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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“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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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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Subjectivist or Relativist Fallacy

The subjectivist fallacy occurs when someone claims that something is true for some people but not for someone else, when, in fact, it is true for everyone, as demonstrated by empirical evidence.

The shape of Earth is not a matter of belief or preference, but an objective truth from observations that applies to everyone. It is impossible Earth is both spherical and flat at the same time, depending on what we prefer or believe.

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Argument from Incredulity

The argument from incredulity occurs if someone refuses to accept an argument simply because he cannot personally understand it. Flat-Earthers very frequently use this logical fallacy.

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Reification Fallacy

We often abstract complicated things into simpler models by removing unimportant and superfluous details so that we can focus on the aspects of greater importance. The abstraction of real things into models makes it possible and easier to work with. But they are still models and do not possess every single attribute of the real things they represent.

Flat-Earthers often commit the reification fallacy, where they treat models as if they are the real things and attack the tiniest discrepancy to discredit science. However, a model is not reality; it can never perfectly represent an actual thing.

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Stolen Concept Fallacy

The stolen concept fallacy is committed when someone requires the truth of something that they are at the same time trying to disprove. In other words, concept A is used to deny concept B, although A depends on B.

Many conspiracy theories are the results of a stolen concept, including many flat Earth claims. Usually, flat-Earthers would use a scientific concept to disprove science itself. On the other hand, the concept itself depends on science.

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Jumping to Conclusions

Jumping to conclusions (also called the JTC bias or inference-observation confusion) is a psychological term referring to the failure to distinguish between observation and inference. In other words, “when I fail to distinguish between what I observed first hand from what I have only inferred or assumed.”

Many flat Earth “facts” are simply the results of jumping to conclusions. They judged something without having all the facts, to reach unwarranted conclusions.

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Canceling Hypotheses Fallacy

The canceling hypotheses fallacy occurs when someone defends their hypothesis by proposing a second hypothesis to explain the lack of evidence in support of the first hypothesis. In effect, the second hypothesis cancels or undermines the prediction made by the first hypothesis.

Flat-Earthers like to demonstrate what they regard as ‘evidence’ of a flat Earth. However, when it is demonstrated that the evidence is wrong, they would invent a second hypothesis to defend the original hypothesis against the evidence of the contrary. They do it without attempting to bring sufficient proof of the second hypothesis.

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Argument from Persecution

The argument from persecution is a fallacy that asserts that if your ideas provoke others to vilify or suppress you, then you must be right. Note: this fallacy is better known as the Galileo gambit. However, in this case, flat-Earthers themselves are the ones defaming Galileo and his ideas.

Flat-Earthers commit the fallacy when they show off that their ideas are being mocked, censored, or deleted. They get such the treatment not because they are right. But because by believing in a flat Earth, they have to accuse a lot of people of being dishonest and part of a global conspiracy.

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Appeal to Definition

The fallacy of ‘appeal to definition’ is using the definition of a term to support an argument as if the term cannot have other meanings or even conflicting meanings. Flat-Earthers often use this fallacy, for example, over the word “theory.”

A communication problem can occur when a term gets misinterpreted to mean other than what was intended. A simple clarification should quickly correct the problem. The appeal to definition arises if the clarification is refused, and the person insists on using the wrong & unintended meaning of the term, and use it to support their arguments.

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Ad Fidentia

The fallacy of ad-fidentia is committed when someone attacks the opponent’s self-confidence instead of the argument or the evidence.

Scientific method is an empirical method of acquiring knowledge, which is an iterative, cyclical process through which information is continually revised. Flat-Earthers would often question their opponents if they are 100% sure about their claims. If we admit there is a possibility we are wrong or that our claims might be revised in the future, flat-Earthers will use that to ‘prove’ us wrong.

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Red Herring

Red herring is a fallacious argument style in which an irrelevant or false topic is presented in an attempt to divert attention from the original issue, with the intention of ‘winning’ an argument by leading attention away from the original argument and on to another, often unrelated topic.

Flat-Earthers often commit the fallacy of red herring —often repeatedly one after another— because their claims are indefensible. For example, they will try avoiding arguments involving direct observations and derail the discussion to other arguments that rely on statements from third parties. Then, they would discredit the third parties and add them to their list of “collaborators” to “win” the debate.

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Notable Effort Fallacy

The fallacy of notable effort is committed if one accepts good effort as a valid reason to accept the conclusion, even though the effort is not related to the truth.

Flat-Earthers would often over-emphasize their efforts in proving a flat earth and belittling that from ‘globe-earthers’. Then they take the purported noteworthiness of their efforts to conclude that the Earth is flat. This is the fallacy of notable effort. Putting in more effort does not mean the conclusion is more correct.

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Shifting of the Burden of Proof

The fallacy of shifting of the burden of proof is committed when someone makes a claim that requires justification, failed to provide sufficient evidence, but instead demand others to provide the evidence of the opposite of their claim.

Most of the claims from flat-Earthers are bare assertions. They do not provide sufficient evidence. A false way for them to defend their claims is by shifting the burden of proof.

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Appeal to Possibility

The fallacy of appeal to possibility occurs when a conclusion is assumed not because it has been proven, but because it is possible that it is true, no matter how improbable. Flat-Earthers would often use this fallacious reasoning to prevent their theories from being falsified. In particular, to “disprove” photos and videos taken from space.

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Circular Reasoning

Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy in which the proposition is supported by the premises, which is supported by the proposition, creating a circle in reasoning where no useful information is being shared.

Flat-Earthers often commit the fallacy of circular reasoning to defend the notion that the Earth is flat. Such reasoning is never useful, and cannot be regarded as evidence of anything, despite what they are claiming.

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Style over Substance Fallacy

The fallacy of style over substance occurs when one argue the way in which the argument is presented while marginalizing or ignoring the argument itself.

Flat-Earthers are often seen dismissing an argument only because of the way it is presented, and thus, committing the style over substance fallacy.

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Kettle Logic: Conflicting ‘Explanations’ in the Flat-Earth Model

Kettle logic is making multiple contradicting arguments in an attempt to support a single point or idea.

Kettle logic occurs very frequently in the flat-Earth community. If they meet a natural phenomenon cannot readily be explained using the flat-Earth model, they would often devise ‘experimental models’ to ‘explain’ how the said phenomenon can happen in a flat-Earth.

The problem? These models are in conflict with each other.

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The Fallacy of Statement of Conversion

The fallacy of statement of conversion is committed when someone is taking a statement of conversion as valid without actually hearing a reason for the conversion.

Flat-Earthers often tell others that they used to believe the Earth is a globe, but now they ‘know better’ and believe in a flat-Earth. All this only tells us they changed their mind. Accepting this as proof of a flat-Earth would be committing the fallacy of statement of conversion.

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