Are Flat-Earthers More Scientific Than Scientists?

By Charles Norwood

The flat earth community gets a lot of flak these days. If you want to get described as "stupid" or "crazy" or "backwater," all you have to do is publicly announce that you believe the earth is flat and invective is sure to follow.

Typical Flat-Earther
But is it fair? Are Flat-Earthers really "stupid"?

They're not right. There's lots of evidence that the earth is round. And, barring a massive conspiracy, we can rest assured that it is. But could there yet be something laudable in the Flat-Earther worldview?

The core strength of the scientific method is its ability to minimize faith and assumption. Science is able to paint an accurate picture of reality precisely because it restricts belief to that which can be empirically validated.

But aren’t the same values driving the flat earth movement? Aren’t Flat-Earthers applying the exact same empiricist methodology, only more stringently?

Whereas most people just accept the conclusions of scientists, Flat-Earthers are ready and willing to take science into their own hands. They don't have faith in other people's observations. They want to reconstruct the epistemic edifice from the ground up, based exactingly on what they see.

And yet these empirical purists are met with nothing but scorn, often being written off as cretinous hicks by the comparatively less empirical scientific brass.

What’s more, there are respectable philosophical dimensions to the Flat-Earther worldview. In the early 20th century, Edmund Husserl founded phenomenology, a philosophical school that sought to bracket data and belief, attempting instead to understand the world by focusing exclusively on what can be perceived directly through the senses.

Nobody would ever dream of calling Husserl a "dunce" or a "paranoid wingnut" (terms frequently applied to Flat-Earthers), and yet when some paranoid wingnut declares that the earth is flat because it looks flat, he gets shit on.

But what if he's just a misunderstood phenomenologist?

In the latter half of the 20th century, the postmodern philosophers launched a comprehensive criticism of rationality and mainstream science. The famous postmodernist Jacques Derrida proffered his deconstructionist critique of "logocentrism," seeking to depose reason from its vaunted position as the arbiter of truth.

But, despite Derrida’s skepticism of the scientific paradigm, nobody, not even his detractors, calls him “stupid.” Nobody insinuates that he was the product of insularity or incest (again, accusations often hurled liberally [by people like me] at Flat-Earthers).

So let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Next time we read about some unhinged dingbat on a rage-fueled quest to prove the earth is flat, let's pause for a moment before letting those smug smirks creep across our faces.

Let's ask the important questions:

Are we completely up to date on the history and methodological underpinnings of mathematics, science, and philosophy? Is it at least possible that this inbred hyper-contrarian we're reading about has actually spiraled more fully into empiricism than any credible (and functional) scientist ever could?

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Charles Norwood is the author of Epistemology Bloody Epistemology: An Academic Satire and co-founder of the literary collective Goathanger.com. He lives in Toronto, where he is involved in a variety of criminal activities; writing, after all, does not pay.


Trump Endorses Gorean Lifestyle

WASHINGTON (AP) - Donald Trump revealed to White House correspondents last Sunday that he wholeheartedly endorses the Gorean lifestyle.

Trump with wife Melania, whose enthusiasm
for the Gorean lifestyle has yet to be determined.
"I'm a huge supporter of Gor," Trump was quoted as saying. "The hugest. It's a tremendous way to live."

The Gorean lifestyle was born out of John Norman's Gor series, a collection of twenty-plus science-fiction/fantasy novels popular in the 1970s and 80s. Gor, the planet for which the series is named, is marked by extreme gender disparity, with large portions of the female populace enslaved by dominant men.

"I'm a big John Norman fan," Trump added. "He's a high-quality person."

The Gor books have been criticized for their espousals of patent misogyny and depictions of sexualized violence. They have also inspired a dedicated fandom, including a sub-group of the sadomasochist community that actually practices the Gorean lifestyle.

"It's all about grabbing what you want," Trump said. "Gor is like America at its greatest."

Trump wouldn't comment on whether or not he himself is a practitioner. One White House staffer did report, however, that Trump keeps a copy of Slavegirl of Gor on his nightstand, right beside Mein Kampf.

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Image attribution: "Donald_Trump_and_wife_Melania" by Boss Tweed. Original file licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. Original image can be found here.

The Saskatoon Effect: Incontrovertible Evidence We Live in a Simulation


On January 11th, the New York Times released its annual list of tourist hotspots throughout the world. Perhaps not surprising due to the country's five to six months of winter per year, Canada saw only one of its cities named to this list. Was it ocean-swaddled, mountain-girded Vancouver? Sufferably Francophone Montreal? The amicable metropolis of Toronto? In all three cases, the answer is no. Rather, the Times chose Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, compelling evidence that we are indeed living in a computer simulation.

Simulation cosmology has been in vogue of late. Tech magnate Elon Musk has gone on record stating that he is convinced our universe is a simulation. Moreover, simulation theory has circulated throughout pop culture and the internet, proponents citing all manner of evidence, most notably, the phenomena of false memories apparently shared by wide swaths of the population. For instance, many claim to recollect that Nelson Mandella died in prison long before his reported death in 2013. Moreover, many grown adults who had the Berenstain Bears books read to them in their childhoods insist they remember the name of the titular ursine family having been spelled "Berenstein". These incongruities have been interpreted as glitches in the digitally coded fabric of our reality. The testimonials on which they are based, however, are highly conjectural to say the least, and so we have been left with little solid evidence that we live in a simulation...until Saskatoon came along--or rather, became worth travelling to.

If you have never heard of Saskatoon, don't be ashamed. It is a small city of a quarter million people on the South Saskatchewan river. Its main industries are agriculture, flour, oil, meat packing and dairy products. It has a university of middling quality and an art gallery which, according to the Times article, has a Picasso. The Cleveland Museum of Art also has a Picasso, but that is no reason to hazard a trip to Cleveland. There is little else to speak of in Saskatoon. It is not the provincial capital, and it has no professional sports teams (unless you count lacrosse). It has a full six months of winter per year.

Thus, there are two possible scenarios at play here: 1) we live in a simulation and there has been a glitch in which Saskatoon has been mistaken for interesting, possibly due to larger issues involving data fragmentation or corruption brought along with Donald Trump having been elected president. Alternatively, 2) we are but one in a series of billions of ongoing simulations, and ours is the singular instance in that billion wherein people in New York find places in Western Canada, let alone Saskatchewan, interesting.

Either scenario seems plausible. Rest assured, however, that despite the interest that New Yorkers have taken in Saskatoon as a tourist destination, there is no simulation--no matter how many billions and trillions are ongoing--in which Saskatoon is actually interesting.

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Image attribution: "DowntownSaskatoon" by RBykowy. Alterations were made by Ewedrooper. Original file licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. This remix is distributed under the same license as the original. Original image can be found here.