Flat-Earth conspiracy spreads around the globe

Kooky or creepy? 7% of people in Brazil do not believe that the Earth is round. © Alamy

Is it sinister to believe the Earth is flat? Thousands do. In fact, flat-Earthers have recently held huge meetings in Brazil and Italy. But experts fear this strange belief has a dark side.

What’s happening

Humanity has known that the Earth was round since the days of the ancient Greeks. On a clear day, the curvature of the Earth can be seen from an aeroplane window.

However, that isn’t enough for everyone. A stubborn minority of people is convinced that the Earth is flat. They call themselves “flat-Earthers”.

Find out more

The number of flat-Earthers seems to be growing. They have recently held meetings in Brazil, the UK, the USA and Italy, featuring guest talks called “Space is Fake” and “Testing The Moon: A Globe Lie Perspective”.

Last year, a YouGov survey suggested one in six Americans are not completely sure that the world is round.

Why do so many people believe an idea that is clearly false? As Nasa explains, we can see our planet’s round shadow on the Moon during a lunar eclipse. Even the earliest scientists thousands of years ago could measure the circumference on the Earth using shadows.

“It seems that, increasingly, people don’t trust scientists and experts,” says psychologist Karen Douglas. Conspiracy theories “are more harm than help”.

Is it sinister to believe that the Earth is flat?

Some say…

Of course not. Flat-Earthers may be strange, but their beliefs are harmless. Besides, we shouldn’t trust everything we see and read. People like to work things out for themselves— that’s why conspiracy theories are so popular.

Others think…

It’s very dangerous to stop trusting science. If you do not have faith in experts, like scientists and doctors, will you ignore them when they say you need to have surgery? How will you react to a government you think is lying to you? Our societies can only work when they are based on truth. Conspiracy theories spread distrust and division.

You Decide

  1. Do you believe in any conspiracy theories?

Activities

  1. Create your own conspiracy theory about the world or how it is run. Make it as wacky as possible!

Some People Say...

“America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy.”

John Updike (1932-2009), American author

What do you think?

Word Watch

Curvature
The way the surface of the Earth bends to form a sphere.
Stubborn
Determined not to change one’s attitude.
Perspective
A way of seeing things; a point of view.
Nasa
Stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It is responsible for the USA’s space missions and research.
Lunar eclipse
When the Earth passes directly between the Sun and the Moon.
Circumference
When you measure a circle around its circular edge.
Psychologist
Someone who studies how humans think.
Conspiracy theories
A strange belief shared by a small group. Often it involves a powerful, secretive organisation controlling the world.

Subjects

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