Compromising with Flat Earthers

by Ed Sawicki

oblate spheroids

My conservative friend and I were discussing politics when he said that the extreme social divide can only be solved by the liberals listening to conservatives, understanding their issues, and compromising on issues.

I said, “I don't disagree but there are challenges. For example, if liberals understand the reality that the Earth is a sphere* and is about 4.5 billion years old but conservatives believe that the Earth is flat and only 6,000 years old or less, how can liberals compromise?”

Do we compromise on the shape of the planet, voting on just how flat it is from a diagram such as the one shown here? Do we force teachers of science, astronomy, and cosmology to teach long-disproven beliefs? How far do we have to go to satisfy the insufficiently educated?

His only answer was that not all conservatives are flat-Earthers. True enough, but the population of people who believe it is not small. A 2014 Gallup poll says about 40% of Americans believe the Earth to be less than 10,000 years old. This doesn't necessarily make them flat-Earthers since they could believe Earth to be a 6,000-year-old sphere. But you know that some significant number of them think the Earth is flat.

Plus, they're organized. They have conferences that draw several hundred people. They have podcasts. There are YouTube videos. There's the Church of the Flatter Day Saints.

There are also those who deny the moon landings, the existence of dinosaurs, and Nazi concentration camps. I have a relative who questions the existance of gravity. Many still believe that Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility. There are many, many wacky beliefs. Compromising with them would be a race to the bottom. No, the social divide is not going away anytime soon.

Democracies don't work well with under-educated and highly-gullible voters and an oligarchy with unlimited funds to get people to vote against their own interests.


* The Earth is mostly spherical but is irregularly shaped in places and a bit oblate with an equatorial bulge as do all or most rotating bodies in the universe.