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 Despite having been superseded, Newton’s gravity continues to be used as an excellent approximation of the effect of gravity in most applications.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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False Premise

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A false premise is an incorrect proposition that forms the basis of an argument. Since the premise is not correct, the conclusion may be in error.

The idea of flat Earth can spread because its followers failed to verify if the premises of the arguments are correct. If they bothered to check the truth of the premises, it is not difficult to understand that these arguments have no basis in reality.

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Mutual Respect

Sometimes flat-earthers ask nicely and demand that the scientific and professional community treat them with respect and take them seriously. They ask everyone to respect them because, they say, only mutual respect can enable everyone to understand and determine the actual shape of the Earth.

In reality, it has been the wish of the general public the whole time. However, respect works both ways. If a flat-Earther starts respecting scientists, professionals & the general public, it will be no longer possible for them to retain the belief in a flat Earth. It does not matter how politely they make their demands, it cannot change the fact that disrespecting others is an integral part of the belief in a flat Earth and can never be separated.

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CGI Argument

Computer-generated imagery (CGI) is the application of computer graphics to create or contribute to images. Some astronomy and Earth images were made with CGI, and flat-Earthers incorrectly use the fact as “evidence” the objects in the images are not real. In reality, it is possible to use CGI to create images of real objects, and therefore, CGI is not evidence that the objects in the images are not real.

For example, most images in IKEA’s catalog were created using CGI. If we were to use the same flat-Earthers’ “logic,” we can conclude that IKEA products do not exist, but we all know they exist.

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Appeal to the Minority

An appeal to the minority is a logical fallacy that occurs if something is regarded as true just because it is against the view of most people.

Appeal to the minority is common in flat-Earth communities. They think they are right because of their smug “bravery” to resist the majority view. They incorrectly claim that people believe it like a dogma, with no scrutiny, and belittle them with remarks like “sheeple.” In reality, a good argument —like Earth is a sphere— stands on its own and does not rely on the number of the supposed “believers.”

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Just Asking Questions / JAQing-Off

Just asking questions is influencing the audience by framing the assertions as questions rather than statements.

Just asking questions is a common flat-Earthers’ ploy. These are not questions being asked out of genuine curiosity but statements disguised as questions. They are not seeking the answers and expect nobody will be able to answer them. If someone can give the answers to the questions, they will not appreciate it.

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False Balance

False balance is a bias in which journalists present an issue as more balanced between opposing viewpoints than the evidence supports. False balance spreads misinformation because it gives the impression as if the two sides are worthy of consideration.

Flat-Earthers often complain that the media does not give them equal treatment as they do to scientists. In reality, presenting proponents of pseudoscience as being on equal footing misrepresent the reality of the situation and will only spread misinformation.

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Far-Fetched Hypothesis

Far-fetched hypothesis is a logical fallacy that occurs when someone offers a bizarre and far-fetched hypothesis as the correct explanation without ruling out more mundane explanations.

Every time flat-Earthers “discover” a natural phenomenon that they feel “strange,” they will act as if they are the first humans to know about it and then try to find ways to use it as “evidence” of flat-Earth. In reality, it is far more plausible that other people already know the phenomenon and its scientific explanation, and these flat-Earthers are just unaware of it.

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