The flat earth cult

I don’t think I could survive attending a flat earth conference. The stupidity is a huge backward step for humankind. Michael Marshall attended one, though, and survived. He’s a stronger man than I am, because this would wreck me.

The Earth, according to Nesbitt, is more likely a diamond shape, with East-West travel facilitated by 4D space-time warps along the edges, allowing for a “Pac-Man” version of reality – where a traveller might sail off one side of the screen, and appear at the other side. That diamond is propped up on seven circular pillars, “because God likes the number seven”. This version, he explains, fits the evidence better, and is supported by the Bible, in the book of Job.

Several speakers throughout the weekend take time to highlight that evolution is a myth, accompanied by occasional heckles of “monkey men!” from audience members.

Here’s a telling excerpt. This whole flat earth nonsense is simply weaponized religiosity.

Nesbitt shared what he called the “Flat Earth Addiction” test – seven questions Flat Earth proponents should ask themselves, including “Have people said that you are pushy or obsessive about Flat Earth?”, “Have you thought that if only everyone knew about Flat Earth the world would be a different place?”, and “Have you noticed that you spend less and less time with your family and friends and more and more time talking to Flat Earthers?”.

Looking around the room, I could see knowing nods, as people recognised themselves in each question. The questions, Nesbitt explained, were taken from a checklist used to determine whether someone is in a cult. The implication seemed lost on the audience.


  1. weylguy says

    I think I first heard of the Flat Earth Society about 20 years ago. I thought it was a kind of tongue-in-cheek fun sort of thing, done strictly for laughs, a sort of The Onion get-together for geeks. Boy, was I ever wrong, but who could blame me for thinking that nobody could take the notion of a flat earth seriously in this day and age? But then Trump got elected in 2016, and I realized that the entire country had gone stark raving mad.

  2. says

    A sudden mass extinction event such as a small asteroid collision with the ground zero on the conference would represent a massive advance for humanity.
    Perhaps a bit rough but the sheer waste of time, space, and resources.

  3. anchor says

    Here’s a recent posting from someone who manages to turn a hopelessly dull issue into a most entertaining thrashing:

    Professor Dave Explains —

    Response to Globebusters – The Earth Still Isn’t Flat

    Its interesting that the dull-witted dudes, who are the very sort who whine loudly about their right to free spinach, tried to deny Prof Dave HIS right to it by flagging his rebuttal. Happily it was reinstated.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    That diamond is propped up on seven circular pillars…

    What species of turtle is on the bottom end of those pillars?

  5. jrkrideau says

    The Canadian Geographical Journal had an interesting article on the Flat Earth idea a few months ago. My impression was that the author was not convinced but he was kind.

  6. says

    If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a documentary on Netflix called “Behind the Curve” which follows a couple different groups of flat earthers and some of their attempts to prove themselves right. The test they devise, which show exactly what they should if the earth was a spinning sphere, fail and they just wave it off to “heavenly energy”.

    It was painful to watch, but interludes with people on the side of reality make it bearable.

  7. says


    Not a bad reminder, but just FYI that documentary has already been (briefly) discussed here on pharyngula. If you’re interested, the thread can be found here. Of course that discussion mainly focusses on the optical gyroscope instrument that they bought…and then disregarded. Of course, if you have new observations on that documentary there’s no reason you shouldn’t drop those here. Just thought it would be good to remember our past.

  8. blf says

    The linked-to Grauniad article is about a year old — which is fine, it’s still quite relevant — and earlier this year was the interesting article (ignore the clickbaity title), Study blames YouTube for rise in number of Flat Earthers: “Conspiracy theories shown on video-sharing site persuade people to doubt Earth is round”. With a related video, Flat Earth rising: meet the people casting aside 2,500 years of science (video): “Though not a new phenomenon, flat Earth theory has enjoyed a huge resurgence recently. A YouGov poll indicated that a third of Americans aged 18 to 24 were unsure of the shape of our planet, in spite of scientific proofs from Pythagoras to Nasa. […]”

  9. blf says

    Whatever happened to Ye Goode Olde Dayen when the Earth was a hollow sphere with a flying saucer base inside — the entrance was a hole at the N.Pole, where the saucers fly in / out…

    (Generalissimo Google indicates this wacky idea, plus variants, is apparently still around… Geesh!

