Holy crap, turn off your irony meters before you read this one!


Jesus, no. They can’t do this to me. Can a creationist say something so ironic, so oblivious, so un-selfaware, so stupid that my head might explode? Danny Faulkner comes very close. He’s a young earth creationist associated with Answers in Genesis, he was ponderously featured in Eric Hovind’s creation movie, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy.

He thinks the Earth is less than ten thousand years old, and that the Big Bang is bunk, but he is also confident that the Earth is a sphere, and he patiently explains how flat-earth dogma is wrong. He is very concerned about the flat-earth movement, and tries to explain why they are wrong.

Flat-earthers raise an excellent epistemological question: how do we know what shape is the earth? For three decades, I asked this very question of students in the first semester of my introductory astronomy class. The context of this question was the early history of astronomy. I would ask my students what shape they thought the earth had. All my students would answer that the earth was a sphere. I retired from the university more than six years ago, just about the time the modern flat-earth movement was starting, so I expect that if I were teaching classes now, I frequently would encounter students who think that the earth is flat. When I asked my students how they knew the earth was a globe, not one student could give me a good reason.

Aww, the ignorance of students concerns him. Me, too. I’m not retired, I still engage with students, and I can say that I’ve never met one who thinks the Earth is flat, but I’ve met more than a few who think the Earth is young. I was not prepared for the degree of irony to come, though.

…few students ever develop proper critical thinking skills. When someone comes along with a few arguments for the earth being flat, most people have absolutely no knowledge or resources to counter them. Flat-earthers, for example, typically testify that when they first heard about the earth being flat, they thought it was the dumbest thing that they ever heard. The soon-to-be converts thought that they easily could disprove that the earth was flat, but they quickly realized that they couldn’t. Perhaps out of frustration, they finally concluded that the earth must be flat. It never occurred to them that perhaps their education had failed them in not better preparing them for refuting the notion that the earth is flat.

Just as an exercise, reread that paragraph, but change the word “flat” to “young”. It stops being a description of students, and instead is an indictment of…Danny Faulkner.

Keep going. Keep changing “flat” to “young”. It’s amazing.

There is an important difference between gossip and flat-earth cosmology. Mere gossip rarely is life-changing (except perhaps for the poor victim of gossip). But if one becomes convinced that the earth is flat rather than being spherical, that is a major change in one’s worldview. If the earth truly is flat, then we have been lied to about the earth’s shape our entire lives. One must ask how and why this lie was created and perpetuated. Ultimately, this line of thinking leads to the conclusion that there must be a vast conspiracy about the earth’s shape that has been going on for a long time (since the time of Columbus in most flat-earthers’ estimation, since they generally subscribe to the Columbus mythology). And coming to believe that a vast conspiracy is responsible is a relatively small step for most flat-earthers, because, by definition, a conspiracy is a secret knowledge, and the allure of secret knowledge generally was a major factor that led them into flat-earth belief in the first place. The thirst for secret knowledge is why so many people find belief in all sorts of conspiracies so appealing.

We’re not done yet. Let us look at the Bible through this lens.

In their new-found fervor, flat-earthers often become very bold. Flat-earth Christians think they have found cosmological truth in the Bible, and they aren’t about to let anyone dissuade them from this belief. It doesn’t matter that until very recently virtually no one within the church saw the Bible as teaching that the earth is flat.

Has Danny Faulkner read Danny Faulkner’s testimony?

I had never given much thought about what I would do with my life, though I had always loved astronomy. Almost immediately after my rededication, I came to realize three things: that one could make a living doing astronomy, that I had the ability to do that, and that I believed God had called me to do this. About this time I read The Bible and Modern Science, by Henry M Morris. This was the first book of his that I read, and I’d eventually read many more. A year or two earlier I had read two books that taught day-age and probably even theistic evolution. I realized that what these books espoused was a bit different from what I had understood the Bible to mean, but I respected these men and thought that they probably were right. But I quickly saw that what Henry Morris wrote made much more sense biblically, so I immediately became a recent creationist.

