6 major problems with a flat earth

I’m going to do something I thought I never would and hoped I’d never have to. I’m going to talk about the concept of a flat earth and explain a few of the many lines of evidence that clearly indicate that the earth is not flat. There are several reasons why I am doing this. First, I want to use the flat earth movement as a case-study in the types of flawed reasoning employed by science-deniers. As I have previously explained, most (if not all) forms of science-denial rely on the same logically-flawed tactics. Climate change deniers, anti-vaccers, flat earthers, etc. all commit the same suite of logical fallacies. Therefore, even if you think that the flat earth movement is ridiculous, hopefully you will benefit from this post by gaining a better understanding of the flawed lines of reasoning that lead to such positions.

The second reason for writing this is that I fear that the skeptic community has not done a good job of dealing with the apparent increase in the flat earth movement. With some noteworthy exceptions, we have tended to either ignore it or simply mock and deride those who believe in a flat earth, and I do not think that those are particularly helpful approaches. People are easily influenced by those around them, and in the modern technology age, finding misinformation is absurdly easy. Indeed, the internet is full of articles, videos, etc. claiming to have “proof” that the earth is flat. In such an environment, it should hardly be surprising that flat earthers seem to be growing in numbers, and I think it is important to make it as easy as possible for people to find explanations for why the flat earth arguments fail. To that end, this post will not contain any mocking, name-calling, etc. I have attempted to write it as a dispassionate explanation of the facts and logic, and although I occasionally deviated from that for dramatic effect, I want to make it clear that I am calling particular arguments stupid, rather than making any judgements about the people who use those arguments (even an intelligent person can use really insane arguments).

I’ve grouped this post into six major problems with a flat earth, but most of those groups actually include multiple different lines of evidence that preclude a flat earth (in one case, I broke the category up into sub problems, but each one builds on the others).

 

Ad hoc fallacies and the nature of science

Before I begin going over arguments about the shape of the earth, I need to spend a few minutes explaining an extremely common logical fallacy among flat earthers (and creationists, anti-vaccers, etc.). This is what is known as an ad hoc fallacy. Unlike most fallacies, this does not occur as part of an argument, but rather as part of a counterargument. It arises when someone is faced with evidence that contradicts their view, and they respond by inventing a solution for which there is no evidence. In other words, they invent a response that you would never accept unless you were already convinced of their view. It also often has the property of being unfalsifiable. In other words, it is something that cannot actually be tested and must be accepted on faith.

Let me give you an example. Imagine that I was talking to a self-proclaimed psychic, and I presented them with a test of their powers which they failed. Then, rather than accepting that I had exposed them as a fraud, they simply retorted with, “my powers don’t work in the presence of skeptics.” That would be an ad hoc fallacy. There is absolutely no evidence for that statement, and, indeed, I would never accept that response unless I was already convinced that they were a psychic. Further, it is not a falsifiable claim. If their magical powers conveniently stop working any time that they are tested, then there would, by definition, be no way to test that claim. I’d have to take it on faith.

Because they rely on self-reinforcing assumptions rather than evidence, ad hoc fallacies are not allowed in rational discussions, and they are diametrically opposed to how science works. Science, by its very nature, requires evidence. If you test a hypothesis and the test does not support it, you can’t simply make up some nonsensical “solution” and insist that your solution is correct. You’d have to accept that your hypothesis has been discredited (at least for the time being). To be clear, if you think that there may be something else occurring, you can propose that as a possible answer and subsequently test it, but your answer has to be falsifiable, and you cannot state it as a fact or even as a high probability until you have actually tested it.

All of this comes back to two important concepts of logical thought: Occam’s razor and the burden of proof. Occam’s razor is often incorrectly stated as “the simplest solution is usually the correct one,” but it actually has nothing to do with simplicity. It actually states that the solution with the fewest assumptions is more likely to be correct, and it dictates that we should not make any more assumptions than are strictly necessary to explain our observations. The burden of proof is simply the concept that the person making a claim is responsible for providing evidence to support it. In other words, it is not acceptable to make a claim like, “my powers don’t work in the presence of skeptics” unless you can provide actual evidence to support that claim. Further, the other party is not required to discredit the claim until that evidence has been provided (i.e., I am under no obligation to disprove the “psychic’s” claim).

With those concepts in mind, let’s take a look at some evidence.

Note: There is no one set of universally held views for flat earthers, so I have done my best throughout this to discuss the views that seem to dominate flat earther conversations and are endorsed on pages such as the flat earth wiki. Also, in situations where no one view seemed to dominate, I have tried to discuss all of the most common views I found.

 

1). The sun and the moon

This is a typical flat earth map, with the sun and moon circling overhead.

Many of the most obvious problems with flat earth views revolve around the sun and the moon, so let’s start there. For a flat earth to work, the earth clearly cannot be orbiting the sun, nor can the moon be orbiting the earth, and neither of them can be very far from the earth. To solve this problem, flat earthers argue that the sun and the moon are actually very small (only about 32 miles in diameter), they are very close to the earth (2,000–3,000 miles depending on which flat earther you ask), and they simply move in a giant circle over the earth, rather than orbiting anything.

1.1 Assumptions

There’s a lot to unpack there, but let’s begin with a simple question, “how did they get those numbers?” Quite simply, they got them by assuming that the earth was flat, then working out the math to try to make it possible to have a sun and moon on a flat earth. They even admit that to get those numbers you have to start with the assumption that the earth is flat. To put that another way, I would never think that those numbers are correct unless I was already convinced that the earth was flat. This is, already, an ad hoc fallacy. There is no evidence to support the claim that the sun is only 3,000 miles from the earth or that the sun is impossibly small. Rather, it is a cop-out that requires you to first believe that the earth is flat (thus it fails to meet the burden of proof). Further, we can use things like radar and lasers to calculate the distance of the moon, planets, etc. Flat earthers, of course, simply ignore all of those measurements and claim that they are part of a vast conspiracy (more on that later).

1.2 Impossible movements

Next, we have the problem of how the sun and moon are running around in circles above the earth. According to flat earthers, this is because all of the celestial bodies we see are moving around like a giant binary star system on steroids with the center of gravity conveniently above the north pole of the earth. This is, once again, ad hoc. It’s also mathematically absurd, but the math is too complex to take the time to explain, so instead, I will simply point out a huge inconsistency in flat earther’ views. This view requires gravity. That is the only way for such a system to even be hypothetically possible, but, as I’ll explain more later, flat earthers reject gravity and say it isn’t real (they have to do this, because otherwise, the earth’s gravity would pull the sun and moon crashing down into it).

This diagram (viewing a flat earth from the side) illustrates the absurdity of flat earther’s “spotlight” argument. Panel A shows how things would need to be for their model to be correct, but that is clearly not how light works. As panel B illustrates, if the sun acted as a spotlight, then no light would reach the moon. Panel C shows how light actually works. It radiates out from all points of a sphere. In reality, it would continue radiating out well past the moon, but for this figure I stopped it at the moon to illustrate that for light from the sun to reach the moon, it also has to, at the very least, constantly reach essentially the entire northern hemisphere (in reality it would constantly reach the entire earth).

1.3 Why can’t we see the sun all the time?

The next problem comes from the sun illuminating planet earth. If the sun is a mere 3,000 miles above the earth and is constantly hovering above the earth, we should see it all the time. There should never be a point in the day during which we cannot see it way off in the distance. To “solve” this, flat earthers propose that the sun acts like a spotlight that magically directs its light downward, rather than allowing the light to radiate outward. Thus, you only see it when it is close to overhead. This, of course, is pure madness (it’s also another ad hoc fallacy). That’s not how light works. A ball of light (such as a sun) radiates light in all directions, not just down. Further, if the sun was a spotlight, then it shouldn’t be able to illuminate the moon. I have sometimes seen flat earthers try to explain this away by proposing that the atmosphere (which they amusingly call the “atmoplane”) is so dense that the sun can’t pass through it at a shallow angle (i.e., when the sun is distant on the horizon, it has more atmosphere to pass through). That is, however, just more ad hoc speculation. Further, if it was true that our atmosphere was that thick and that good at blocking light, then how is it possible for us to see the stars? Surely their exceedingly dim light wouldn’t penetrate that atmosphere. Or, at the very least, they should only be visible from directly above, and we shouldn’t be able to see them on the horizon. The fact that we can see stars on the horizon, but not the sun clearly indicates that the thickness of the atmosphere is not the issue here.

This diagram (viewing a flat earth from the side) illustrates the fact that, on a flat earth, people in the northern hemisphere would see a different side of the moon than people in the southern hemisphere (the pink and blue triangles show the angle of view form a person in each hemisphere. Panels A and B show the same problem, but they demonstrate that the problem becomes worse as you move away from the equator. The size of the sun and the moon is not to scale with the earth based on flat earther views (but that is irrelevant since we are talking about spheres, and making them large was necessary or else they wouldn’t be visible), but their position above the earth is approximately correct for flat earth views, and even if the scale was way, way off from their claims, the same problem would remain.

1.4 Why do both hemispheres see the same surface of the moon?

There are other issues with this view of the sun as well, but let’s move on to the moon, because it creates a whole new set of problems for flat earthers. First, if the moon was circling 3,000 miles above us, then people in the northern hemisphere and people in the southern hemisphere should see very different faces of the moon. In reality, however, everyone sees them same face, it is just flipped upside down in one hemisphere. That alone clearly demonstrates that the moon is not circling overhead, but wait, there’s more.

This diagram (viewing a flat earth from the side) illustrates the fact that, on a flat earth, people in the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere would experience different lunar cycles. For simplicity, I showed the sun casting a single beam, but it obviously actually radiates out in all directions. The dotted triangles show the points of view from people in the northern and southern hemispheres. Panels A and B show the same problem, but they demonstrate that the problem becomes worse as you move away from the equator, with people in the far south rarely seeing more than a sliver of lit moon. Panel C shows that even if we drastically alter the altitudes of the sun and the moon (as some flat earthers propose) the problem still remains. The size of the sun and the moon is not to scale with the earth based on flat earther views (but that is irrelevant since we are talking about spheres, and making them large was necessary or else they wouldn’t be visible). Their position above the earth is approximately correct for flat earth views, and even the scale was way off from their claims, the same problem would remain.

1.5 Why does everyone experience the same lunar cycles at the same time?

The lunar cycles also present a huge problem for flat earthers. They generally explain them by saying that the moon circles at a different rate than the sun, thus the cycles are caused by the sun’s light hitting the moon at different angles. That’s highly problematic though. First, as stated above, it conflicts with their “the sun is a spotlight” claim. Further, if that were true, then the entire earth wouldn’t experience the same lunar cycles simultaneously. In fact, it’s worse than that. According to this model, people in the southern hemisphere should never have a full moon, or, at best, a full moon should only occur in the middle of the day. Some flat earthers have tried to get around this by saying that the moon is sometimes at a higher altitude than the sun, but this still would not let someone in New Zealand (for example) see a full moon, and people in New Zealand do see full moons. Ergo, this position must be bogus. Just to prove that I am not making things up, here is a video by flat earthers showing what the lunar phases would look like on a flat earth. Notice that according to this video, different parts of the world should experience different lunar cycles (in reality we all experience the same cycles) and the southern hemisphere only gets a full moon in the middle of the day (again, that’s not what we actually see).

1.6 Flat earther responses to moon problems

Flat earthers have some imaginative ways to try to solve these problems with the moon. One popular view is that the moon is actually a flat disk, like a Frisbee. This is, once again, an ad hoc fallacy. They are just making things up to solve problems with their world view. Also, we know the moon isn’t a disk, because if it was, it would start to look like an oval as it descended over the horizon, ultimately looking like a sliver before disappearing on the horizon. The type of circular moonrise and moonset we observe is simply not possible with a Frisbee (it would have to turn so that it was facing us, rather than being a disk that is parallel to us). Additionally, if you look at the moon with a telescope or high-powered camera, you’ll notice that its craters are round in the middle, and gradually become ovals towards the edges. That makes perfect sense if we are looking at a sphere, but makes no sense whatsoever if it is a disk.

Another popular view is that the moon is actually self-luminous. In other words, it produces its own light (I wish I was making this up, but I’m not). Can you spot the logical fallacy there? Now, how or why it lights up is a mystery that flat earthers can’t explain. Similarly, the phases of the moon are hard to explain with this view, but that doesn’t stop flat earthers from trying. I have seen some propose that it is bioluminescent (so there is life on the moon apparently), and for unknown reasons these organisms light themselves up in massive groups that vary on a predictable pattern thus creating the illusion of lunar phases. Others propose that parts of the moon are simply “turned off” at various times (one wonders by whom, how, and for what purpose). Regardless of the mechanism, a self-illuminous moon still doesn’t solve the problem that people in the north and south should see different faces of the moon. Also, we know that the moon is illuminated by the sun, not itself, because its craters cast shadows, and those shadows are always consistent with the position of the sun.