    The mildly deranged penguin points out the Massive Orbital Cheese Vault — MOON — is hollow, that’s where all the cheese is stored. The MOON isn’t “made” of cheese, it’s stuffed full of it. And it isn’t the Man in the Moon, it’s a certain penguin inside the MOON.)

  10. Matt G says

    I’m confused – is Nesbitt trying to show his fellow flat-Earthers that they have traits in common with cult members?

  11. zetopan says

    #16: Which immediately leads to the Time Cube website, where the Earth is a cube – or something, it is hard to determine what the terminally irrational author actually thinks*.

    *Using that word in a very “relaxed” manner.

  12. bassmanpete says

    A basic understanding of gravity should be enough to convince anyone that something as massive as the Earth couldn’t be anything else but round.

    Before anyone jumps in, I know it’s an oblate spheroid but ’round’ is close enough when you’re dealing with flat Earthers.

  13. Mobius says

    I tried to watch the Netflix documentary on flat Earth believers, and just couldn’t stand the stupidity, lack of critical thinking, that abounds in that group. I gave up after 10 or 15 minutes.

  14. blf says

    Not flatearthers, but another “weaponised reglion” bunch of kooks — and unlike flatearthers, peddling something immediately dangerous (potentially lethal) — Church to offer miracle cure‘ despite FDA warnings against drinking bleach:

    Group to hold effective alternative healing event in Washington state in which they peddle a sacrament known to be industrial cleaner

    A group calling itself Genesis II Church of Health and Healing plans to convene at a hotel resort in Washington state on Saturday [today? –blf] to promote a miracle cure that claims to cure 95% of all diseases in the world by making adults and children, including infants, drink industrial bleach.

    The group is inviting members of the public through Facebook to attend what they call their effective alternative healing at the Icicle Village Resort in Leavenworth on Saturday morning. The organizer of the event, Tom Merry, has publicized the event on his personal Facebook page by telling people that learning how to consume the bleach could save your life, or the life of a loved one sent home to die.

    The church is asking attendants of the meeting to donate $450 each, or $800 per couple, in exchange for receiving membership to the organization as well as packages of the bleach, which they call sacraments. The chemical is referred to as MMS, or miracle mineral solution or supplement, and participants are promised they will acquire the knowledge to help heal many people of this world’s terrible diseases.

    In fact, MMS consists of chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleach that is used both on textiles and in the industrial treatment of water. It has been banned in several countries around the world for use as a medical treatment.

    In the US, the chemical cannot be sold for human consumption. In 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out a public warning after it was notified of many injuries to consumers from drinking the fluid […]. The FDA issued the blunt advice: “Consumers who have MMS should stop using it immediately and throw it away.”


    The headline attraction of Saturday’s event in Leavenworth is Mark Grenon, a self-appointed bishop of the Genesis II Church. He is author of a book titled Imagine A World Without Dis-Ease: Is It Possible?

    In a video posted on the “church’s” website, Grenon says that the sacramental protocols sold by the group can eliminate 95% of the world’s diseases, including malaria, ebola, dengue fever, all types of cancer, diabetes, autism, HIV and multiple sclerosis. It sells 4oz bottles of sodium chlorite as sacramental cleansing water for $15, giving instructions on how to mix it with citric acid to make chlorine dioxide.

    A quick check suggests that, depending on grade, NaClO2 sells for c.$10/kilo, so $15/c.100g is an order-of-magnitude markup (even more since it’s apparently diluted)… plus the $450 donation (plus any fees for attending the event). Plus the medical, and possibly funeral, costs.

    As promotion for the event, Merry has posted on Facebook a link to a video which claims to show people with malaria being cured in two hours. The video shows a British advocate of MMS travelling to a village in Uganda where he arranges for several villagers to be given the miracle cure.

    One of the victims shown in the film is an infant lying in his or her mother’s arms who is made to drink a cup of the bleach. The child screams as the fluid is swallowed.


    ABC in the States apparently did an expose on these quacks in 2016; here’s Orac’s report Bleaching away what ails you: Miracle Mineral Solution and Jim Humble’s Genesis II Church.

