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The Shape of Science: Jonathan Weighs In

October 22, 2009

Barry, there is nothing you have done that you couldn’t do with a flat earth model. Yes, the North Pole is in the center, but you could still reach England from North America without flying over it.

Here is a chapter from a book on Zetetics, which was the forerunner of the modern flat earth movement, which explains how your travels could work on a flat earth:

And here is another similar chapter, on circum-navigating, explaining why:

I should ask though, why are so many people getting so emotional about this? I have been called a moron, and all sorts of names. Well, I am tough, and I can take it, but I still ask, why the hostility? Does such anger have a place in reasoned scientific discourse, or does it spring from the insecurity that always accompanies blind faith?

Why am I being accused of being a religious nut? Is God evoked in either of the two above chapters, or are reasoned calculations and measurements used? Science is a great tool. I am not bashing it. It helps us explain the world, and learn about it. What I object to is science being misused, and Korbie, it sounds like you are misusing science. Hey, I object to religion being misused as well. Everything has its place in this world. And while science is great, it is not so great that it is above being abused by its adherents.

The Flat Earth chapters I have posted were not thought up thousands of years ago. They were come to during the scientific age, through reasoned scientific analysis. But because they are a little different from the mainstream, you blow a casket.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Korbie permalink
    October 22, 2009 3:31 pm

    By the way, did this Charles K. Johnson ever publish his papers in a peer reviewed science journal or magazine? The greatness of the science is that is welcomes criticism. Criticism is key to the advancement of humanity. If you bring up ideas, make sure it can hold up to the scrutiny of the rest of the population. If indeed he did believe in a flat earth, why? If he did do experiments, did he allow other scientists to do the same?

    If there’s one things scientists won’t do is to immediately dismiss an idea. If he has published it in a peer reviewed magazine, what is the result of that? Were his experiments confirmed by other scientists? I would not believe anything unless it was confirmed.

    You might remember the cold fusion fiasco a few years back. We all thought it was absolutely wonderful. Then we tested it. Instantly, we found it was just a hoax. Has Charles K. Johnson done that peer review process? If it was never tested by another scientist, I wouldn’t just immediately accept such an idea.

    I’m looking at the links right now.

  2. Korbie permalink
    October 22, 2009 3:40 pm

    So the first link is from 1881. Everything this guy uses is from old ship records. By design, voyages from ships are not in a straight line. Winds will send you off course or you will just simply go off course by yourself. Ships may go a little further off the straight line to go on a current so as to travel faster, or go a little off course to travel not on a current that would be working against the ship.

    This also appears to presuppose the round earth theory to be false. Unless I’m reading it incorrectly, I’m not sure on what grounds this guy holds this to be true.

    Also remember, if this theory has been around for some time, then we would be using it today. If people did think this was true before, it has obviously been addressed and denied in favor of the round earth theory.

    You would find it easier to discover the actual mileage of a voyage if you’re using an airplane, but even then airplanes never travel in a straight line from one place to another.

    This guy has never done any experiments to actually ascertain the correct values for travel. He only has the word of ship logs which can be potentially inaccurate.

    I also don’t see how the second link proves anything. It only supposes the possibility of there being a flat earth without thinking about that it may be something else. This is something like a confirmation bias. He definitely thinks a flat earth is already potentially true without regard to what else the evidence may entail.

    This man also says nothing about our ability to move south and arrive at the same area as before. Or north for that matter.

  3. Korbie permalink
    October 22, 2009 3:46 pm

    And I am sorry if I did call you a religious nut. However, pretty much every proponent of the flat earth hypothesis will indeed be a dissenter of the scientific method. That throughout history has been the church and the people it holds sway.

    One other comment. Today’s science is unlike science of the previous eras. Today we go by what you might know as the scientific method. If you bring forth a hypothesis of a certain phenomenon, it must be testable by others. This is one of the cores of science. If there is any evidence that would reject your hypothesis, it must be addressed. You have not addressed any of my claims thus far. I do welcome you to object to any of my arguments and in fact I encourage it for the interest of the advancement of science as I certainly have yours. However, if you do not, there’s no reason to dismiss the round earth theory as somewhat of a conspiracy.

    Anyone can say whatever they want, but whether they can prove it to be true through strenuous testing is the very foundation to science.

  4. Jonathan permalink
    October 22, 2009 4:53 pm


    I know it is an old book. Zetetic astronomy was an 19th century science, and Johnson was a revivalist of sorts. The entire book is online, and you can see that Rowbotham, the author conducted many experiments, which are listed and described:

    The scientific method if I remember correctly came out of the royal society during the 18th century- under Charles II I think. The scientific method was much more a part of British culture during the 19th century than it is of American culture today.