1. 7 Lunar eclipses are impossible on a flat earth

One final problem that I want to talk about is the lunar eclipse. This happens when the earth passes between the moon and the sun, thus blocking the sun’s light. This is 100% impossible in a flat earth model (they even admit that). Therefore, they have invented what they call the “shadow object.” This is an object that orbits the sun, and is usually so close to the sun that you can’t see it, but occasionally it passes between the sun and the moon causing the eclipse. That’s right, they just completely invented a celestial object for which we have 0 evidence, and the only reason to ever think that such an object exists is because doing so is necessary for a flat earth view. That is a textbook ad hoc fallacy. You can’t simply invent celestial objects to save your pet view. That violates fundamental principles of logical reasoning and maintaining an evidence-based view of reality.

1.8 Other forms of science denial commit the same logical blunders

Now, at this point, it would be easy to laugh at flat earthers for constantly inventing solutions that they have no evidence for, but the reality is that most (if not all) groups of science-deniers do this. Creationists, for example, do this all the time. Just to give two quick examples, they arbitrarily claim that the radiometric decay was faster in the past, and they invent magical mechanisms for sorting fossils during Noah’s flood. Similarly, when faced with the fact that we have carefully tested the natural drivers of climate change and found that they cannot explain the current warming, climate change deniers often insist that there must be some other driver that we don’t know about. That response is, however, ad hoc. Inventing and unknown driver of climate change is no different from a flat earther inventing a shadow object. Anti-vaccers and the anti-GMO crowd are no better. They invent fanciful mechanisms through which vaccines and GMOs supposedly cause harm and they invent conspiracies and conflicts of interest anytime that a paper disagrees with them. All of these groups (and many others) commit the exact same logical flaw: they make massive assumptions to solve problems in their views, and that is not logically valid. You must have evidence to support your claim. It’s that simple.

 

2). Gravity

Gravity is another huge thorn in the side of flat earthers. You see, gravity should preclude a flat earth, because gravity would pull the earth into a sphere (you know, like it actually does). Further, even if the earth was solid adamantium and could resist gravity’s pull, a big problem would still remain. Namely, anytime that you weren’t on the North Pole, gravity would pull you sideways as well as down, because there would be more mass to one side of you. This would become exaggerated the further you moved from the North Pole. Most flat earthers admit this and acknowledge that gravity is fatal to their view, but don’t worry, they have a solution.

According to flat earthers, gravity is an illusion, and actually the earth is accelerating upwards at a rate of 9.8m/s^2, thus creating the appearance of gravity. So, when you drop an object, it doesn’t fall, rather the earth accelerates up towards it. This is, of course, yet another ad hoc fallacy. Also, there is no explanation for why the earth is accelerating. Flat earthers usually just cop out with, “dark energy is causing it,” or some other claim for which there is clearly have no evidence or logical reasoning.

Additionally, it is clearly not enough for the earth to be accelerating, because if it was just the earth, then we would crash into the sun and the moon and shoot past the stars. Therefore, according to flat earthers, the entire universe is accelerating via unknown mechanisms (because reasons). Somehow, though, the earth shields the objects close to it (thus they can still fall) but doesn’t shield the sun and the moon, even though they are only a few thousand miles directly above the earth. How this happens is anyone’s guess.

Having the universe accelerate at a constant rate of acceleration raises the obvious problem that the earth would soon be going faster than the speed of light, which is impossible. To get out of this one, flat earthers invoke special relativity and claim that it allows an object to accelerate infinitely at a constant rate of acceleration without ever reaching the speed of light because of differences in reference frames. Invoking special relativity and other complex physics concepts is a common and irritating tactic by science-deniers. It is irritating because these concepts are so complicated that it takes an immense level of knowledge before you can even assess them. Thus, someone with no real knowledge of relativity can invoke it, and even if they are dead wrong, their opponent can’t explain why they are wrong without first earning a PhD in theoretical physics (which I don’t have).  The one thing I am sure of is that as you approach the speed of light, the energy needed for further acceleration increases to the point of infinity. So, they not only need a mechanism to explain the acceleration, but they need to explain how it is consistently infinitely increasing its energy output (good luck).

Note: originally I explained why I thought they might be wrong about relativity, but based on the comments, it seems that they may actually be correct that it can accelerate infinitely at a constant rate; it’s still hopelessly ad hoc though.

One final note about gravity is that their views on it are self-contradictory. As explained earlier, they invoke it to explain the movements of the sun and moon. They also need it for their mythical shadow object to orbit the sun. Further, we can very clearly see that celestial bodies move according to the laws of gravity, and we have used gravity to predict the existence of objects before they were directly observed (e.g., Neptune). Flat earthers seem to accept all of this. Thus, they have to argue that gravity is true, except for planet earth. Everything else produces gravity and acts according to the laws of gravity, but not earth (makes perfect sense, right?).

 

3). Coriolis effect

Flat earthers also struggle to explain the movement patterns of storm systems in the northern hemisphere vs the southern. You see, the spinning of the earth results in a phenomenon known as the Coriolis effect, and that causes storm systems in the northern hemisphere to spin counter-clockwise, while storm systems in the southern hemisphere spin clockwise (this video illustrates and explains why this happens). This is a huge problem for flat earthers, because they have no way to explain why storm systems spin in opposite directions in the north compared to the south.

I have yet to see a flat earther give a well-reasoned response to this problem, but here are the three responses that I have encountered on various videos, forums, and blogs. The first is to simply cop out by saying, “because of wind patterns.” That is clearly a non-answer, however. What causes the wind patterns? Yes, the storms circulate because of the wind patterns, but those wind patterns only move that way because the earth is spinning. There is no reason for them to move that way on a flat earth, that’s the point.

The second response is to attribute it to gravitational pull from the “celestial gears.” This is another baffling concept that flat earthers have invented. It proposes that different star systems form “celestial gears” and their rotation somehow has an impact on earth. This is, once again, ad hoc, but it is also inconsistent with their other views. Remember again that flat earthers reject gravity, yet here they are invoking it. Further, how could the stars (which according to them are tiny) create that type of gravitational pull? It just doesn’t make sense.

The final option is to simply claim that the Coriolis effect isn’t a real thing. On several forums, I have seen flat earthers assert that the differential movement of storm systems is just a myth invented as part of the “round earth conspiracy.” Thus, all those photos of storm systems are fake, and all the people (like me) who have experience both hurricanes in the northern hemisphere and cyclones in the southern hemisphere are liars. That is, of course, patently absurd, but the there is an entire section is on conspiracy theories, so I’ll simply direct you there.

Note: it is a myth that toilets in the southern hemisphere flush in a different direction than ones in the north. The Coriolis effect is not powerful enough to act on such a small scale. The direction of flush for toilets is determined by their plumbing, not the Coriolis effect.

 

4). Impossible flights

Flat earthers also struggle to explain many airline flights. You see, if you look at a flat earth map, continents in the southern hemisphere are very far apart, whereas ones in the northern hemisphere are quite close. This should cause impossibly long flights in the southern hemisphere, but very short flights in the northern hemisphere. Reality, however, is quite different.

This is the path that Flight 28 would have to take on a flat earth. It is impossibly long. There is no way to make this flight with a 747 on a flat earth.

Let’s take Qantas Flight 28 that goes between Sydney Australia and Santiago Chile as an example (there are multiple others that could be used, and you can find plenty of other websites that have worked out this math for other flights). This is a non-stop flight that travels over 11,000 km and takes 14 hours and 20 minutes. That is all well and good on a round earth, but if you look at a flat earth map, the distance becomes substantially larger. In fact, it should be around 25,000 km. This is a huge problem because 747s simply cannot fly fast enough to make that flight in that time. In fact, given that 747s fly at 920 km per hour, it would take over 27 hours to make the flight!

As you might expect, flat earthers have some entertaining ways to “solve” this problem. My favorite is probably the argument that people on the plane get drunk or fall asleep and lose track of time (yes, they do make this claim). I have seen others claim that airlines drug their passengers. These are clearly absurd suggestions. Obviously not everyone on the plane is drunk. Further, many people watch movies the whole time, and they’d notice if their flight took 10 hours longer than advertised. Further, many people (including me) don’t reset their watches until they land. So even if I got waisted, I’d know something was up when I looked at my watch and it was 10 hours off of what it should be, not to mention that most people coordinate pick up times at their destination, which will be seriously off if the airline lied by a full 10 hours.

Others, perhaps slightly more logically, propose that airlines have simply upgraded the engines on the planes so they go much faster than the airlines report. This is also insane. For one thing, why wouldn’t they use these fast engines on all their planes. Why keep it a secret? Further, the planes would have to go ludicrously faster than their reported speeds to make flights like this. A 747 would need to go over 1,700 km per hour to make that flight. That’s nearly twice its actual speed, and is 1.4 times the speed of sound. A 747 is not a supersonic plane. I shouldn’t have to say that.

Oh, and one other thing I failed to mention, 747s only have a range of 13,450 km. So, on a 25,000 km flight, they’d make it about half way before running out of fuel and crashing.

Given all these problems, many (possibly most) flat earthers take yet another route: they deny the existence of these flights. According to them, these flights only show up on the websites to further the “round earth illusion,” but they can’t actually be booked and no one has ever actually flown on one. Everyone who claims to have been on one of these flights is either lying or (according to some flat earthers) actually got off in a different country than the one advertised (you’d think they would have noticed that when going through immigrations).

Regardless of which answer you choose, the end result is that you have to believe in ludicrously impossible physics and a vast conspiracy involving every airline in the world. There is absolutely no way that commercial airline pilots wouldn’t know if the earth was flat. Their routes would make no sense if they were flying round earth routes on a flat earth. Further, although I used a long-distance flight as an illustration, these problems exist on a smaller scale for shorter flights as well, and pilots would notice the discrepancies. This conspiracy would be on an utterly absurd scale. Tons of people at Boeing would have to know about it, every airline company would know about, numerous officials at every airport would know about, every airline pilot would know about it, military pilots would know about it, etc. Also, the same problems would occur for sea travel. So, we have to add cruise companies, international shipping companies, every navy in the world, etc. to that list. It is a completely ludicrous conspiracy.

Note 1: Some flat earthers try to get out of problems like this by arguing that the actual flat earth map is unknown, thus the miles reported by the airlines (and seen on real maps) may actually be correct. The problem is that constructing a flat map where those miles are correct is utterly impossible. The geometry simply doesn’t work on a flat map. To put that another way, no flat earth map can explain these discrepancies in airline times/routes.

Note 2: Some flat earthers try to counter this by presenting multi-flight trips that seem unintuitive for a round earth (for example, a flight from Africa landing in Europe before going to South America). These flights are, however, completely possible on a round earth, they just aren’t the straightest routes (as opposed to the flight I presented which is impossible on a flat earth). Further, the reason for these non-direct routes is pretty obvious: demand. If Airlines have very little demand for flights from A to C but plenty of demand for A to B and B to C, then they simply won’t run a direct flight from A to C and will route passengers through B instead.

A screen shot of Flight 28 on a booking site.

 

5). Impossible coordinates

GPS coordinates provide another proof that we are not on a flat earth. I’ll use the decimal degree system to illustrate, but you can do the same thing with any coordinate system. This system splits the earth up into a grid with 360 degrees running east-west (longitude) and 360 degrees running north-south (latitude). The system can seem a bit confusing at first, because longitude is scored as 0 to +/- 180 degrees, whereas latitude is scored from 0 to +/- 90 degrees, but if you look at the figures below, it should make sense. You’ll notice on the lower image (which is a projection of a globe onto 2-dimensional space) that the distance between the longitude lines (i.e., the lines running north and south) decreases as you move away from the equator, but the decrease is consistent both north and south of the equator. In other words, the distance covered by 1 degree of longitude changes as you move away from the equator (i.e., change in latitude). This should make sense if you think about a ball. Any line around a ball can be broken into 360 degrees, with each degree comprising the same distance along that line. Where you draw the line determines what that distance is, however. If you draw it around the center of the ball, it will be a long line that runs along the circumference with each degree measuring 1/360th of the circumference; whereas, if you draw the circle near the top of the ball, the line will be small, as will the distance contained in each degree.

This is really important because it indicates two things. First, a formula to calculate distances between two points on this coordinate system must take the curvature of the earth into account, or else the distance will be wrong. Second, for each degree of change in latitude, the change in the distance covered by a degree of longitude must be consistent when moving north or south from the equator. In other words, 1 degree of longitude (i.e., distance east to west) at a latitude of 15 (i.e., 15 degrees north of the equator) must cover the same distance as 1 degree of longitude at a latitude of -15 (i.e., 15 degrees south of the equator).

A flat earth model inherently requires a different relationship. The distance covered by a degree of longitude has to decrease above the equator and increase below it. In other words, on a flat earth, 1 degree of longitude at a latitude of 15 would cover far less distance than 1 degree of longitude at a latitude of -15.

