Friday, June 19, 2020

It's Only A Model

I watched a documentary last week about flat-earthers. The title, cleverly, was Behind The Curve. The focus of the film is flat earth celebrity Mark Sargent. Mark is the host of a YouTube channel devoted to Flat Earth Clues. Each revelation of the vast conspiracies that drive this whole "the world is a ball flying through space" is a charge for him to move forward in spite of all the so-called "scientists" who might try and convince him of their absurd notions. Mark is, at first glance, one of those nuts that think the earth is flat and the moon landing was faked. But his enthusiasm is engaging, and it's a fun ride to watch him take on NASA and the powers that be. The conviction with which he speaks about the giant wall of ice that encircles the flat disc we are shown in models he happily displays is disarming.
I confess that prior to watching this documentary, I had little patience for this kind of wobbly conspiracy theorists. I'm a big fan of science, and NASA, and how these schools of thought have come together over decades, centuries, history. Skeptics that want to poke at things like gravity tend to wear on me. I understand that it involves math, and that the fact that Mark lives with his mother doesn't do much to dissipate the stereotype of this type of individual. Then I moved on to the acceptance of Mark and his flat earth friends. Who are they hurting, really?
That's when the psychologist shows up and tries to explain how folks might have fallen into this particular hole, and though their beliefs may be theirs and private by their nature it is possible that it begins to link up with other more dangerous ideas like denying climate change. And just when I was ready to push them all back into a that neatly designed corral for which I have designated such people, along comes another scientist. Physicist Lamar Glover encourages us all not to shun flat earthers and other minds that have taken different paths. They should be listened to and encouraged to question, which is the very basis of science. "When we leave people behind, we leave bright minds to mutate and stagnate. These folks are potential scientists going completely wrong."  Finding ways to bring that excitement and enthusiasm back from the fringe could benefit everyone in the long run. It also forces us who carry around duffel bags of dogma to connect with and reaffirm our own beliefs. Turns out we have a big enough world, no matter what the shape, for everyone to question and learn. It might take some more convincing, but wouldn't that be worth it? 
Now please feel free to apply this to any and all conversations you have with people you had recently decided were confused and close-minded. 
It's only a model. 

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