    To answer your question about Johnson, no, of course his writings were not peer reviewed. Nobody took him seriously. Anyway, he combined experiments done by Zetetic Astronomers, new experiments of his own design, and yes, biblical quotes in order to support the theory that the earth is flat.

    To explain my personal beliefs:

    I am of the opinion that the greatest thinkers are the ones who challenge accepted notions. I like the new theories that humans are older than chimps, I like Stephen Hawkings, I like theologians like ex-nun Mary Daly (Beyond God the Father) who argues that God is a female, and I like Kelly Douglas, who wrote The Black Christ.

    To give some words on Barry’s argument from before:

    Obviously the stories in the bible are not meant to be taken literally. The people who do take them literally aren’t ‘doing it right.’ The great religious thinkers of the past such as Augustus and Maimonides, to name a Catholic and a Jewish rationalist, or Teresa Of Avila and the Kabalists, to mention mystics of the same two faiths, or John Milton, just to throw in a protestant, all knew that the stories in the bible were not literal historical accounts of actual events. These people were thinkers, philosophers.

    These people have done a lot for you:

    Without John Milton, we might not have democracy today. He was the intelectual voice behind the failed Republican revolution in England, and his ideas, along with Locke and Hobbes, influenced Jefferson and the American Patriots. The revolution in England, in which Charles I was beheaded, was the first time all the kings and queens of Europe had to face their subjects, and deal with issues of personal rights.

    On the domestic front, Milton’s essay on the right to divorce is our most important piece of writing on the topic, and should be read by anybody who is trying to argue for further marriage rights in the 21st century.

  5. Jonathan permalink
    October 22, 2009 5:12 pm

    To answer another obvious question that has not been raised: If these people knew that the stories were not literal accounts, then what good are they? I think the answer is that they provided a framework with which they could express their philosophies, this framework was universal, and accessible.

    A good example of this could be the theologian Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, in which he uses the story of Abraham’s binding of Isaac in order to put forward an existentialist treatise. One could say that atheist Camus used Greek mythology in the same way in say, the myth of Sisyphus. It is all one and the same, and these are both important works, which helped advanced philosophical thought.

  6. Jonathan permalink
    October 22, 2009 5:17 pm

    And also, when I wrote Augustus, I meant Augustine.

    • Korbie permalink
      October 22, 2009 10:59 pm

      I don’t think I should even look at your link anymore. This is what your link says:

      “Rowbotham never adequately explains his alternative astronomy. If the Copernican theory so adequately explains planetary motions, why discard it, and what would he use in its place? What is the sun orbiting around once a day and how does it work like a spotlight, not a ‘point source’? If the moon is self-luminous, what creates its phases? If gravity appears to work here on earth, why doesn’t it apply to the celestial objects just a few hundred miles up?

      To make his system work he had to throw out a great deal of science, including the scientific method itself, using instead what he calls a ‘Zetetic’ method. As far as I can see this is simply a license to employ circular reasoning (e.g., the earth is flat, hence we can see distant lighthouses, hence the earth is flat). ”

      Note particularly the second paragraph. He DOES NOT use the scientific method. He uses circular reasoning. Need I go on?

      As he was not peer reviewed, why not? Did he publish his studies in a peer reviewed journal like any other well respected scientist? Might he have been scared to do so like modern day creationists?

      You still have not said anything about my arguments. You haven’t spoken about them at all. All you have are assumptions. Let me add in another aspect of the Occam’s Razor. The hypothesis with the least assumptions win the case. What your assumptions are is simply grand in nature, that all of mankind is in a mass conspiracy just designed to sway us all, and for what? What’s the reason to persuade the entirety of humanity that the earth is round rather than flat? I might get your reasoning if such a conspiracy actually had a purpose, but this one simply doesn’t.

      And if the Bible wasn’t literal, then, as you said, what’s the point of it? Just toss that piece of fiction written by men out in the garbage. We’ve had plenty of philosophers before that came about, especially in the ancient Greeks. Secular humanists have already shown that you do not need religion nor its texts for morality. Evolution already explains it perfectly well.

      Plus, the Bible wasn’t exactly a great source of morality. Rape was never talked about besides the little thing with if a man rapes a woman, they will be married. What the hell kind of moral philosophy is that? Genocides were never discussed. Adultery, though I do deem it a bad thing, has the consequence of death, which I do abhor. Slavery was welcomed. God even tells Moses to go enslave people pretty much. Ethnocentrism also arises from it. The idea of a chosen people goes against the very idea of equality. Child abuse is never discussed, and what kind of problem do we have in the churches today?

