I recently read a rather boring article on the Flat Earth society that got me thinking.
How much do I take as a given because it is common knowledge? Does having read it in many different books mean that the earth is a sphere? Does it take blanket TV coverage before it’s proven? Does it matter that the stories I’ve heard about the shape of our world have appropriate and logical explanations for the hows and whys of that shape?
Is gravity self evident, or do I just keep falling to the ground for nothing?
I’m patently being absurd; but it remains true that a lot of my knowledge is borrowed. We as a society constantly rely on the cleverness of our scientists, and those around us who know more about other things than we know. The scientists themselves (and mathmeticians and engineers etc) also build on the work of others. No individual scientist (or anyone else) knows everything there is to know. Even they are reliant on the thoughts of others.
It’s basically what culture is.
I can fly in a plane or be driven in a car (I could probably even drive myself, badly, though not legally), yet I only have hearsay on how they work. I could perhaps even fathom some portion of the engine from the descriptions given to me.
Is it enough to know that I could find out how to take an engine apart and see how it works?
These sentences are getting a little confusing.
If the world was flat then a lot of scientists would no longer be trusted. I picture planes falling out of the sky in protest as the lies they were built upon crumble.
Every tenet of civilisation is founded on the notion that when people who know tell us what to know that it is true.
Or at least that’s what they want us to think.
And we are forced to trust. I have a strong opinion on the recent climate change ‘debates’ (scare quotes to indicate my faith in the scientists on this one, not the right wing columnists), yet I have a very limited understanding of the science that I’m relying on to back me up. I trust that the evidence is there, I have read things that say it is there; why wouldn’t I?
It’s a troublesome spot to be in.
But skepticism is valuable. It is challenging the fundamental principles of common sense that led us to the scientific wealth we have today (even if some would rather not use it). By asking questions, and seeking the evidence for answers, we have discovered worlds (and landed on moons).
But then a retreat into solipsism wouldn’t help either.
I could set out now, on a straight line in any direction and find out, eventually, if the world is flat or not. I have faith that I could do this. But I choose not to.
If the world is flat, then I am wrong.
Illustration by Lucy.
No post yesterday due to staff illness.