Opinions & Editorials

What I’d say to aflat-Earther

What shape is the earth? Science would say a globe, memes might say it is a dinosaur (sarcastically of course) and your coworker might say flat. The dualistic split of society has become more drastic than ever for a multitude of reasons surrounding politics, educational shifts, generational differences, etc. But the split that used to make the least sense to me was that of flat earth versus globed earth. After watching several videos that attempted to engage people on both sides in discussion, a thought occurred to me that may be the spark of reuniting inter???national divides. But first, an extremely brief history recap.

Until the Greek philosopher Aristotle proved otherwise, it was the consensus that earth was flat from varying ancient religious stories, orally passed down with little to no written documentation of origin. Aristotle theorized a spherical earth, but had little evidence to back it up. Still, those who adopted the thoughts of Greek philosophy believed it. Evidence did not occur until sailors and astronomers developed sufficient theories and evidence to back this hypothesis that Aristotle had.

I emphasize hypothesis to better explain how scientific thought occurs on the journey to truth. For those who have had this in science class, it may be a good refresher. Scientists start with ideas, whether out of thin air or based on other research or truth. They take these ideas,form hypotheses and then seek to support or disprove these hypotheses. This happens in different ways across sciences and sub-fields of science. Some do experiments while others gather previous research and analyze it for consensus. Whatever the case, their hypotheses are supported,even partially, or not. But this is not the end; it takes the work of many scientists to repeat this process for something to become a scientific fact, then a theory. A theory, e.g., gravity, is something that has not necessarily been proven but rather has so much evidence around it that it is agreed to be true. You can drop a baseball outside a million times, and it will always fall. But a theory is always susceptible to being disproved with the same methods used to prove it.

Why the 7th grade science lesson? Because there is a gap in understanding between the scientific and non-scientific communities. Science is not disproved using theological, self-made or even philosophical methods. It is disprovable by only its own methods. Strange, isn’t this isolating? You may think so, but all the methods I mentioned do the same. Theologians do not take kindly criticism from science or philosophy. As a psychology and theology double major, I should know. My theology professors hated when I brought scientific method into class. But what does this have to do with flat earth or the current political divide?

If we want to live in a society of diverse thinking and diverse culture, we must reconcile with the differences in methods of thinking. When I say reconcile, I mean we must simultaneously accept two truths that coexist but may or may not be related, seemingly contradictory, or come from different lines of thinking. This means accepting the science of a round earth and accepting the theology of a creator (if you choose to believe that). This equation does not output flat earth. End of story. Theologically speaking, reading text literally is absurd. Considering the Bible, any version out there is a translated version of different ancient languages concerning stories that were orally passed down with no documentation of origin. The Bible is not a text disproving

science. Nor does science dictate what stories are made up or real in the Bible. Theology has its own brand that does that for itself as does science for its own pursuit of truth. So, our “national wounds.”

Straight up, conservatives think liberals are being mind-controlled and liberals think conservatives are vastly uneducated. Despite the stats one may conjure to prove or deny these attitudes, we cannot keep living this way. I hate being dismissed by older conservatives for being “too educated” or “mind-controlled” and I hate being condemned by liberals for thinking anything slightly different from them or trying to empathize with conservatives. We need to understand and accept that specific ideas are constrained to being supported or denied only by the fields they originate in. For the environment, this is science. For economic models, this is finance. We cannot be pro-choice or pro-abortion based on religious belief because it is a matter of the way we philosophically and/or ethically view the fetus at different stages, which we understand thanks to science. I cannot scientifically take a stance on which religion I want to choose because it does not help me decide. 

We must be better at compartmentalizing the different ways we think about different aspects of our lives. This might be the start to listening to each other if we listen to each other within the field of discussion. Theology does not dictate philosophical debate and science does not dictate decisions of which economic system to adopt. Be the change you want to see in the world.

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