      The Bible was never needed for any type of philosophy. And if men wrote these books, then that means they did not help advance philosophical thought at all. After all, MEN WROTE THEM. They already knew them.

      And the people did believe the books were literal. I dare you to say they were not. Do you deny history for the past two millennia? Do you seriously?

      As for your stuff on democracy, I don’t know enough about John Milton to talk about it. I don’t see what’s your point though on these guys. And Charles I was definitely not the first time the royalty had the face their subjects, or do you deny Roman and Greek history as well?

  7. Ian permalink*
    October 23, 2009 3:58 pm

    the only thing I have to contribute is I think Jonathan meant “blow a gasket,” not “a casket.”

  8. Jonathan permalink
    October 23, 2009 9:49 pm


    I posted a link to a book. What you read was the introduction by the person who scanned and posted the book on the internet. Clearly this individual was attempting to distance himself from the material he posted.

    To answer your question of whether Rowbotham was peer reviewed, I provide this quote which can be found in chapter 1 of the book posted pages 6/7:

    the secretary of the Royal Astronomical Society (Professor De Morgan, of Trinity College, Cambridge), reviewing a paper by the author, in the Athenæum, for March 25th, 1865, says: “The evidence that the earth is round is but cumulative and circumstantial; scores of phenomena ask, separately and independently, what other explanation can be imagined except the sphericity of the earth?”

    I would say that this does qualify as peer review.

    As for your statement that the people mention did in fact take the bible as a literal account of history, I can’t go through each one and give an example, but here is a wikipedia quote on St. Augustine:

    Augustine took the view that the Biblical text should not be interpreted literally if it contradicts what we know from science and our God-given reason.

    Here is the link to the quote, so that you can know I am not inventing it:

    I know that wikipedia is not the most respected repository of knowledge, but St. Augustine I would think falls under the heading of common historical knowledge, or at least anybody who has taken a high school level European History course should know this.

    Anyway, do not accuse me of rewriting history. You are the one who seems to have a poor grasp of the subject. The only name you might be able to get me on in Maimonides. He was a subtle, slippery author who can be interpreted one way or the other on the topic of literal reading of the bible versus exegesis. I tend to read him as exegetical, but both views of his writings can be justified.

    As for your list of things that are not in the bible, once again I can not go through each one and give an example, but try telling someone who follows what is known as Black Liberation Theology (such as our current president) which focuses on Exodus and Ezekial, that there is nothing about slavery in the bible. You will get an earful. As for your contention that Moses calls for slavery, this is false. He does ask his followers to take money and goods from the Egyptians before the flight, but this is usually interpreted as exacting payment due for the labor which the Hebrews had performed as slaves.

    When one speaks of the kings and queens of Europe, one is speaking of the monarchial system of government that grew out of the feudal system after the fall of Rome. What you are speaking of are roman Emperors, which is another system of government entirely, and separated from the monarchial system with it’s mercantilism by a large gulf of time. Once again, do not accuse me of not knowing my History.

    As for your suggestion that we toss the bible off, we would be tossing off more culture and history than I am comfortable with. First of all, we have the art. I really like the byzantine stuff, and of course there is the Renaissance, but to be honest, I don’t find myself at a museum more than once every few years or so, so I could live with out it. Next, the music. I have always found it overrated. It is very dark and heavy-handed, so let’s just toss it off. Music at least is one discipline that has not suffered because of the decline of religion. Next, we have the literature, philosophy, poetry, and writings that have been influenced by religion. OK, now we are getting into dangerous territory. Many of these works mark the true advancement of humanity. But, many people have lived without philosophy or literature, and have had just fine lives. Lastly, we have Western History. Should we also toss off large chunks of History because they happen to touch on religion in some way? Forgetting history is one of the most dangerous things a culture or society can do.

    Look, I don’t have an agenda here. I do not have any religious affiliation, and do not claim to know whether or not God exists. I am not trying to convert you to anything. It is you who are trying to convert me.

    I do have a respect for history, and a respect for the various religious practices and ideas of today and of the past, but maybe this is not what we are talking about.

    What I do not have respect for is science, with its arrogant faith in the scientific method. This does not mean I am ignorant. I know the difference between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. I know the difference between an element and a compound. I understand the germ theory of medicine. Do I believe in the germ theory of medicine? No. Why? Because it’s ridiculous. I understand the round earth theory. Do I believe in it? No.