Four decades ago, I learned a valuable lesson from a Bible professor from whom I took two semesters of Pauline epistles. He said that if you see something in a passage that no one else has seen before, there’s probably a very good reason: it isn’t there.

Until very recently, no one within the church saw the Bible as teaching that the Earth is 6000 years old. The day-age explanation he mentions, as well as the gap theory, were more common among educated theologians a hundred years ago, and in fact protestant churches were interested in reconciling the Bible with the science of geology. The Catholic church even today is just fine with the Earth being ancient. There was a trickle of a strain of belief over the last few hundred years (thanks, Archbishop Ussher), but no one saw the Bible as explicitly setting a date for geological events.

That is, until Whitcomb and Morris stole some prophecy from the Seventh Day Adventists and published The Genesis Flood in 1961, claiming to see something in the Bible that no one else had seen before.

Faulkner just charges on, completely unaware that he’s talking to a mirror.

Some flat-earthers also fashion themselves to be experts on science and the methodology of science. Consequently, they think of themselves as competent to dictate to scientists, both godly and ungodly, on how science ought to be conducted. But their definitions and practice of science appear to be formulated to make science as generally understood impossible.

Where do these flat-earthers get the notion that they are capable of rewriting so many disciplines of study? This is particularly galling when one considers the limited science education that most flat-earthers seem to have achieved.

OMG. I am so done here. I refuse to explode, though, because this is the only fate appropriate to Mr Faulkner.

Comments

  1. Sonja says

    Why the concept of a “Poe’s Law” was necessitated — no one could write a parody this perfect.

  2. says

    ‘O wad some Power the giftie gie us
    ‘To see oursels as ithers see us!
    ‘It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
    ‘An’ foolish notion’

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    That is, until Whitcomb and Morris stole some prophecy from the Seventh Day Adventists and published The Genesis Flood in 1961…

    This is an interesting point. Almost all of Whitcomb & Morris’ ideas were stolen from SDA George McCready Price, without attribution. Most mainstream Protestants consider SDAs to be heretical or near-so, and would not be as receptive if they knew where their ideas were coming from.
    See: The Creationists by Ronald L. Numbers, Harvard University Press, ISBN 9780674023390 for a lot more fascinating history.

  4. Akira MacKenzie says

    Flat-earth Christians think they have found cosmological truth in the Bible, and they aren’t about to let anyone dissuade them from this belief. It doesn’t matter that until very recently virtually no one within the church saw the Bible as teaching that the earth is flat.

    How about the actual author’s of the Old Testament? I mean, if the Genesis account complete with garden, two humans, a magical piece of fruit and a talking snake MUST be literal truth then the Earth being a flat disc covered by a crystal dome floating in an infinite ocean MUST also be true. You can’t have it both ways, Danny Boy.

  5. microraptor says

    The funny thing to me is how similar that is to how I switched from being a conservative to being a socialist.

    I’ve always been very interested in science, but I grew up in a conservative family, though not one that was religious. Then, in my 20s, I started to realize just how much science-denial there was regarding evolution among conservatives and started looking at other conservative viewpoints and before I knew it I was supporting socialized medicine.

  6. Gaebolga says

    Okay, does anyone know which movie supplied the footage for that gif?

    I must know…

  7. blf says

    I was trying to think of a song which might go with that animated GIF — but couldn’t — although the content loosely reminded me of the title of this one, whose lyrics are indirectly linked to exploding irony meters, Ashes to Ashes.

  8. Owlmirror says

    @Gaebolga:

    Okay, does anyone know which movie supplied the footage for that gif?

    Segata Sanshiro (in Japanese: せがた三四郎, Segata Sanshirō) is a recurring character in various commercials and video games created by Sega.

    [. . .] Soon after, a man foolishly challenged Segata to a martial arts battle and soon not only lost badly but lost his life when Segata used a judo throw that caused him to explode, twice, which Segata used as a convenient opportunity to advertise Saturn Bomberman as he walked away from the explosion. [. . .]