As you can see, our coordinates systems shouldn’t work on a flat earth. On a flat earth, the distance between two points of longitude would decrease as you moved away from the equator heading north, and increase as you moved south. In reality, they decrease both north and south of the equator. That can only happen on a round earth (see the text for details).

You can clearly see how this plays out if you look at the dots on the maps I drew. The purple dots are at the following positions: lat 30 long 15, lat 30 long 30, lat -30 long 15, lat -30, long 30. The red dots are at: lat 75 long -60, lat 75 long -75, lat -75 long -60, lat -75 long -75. Now, we have a simple test of the shape of the earth. If it is round, then when we calculate the distances (east to west) of those points, we should find that both sets of purple dots have the same distance, and both sets of red dots have the same distance, but the distance between the red dots is smaller than the distance between the purple dots, even though all four sets of dots are separated by 15 degrees of longitude. In contrast, on a flat earth, that distance must be different for each set of points, with the distance decreasing as you move north.

So, which prediction is correct? You guessed it, we’re on a globe. At both 30 and -30 degrees latitude, 15 degrees longitude equals 1,442 km, and at both 75 and -75 degrees latitude, 15 degrees of longitude is only 430 km. That result is 100% impossible on a flat earth.

Think about it. The coordinate positions really are where things are. There’s no way to fake it. Every map, every GPS, etc. agrees. Further, we know that the distances between those points are correct. Just watch your odometer as you drive on a straight line and you can easily test this. In other words, we know that the calculations work. They have been ground-tested countless thousands of times, and you can easily test them yourself. Field biologists like me use them constantly, and if they didn’t work, we’d constantly be getting lost in the field, because nothing would be where we had calculated that it should be. The fact that the trigonometry accounts for the earth’s curvature and produces accurate results is proof that the earth is round. The math simply could not work on a flat earth.

If you are tempted by the flat earth position, then really think about this. Think about degrees around a circle, then try explain how it is possible that degrees of longitude have matching distances in the northern and southern hemispheres (as I have illustrated). Coordinates and distances that we know are correct simply cannot fit on a flat earth map. It is not mathematically possible. The math that people like me use daily cannot work on a flat earth.

 

6). We’ve been to space/everything is a conspiracy

I’ve talked briefly about the insane conspiracy theory that must accompany flat earth views at several points in this post, but I want to really focus on it here, because it is far more ridiculous than I had previously stated. You see, we have been to space. We have seen that the earth is round. Astronauts are orbiting it right now. We have countless hours of video and tens of thousands of photos. According to flat earthers, however, those are all fake. Every last one of them. According to them, we have never been to space (according to some of them, space doesn’t even exist). Thus, every single space agency in the world is conspiring together to fake space programs and create the illusion of a round earth. Also, the International Space Station doesn’t exist (even though you can see it with a telescope and photograph it with about $2,000 worth of camera gear). Additionally, satellites aren’t real either. Every company that claims to be using them is actually using a complex series of weather balloons. If all of this sounds insane, good, because it is. NASA alone employs thousands of people every year. That’s an awful lot of people to be keeping quiet, not to mention everyone who works with satellites, other countries’ space agencies, etc.

Now, you may be wondering why so many countries would do this. What benefit do they get from fooling all of us? Why, for example, during the Cold War would the Soviet Union and the USA both conspire together while simultaneously competing with each other? These are good questions, and flat earthers don’t have good answers.

Often, they make some claim about how these programs actually just exist for the militarization of space, and so they just fake their own accomplishments as propaganda to keep the public interested and keep the money flowing in. That explanation makes no sense though. For one thing, how are they militarizing space if we have never even been to space!? Further, why would all of today’s space agencies conspire together. Do you honestly expect me to believe the US and Russia are in a joint conspiracy to help each other build their militaries?

Additionally, the military argument makes utterly no sense when you start looking at the numbers. NASA gets around 20 billion dollars annually. In contrast, the US military gets around 600 billion a year. Further, funding for the US military is one thing that is never in question. Why on earth does the military need to invent this utterly insane conspiracy theory just to get an extra 20 billion!? That’s only 3.3% of their annual budget. It’s nothing for them. Further, by the time that you buy off everyone involved (thousands of NASA employees, thousands of airline pilots, thousands of ship captains, etc.), launch rockets into the ocean (which is where flat earthers think the rockets go), and fake all the videos and photos (which would involve hiring actors, building sets, special effects, tons of computer animation, etc.), there is hardly going to be anything left. Honestly, 20 billion a year is probably not enough to even attempt a conspiracy like this. Nothing about this makes any sense.

Nevertheless, regardless of the sheer lunacy of this conspiracy theory, it presents a more fundamental problem. Namely, conspiratorial thinking like this is inherently irrational because it makes it possible to explain away any evidence against the conspiracy theory. In other words, no matter what evidence anyone presents that the earth is round, flat earthers will simply write it off as part of the conspiracy. The airline situation is a perfect example of this. Rather than accepting that these long-distance flights discredit their view, flat earthers simply write them off as part of the conspiracy. That type of reasoning is inherently illogical, and if you care about rational thought, then that alone should be enough to make you reject the flat earth movement (to be clear, that isn’t a fallacy fallacy, because the flat earth position requires this conspiracy, but the conspiracy itself has no evidence to support it and is irrational).

Here again, I want to pause and point out that lots of people are quick to laugh at flat earthers for this type of thing, then immediately make identical arguments themselves. Anti-vaccers, for example, propose that there is a vast conspiracy involving all of the world’s medical agencies, governments, and the vast majority of the world’s scientists and doctors. Similarly, both anti-GMO activists and climate change deniers imagine a conspiracy involving numerous governments, every major scientific body, and thousands of scientists. All of these conspiracies theories are irrational for the same reasons. Namely, they don’t have any solid evidence to support them (i.e., they are ad hoc assumptions), and are used to blindly write off any contrary evidence.

Summary

In short, to believe in a flat earth, you have to believe that the sun and moon both defy physics to run in continuous circles overhead, and you have to overlook the fact that this would prevent people in the southern hemisphere from ever seeing a full moon, and you have to overlook the fact that this would result in people in different hemispheres seeing different faces of the moon, and you have to ignore the fact that this would result in different lunar cycles in different parts of the world. You also have to believe that the sun somehow acts as a spotlight (which makes no sense). You also have to either believe that this spotlight somehow also illuminates the moon even though the moon should not be in the direction of the spotlight or you have to believe that the moon is self-illuminating. You also have to believe in a “shadow object” for which there is zero evidence, but the existence of which is required to explain a lunar eclipse on a flat earth. Further, you have to ignore the fact that a flat earth model can’t explain the fact that storm systems spin in different directions in different hemispheres. You also have to believe that gravity is a myth and via unknown means, the entire universe is accelerating upward at a constant rate of acceleration of 9.8m/s^2, but the earth somehow shields objects on it from the force causing this acceleration, yet somehow the sun and moon aren’t shielded. Also, you have to simultaneously believe that gravity does exist for every celestial body other than earth. Additionally, you have to either believe that certain airline flights don’t exist and everyone who claims to have been on them is lying, or you have to invent fictional technology that lets 747s fly faster than the speed of sound and greatly exceed their fuel limitations. On top of all of this, you have to ignore the fact that it is impossible to consistently plot known geographic coordinates onto a flat earth map. The math simply doesn’t work. Finally, you have to invent an insanely massive conspiracy involving every government, every space agency, every airline company (and their pilots), every international shipping company (and their ships’ crews), every company that is involved with satellites, etc. None of this makes any sense whatsoever.

As absurd as all of this may seem (and, indeed, as absurd as it actually is), flat-earthers are not alone in constructing this type of lunacy. The logical fallacies, conspiracy theories, etc. that pervade the flat earth movement are also prevalent among anti-vaccers, climate change deniers, etc. Indeed, essentially all forms of science denial suffer the same suite of logical blunders. So, before you mock flat earthers, take a good look at your own views, and make sure that you aren’t suffering the same errors in reasoning.

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50 Responses to 6 major problems with a flat earth

  1. cjonescu says:

    Thanks for the tour of one of the stranger parts of non-science. But the funny thing is, one line in the text reminded me of something actually in the scientific literature, and how it plays out nicely illustrates the difference between this kind of nonsense and science. The line is “If you test a hypothesis and the test does not support it, you can’t simply make up some nonsensical “solution” and insist that your solution is correct. You’d have to accept that your hypothesis has been discredited (at least for the time being). ” I’d argue that this in fact happens in the scientific literature. Lots of times a theory will make a prediction in earth science and that prediction will fail. You would think the theory would be dead, but in the absence of a competing hypothesis what often happens is that scientists propose pretty ad hoc means of getting around the failed prediction (I wrote about this long ago here: https://grumpygeophysicist.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/can-you-falsify-an-earth-science-hypothesis/). Scientists often have a lot invested in a theory and, being human, feel like their efforts should be defended. So in a lot of ways scientists and pseudoscientists have a lot of the same behaviors.
    But…
    As the next sentence after the one I quoted points out, scientists try to make their ad hoc explanations have some kind of test. Frankly some times the test is so palpably ridiculous to the rest of the community that the test is never made, but you can’t say there is no way to test the ad hoc addition to an otherwise failed hypothesis and have credibility. This business of appealing to conspiracies and simply pooh-poohing any contrary observations is what is not allowed in science and what, fundamentally, separates science from whatever flat-earthism and its ilk are.
    As an aside, there is another gravity problem for the flat earth–even if you can get a constant acceleration of the universe to generate gravity, you have the problem that gravity gets measurably weaker as you go uphill (0.3 mGal/m, where 9.8 m/s^2 is 980 Gal, so measurements at 4000m are weaker by 1.2 Gal) and measurably stronger as you go to the poles (by about 5 Gal; we can measure accurately down to about 0.01 mGal). Really hard to get that to work on an accelerating flat earth.

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  2. RGB says:

    Also , with the sun circling the earth but going to the tropics it must accelerate its circling to circumnavigate the tropic of capricorn and then decelerate until iyt circumvents the tropic of cancer .Then you have star trails around the southern celestial pole , the fact that we can see south by using the southern cross and its the same one in australia ,africa and south america wheras on the flat earth map they would be different .

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  3. Reuben Kearney says:

    I was actually hoping you would go into the whole density and buoyancy explanation for gravity, which is itself rife with problems and disproves itself as it is dependent on what it’s attempting to disprove. Also, their explanation of Antarctica is priceless. Yes, I’ve been following them for a while as I find human behavior fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sion Hughes says:

    A well-written article. I would like to add something to the part about gravity, which is that the FEs always talk about an acceleration due to gravity of 9.8 m/s^2, but this is an approximation. The actual value depends where you are on the Earth, varying from about 9.76 to 9.83 m/s^2. I have not seen any of the FEs come up with an explanation for this, nor even acknowledge that it poses a problem for their hypothesis. Do they think that bits of the planet are accelerating upwards faster than others!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Joao Ferreira says:

    Hi.

    Awesome article, and a great tackle on this problem.

    For the sake of accuracy, I would like to point out that in point 1.2 you say “how the earth and moon are running around in circles above the earth”, when you mean the sun and the moon.

    Also, if I wasn’t misreading, I believe you switched Latitude and Longitude when defining the limits of +/-90º and +/-180º.

    Thank you for this take on the subject.

    Like

  6. James Lienhart says:

    You’re not quite correct on relativity, and the flat-earthers argument actually works (stupid, but it works). You can accelerate at a constant 9.8 m/s^2 forever (but you will never reach the speed of light). To an observe who remains at rest in the frame of reference you started in, you will appear to asymptotically decreasing acceleration, but you will always experience the same acceleration. The key is to realize that relativity means all frames of reference are equally valid. Right now there is a frame of reference in which you are moving at 99.999999% of the speed of light in some direction, another in which you are moving at 99.9999% of the speed of light in the opposite direction, and another in which you are standing still (and infinitely more frames of reference). The physics works the same in all of those frames. Since you can experience 9.8 m/s^2 acceleration when you are standing still, you can experience 9.8 m/s^2 acceleration when you are “moving at 99.9999% of c”.