  9. Korbie permalink
    October 23, 2009 11:21 pm

    Why do you think science is ridiculous? As I’ve said before, pretty much everything that you use in your daily life is due to science. Everything we understand about medicine is due to science. Do you think we just somehow doubled our life span by coincidence? I have already said, faith, by definition, means belief without evidence. Science is the direct contrary to that fact. We have evidence. We’re not arrogant, it is in fact the monotheistic religions that are arrogant in its dismissal of many scientific facts only because they somehow contradict a holy text or two that were written by a mostly illiterate culture with knowledge far beneath ours.

    In addition, what’s so ridiculous about the round earth theory? And what about the germ theory? I would think you would not understand it if you didn’t believe it to be true as both theories are very much based in fact and wholly doused in evidence. There have been nothing that would even let a person imagine that those theories were not of reality. And, again, even if they were untrue, what’s the point of lying to the public?

    I never said to kill off history. I’m a huge lover of history and I do know that religion has shaped our lives. Whether that’s better or for worse is your opinion. But just because we say the Bible is wrong doesn’t mean we toss out the rememberance of their culture and heritage. There have been many dead religions and we still remember them, and we do realize how powerful they were in shaping the states that accepted them. Again, I am not saying we throw away history here.

    About the kings and queens, fine. Though I would say that our democracy most stems from our knowledge of the ancient Greek and Roman systems of government. The Renaissance started up when the Christian nations found those texts long since burned by the church that were saved by the Muslims and got a little too excited about Greek culture. And the Renaissance was really a period of growing away from the church.

    Just an aside, the church did much to hinder the development of music and theatre, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have much of an impact. But it really wasn’t until music unrelated to the church started up that music really started to develop. Similarly for music after the church stopped sponsoring it. And if I recall correctly, the paintings from the Renaissance era were largely influenced by the ancient Greeks. You would see a large difference between the paintings of that era and the one before it.

    I never said anything about no slavery in the Bible. When did I say that? I said God told Moses and his people to butcher and enslave those of Palestine, but that doesn’t really matter.

    And I wouldn’t call that a peer review. No experiments were made by other scientists. A peer review is when other scientists follow up and tries to redo whatever the thesis says it would. And if I read right, that paper review even agrees with me that “what other explanation can be imagined except the sphericity of the earth?” meaning the earth is indeed spherical in this certain person’s opinion based on the evidence provided, not flat. This is unless I’m reading it wrong from the context, but then you didn’t provide me with much. Considering no one has peer reviewed it, I cannot say if those experiments are correct or not. Anyone can purposefully skew data, and that’s why we absolutely need other scientists to peer review so that we don’t have a fiasco like the cold fusion thing.

    This man even talks about the fallibility of the eye, and then proceeds to use the eye to conduct his experiments. What is this? Also, his assumptions are grossly incorrect. He believes that the earth will actually curve up and then down. This is just incorrect. From where you stand, the earth always curves down. The earth is BIG.

    And also, once again, this book is from the 19th century. We didn’t even have airplanes and space ships. In today’s world, we can actually SEE that it’s spherical, not flat. We got stuff like the Hubble Telescope out there looking at the rest of the world. To even believe that your flat earth hypothesis is correct would be the assumption of too much, and that is deadly under Occam’s Razor. This would assume that the government is lying to us, that the astronauts are lying to us, that the universe isn’t actually that big, that the theory of relativity is incorrect, that the laws of physics are also skewed, that every piece of math used to prove the spherical nature of the earth is incorrect, that the point that there’s no evidence to prove the contrary of a spherical earth is incorrect, and more.

    The best science is when you assume nothing. You go in, get the evidence, and use inductive reasoning to figure out what this means. This book is obviously full of confirmation bias and deductive reasoning. The author refuses to look at the evidence otherwise, and if he did, that evidence has skyrocketed since then towards the reality that is the spherical earth.

    But the best evidence of all comes here:


    Again, I ask you to refute my arguments. If you can’t, then the possibility of a spherical earth is at the very least a possibility and the possibility of a flat earth is simply zero. It seems as if you’re the one that’s just blinding accepting someone’s word. Double check your sources. Don’t believe someone just because they say something that’s different from what everybody else says. It must also make sense. For most people a flat earth does not make sense. Why? Because, I say again, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE AND EVEN COUNTER-EVIDENCE This is not similar to an atheist’s statement that a religion is false, because the religion, in this case, is the one without evidence. Remember, when there are two or more arguments to explain a certain phenomenon, especially as one as clear cut as this, we would select the best one available, and the flat earth hypothesis is clearly not.

  10. Korbie permalink
    October 23, 2009 11:22 pm

    Also, the curvature of the earth means that for every mile, the earth droops 8 inches. 6 miles means 4 feet. You would still see the flag since it’s 5 feet high.

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