Fallacy of Appeal to Worse Problems / Relative Privation

The fallacy of appeal to worse problems (or relative privation) occurs when someone argues that efforts spent to solve a specific problem are a waste by pointing out that there are bigger problems that need to be solved.

Space research is a common target of appeal to worse problems. Flat-Earthers use it to discredit space research and to make people emotional. In reality, it is possible to care about multiple problems simultaneously, and solving the supposed smaller problems does not mean the bigger one is considered unimportant.

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Flat-Earthers like to mention an astronomical event or a specific celestial geometry and insist it cannot possibly occur if Earth is a rotating sphere orbiting the sun. They would incorrectly proclaim it as “evidence” of a flat, stationary Earth.

We can ask them the time of the event and the observer’s location, then use Stellarium or a similar app to simulate the event. If it produces the same result as the actual observation, then they have nothing to complain about. And the problem was just caused by their failure to understand and to create the correct model.

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Shill Gambit

The shill gambit is a fallacy where someone dismisses another party’s arguments by proclaiming them to be on the payroll of some conspiracy without having evidence other than the arguments themselves. The shill gambit is a type of ad hominem and poisoning-the-well fallacy. It shifts from addressing the substance of the argument to attacking the person and their credibility instead.

Flat-Earthers would usually commit the shill gambit when they feel cornered. They would accuse anyone outspoken against flat Earth of having been paid by the global conspiracy. We at FlatEarth.ws get these accusations a lot.

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Doublethink is the holding of contradictory beliefs or opinions in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting all as true or correct, failing to recognize the contradiction.

Doublethink is prevalent in conspiracy theories, including flat Earth. They would believe the different concepts that individually appear to support a flat Earth but cannot realize that these concepts are in reality in conflict with each other.

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Single Cause Fallacy

The fallacy of the single cause occurs when it is assumed that there is a single, simple cause of an outcome when in reality, it may have been caused by a number of only jointly sufficient causes.

If it is said that “A causes B,” it is rarely that B is caused only by A, but usually, there are other things that cause B simultaneously with A that are not explicitly mentioned. Assuming that only A causes B from the statement without further consideration is the single-cause fallacy.

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Usage of Animation to Visualize Space Missions

Many space missions use animations to visualize the state of the missions because it is impossible to record a video of the event. Spacecrafts continuously send telemetry data to Earth informing the status of their mission, and from the data, an animation can be constructed to illustrate the spacecraft’s current situation.

Flat-Earthers accuse that the animations are “proof” that the missions are faked. In reality, the animations are faithful depictions of the missions and are made to visualize the real state of the mission. Animations are used because it is not viable to send another spacecraft only to record a video of the mission. Furthermore, in the cases where the video is available, it is still too difficult for these flat-Earthers to accept reality.

Appeal to Ancient Wisdom

The appeal to ancient wisdom is a fallacy where someone assumes that concepts and knowledge from ancient times are superior to modern ones. In reality, just because they are from ancient times, it does not mean they are better than modern ones. On the contrary, in practically all the cases, we know a lot more than our predecessors.

Flat-Earthers often show us that in the past, people from various cultures believed that Earth is flat. Using it as “evidence” of a flat Earth is the fallacy of appeal to ancient wisdom.

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Our understanding of gravity explains a phenomenon clearly and directly. It is one idea, easy to understand, explains so many phenomena, can account for a large amount of data, and answers many questions. In other words, we can say that gravity is elegant.

In contrast, each of the different concepts in the flat Earth model requires a separate explanation and often in conflict with each other. We can say it is ugly. It is why flat-Earthers cannot accept that a single idea of gravity can explain so many phenomena.

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April Fools’ Day Pranks About Flat Earth

April Fools’ Day is an annual custom on April 1, where people play practical jokes and pranks on each other and have fun trying to make other people believe things that are not true. Some of these pranks involve the “endorsement of flat Earth.”

After some time, it can be less obvious that these are just practical jokes created for April Fools’ Day, and many flat-Earthers fail to realize that they are the ones being joked about. In flat-Earth communities, some of these pranks are incorrectly regarded as genuine and end up as hoaxes.

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Balloon Satellites

In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object that has been placed into orbit. A few of these satellites are balloon satellites. These are satellites that are inflated with gas after they have been put into orbit. Other human-made objects are also called satellites, only placed at a much lower altitude and with a very different operating method. These are, in fact, regular high-altitude balloons but providing services traditionally provided by orbiting satellites.