    Key phrase above, when referring to velocities, you said “by simple addition”. Velocities do not add simply. If you have a train of flat-cars moving at velocity v1, and a jogger running forward on the cars at velocity v2, simple addition would tell you the jogger would be moving at velocity v with respect to the ground, where:

    v = v1 + v2

    Relativity says because the rulers the jogger is using are contracted wrt the rulers on the ground, and the clocks are dilated, the actual formula for adding velocities is:

    v = (v1 + v2) / (1 + v1 * v2 / c^2)

    Note that if v1 = c, and v2 = c, then v = c

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  7. Raul Larranaga says:

    I once worked with a flat-earther and was completely taken by surprise at her claims. She claimed to have spoken with someone who worked at NASA who told her that traveling beyond the earth’s atmosphere is not possible because there exists these invisible ‘bands’ that would prevent it.
    She asked me (with a straight face) how the earth ‘floats’ in space and when I tried to bring up gravity she rambled on semi coherently about why it doesn’t exist.
    Her beliefs seemed to be based on a biblical cosmology with a dome covered flat earth. I had naively assumed that all I had to do was use basic, well established facts but I soon realized that she was not interested in that at all. This has also been my experience with Christians who deny evolution.
    They are not interested in evidence, or facts that contradict their belief system.(See:confirmation bias)
    When dealing with people like that I think of the bible verse ” Do not cast your pearls before swine” and also a quote by Sam Harris “If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?”
    So now I’ve decided to always ask the following question to would-be proselytizers and conspiracy theorists: “What evidence would it take for you to change your mind?’ and if they say there is none then I will tell them that there is no point in having a discussion with them and bid them farewell.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yet another article I intend to indicate when the need arises. I wish I’d had this last week when I was arguing with an FE. Your point about needing a Ph.D to refute some of their claims is frustratingly accurate. I’m not a physicist. The closest masters I have would be in English (which I never finished), but I’d like to consider myself scientifically minded i.e. I can and have been convinced by evidence, because I was once anti-GMO until I read well sourced articles about why that was ridiculous. I can’t arhue with science. The problem is I also can’t ckaim to understand how gravity works to the level of a physicist, but I do understand that science is constantly self-correcting. Lay people such as myself don’t have to understand the mechanisms behind this (though it is something I’ve studied a bit and would like to learn more about), but FEs and others think if they don’t understand something, it can’t ecist, which is not only a ridiculous, but also self-centered argument.

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  9. keyclix says:

    it is always surprising to read that there are still people who believe in the FE stuff. There is another area in which the existence of the global earth is demonstrated every day. This is radio propagation. Knowing the lat/long of two points on the earths surface you can work out the bearing between those points.
    So a radio amateur in San Francisco wanting to direct his radio signal to Sydney Australia can rotate his/her antenna to the right direction for an optimum signal strength providing the ionosphere is supporting radio propagation over that path.
    However there are two paths between every point on the earths surface. The path usually described is the shorter path. The other path is 180 degrees from the short path. Ie in the exactly opposite direction, which will seem counter-intuitive unless you consider a globe (like a globe with countries marked on it, or a beach ball with two points marked on it) with a continuous string around it that passes over two nominated points on the globe. There is an immediately obvious short path between those points and another longer path that is covered by the rest of the continous string. The two paths are clearly at 180 degrees from each other. And in practice there are indeed some times of the day and year when long path propagation of radio signals is more effective than short path. I’ve used it myself many times.
    This is in some ways merely an extension of the concepts used for great circle navigation by aircraft or at sea. A great circle path is the shortest path between two points. On a flat map produced by any of the usual projections the great circle path is curved but to the sailor or pilot it is a straight line.

    Perhaps “FE syndrome” results from believing the flat map projection is real.

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  10. Keith says:

    The surprising thing about the flat earth notion is how absolutely everything, every observation, every test, every calculation is utterly contrary to it. It has to rank as the most implausible notion ever; even though it seems to make sense from a complete naive perspective.

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  11. Tim says:

    Take a look at Minute Physics youtube channel for a great intro to relativity.

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  12. Reed Coray says:

    After (1) I improperly submitted this comment to another thread, (2) successfully asking Fallacy Man to the delete that comment from the improper thread, (3) trying to resubmit my comment to this the proper thread but being informed that I was attempting to post a duplicate comment, I am adding this explanatory paragraph in an attempt circumvent the “duplicate comment” blockage.

    At the outset of this post, Fallacy Man wrote: “As I have previously explained, most (if not all) forms of science-denial rely on the same logically-flawed tactics. Climate change deniers, anti-vaccers, flat earthers, etc. all commit the same suite of logical fallacies. Therefore, even if you think that the flat earth movement is ridiculous, hopefully you will benefit from this post by gaining a better understanding of the flawed lines of reasoning that lead to such positions.”

    At the conclusion of this post, Fallacy Man wrote: “So, before you mock flat earthers, take a good look at your own views, and make sure that you aren’t suffering the same errors in reasoning.”

    In the spirit of Fallacy Man’s words, (a) I hope Fallacy Man benefits from my comment by gaining a better understanding of his flawed line of reasoning that leads to the conclusion that mankind’s use of fossil fuels is appreciably affecting the global climate; and (b) Fallacy Man can reflect on whether or not his reasoning suffers from a logical fallacy.

    I begin by noting that just because logical fallacies are sometimes used to “prove” a theory and therefore used to sway others that a theory is correct doesn’t prove the theory is invalid. If the use of a logical inconsistency to prove a theory established the falseness of the theory, then the use of the logical inconsistency “CO2 is a heat-trapping gas” to prove that mankind’s burning of fossil fuels is causing climate change would be “proof” that mankind is NOT causing climate change. Increasing atmospheric CO2 may in fact cause climate change; but it’s not because CO2 is a heat-trapping gas. As I will subsequently discuss, heat cannot be trapped; and therefore, to claim that any substance (including CO2 gas) is a heat-trapping substance is a logical inconsistency.

    In lieu of continually having to use a full description of people holding a set of beliefs, most writers substitutes short descriptive phrases that characterize the beliefs of those people. For example when identifying a person who believes in the tenets of capitalism, instead of repeating all the words necessary to define what capitalism is, the person is simply referred to as a “capitalist.” Without such shortened characterizations, verbiage would overwhelm the reader. Therefore, I don’t per se take exception to the use of phrases to describe the beliefs of a group of people. I do, however, take exception to the use of such phrases if those phrases carry a commonly-accepted negative connotation.

    For example, the word “denier” is often used by authors to discredit opposing points of view and to evoke a negative emotional response in readers. When coupled with other words such as “science” and “climate change” as in “science denier” and “climate change denier,” the effect, if not intent, is to mislead and/or to inflame. Specifically, what does it mean to “deny science,” and what fraction of mankind “denies science?” Does a “science denier” claim there is no such thing as “science?” Obviously not—at least in most cases. In its most innocuous form the term “science denier” is used to identify someone who disagrees with or “denies” the truth of one or more (but not all) existing scientific theories. If this is the meaning of “science denier,” then the history of science is populated with highly-esteemed “science deniers.” Michelson/Morely and others “denied” the existence of a stationary “ether” that according to the scientific theory of the time was supposed to exist throughout space. Einstein “denied” the idea of universal “time” independent of observational frame. The theory of “plate tectonics” replaced (denied) the theory of “sea floor spreading.” If nothing else, the history of science is one long trail of better and more accurate measurements disproving currently held scientific theories and hence “denying existing science.” I believe Fallacy Man uses the term “science denier” in part in the wider and more negative sense. In particular, I believe Fallacy Man uses the term to imply a person who gives little if any credence to science in general; and as such, Fallacy Man’s use of the term “science denier” is to disparage the person or persons so described.

    Similarly, what exactly is a “climate change denier?” Is a climate change denier a person who believes the climate never changes and thus denies “climate change?” If so, the number of “climate change deniers” is likely to be smaller than the number of “flat-earthers.” To be fair, I believe for the most part that Fallacy Man uses the term “climate change denier” not in the sense that a “climate change denier” believes the climate never changes; but in the sense that a “climate change denier” is a person who isn’t convinced or more strongly doesn’t believe that mankind (and in particular, mankind’s releasing of greenhouse gases—primarily CO2—into the earth’s atmosphere via the burning of fossil fuels) has any appreciable effect on the global climate. Notice that “not being convinced” and “not believing” are not equivalent to “denying.” You can be skeptical of (i.e., be reluctant to believe) a theory without proclaiming the theory to be false. However, I believe that Fallacy Man and others use the term “climate change denier” in part to imply puzzlement if not disrespect to anyone who doesn’t buy into the theory that increasing the amount of CO2 (an atmospheric trace gas) in the earth’s atmosphere will have an appreciable impact on the global climate. In this sense, using the label “climate change denier” to characterize such a person is similar to using the phrase “logical utter fool” to characterize someone who believes CO2 gas is a heat-trapping gas. Both are examples of name calling–i.e., characterizations used more to evoke emotion than rational thought.

    As used by the advocates of man-induced global warming, I now give two examples of the use of the logical inconsistency: “CO2 is a heat-trapping gas.” First example, my computer uses the Windows 10 operating system. In the lower left-hand corner of my screen is a window that contains the instructions “Type here to search.” I entered the question: “Can heat be trapped?” A list of references appeared on my screen. When I clicked on the first entry in that list, the URL http://www.answers.com/Q/Can_heat_be_trapped opened. Excluding advertisements, the first three items in the opened window were: (1) a repeat of my question—i.e., “Can heat be trapped?” (2) an answer to my question: “no, heat is not a substance, it is a form of energy.” and (3) a question: “How does the atmosphere trap heat on Earth? The atmosphere uses 4 different temperate layers to trap heat. yeah [sic] because if it didn’t than [sic] we would be cold all the time.” After that logic, the URL goes on to discuss at some length heat-trapping gases including CO2.

    Talk about a logical inconsistency. A statement is made that ‘heat can’t be trapped’ followed immediately by a discussion of how ‘the earth’s atmosphere traps heat.’ Beat that for the proximity of logically inconsistent statements. Does this logically inconsistent argument prove that atmospheric CO2 won’t affect climate? Of course not. This logically inconsistent argument no more proves CO2 won’t effect global climate than logically inconsistent arguments made by Fallacy Man’s climate change deniers prove that CO2 will appreciably affect global climate. The issue remains open to more complete and rational thought.

    Second example. On 30 January 2015, Fallacy Man posted an article entitled: “Basics of Global Climate Change: A Logical Proof That It Is Our Fault”—see URL: https://thelogicofscience.com/2015/01/30/basics-of-global-climate-change-a-logical-proof-that-it-is-our-fault/). The logic of that post is based on three premises—the first premise being: “CO2 traps heat and is largely responsible for the earth’s climate?” As such, the “heat-trapping” nature of CO2 gas is critical to Fallacy Man’s “proof” that climate change is man’s fault. The problem is that heat can’t be trapped. I contend there is no substance known to man that by itself will prevent the transfer of thermal energy (heat) from material at a higher temperature to material at a lower temperature. No matter what material you use (and this includes CO2 gas) to separate/surround a high-temperature object from a cooler surrounding environment, some of the internal energy in the high temperature object will be transferred via heat to the cooler surroundings. This transfer of internal energy will cease only when the object and its surroundings are the same temperature. You can prove my contention wrong simply by identifying such a substance—and in the process make yourself a fortune because the thermal insulation industry would love to get its hands on just such a material.

    Now, I’m not saying materials can’t affect the distribution of temperatures within a system. I am saying that such an affect is not the result of “trapping heat.” And to give a simple example of where the presence of CO2 gas affects system temperatures by releasing heat is a vacuum thermos bottle. In its simplest form a vacuum thermos bottle consists of (a) a chamber into which material at a temperature different from the surrounding environment is placed, (b) an outer wall that makes contact with the surrounding environment, and (c) a vacuum that exists between the outer face of the chamber and the inner face of the outer wall. Such thermos bottles exist by the thousands. If CO2 were a heat-trapping gas, the performance of such a thermos bottle (at least for material in the chamber hotter than the surrounding environment) would be enhanced by filling the vacuum space with CO2 gas. The exact opposite is the case. Everything else being equal, filling the vacuum space with CO2 gas will cause the temperature of the hotter material inside the chamber to cool at a rate faster than the vacuum case. Thus, in the thermos bottle case not only does CO2 not trap heat, it expedites the release of heat.

    It’s true that as electromagnetic radiation at frequencies in some IR sub-bands passes through gaseous CO2, a portion of the radiation’s energy will be absorbed by the CO2 gas and converted into internal thermal energy of the gas. But the absorption of energy in IR sub-bands is not the equivalent of trapping heat. CO2 gas at temperatures near the earth’s surface temperature also releases internal energy by emitting electromagnetic radiation in IR sub-bands. In fact, this emission behavior is critical to the “back radiation” argument used by global warming advocates. If CO2’s absorption of IR sub-band radiation implies CO2 is a heat-trapping gas, then CO2’s emission of IR sub-band radiation implies CO2 is a heat-releasing gas. Somehow it’s hard for me to believe the AGW community is going to cease using the phrase “CO2 is a heat-trapping gas” and start using the phrase “CO2 is a heat-releasing gas.” The connotations/inferences of the latter statement would seriously weaken the AGW’s argument in the eyes of the general public.