  15. Nemo says

    There’s not a lot of overt religiosity in Behind the Curve, but near the end of the movie, Mark Sargent gives the game away: “This is what you’ve been waiting for. You’re not alone. You’re not this little speck of dust flying through space at incredible velocities. You are the center of the universe, as a matter of fact. You are the star of the show.”

  16. Owlmirror says

    I’m confused – is Nesbitt trying to show his fellow flat-Earthers that they have traits in common with cult members?

    I think it’s more something like: Hey, look at this checklist of questions for sad, pathetic folk who get completely obsessed about stuff that isn’t important at all, to the point of alienating themselves from everyone else in their lives who isn’t as obsessed. Of course, the Flat Earth is obviously of deep and significant importance, right? But maybe we should be a little careful about alienating ourselves from everyone else in our lives who isn’t as invested in it?


    But I could be misunderstanding it.

  17. says


    I’m not necessarily likely to have any real insight, but my take on it was,

    Hey, look at this! We meet the checklist for a cult! Isn’t that crazy? Man, those anti-cult people are just as bad as the round-earthers! It’s all a conspiracy to hide the truth. Now pass the plate, I need $500 in donations and make sure you sign your loyalty cards.

  18. leerudolph says

    A basic understanding of gravity should be enough to convince anyone that something as massive as the Earth couldn’t be anything else but round.

    Long ago I convinced myself (without actually calculating anything) that something the mass and density of the earth couldn’t be a cube (although I see in retrospect that I assumed the density was constant, which is pretty clearly bogus…), and the same method (or lack thereof) appears to apply for a regular tetrahedron or octahedron. It would be interesting to figure out how big a regular dodecahedral or icosahedral planetoid could be. Moon size?

  19. Chakat Firepaw says

    @bassmanpete #18

    A basic understanding of gravity should be enough to convince anyone that something as massive as the Earth couldn’t be anything else but round.

    Alas, gravity is also something many flerfers deny. They tend to either claim it’s density that causes things to fall¹ of that the flat Earth is accelerating upwards.

    Also, do not presume a flerfer has a “basic understanding’ of just about anything.

    1: Yes, I know that is just a demonstration of gravity but there are multiple flerfer videos boiling down to: “An egg will sink in fresh water and float in salt water therefore gravity is false.”

  20. blf says

    Update related to @20, British man arrested on suspicion of giving bleach-based ‘cure’ to Ugandans:

    Sam Little […] was picked up by Ugandan police at 6am on Thursday [23-May] in a village church in Kitembi, a few miles outside Fort Portal in western Uganda. Also arrested were two Ugandans who are suspected of being involved in the distribution of the bleach, which is known by advocates as MMS or Miracle Mineral Solution.

    The arrests come five days after the Guardian exposed a massive distribution network of MMS in poor areas of Uganda that was being supervised by an American pastor from New Jersey. The network by its own estimation was handing out quantities of the bleach to up to 50,000 Ugandans every month and telling them that it was a cure-all for almost every serious disease including HIV/Aids and cancer.


    In the wake of the Guardian’s reporting, the US government put out an official warning in Uganda. The US mission, an outpost of the US embassy in Kampala, issued a public statement saying that it was aware of reports that MMS was being distributed by an American pastor in the country and stating: “We strongly condemn the distribution of this substance, which is extremely dangerous and is NOT a cure for any disease.”

    The Guardian revealed that Robert Baldwin, an ordained pastor from Burlington in New Jersey, was importing into Uganda bulk shipments from China of the chemical components of MMS. He was then training hundreds of priests across the country on how to mix the components to make chlorine dioxide, a bleach used in the textile industry.

    Baldwin was offering smart phones to pastors who were particularly “committed” to distributing the “miracle cure” to their sick congregants.

    After the Guardian story appeared Baldwin took down the website of his “Global Healing” ministry as well as his personal Facebook page where MMS — which he called healing water — was promoted. He told a local New Jersey newspaper that he was being demonized by people who do not understand the science behind natural medicines but went on to insist such medicines could cure the world’s deadliest diseases.


    Before his arrest, Little conducted what he called a “trial” of MMS bleach on nine Ugandan patients at a small Ugandan hospital. In a video, he claimed the trial had proven that malaria could be cured using chlorine dioxide within two hours.

    He told the Guardian before the paper’s report appeared that he was also conducting similar trials on people with HIV/Aids in various locations across Uganda.