Flat-Earthers deny satellites’ existence, and after they discovered the existence of balloon satellites, they started to use the fact as “proof” that orbiting satellites do not exist. It is a fallacy of proof by example. By the same “logic”, we can use the existence of trucks to “prove” buses do not exist.

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“Stuff is Flat”: Incorrect Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Claim About the Observation of Earth’s Curvature

Neil deGrasse Tyson once incorrectly stated that it is still too close to the surface to see Earth’s curvature from the height of Felix Baumgartner’s jump. In reality, we should be able to see it using our eyes.

Flat-Earthers believe people take Neil’s remarks as gospel and use Neil’s incorrect statement to dismiss any observation of Earth’s curvature. However, we have no problem saying that Neil was wrong. It is OK to be wrong as long as we are willing to revise our views when faced with new facts, and we are certain Neil will.

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Education vs. Propaganda

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

Flat-Earthers claim we know Earth is a sphere from years of propaganda in our educational system. In reality, it is precisely how they themselves can believe something that can be easily shown wrong, like a flat Earth, except that it did not need years to deceive them.

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Photoshop Trolling

Photoshop trolling is prevalent in flat-Earth communities. The most common form involves finding a suitable landscape photo and using Photoshop or a similar app to turn it reddish as though it was taken on Mars. Then, the result is placed next to the original with a caption added to imply that the “Mars photo” was from NASA, and they faked it from the original.

Flat-Earthers will not bother confirming if the image was really from NASA. They cannot realize that they are being trolled —many memes containing such images spread in flat Earth communities as hoaxes.

Refraction and Water

Refraction is the change in the direction of light due to the change in the medium’s refractive index traveled by the light. It is convenient to use water in a demonstration of refraction. But water alone is not the cause of refraction.

Flat-Earthers falsely claim that just because our atmosphere has water vapor in it, it will produce the same effect as any demonstration of refraction involving water. In reality, it requires far more reasoning than just that water is involved.

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Sealioning is a type of trolling or harassment which consists of pursuing people with persistent requests for evidence or repeated questions while maintaining a pretense of civility and sincerity. The sealion feigns ignorance and politeness so that if the target is provoked into making an angry response, they can then act as the aggrieved party. Flat-Earthers and adherents of other pseudoscience often employ sealioning to harass others.

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Incitement: How People Can Believe Scientific Hoaxes, Even a Blatantly Wrong Ones, Like Flat Earth

People can believe scientific hoaxes —like flat Earth— not because of their sheer stupidity, despite the appearances; but because they are being misled into believing it emotionally. In another matter, these people can still function just like normal human beings.

If the concept being presented requires us to accuse others of malice before we can accept the concept, there must be something wrong with it, and we must be careful. Real science does not depend on such accusations to be true. And thus, we can rule out many of the things being presented as science, but actually not, without having to delve deep into them.

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Anthropocentrism is the belief that human beings are the most important entity in the universe. Real-world evidence does not support many of the anthropocentric notions.

Anthropocentrism can be very emotional. Proponents of pseudoscience —like Flat-Earthers— exploit it to emotionally discredit science. However, scientific knowledge is gained from real-world evidence, not from what we prefer to be true. Science remains true whether or not we believe in it.

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Regress Argument and Infinite Regress

Flat-Earthers like to invoke the regress argument. They would keep asking “what is causing it?” on every statement in an attempt to turn the argument into an infinite regress. If they meet a question that gets unanswered, they would incorrectly declare the initial statement wrong.

In reality, we can know something exists even if we do not know what is causing it. Keep asking “what is causing it?” on pretty much anything will eventually give us an unanswerable question. But it does not mean we do not know it exists.

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2001 Mars Odyssey Launch Video

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Flat-Earthers often challenge us to provide a video of a rocket launch that was taken from the rocket itself, without interruption from launch to reaching space, as if it would convince them to accept that it is real and the Earth is a sphere.

The launch video of the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission easily fulfills their demand. But whether they can manage to accept the reality that Earth is a sphere is entirely another matter.

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Simulation and Observation

To determine if an observation is consistent with the spherical Earth model, we can create simulations to understand the expected result, and then see if they match the actual observation.

Flat-Earthers like to reject the results of simulation as being unreal, not real-world observation. In reality, the simulations are presented not to dispute their observation, but to demonstrate that their observation is consistent with expectation if Earth is a sphere.

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