    For a more complete discussion of this issue, see comment # 1 at URL: http://joannenova.com.au/2017/07/weekend-unthreaded-171/

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    • Latus Dextro PhD says:

      When discussing “climate change,” I frequently observe that those who do, appear to consistently omit defining what it is to which they refer. The media are particularly adept at it, as are most people and politicians. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is perfectly clear. This political body defines ‘climate change’ in the following way:
      “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”. The UNFCCC thus makes a distinction between “climate change” attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition, and “climate variability” attributable to natural causes.
      https://www.un.org/en/sections/resources-different-audiences/civil-society/index.html

      Ipso facto, ALL “climate change” is man made.
      Therefore, prior to the arrival of the genus Homo (approx. 2.5M years ago) there was by UNFCCC definition NO “climate change”, only “climate variability.” Furthermore, to label someone as a “climate change denier” while being politically correct, as can be seen remains neither factually nor scientifically correct. It is a thinly clad pejorative designed to evoke parallels with denial of the Jewish holocaust. Such people typically also favour using the terms, “death trains” and “factories of death” (Dr. James Hansen: “The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.”)

      In the 4.5 billion year history of the planet, approximately 0.056% of the Earth history is alleged to have experienced UNFCCC hand waving “climate change.” It would be wise to keep in mind that for all intents and purposes therefore, until humanity ceases to exist, there will always be “climate change” and an infinite supply of political justification for whatever.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fallacy Man says:

        Anyone who denies or ignores the massive body of literally thousands of studies clearly showing that we are causing the climate to change is, by definition, a science denier, and is specifically denying the evidence for anthropocentric climate change (which is what is generally refereed to by the term “climate change”). They are, therefore, by definition, climate change deniers.

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        • Reed Coray says:

          Anyone who at the time the ether theory first surfaced denies or ignores the massive body of literally thousands of studies clearly showing the existence of an ether is, by definition, a science denier, and is specifically denying the evidence for an ether. They are, therefore, by definition, ether deniers.

          Anyone who at the time the plate tectonic theory first surfaced denies or ignores the massive body of literally thousands of studies clearly showing the existence of a spreading sea floor is, by definition, a science denier, and is specifically denying the evidence for a spreading sea floor. They are, therefore, by definition, sea floor spreading deniers.

          Anyone who at the time the idea “that time and space are coupled to the reference frame” first surfaced denies or ignores the massive body of literally thousands of studies clearly showing the existence of universal time is, by definition, a science denier, and is specifically denying the evidence for a universal time independent of the observation frame. They are, therefore, by definition, universal-time deniers.

          Thank heavens for ether deniers, sea floor spreading deniers, and universal-time deniers. Where would we be without them? The validity of a scientific theory has never been, is not now, nor will in the future ever be determined by the number of people and/or quantity of literature that exists to support the scientific theory. To assert otherwise is to turn science into a religion.

          Although I’ve examined only a tiny fraction of “the massive body of literally thousands of studies clearly showing that we are causing the climate to change,” I did examine your “Proof that Climate Change Is Our Fault” post. Your proof, which is based on the fallacy that CO2 traps heat, fell far short of making the “it’s-our-fault-global-warming case;” much less establishing how much we are changing the climate and whether that change is good or bad. See, I’m not a climate change denier–I think we very well might be changing the climate. I do, however, take exception to one of the major theoretical arguments used to justify that claim–namely CO2 is a heat-trapping gas. It isn’t; if for no other reason as you put it “a massive body of literally thousands of studies clearly show that heat cannot be trapped.”

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    • Fallacy Man says:

      A science-denier is simply someone who denies the results of scientific studies that they disagree with (without giving proper evidence that the study design was flawed). Thus, a climate change denier is one who denies the literally thousands of studies that very clearly show that we are causing the climate to change. This is no different form denying that the holocaust happened. If you are denying the results of literally thousands of studies (which you are) then you are, by definition, a science denier. Science is a method. It either works or it doesn’t, and you don’t get to pick and choose when you want to accept its results.

      Regarding the heat-trapping properties of CO2, you are engaging in semantic tom-foolery. In the strictest sense of the word, heat cannot be “trapped” indefinitely because of entropy. Nevertheless, it is an empirical fact that some things can temporarily “trap” heat in that the heat is temporarily “stored” there and dissipates at a much lower rate than it would without that object. It is an empirical fact that CO2 does this. If you take two cylinders, one with CO2 and one without CO2 and expose them both to the same heat source on one end of each, that heat will come pouring out of the other end of the cylinder without CO2, but much less of it will escape the cylinder with CO2, and once the heat source is removed, the cylinder with CO2 will maintain a higher temperature for longer. Why? Because the heat was “trapped” by the CO2 (i.e., temporarily prevented from radiating out). This is a scientific fact that has been demonstrated countless times. My previous article that you linked to contains this link to numerous laboratory trials that have demonstrated this https://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/papers-on-laboratory-measurements-of-co2-absorption-properties/

      Here is a simple design for how you can do this experiment yourself to confirm that CO2 does in fact absorb heat (i.e., trap) and reduce the rate at which it dissipates into the environment, thus causing the object containing the CO2 to maintain a higher temperature for longer.
      http://www.rsc.org/Education/Teachers/Resources/jesei/co2green/home.htm

      To be clear, yes, some of that heat energy will escape, and once the heat source is removed, eventually all of it will escape. No one has ever said that the heat is trapped indefinitely. Your entire argument is a massive straw man. However, the fact that the heat can’t be trapped indefinitely does not in any way shape or form mean that there aren’t substances (i.e., CO2) that can temporarily trap heat and reduce the rate at which it dissipates into the surrounding environment. If you doubt this, go sit in your car in the sun with the windows up for a few minutes. Yes, some of the energy that enters your car will radiate, but a lot of it will be “trapped” by your windows, thus causing the temperature inside your car to increase.

      Indeed, your entire argument seems to be a straw man centered around semantic games regarding the word “trapped.” So if you don’t like that word, use “absorbed” or “temporarily stored” etc. It doesn’t matter. The point remains that certain substances (such as CO2) have the ability to reduce the rate at which heat leaves a system, thus causing that system to retain more heat than it would without that substance.

      Further, it is a scientific fact the greenhouse gasses behave this way in our atmosphere. We know that CO2 in the atmosphere temporarily stores heat energy and reduces the rate at which it radiates back into space, thus warming the planet. This is a scientific fact, and refusing to accept it makes you, by definition, a science denier. As explained in the post that you linked to, we have had satellites directly measuring the IR that is being radiated off of earth, and the amount that is escaping has significantly decreased at the wavelength that CO2 is known to absorb, and that decrease matches the increase in CO2. This is extremely clear evidence that CO2 is causing our atmosphere to retain more heat than it would without the CO2.

      Your thermos bottle experiment represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how energy transfer works. If you have a vacuum chamber with a thermos bottle inside it, then you fill the chamber with CO2, of course the bottle is going to cool, because the heat energy currently stored in the bottle with be absorbed (i.e. trapped) by the CO2. This experiment demonstrates exactly the opposite of what you are claiming.

      Here is my question for you. How do you explain the fact that literally thousands of studies conducted by thousands of scientists from all around the world disagree with you; while papers supporting the notion that we are not causing climate change are virtually non-existent? Do you think all those scientists are involved in a vast conspiracy? Do you think that they are just stupid and/or you are genius? etc.

      See this post for more on the type of hubris you are exhibiting. It is crazy to think that virtually the entire scientific is fundamentally wrong about a rudimentary fact that you were able to discover via a quick search on the phase “can heat be trapped.” Who knew that instead of years of advanced training and research, all we had to do was use the search option on a Windows 10? (note the immense sarcasm)
      https://thelogicofscience.com/2017/04/03/scientists-arent-stupid-and-science-deniers-are-arrogant/

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      • Reed Coray says:

        You wrote: “Your thermos bottle experiment represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how energy transfer works. If you have a vacuum chamber with a thermos bottle inside it, then you fill the chamber with CO2, of course the bottle is going to cool, because the heat energy currently stored in the bottle with [sic] be absorbed (i.e. trapped) by the CO2. This experiment demonstrates exactly the opposite of what you are claiming.

        Say what? Heat movement from the thermos bottle to the CO2 will occur only if the temperature of the CO2 is less than the temperature of the thermos bottle.
        If the temperature of the CO2 you inject into the vacuum chamber is less than the temperature of the thermos bottle, then the temperature of the thermos bottle will decrease because as you say heat moves from the hotter thermos bottle to the cooler CO2 gas thereby warming the CO2 gas. However, if the temperature of the CO2 you inject into the vacuum chamber is greater than the temperature of the thermos bottle, then the temperature of the thermos bottle will initially increase not decrease. So your statement that “of course the bottle is going to cool” is not for all time always true.

        I ask you a relatively simple question and provide multiple choice answers. You have two identical vacuum thermos bottles. You fill the vacuum space of one and only one of the thermos bottles with CO2 gas. You have coffee at a temperature Tc. Without putting the coffee in either thermos bottle, you bring the temperatures of both thermos bottles to the temperature, Tc, of the coffee. This means that for the CO2 thermos bottle, both the bottle itself and the CO2 are brought to temperature Tc. You place equal amounts of coffee at temperature Tc in the chambers of both thermos bottles and immediately immerse both thermos bottles in heat sink at temperature Tr < Tc.

        Which thermos bottle will at the outset exhibit the most rapid drop in the temperature of the coffee?
        (a) the vacuum thermos bottle,
        (b) the CO2 thermos bottle,
        (c) the thermos bottles will exhibit the same rate of coffee temperature drop,
        (d) none of the above.

        If you answer (a), then although the CO2 will not prevent heat from eventually leaving the coffee, the CO2 does decrease the rate of coffee heat loss, and in some sense it might be said that CO2 is "trapping heat" within the coffee.

        If you answer (b), then not only does the CO2 not prevent heat from eventually leaving the coffee, CO2 increases the rate of coffee heat loss–in which case although neither is entirely accurate, it is more accurate to say "CO2 is releasing heat from the coffee" than it is to say "CO2 is trapping heat within the coffee."

        If you answer (c) then CO2 is no better or worse than a vacuum and will have no effect on the coffee's rate of temperature decrease.

        If you answer (d), I give up.

        My answer is (b). What's your answer?

        Like

        • Fallacy Man says:

          The wording of your previous experiment led me to believe that the object inside the thermos was the hottest part of the experiment, thus my answer (i.e., you made no mention of heating up the CO2 to the same temperature as the warm object).

          Regarding your current experiment, I don’t know the answer for sure, but I can easily believe that it is b. That has nothing to do with the heat trapping properties of CO2 though. Rather, it is because of the vacuum. The type of system that you are describing is insulating because the vacuum prevents energy transfer via convection (i.e., it prevents convection from taking place). Fill that vacuum with just about anything (including many heat trapping materials) and heat will be lost faster. So that is not an actual test of CO2 (i.e., your control group added an extra variable: a vacuum). It’s a shoddy experiment (as I said before, no one is arguing that CO2 traps all heat or that it traps heat indefinitely).

          Here is a better experiment. Do everything exactly as you described, but instead of a vacuum, fill that chamber with oxygen, or nitrogen, or better yet pump in air from the surrounding environment so that the composition is similar to our atmosphere. That is a valid experiment that better replicates our atmosphere. Now, tell me, which chamber looses temperature faster? (spoiler alert its the one with oxygen).

          Again, I provided you a link with tons of laboratory trials demonstrating the heat trapping abilities of CO2 as well as an experiment you can easily do yourself. Take two empty plastic bottles, put a digital thermometer in each, then fill one with CO2, cap them both, and expose them to the same heat source and see what happens. The one with CO2 will warm up more quickly, and after the heat source is removed, it will retain it’s temperature for longer (i.e., it will temporarily trap the heat, causing the bottle to warm more quickly than the bottle without the CO2, which is exactly how the CO2 in our atmosphere behaves).

          Again, this has been demonstrated countless thousands of times and I gave you sources for that. You are standing in blind denial of basic facts.

          Like

        • Fallacy Man says:

          PS I still want an answer as to why so many studies have disproved your view.

          Like

          • Reed Coray says:

            I have a lot of views. Which specific “view” are you awaiting my response? If the view you think I hold is that atmospheric CO2 won’t increase the earth’s surface, then you’ll have to wait a long time. I’ve never made that claim. I don’t hold a “view” on that issue. I have opinions, not “views.” In my opinion it is entirely possible that atmospheric CO2 will increase the earth surface temperature relative to what it would be in the absence of CO2. By how much and to what degree such a temperature increase is harmful are also issues on which I don’t hold a “view.” However, there are things related to the claim “atmospheric CO2 will increase the earth surface temperature” that do bother me–the primary one being “proof” of the claim by using the “scientific fact” that CO2 is a heat trapping gas (as you did in your “proof that we are causing global warming” post).

            If the view you’re referring to is my view that CO2 can’t trap heat (a view which I do hold), then my response is: Almost every physics book I have that discusses thermodynamics makes some statement to the effect that an adiabatic wall (a wall through which heat cannot pass) does not exist in the real world, but is a useful approximation when analyzing real-world thermodynamic phenomena. If no substance exists that can prevent the passage of heat, then no substance can trap heat. CO2 is a substance, and it then follows that CO2 can’t trap heat. All those physics books constitute a vast pool of “science” that supports my view; and thus using words similar to yours “Anyone who claims a substance can trap heat is a science denier.” As far as I know, (a) no one has ever demonstrated that any substance can indefinitely keep (that is trap) heat within a confined space, and (b) no one has claimed that such a substance exists. If you know of such a study or know of someone who has identified such a substance, I really would like to be made aware of it.

