If a piece of information requires us to accuse others of malice before it is possible to believe it, then there is a high probability it is not true. Such information is usually highly emotional. It can be very tempting to believe it, and we need to be cautious.
These are the seven traits of conspiratorial thinking: contradictory, overriding suspicion, nefarious intent, something must be wrong, persecuted victim, immune to evidence, reinterpreting randomness. Flat-Earth is not a scientific problem, it is a conspiracy theory. Like other conspiracy theories, these traits also apply to flat-Earth.
Conspiracy theorists often make false and cruel accusations that some disasters are staged and that the victims and their families are being played by what they call crisis actors. Their “proofs” are just that persons resembling the victims or having similar names are still living. They will even go as far as harassing these people in real life.
Flat-Earth is an extreme conspiracy theory, and its followers are also susceptible to making the same claims about crisis actors for related disasters, like the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
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.
Conspiracy theories — like flat Earth — exists on a spectrum, from the fringe to the mainstream. Each of us has a different demarcation line where we divide the spectrum into the reasonable and the ridiculous.
Flat Earth lies on the extreme end of the spectrum. Anybody who believes in a flat Earth also has its demarcation line on the far extreme, too, and as a result, tends to believe all sorts of other conspiracy theories. However, less extreme conspiracy theorists might find flat Earth ridiculous. By learning how people can believe in a flat Earth, we can avoid believing other, baseless conspiracy theories.
Some flat-Earthers use the so-called global conspiracy as an ‘escape hatch’ to abandon a losing argument. When being cornered, some flat-Earthers will tell us that flat Earth is a work in progress; it is normal for it to be incomplete, for now. “But the most important thing is to uncover the global conspiracy and save the world from these unscrupulous few!”
In reality, the global conspiracy theory is only one of so many concepts invented to prevent flat Earth from being falsified.
One reason a person can believe in conspiracy theories is the psychological projection. They attempt to deny their negative attitudes by assuming that instead, others have them, even though it is not necessarily the case.
Some people believe others are in a conspiracy against them because of their moral problem: if they were in the same positions of the people they are accusing, they would do the same thing they are accusing others of doing.
To believe a flat Earth, it is necessary to accuse impossibly large amount of people from all over the world, spanning more than 20 centuries, to conspire together to deceive the rest of the human population.
On the other hand, to understand that the Earth is a sphere only requires simple observations that anyone can do themselves. In accepting that the Earth is a sphere, there is no need to throw a single baseless accusation to another person.
In 2006, astronaut Tim Peake from the UK was tasked to perform some physics demonstration on the ISS for the National Space Academy. Tim performed the demonstrations in front of a gridded background specifically made for the purpose.
One of Tim’s video appeared during the former US president George H.W. Bush’s visit to NASA’s Mission Control Center. Flat-Earthers discovered the footage and quickly claim that it used a green screen background for CGI purposes. Such allegation was only from their ignorance and the eagerness to accuse others of lying. Tim’s videos are published in the National Science Academy’s web site as is, proving the background in the videos was merely an ordinary background, not a green screen for CGI.
Priming is a manner in which exposure to early information influences the behavior of an individual later on, without them being aware of it. Flat Earth personalities employ this technique to instill specific biases and opinions in the mind of their targets, and for example, to lead them to believe all footage taken in space were faked.
According to flat-Earthers, the shape of Earth is a flat circle. In the center is the north pole in the Arctic Ocean and Antarctica is not a continent, but instead an ice perimeter surrounding the ‘flat Earth.’
The problem is that there are people who visited Antarctica, and their information about Antarctica does not fit the flat Earth narration. To ‘deal with the problem,’ they invented conspiracy theory and assumed every person who claimed to have visited Antarctica is a part of the grand conspiracy; and they spread the information to deceive us. This way, flat-Earthers’ narration about Antarctica is no longer falsifiable. If something stands against them, their ‘solution’ is merely to add more people to the list of persons that are part of the grand conspiracy.
The existence of the Antarctic Treaty System is convenient. Flat-Earthers use it to support their narration.
The flat-Earth model survives not because the Earth is flat, but because every time a problem is found, its proponents would quickly invent an ad-hoc hypothesis to explain the problem away. In turn, if they discover another problem in one of these ad-hoc hypotheses, they would be happy to invent another ad-hoc hypothesis to explain the problem away. And so on, and so forth.
These ad-hoc hypotheses are there to save their core belief —that the Earth is flat— from being falsified.