    And a compilation of all of his “victories” has the commercial that the above GIF is taken from starting at about 1:13.

  9. Ed Seedhouse says

    When I read the bible it seemed perfectly obvious to me that whoever wrote that stuff believed the Earth was a flat disc and the sky a dome supported by pillars. How you can subscribe to a “literal” interpretation of the bible and not reject the spherical earth is beyond me.

  10. Reginald Selkirk says

    A “documentary” is being released on June 25: Alien Moon

    Considering geometric anamolies on the moon’s surface, flashing lights, and astronaut’s experiences with UFOs, this independent documentary explores the possibility that the moon is an ancient alien base

  11. PaulBC says

    Shorter Faulkner: “We use Science™ but flat earthers? Those guys are c-r-a-z-y!”

    I must be missing the punchline. Were we expecting him to be introspective enough to see the contradiction?

  12. blf says

    The current MOON is the latest in a long serious of Massive Orbit Cheese Vaults. It’s not so much the man in the moon as the mildly deranged penguin inside the MOON; nor that the moon is made of cheese as the MOON contains vast stores of cheese; nor that the moon is an alien base as the MOON is a spaceship. (The acronym MOON is the result of the mildly deranged penguin’s sloppy clay table styluspenguinship.)

  13. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ Ed Seedhouse

    How you can subscribe to a “literal” interpretation of the bible and not reject the spherical earth is beyond me.

    Because, it all depends what you claim is a “literal interpretation.” Fundy evangelists, Ray Comfort comes to mind, often loves to claim that “The Bible proves that the world is round” and cites chapter and verse. Of course, Ray is either a blithering idiot who lacks reading comprehension or is just being deceitful, and the average Bible-beater he’s preaching to isn’t going to dig any deeper and look up how the ancient Hebrews who wrote Genesis imagined the universe, so “round” means “sphere” rather than “disc” even though the term can apply to both.

  14. blf says

    That Alien Loon “documentary” (see @12) has a most amusing summary (my emphasis and also my emboldening): Our enigmatic moon may have a sinister origin that mankind is not prepared for. From astronaut UFO encounters, to flashing lights, to geometric anomalies on the surface that appear to be structures, it’s possible that the moon my actually be the home of ancient aliens or be serving as a base of operations. For the moon to be able to perfectly eclipse the sun is a mathematical impossibility based on our current understanding of psychics but we also know that the moon could be hollow from experiments performed on Apollo missions. Clearly, there is an intelligence involved with our mysterious satellite.

    Well, at least the hollow bit isn’t completely wrong, the MOON (see @14) isn’t exactly completely solid, even when fully loaded with cheese. And I suppose there could be psychics who’ve mathematically shown eclipses aren’t possible — starting with, say, the builders of Stonehenge. (Who were very good at hunting wild cheeses, according to the mildly deranged penguin.)

  15. jrkrideau says

    6 microraptor

    “before I knew it I was supporting socialized medicine.”

    And soon to be sipping a latte with the avacado sandwich. It’s a slippery slope.

  16. Owlmirror says

    I have to wonder if Faulkner is mildly zinging Ken Ham.

    Faulkner writes:

    When I asked my students how they knew the earth was a globe, not one student could give me a good reason. Eventually, a student would bring up photographs from space. Then, I’d point out that the first satellites were launched in the late 1950s and that people had thought that the earth was a sphere much sooner than that. Furthermore, I’d also point out that photographs could be faked. You see, I was making this point long before flat-earthers were!

    Yet I happen to recall that during the Nye-Ham debate, Ham just showed a picture of the Earth from space to show its roundness. Nothing about historical arguments from astronomy, geometry, and the observations of the early natural philosophers.

  17. blf says

    Looks at café. Goes to check on avocados. Looks for some bread… Nope, sorry, just an café presse, avocados not quite ripe, and I seem to be out of bread. Not sure if that means I’ve slid down the slope, or someone’s moved the slide away?

  18. numerobis says

    Have you ever read catholic priests going on and on about how horrible it is people have these crazy superstitions?

    It’s like that.

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