            In my opinion most if not all of the studies you refer to (i.e., studies that exploit the claim that CO2 traps heat) use the word “trap” and the claim to serve their purpose of trying to convince the general public that mankind’s use of fossil fuels is dumping CO2 into the atmosphere atmospheric, which is harming if not destroying the earth. If in the studies you refer to that have “disproved” my “heat trapping view,” the phrase “CO2 releases heat” were substituted for the phrase “CO2 traps heat,” the effect on the general public to the admonition that mankind is destroying the climate by dumping CO2 into the atmosphere would be profound. Kind of like advertising “Buy our Blankets Because Our Blankets Release Heat” to sell sleeping blankets to Siberians.

            Like

      • Reed Coray says:

        Let’s analyze your characterization of my experiment. In particular, you wrote:

        Your thermos bottle experiment represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how energy transfer works. If you have a vacuum chamber with a thermos bottle inside it, then you fill the chamber with CO2, of course the bottle is going to cool, because the heat energy currently stored in the bottle with be absorbed (i.e. trapped) by the CO2. This experiment demonstrates exactly the opposite of what you are claiming.

        First, your characterization of my experiment is all bollixed up. I didn’t have a vacuum chamber into which I inserted a thermos bottle and then filled the vacuum chamber with CO2 gas. The vacuum region into which I inserted CO2 gas is an integral part of the thermos bottle.

        Second, if you replace CO2 with oxygen in your characterization of my experiment, you would conclude oxygen is a heat trapping gas. Let’s try it.

        Your thermos bottle experiment represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how energy transfer works. If you have a vacuum chamber with a thermos bottle inside it, then you fill the chamber with OXYGEN, of course the bottle is going to cool, because the heat energy currently stored in the bottle with be absorbed (i.e. trapped) by the OXYGEN. This experiment demonstrates exactly the opposite of what you are claiming.

        Now if you’re going to claim that independent of the temperature of the oxygen inserted into the vacuum chamber, none of the energy originally existing in the thermos bottle will be absorbed by the oxygen, then I take back my statement that by your reasoning oxygen is a heat trapping gas. But then you’re going to have to justify the position that independent of the temperature of the oxygen inserted into the vacuum space, the temperature of the oxygen won’t change. Good luck with that one.

        I guess that makes oxygen a heat trapping gas too. Who knew? Wait, your reasoning applies to every gas; so by your reasoning, every gas is a heat trapping gas. This naturally leads to the question: “If every gas is a heat trapping gas, why all the furor over man increasing atmospheric CO2 levels?”

        Like

        • Fallacy Man says:

          I’m going to respond to both your comments here for simplicity.

          First, your entire argument seems to be 100% based on semantic games regarding the word “trap.” You seem to use it to mean, “store heat energy indefinitely without any of it ever escaping.” I agree that such a thing is impossible, which is why that is not what anyone means when they say “CO2 traps heat.” Rather, what we mean is that it temporarily stores heat energy and slows the rate at which it dissipates. I’ve explained this several times now so I feel like you are just been deliberately obstinate.

          Let me give you an example (again). If you park your car outside in the sun, it will become much warmer inside the car with the windows up then it will with the windows down. Why? Because the glass traps the heat. Now, it would be crazy for you to say, “the car won’t be hotter with the windows up because trapping heat is impossible!” Do you see my point? As I have already said several times now, you can replace the word “trap” with “temporarily store” or any similar term and it changes nothing. My logical syllogism still stands. It still demonstrates that an atmosphere with more CO2 will necessarily be warmer than one with less CO2.

          Regarding the experiment, you are completely missing the point. The point is that a system with gasses like the composition of our atmosphere will cool faster than a system with a higher concentration of CO2. This is a scientific fact that has been demonstrated thousands of times. That is what we mean when we say, “CO2 traps heat.” Again, use another word if you want, I don’t care. The logical syllogism is still a proof. Let me try to reword the syllogism to demonstrate this.

          1). If you increase the concentration of greenhouse gases (e.g., CO2) in a gaseous system, that system will warm up more quickly, achieve a higher temperature, and retain that temperature for longer (this has been experimentally demonstrated thousands of times).
          2). We have greatly increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere (indisputable fact)
          3). Therefore, we will cause the planet to warm

          See? The word “trap” is not necessary, it’s just convenient. Further, I’ll remind you again that we know the exact wavelength that CO2 absorbs, and we have used that information to directly measured the decrease in thermal energy escaping our planet. Thus, we know that our CO2 is causing the planet to warm. We also have copious data from past climates showing that changes in CO2 do in fact drive climate change. This is the evidence you are denying.

          Regarding your statement that, by my definition, oxygen would be a heat trapping gas. In the loosest possible sense of the word “trap,” sure. Most things are. Most matter has a thermal capacity and can temporarily store heat, but some matter can do so far more effectively than other matter. Oxygen sucks at it, and CO2 is really good at it. Is that really so hard to understand? To put that another way, oxygen looses its heat so quickly that it doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense to talk about it as a “heat trapping gas,” whereas CO2 is so good holding onto thermal energy, that it makes sense to describe it as a “heat trapping gas.”

          Look, I’ll make this very simple. True or false: If you have two identical containers, one of which has the composition of our atmosphere, and the other of which has that composition plus more CO2 (we’ll say twice the concentration), then when exposed to identical heat sources, the one with CO2 will warm more quickly and, once the heat source is removed, it will retain its temperature for longer.

          Is that true or false? If you say true, then why have you been wasting my time? If you say false, then you are blindly denying a scientific fact.

          Like

          • Reed Coray says:

            I’m not sure about the first part of your statement–i.e., your claim that thee container with the extra CO2 will warm up faster. I would think that would depend on the mass of the added CO2. If you put enough CO2 in the container, then I suspect it will take longer to warm up only because there is more mass to be heated. Kind of like using a blow torch to heat a marble as opposed to using the same blow torch to heat an aircraft carrier.. My money is on the marble heating faster. You might, however, be correct for small amounts of extra CO2. If so this implies CO2 is a heat-trapping gas in small amounts, but not in large amounts.

            At to your second point. the mass issue again enters the picture; but this time in your favor. Once the marble and the aircraft carrier have reached the same temperature and the heat source is turned off, the aircraft carrier will take longer to cool.

            Like

            • Fallacy Man says:

              Obviously I’m talking about realistic levels of CO2, not cramming in massive amounts. Indeed, in some of my other responses, I specified that the concentration of the gases in the two containers should be the same and/or I said that one should be like our atmosphere and the other should be like our atmosphere with double the CO2.

              To put that another way, it is a scientific fact that if you do this experiment with those levels of gases (i.e., concentrations that are relevant for the topic of climate change), the one with more CO2 “traps” more heat. I’ve already provided you with a link to studies that have demonstrated that.

              Like

        • Fallacy Man says:

          I forgot to mention, if you want to describe CO2 as “releasing heat,” that seems to me like a rather backwards and unnecessarily confusing way to talk about it (given that we are disusing heat that would have escaped the system more quickly without the presence of CO2, “trap” very much seems like the appropriate word), but honestly, I don’t care so long as you stipulate that it is a “slow heat releaser” relative to gases like oxygen and nitrogen. In other words, I don’t care about the semantics because the point still stands that an atmosphere with more CO2 will be warmer than one with less CO2, and nothing you have said has defeated that fact.

          Like

      • Reed Coray says:

        You asked: Do you think all those scientists are involved in a vast conspiracy? Do you think that they are just stupid and/or you are genius? etc.

        Here are my answers: (1) No. I don’t think they’re involved in a vast conspiracy. I do think they have been making a living off governments by performing studies in accordance with the wishes of those governments.

        (2) No, I don’t think they’re stupid. Actually I think they’re quite bright. They’ve been remarkably successful in living on government largess for some time.

        (3) No, I’m not a genius. I just did a little reflection on one of the key arguments used in some of the studies you allude to.

        Now I have a question for you. Is it on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays that you use the premise “CO2 is a heat-trapping gas” to prove “man is changing the climate,” and on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays that you use the premise “man is changing the climate” to prove “CO2 is a heat-trapping gas;” or is it the other way around?

        Like

        • Fallacy Man says:

          “No. I don’t think they’re involved in a vast conspiracy. I do think they have been making a living off governments by performing studies in accordance with the wishes of those governments.” First, that’s pretty entertaining giving that governments like the US love to deny climate change. Second, what you’ve just described is a conspiracy. Every single lab in the world would have to be fudging numbers, and they’d all have to know that everyone else is doing it, otherwise the results wouldn’t agree. It could not work unless it was a coordinated effort. Further, who gets grants is usually decided by other scientists which means, once again, to maintain this type of fraud, you need a conspiracy. I talked more about why what you are proposing is absurd here https://thelogicofscience.com/2015/04/18/follow-the-money-the-finances-of-global-warming-vaccines-and-gmos/

          Regarding your final paragraph, I honestly have no clue what you are talking about. At what point did I use anthropogenic climate change as evidence that CO2 traps heat? My argument throughout has consistently been 1). we have done countless laboratory studies showing that CO2 traps heat and 2). We have used satellites to measure the excess heat being trapped at the wavelength that CO2 absorbs. Both of those are direct measurements of CO2 trapping heat, and neither of them starts with the premise that we are causing climate change. Rather, they are both evidence that we are causing climate change (the second does require the premise that we have increased the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, but that is an empirical fact which I cited sources for in the previously-linked-to posts).

          This is clearly becoming pointless. You opened with the claim that the entire scientific community is wrong and CO2 is not a heat trapping gas. I’ve explained why that is wrong and provided you with studies that clearly show that CO2 does in fact trap heat. You can either accept that as the fact that it is, or you can blindly deny the science and live in willful ignorance. The choice is yours.

          Like

          • Reed Coray says:

            Hey, we finally agree–at least on two things. One, this [our discussion] is clearly becoming pointless. Two, you have no clue what I’m talking about. You stick with your beliefs, and I’ll stick with mine. In any event, thanks (and I mean that sincerely) for the opportunity to express an opposing viewpoint on an “AGW-friendly” blog.

            Like

          • Reed Coray says:

            You wanted to know why I would ever consider CO2 to be a “heat-releasing gas. Well, I’ll tell you. Since we’ve both agreed it’s pointless to try to change the mind of the other person, the following explanation is pointless to us; but it might not be pointless to a third party.

            Take two identical thermos bottles, “A” and “B.” Into the cavity where liquids are normally be placed, insert into each thermos bottle: (1) identical amounts of coffee, and (2) an identical battery/resistor circuit that gives off heat. In the dead of winter, take both thermos bottles to a frozen lake in Michigan. In the ice covering the lake, drill two identical holes close to one another. Lower thermos bottle “A” into one hole and lower thermos bottle “B” into the other hole such that both thermos bottles are at identical depths. Monitor the temperature of the coffee in each thermos bottle. The temperature of the coffee in both thermos bottles will initially decrease because the cold surrounding water will drain heat from the thermos bottles;. At some time, however, the coffee temperatures will cease changing with time—i.e., stabilize at some value T1. Since up to now everything is identical, the stabilized temperature T1 of the coffee in thermos bottle “A” will be the same as the stabilized temperature T1 of the coffee in thermos bottle “B.” Since (a) there is the same mass of coffee in each thermos bottle and (b) the stabilized coffee temperatures are the same, it’s reasonable to believe that the coffee in thermos bottle “A” has stored (or trapped if you like that word better) the same amount of heat as the coffee in thermos bottle “B.”

            Now do whatever it takes to bring some CO2 gas to the temperature T1. Once the CO2 gas has reached temperature T1, inject the CO2 gas into the vacuum space of thermos bottle “A.” [Note: The vacuum space of thermos bottle “A” is not the cavity in thermos bottle “A” where the coffee and battery/resistor circuit reside.] Monitor the temperature of the coffee in thermos bottle “A”—i.e., the thermos bottle with CO2 gas. The temperature of the coffee in thermos bottle “A” will probably change. After that temperature of the coffee in thermos bottle “A” has ceased changing with time, note its temperature—call that temperature T2. At this point reflect on the following question: “Is it more correct to say (1) heat has been released from the coffee in thermos bottle “A,” or (2) heat has been added to thermos bottle “A?” If the former, then it’s not out of bounds to claim “CO2” has resulted in a release of stored energy and as such CO2 can be said to be a heat-releasing gas. If the latter, then it’s not out of bounds to claim “CO2” has resulted in an increase of stored energy and as such CO2 can be said to be a heat-trapping gas.

