthers like to accuse that science accepts ideas due to the cult of personality toward the people behind the ideas. In reality, science accepts ideas because of their merits, not because of the identity of the people behind the ideas.

Isaac Newton is considered one of the most influential scientists ever. But we have no problem saying that some of his ideas were just plain wrong and not scientific.

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Assumption for Simplification in Scientific Models

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When creating scientific models of complex phenomena, we simplify things by reducing them to as simple a form as possible to make the calculations more feasible and less complex. Common simplifications include assuming objects as spheres, things exist in a vacuum, frictionless pulleys, massless ropes, and a flat Earth.

Flat-Earthers noticed that some scientific journals use a flat Earth in their models, and they use it as “evidence” the authors knew Earth is flat. In reality, it is just an assumption used in the models to simplify the calculation. It does not imply the Earth is flat.

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Argument to the Future

The fallacy of argument to the future occurs when someone claims their argument is true because of the false assumption that the evidence is in the making, and it will soon be proven true.

Flat-Earthers are sometimes forced to concede that they cannot prove a flat Earth, but they believe it anyway because they claim it will be proven in the future. In reality, something like the shape of the Earth has been thoroughly proven to be a sphere. No amount of “research” will eventually prove a flat Earth.

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Contextualism: How to Debunk Flat Earth in a Reasonable Way

Contextualism is the treatment of knowledge as context-sensitive. In discussions about the shape of Earth, flat-Earthers like to use the extreme denialist context in which if there is any tiny possibility that we might be wrong, then we do not know it at all. But if we apply the same context to everyday scenarios, we will fail to function as normal human beings.

To avoid unreasonable arguments, we can shift the context back to what applies to everyday scenarios. If these people ask, “How can you be certain of <something> if you haven’t proven it yourself?” we can reply, “The same way you are certain that North Korea is real.” In an everyday context, we all know North Korea is real although most of us cannot personally prove it.

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Flat-Earthers’ Excuse to Dismiss Observation of the Sky

Flat-Earthers like to dismiss evidence of spherical Earth if it is in the form of an observation of the sky. In reality, many of the observed motions of celestial objects can only be explained if Earth is a sphere. These observations are sufficient to prove that Earth is a sphere and rule out a flat Earth.

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Isaac Newton and the “Hypotheses non Fingo”

Isaac Newton formulated the law of universal gravitation, which adequately explained the motion of all bodies in space known at his time. He also showed it is the same law that is causing everyday objects to fall on Earth.

In his famous phrase “hypothesis non fingo,” Newton stated that he did not know what causes gravity and refused to speculate. Flat-Earthers use it to discredit him. In reality, just because he did not know what causes gravity, it does not mean his law of universal gravitation is wrong.

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Cherry Picking Experts and Appeal to Authority

Out of millions of people with an advanced degree, we can find someone, somewhere, who believes a crackpot proposition, including flat-Earth. Citing these very few experts to “prove” the crackpot proposition and ignoring the much larger body of experts who disagree is the fallacy of cherry-picking and appeal to authority.

The scientific consensus is determined by the collective position of the community of scientists in a specific field of study, not just by a few individuals.

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Flying Over Antarctica: Airliner vs Private Flight

Commercial passenger airliners are similar to public transits. The operator determines the route, and passengers take them if they fulfill their needs. On the other hand, a private flight is similar to a taxi. The passenger determines the origin and destination of the flight.

There is currently no airliner providing a route over Antarctica, and flat-Earthers use it to “prove” that it is impossible to fly over Antarctica. In reality, the airliners simply decide not to provide such routes due to commercial or other reasons. Not because it is impossible to fly over Antarctica. We can take private flights if we really want to fly over to Antarctica, just like we take taxis to go to a location not serviced by public transit.

Determining the Authenticity of a Photo

It is impossible to positively prove the authenticity of a photo beyond any doubt unless we take the photos ourselves. Instead, we gather as much information as possible related to the photo, evaluate the information, then use inductive reasoning to determine if the photo is real. And the conclusion will always be a probability, not a certainty.

Flat-Earthers like to demand us to prove that a particular photo is real, and if we cannot, they will conclude the photo is fake. In reality, while we might be able to prove a photo is not real, at the very best, we can only say there is no reason to believe the photo is not real from all the available information. This applies to practically all photos and also plenty of other things in everyday life.

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Inflation of Conflict

Inflation of conflict is reasoning that because scientists appear not to agree precisely on an issue, the entire field is assumed not credible, and no conclusion can be reached.

Inflation of conflict is a common flat-Earthers’ argument. They will look for scientists that appear to have conflicting opinions, blow the fact out of proportion, and conclude that both sides are wrong. In reality, the difference in opinions is likely not that fundamental or not even a difference in opinion. They will still agree that Earth is a rotating sphere in motion around the Sun.

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