            Which answer you give to the question will obviously depend upon whether T2 is greater than T1, or T2 is less than T1. If T2 is greater than T1, then thermos bottle “A” (the CO2 thermos bottle) and its contents now contain more heat than thermos bottle “B” and its contents. For the case that T2 is greater than T1, if I had to pick one of the two characterizations of CO2: (1) CO2 is a heat-releasing gas or (2) CO2 is a heat-trapping gas, I have reservations, but I’d go with the latter and say CO2 is a heat-trapping gas. However, if T2 is less than T1, then if I had to pick one of the two characterizations, again I’d have reservations, but this time I’d go with the latter and say CO2 is a heat-releasing gas. So for this situation, the choice which characterization is the more accurate: (1) CO2 is a heat-releasing gas, or (2) CO2 is a heat-trapping gas depends solely on whether T2 is less than T1 or T2 is greater than T1.

            Now I haven’t done this experiment; but noting that CO2 will thermally conduct heat away from the hotter coffee to the colder lake Michigan water, my money is on T2 being less than T1. Maybe in all those studies you allude to, one or more of them have performed this experiment. If so, please send me the documentation, I’d really like to read it.

            If (a) I’m correct and T2 is less than T1, and (b) someone chooses as the more accurate characterization of CO2 the statment “CO2 is a heat-trapping gas,” then that someone is like the professor in the old professor/fiddle/ant joke. You know, the one where a professor likes to play the fiddle. One day while he’s playing the fiddle, he looks down and sees a bunch of ants milling around. He notices that one and only one ant isn’t just milling around, he’s hopping all over the place—in a way that you could call “dancing.” This interests the professor, so he stops playing his fiddle to get a closer look. As soon as the stops playing his fiddle, the ant stops dancing. Puzzled, the professor starts again playing his fiddle at which time the ant immediately starts dancing again. Now the professor is really intrigued. He starts and stops playing his fiddle many times. Each time the professor stops playing his fiddle, the ant stops dancing. Each time the professor starts playing his fiddle, the ant starts dancing. Now he’s really onto something. He decides to perform an experiment on the ant. The professor picks the ant up, pulls off the ant’s middle two legs, puts the ant back on the floor, and starts playing his fiddle. The ant immediately starts hopping around—not as effectively as before, but it’s obvious the ant is dancing. The professor picks the ant up, pulls off the ant’s back two legs, puts the ant back on the floor, and starts playing his fiddle. The ant stumbles around. You really can’t call it dancing; but you can tell the ant is trying to dance. Finally, the professor picks the ant up, pulls off the ant’s front two legs, puts the ant back on the floor, and starts playing his fiddle. The ant just lies there like a rock. “Aha!” the professor declares. When you remove all six legs from an ant, the ant goes deaf.”

            Like

            • Fallacy Man says:

              That experiment makes no sense. First, the temperature isn’t going to stabilize (T1) until the coffee in both containers is frozen solid. Second, I don’t see why injecting CO2 that is at the same temperature as everything else in the system would change anything. If the temperature is already the same for every part of the system, then the heat has already been fully dispersed and nothing should happen.

              Third, as I have already explained, these thermos bottle experiments are not good experiments because they are comparing CO2 to a vacuum, rather than comparing CO2 to other gases. Those bottles prevent heat being exchanged via convection, which is why they act as such good insulators. Again, that would only be a good experiment if people claimed that CO2 trapped all heat and none of it ever escaped, but no one ever claimed that.

              Finally, as I have stated repeatedly, if you have two containers of the same concentration of gas, one with nitrogen or oxygen and one with CO2 and expose both to a heat source, the one with the CO2 will achieve a higher temperature and retain it’s temperature for longer. Technically speaking, both containers “trapped” heat then “released” it, but the one without CO2 only “trapped” a tiny amount which it released almost immediately. Whereas the one with CO2 trapped substantially more heat and retained it for longer. That is why it makes sense to call it a heat “trapping” gas, because it traps heat that would not be traps in its absence. Further, if you insist on calling it a heat “releasing” gas, then you must stipulate that it releases its heat far more slowly than non-greenhouse gasses. After being warmed up, every object releases its heat (that’s how thermodynamics work). What makes greenhouse gases special is that they can retain much of their heat for a long period of time, with it being released very slowly (which is also why they warm more quickly and achieve a higher temperature when briefly exposed to a heat source; i.e., other gases are quickly releasing much of their heat as they warm rather than trapping it, whereas CO2 traps most of its heat rather than rapidly releasing it).

              Unlike your experiment, mine has actually been done countless times, and unlike yours, mine actually reflects the way that our atmosphere works, and it clearly shows that increasing the CO2 in our atmosphere will result in global warming.

              Like

            • Fallacy Man says:

              Please consider this thread closed.

              Like

  13. Reed Coray says:

    Your Coriolis force argument disproving the flat-earth theory is weak. The counter-clockwise versus clockwise motion of air in a hurricane cannot be used to nullify the theory of a flat earth. In an inertial reference frame motion of a frictionless fluid in any direction will appear to follow a straight-line path; but in a reference frame rotating at a constant angular rate relative to the inertial reference frame, motion of the same frictionless fluid in a direction perpendicular to the axis of rotation won’t follow a straight path but will appear to follow a curved path. This phenomenon (the Coriolis effect) contributes to the circular motion of the air masses of storms like hurricanes. However, the clockwise/counter-clockwise nature of the circular motion of hurricanes is a function of the viewers perspective and will be the same for both “flat earthers” and “round earthers.”

    Consider a round earth and a flat earth where the round earth is a sphere rotating about a fixed axis (fixed with respect to inertial space) and a flat earth is a thin disk rotating about the same fixed axis. The axis of rotation intersects the surface of the “round” earth at two points. Call one of these points the “Round Earth North Pole” and the other point the “Round Earth South Pole.” The Round Earth Northern Hemisphere is defined by those points of the surface of the sphere between the North Pole and the sphere’s equator. The Round Earth Southern Hemisphere is defined by those points on the surface of the sphere between the South Pole and the sphere’s equator.

    Similarly, for a finite width disk, the axis of rotation intersects the surface of the “flat” earth at two points. Call one of these points the “Flat Earth North Pole” and the other point the “Flat Earth South Pole.” The Flat Earth Northern “Hemisphere” is defined by those points on the planar surface of the flat disk that contains the North Pole. The Flat Earth Southern “Hemisphere” is defined by those points on the planar surface of the flat disk that contains the South Pole.

    When a person “stands” at the Round Earth North Pole his body is oriented along the axis of rotation and his feet are closer to the center of the sphere than is his head. When a person “stands” at the Round Earth South Pole his body is oriented along the axis of rotation and his feet are closer to the center of the sphere than is his head. Thus, the feet-to-head direction for the person standing at the Round Earth North Pole is opposite to the feet-to-head direction for the person standing at the Round Earth South Pole.

    When a person “stands” at the Flat Earth North Pole his body is oriented along the axis of rotation and his feet are closer to the flat plane than is his head. When a person “stands” at the Flat Earth South Pole his body is oriented along the axis of rotation and his feet are closer to the flat plane than is his head. Thus, like the round earth, the feet-to-head direction for the person standing at the Flat Earth North Pole is opposite to the feet-to-head direction for the person standing at the Flat Earth South Pole.

    How consider four hurricanes—one circling the Round Earth North Pole, one circling the Round Earth South Pole, one circling the Flat Earth North Pole, and one circling the Flat Earth South Pole. The motions of the air for the two North Pole hurricanes (round earth and flat earth) will be nearly identical. Similarly, the motions of the air for the two South Pole hurricanes will also be nearly identical.

    Now let’s analyze how the Round Earth observers (one at the Round Earth North Pole and one at the Round Earth South Pole) would characterize the motion of both Round Earth hurricanes. To the Round Earth North Pole Observer both the northern hemisphere hurricane and southern hemisphere hurricane if he could see it would appear to rotate in a counter-clockwise direction. To the Round Earth South Pole Observer both the northern hemisphere hurricane if he could see it and southern hemisphere hurricane would appear to rotate in a clockwise direction. Since the Round Earth North Pole observer only directly experiences the Round Earth North Pole hurricane, the Round Earth North Pole observer would naturally say the Round Earth North Pole hurricane rotates in a counter-clockwise direction. Similarly, since the Round Earth South Pole observer only directly experiences the Round Earth South Pole hurricane, the Round Earth South Pole observer would naturally say the Round Earth South Pole hurricane rotates in a counter-clockwise direction. Thus, when describing the motion of a hurricane he experiences, (a) the Round Earth North Pole Observer would say his hurricane is rotating in the counter-clockwise direction, and (b) the Round Earth South Pole Observer would say his hurricane is rotating in the clockwise direction.

    Next let’s analyze how the Flat Earth observers (one at the Flat Earth North Pole and one at the Flat Earth South Pole) would characterize the motion of both Flat Earth hurricanes. To the Flat Earth North Pole Observer both the northern hemisphere hurricane and southern hemisphere hurricane if he could see it would appear to rotate in a counter-clockwise direction. To the Flat Earth South Pole Observer both the northern hemisphere hurricane if he could see it and southern hemisphere hurricane would appear to rotate in a clockwise direction. Since the Flat Earth North Pole observer only directly experiences the Flat Earth North Pole hurricane, the Flat Earth North Pole observer would naturally say the Flat Earth North Pole hurricane rotates in a counter-clockwise direction. Similarly, since the Flat Earth South Pole observer only directly experiences the Flat Earth South Pole hurricane, the Flat Earth South Pole observer would naturally say the Flat Earth South Pole hurricane rotates in a counter-clockwise direction. Thus, when describing the motion of a hurricane as he experiences the hurricane, (a) the Flat Earth North Pole Observer would say his hurricane is rotating in the counter-clockwise direction, and (b) the Flat Earth South Pole Observer would say his hurricane is rotating in the clockwise direction.

    Note that the descriptions by the Round Earth observers of hurricane motion is identical to the descriptions by the Flat Earth observers to hurricane motion. For both flat-earth theorists and round-earth theorists, northern hemisphere observers would characterize hurricane motion as counter-clockwise, and southern hemisphere observers would characterize hurricane motion as clockwise. As such, the clockwise/counter-clockwise motion of hurricanes cannot be used to nullify the flat earth theory—at least not for a flat earth where people live on both sides of the flat surface

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    • Fallacy Man says:

      This doesn’t make any sense. For one thing, flat earthers don’t claim that the earth is rotating. Further, your statement that “hus, like the round earth, the feet-to-head direction for the person standing at the Flat Earth North Pole is opposite to the feet-to-head direction for the person standing at the Flat Earth South Pole” is simply wrong. Look at the diagrams I made looking at a flat earth from the side. Then put a little stick figure on the north pole in the middle and one on the south pole. They are oriented the same way.

      Honestly, this whole thing is so nonsensical I don’t even know how to explain why it is wrong. This isn’t about perspective. If we look at a map, storms in the northern hemisphere are spinning counter clockwise and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. Look at any areal imagery. That’s just a fact.

      Look at the flat earth map. if the spin was the same in both directions, then when standing in Australia the wind will be blowing north as a cyclone hits you from the east, and when standing in North America the wind will still be blowing north as a hurricane hits you from the east. In reality, when standing in North America, with a storm approaching form the east, the wind blows south, not north. In other words, when we look at areal images of storms we should see that they all spin in the same direction if the earth is flat, which is not what we see.

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    • Fallacy Man says:

      Let me put this one final way that I think might be instructive. If someone is standing at the equator with a storm system moving past them to the north and another one moving past to the south, it is a simple fact that those systems will be circling in opposite directions (like two gears coming together). That should not happen on a flat earth. Therefore, the fact that it does happen discredits the notion of a flat earth.

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      • Reed Coray says:

        I don’t know whether or not flat-earthers claim the earth is rotating—some may, some may not. That, however, is not the issue. The issue is whether or not the Coriolis effect as it impacts the direction of storm rotation in the northern and southern hemispheres is sufficient to refute the existence of all flat earth models. I believe it isn’t. Here’s why.

        Consider a flat, transparent, thin-width, circular, disk rotating in a counter-clockwise direction with respect to inertial space at a constant angular rate about an axis that passes through the center of the disk and is perpendicular to the plane of the disk. On one side of the disk draw a line radially outward from the center of the disk. Locate an observer in the “northern hemisphere” at a point on this line and have the “northern hemisphere” observer face away from the axis of rotation. Locate an observer in the “southern hemisphere” at the same point on the line and have the “southern hemisphere” observer also face away from the axis rotation. The “northern hemisphere” observer’s feet are in contact with one side of the thin transparent disk, and the “southern hemisphere” observer’s feet are in contact with the other side of the thin transparent disk. This may not be the only model of a flat earth, but it is one model. And if the Coriolis effect can be used to negate flat earth models, the Coriolis effect must be capable of negating this flat earth model.

        Note that for this model (1) the left foot of the “northern hemisphere” observer is directly over the right foot of the “southern hemisphere” observer, (2) the right foot of the “northern hemisphere” observer is directly over the left foot of the “southern hemisphere” observer, and (3) the vector from the feet to the head of the “northern hemisphere” observer is opposite to the vector from the feet to the head of the “southern hemisphere” observer. Note also that all of the above are true no matter how far the point the observers are standing on is from the axis of rotation.

        Assume that the air on each side of the disk is rotating at the same angular rate as the disk so that at least initially the air appears stationary with respect to the rotating disk. Now create a partial vacuum on both sides of the disk at the location of the observers. Air will rush in from all directions to fill the partial vacuum. The Coriolis effect will cause (1) the air rushing towards the “northern hemisphere” observer from his front to be deflected to his left, (2) the air rushing towards the “northern hemisphere” observer from his left side to be deflected to his rear, (3) the air rushing towards the “northern hemisphere” observer from his back to be deflected to his right, and (4) the air rushing towards the “northern hemisphere” observer from his right side to be deflected to his front. From the “northern hemisphere” observer’s view of things, all of these deflections appear to be in a counter-clockwise direction. Thus the “northern hemisphere” observer would say “a Coriolis-effect-induced storm is brewing in my (northern) hemisphere and it is rotating in a counter-clockwise direction.” Watching the southern hemisphere’s inrushing air, the “northern hemisphere” observer would also say “a Coriolis-effect-induced storm is brewing in my counterpart’s (southern) hemisphere and from my perspective it is also rotating in a counter-clockwise direction.”

        Now to the observer standing in the “southern hemisphere,” the Coriolis effect will cause (1) the air rushing towards the “southern hemisphere” observer from his front to be deflected to his right, (2) the air rushing towards the “southern hemisphere” observer from his left side to be deflected to his front, (3) the air rushing towards the “southern hemisphere” observer from his back to be deflected to his left, and (4) the air rushing towards the “southern hemisphere” observer from his right side to be deflected to his rear. From the “southern hemisphere” observer’s view of things, all of these deflections appear to be in a clockwise direction. Thus the “southern hemisphere” observer would say “a Coriolis-effect-induced storm is brewing in my (southern) hemisphere and it is rotating in a clockwise direction.” Watching the northern hemisphere’s inrushing air, the “southern hemisphere” observer would also say “a Coriolis-effect-induced storm is brewing in my counterpart’s (northern) hemisphere and from my perspective it is also rotating in a clockwise direction.” Thus, both observers would agree that the northern and southern hemisphere Coriolis-effect-induced storms rotate in the same direction. They would, however, disagree on the direction of that rotation—the “northern hemisphere” observer would say counter-clockwise; the “southern hemisphere” observer would say clockwise.

        This makes sense because the clockwise/counter-clockwise sense of rotation changes as the viewer observes the rotation from opposing directions. To see this, (1) obtain a fan, (2) place the fan on the floor of a room such that the axis of rotation of the fan blades is parallel to the floor, and (3) turn the fan on. Stand in front of the fan (i.e., stand in the stream of air leaving the fan) and observe the rotational direction of the fan. Now without touching the fan move behind the fan (i.e., away from the stream of air leaving the fan) and observe the rotational direction of the fan. From a clockwise/counter-clockwise description of the fan’s rotation, the fan will appear to change rotational direction. I.e., if the fan is rotating in a clockwise direction as viewed from the front, the fan will be rotating in a counter-clockwise direction as viewed from the rear; and vise-versa.

        So much for the rotational direction of “Coriolis-effect-induced” storms in a rotating flat earth model. Now let’s consider the “Coriolis-effect-induced” rotational direction of storms in a rotating round earth model. Again we have two observers—one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere. If the observer in the northern hemisphere is standing at a high latitude (near the north pole) and the observer in the southern hemisphere is standing at the corresponding low latitude (near the south pole), then the descriptions of the air movements towards a partial vacuum at the observer’s location is almost exactly the same as for the flat earth model. The northern hemisphere observer would say Coriolis-effect-induced storms are brewing in both the northern and southern hemispheres; and from my perspective in the northern hemisphere, both storms are rotating in the counter-clockwise direction. Similarly, the southern hemisphere observer would say Coriolis-effect-induced storms are brewing in both the northern and southern hemispheres; and from my perspective in the southern hemisphere, both storms are rotating in the clockwise direction.

        The situation changes dramatically if the two observers are at the same longitude but near the equator. The reason being that for an observer standing on the equator (independent of whether he stands on his feet or he stands on his head), the Coriolis effect on air rushing towards him because a partial vacuum exists at his location will not induce air rotation in either the clockwise or the counter-clockwise directions. This is because at the equator (a) the Coriolis effect will have no impact on the air approaching the equator from either the south or the north, (b) the Coriolis effect on air approaching an equatorial observer from the west will be to deflect the air in the upward direction, and (c) the Coriolis effect on air approaching an equatorial observer from the east will be to deflect the air in the downward direction. None of these deflections constitutes Coriolis-effect-induced storm rotation in either the clockwise or the counter-clockwise directions. Bottom line, the Coriolis effect won’t induce horizontally rotating storms on the equator of a round rotating earth. Horizontal rotating storms may exist at the equator, but their directions of rotation are not a consequence of the Coriolis effect. Thus your example of storms rotating in opposite directions as the storms approach the equator, has nothing to do with the Coriolis-effect-induced air motion.

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        • Fallacy Man says:

          “The ‘northern hemisphere’ observer’s feet are in contact with one side of the thin transparent disk, and the ‘southern hemisphere’ observer’s feet are in contact with the other side of the thin transparent disk.”

          So just to be clear here, you are proposing a flat earth in which the northern hemisphere is on one side of the disk and the southern hemisphere is on the other??? That’s not a model that any flat earthers subscribe to, so this is a strawman. The Coriolis effect defeats the view that flat earthers actually hold. Whether or not it defeats some ridiculous strawman view is irrelevant.

          “This may not be the only model of a flat earth, but it is one model. And if the Coriolis effect can be used to negate flat earth models, the Coriolis effect must be capable of negating this flat earth model.” No, the Coriolis affect doesn’t have to defeat this ridiculous model because this isn’t a model that anyone holds, and for very good reason. Even flat earthers realize that a model like this would make it impossible to fly, drive, or sail between hemispheres, make it impossible for the sun to illuminate both hemispheres, etc. It completely conflicts with their views of gravity and everything else.

          I’m not going to waste any more time arguing about a model that is so preposterous that not even flat earthers believe in it (or, at the very least, a model that is so extremely uncommon that I never found it on any of the flat earther pages, videos, forums, etc.).

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  14. Confession: For years, I had no idea Flat Earthers were “serious”. I really and sincerely believed that the Flat Earth Society was a kind of SCA-type group that focused on studying and arguing about super old science and philosophy, for entertainment purposes only.

    I liked that version so much better.

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  15. FriedlyFire says:

    So in climate science, when we say, after the temperatures refuted to rise as much as we predicted, that the heat is hiding in the oceans, does that mean we are actually making up excuses and we actually put ourselves in the corner of the FlatEarthers?
    This is disingenuous and there should be a better way to lead this discussion.

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    • Fallacy Man says:

      First, the actual measurements have actually been a close match for the models. More details here https://thelogicofscience.com/2016/10/17/25-myths-and-bad-arguments-about-climate-change/#Bad%20Argument/Myth%20#5

      Second, we’ve always known that the ocean would act as a major heat sink, we were just a bit of about how much. So it’s not ad hoc.

      Third, and perhaps most importantly. We didn’t just say, “it has to be the oceans” and leave it at that. Rather, we examined the data, and looked at the oceans, and clearly demonstrated that they were acting as a large heat sink. Then, after we had the data, we published the results and stated that the oceans were the explanation. Do you see the difference between that and simply making something up?

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      • FriedlyFire says:

        All I am saying is that we really need better arguments. We cannot rely on a consensus, as we all know, this is not how science is done. Also by exposing the psychology and fake arguments used by the Flat Earthers we need to abstain from using similar arguments.The biggest mistake is to use gravity as an argument, since we have the least knowledge on how it really works. Leading these sorts of discussions, you bump into people, who can rightly argue, that if you cannot physically explain how gravity works, it could as well be an intelligent design or follows underlying laws that we have no grasp on.
        And what I have seen is that the argument goes the same way with the heat going into the oceans. If we could have predicted that instead of predicting a unprecedented warming we would have better arguments. Now the problem is that we have to answer the question of “How comes you did not predict that?”. The suggestion is that there is something, that was not fundamentally understood right.

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        • Fallacy Man says:

          First, saying that we don’t fully understand how gravity works does not justify saying that it doesn’t exist or that it is magic. Both of those are still ad hoc fallacies. We don’t have to fully understand how something works to demonstrate that it is a real thing. So I fundamentally disagree with you on that point.

          Second, again our predictions were actually pretty close. Further, science is inherently a process of gradually enhancing our understanding. I truly don’t understand why you think that our changing understanding of the oceans is in anyway problematic or even remotely similar to how flat earthers behave. One group makes conclusions based on evidence and does not claim that something is true until sufficient evidence for that thing has been obtained. The other blindly rejects evidence, and when faced with contrary evidence, make up solutions for which they have no evidence. They aren’t the same thing.

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        • Fallacy Man says:

          To put that another way, you said, “All I am saying is that we really need better arguments. We cannot rely on a consensus” but this isn’t about arguments or consensus. It’s about empirical facts. In other words, saying “the oceans are absorbing a substantial amount of heat” is not an “argument” its a fact.

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          • FriedlyFire says:

            Yes of course it is a fact that the oceans absorb a substantial amount of heat. It is my long held view that the oceans are the key to understanding climate.
            Where I disagree with you is that the Flat Earthers claim that Earth does not exist. They know the same way we know that the Earth exists. They only disagree on the shape.
            If you agree that all what we know about gravity is only a theory, then you also have to agree that trying to use this as a prove that they are wrong will fall on deaf ears. They simply do not have to accept the explanation for gravity to derail that argument.
            In a way we therefore would never be able to prove for them in theoretical science that they are wrong. Because once we convince ourselves that we understand gravity, we will base this on other knowledge that might be in questions and thus just push along the “prove” into the unproven area. Or put it the other way, in the area of where we do not know things for certain. And at this point it is all up to the believe of what we think we know.

            The Flat Earthers just are the ones, that use their believe to stop thinking before they are reaching the point of where they would not know anyway. We are just a step ahead but less sure of what we are thinking. The boundaries are fluent of between believes and sure knowledge. Further research is the only way to push the boundaries, but we cannot claim we know it all. Because at this point we become “Flat Earthers” in our own believing world.

            As long as we do what you are saying and take the evidence to come up with our conclusions we should be fine. But beware we ever change the arguments to suit our believes. “Flat Earthers” in the making!

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  16. Isn’t most of science based on theories that can not be proven by the scientific method or in observable repetitive experiments? Newton’s theory of gravity only works on earth. Everything else and all the rest of the theories are just imagination and wishful thinking. Like gravity kicks in deep space.

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    • Fallacy Man says:

      You seem to be misunderstanding several important aspects of how science works.

      First, science never “proves” anything. It simply shows what is most likely true given the current evidence. That doesn’t mean that we can’t be highly, highly confident in a conclusion, but actual proof is not possible.

      Second, in science, a theory is not simply an “educated guess,” “speculation,” “wishful thinking,” etc. Indeed, in science, saying that something is a theory does not indicate uncertainty about it. Theories are simply explanatory frameworks that have been tested and shown to have a high predictive power. In other words, theories explain facts, and most things in science are both theory and fact depending on the level at which you want to look at it. If, you get a cold, for example, it is a fact that a virus made you sick. However, the germ theory of disease is the overarching framework that explains that bacteria, viruses, etc. cause disease. Further, it would be silly to say that the germ theory of disease is just “wishful thinking.”

      So you characterization of theories and how science works is completely wrong.

      Moving on specifically to gravity, first, the statement, “Newton’s theory of gravity only works on earth.” Is clearly false. It also works on the moon, mars, etc. As stated in the post, gravity was able to predict the existence of Neptune before we had seen it. Newton’s understanding of gravity actually describes most situations. Further, even is situations where we need relativity, it’s not that Newton was wrong, but simply that his explanation was incomplete.

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  17. Tom Cantine says:

    A couple of decades ago, I was involved in an organization that hosted LARPs, live roleplaying games in a fantasy universe which was stipulated to be flat and infinite. Since our games were actually played outdoors in the real world, I put a lot of time and effort into cooking up explanations for any empirical observations a smartass player might make to “prove” that the gameworld was round. It was a fun exercise. Now, it’s worth acknowledging that my theory only needed to explain the kinds of observations a player might actually make in-character over a weekend in a site limited to 50 acres or so. So, stuff about airline routes or GPS coordinates wouldn’t come into play.

    The basics of the theory were that the sun isn’t a single consistent object, but a new ball of white-hot fire flung across the sky by the Sun God in the land of the gods arbitrarily far to the east, and it lands (usually in the ocean, I suppose) in a very dangerous area unimaginably far to the west. The moon is something similar. The stars are spirits of great heroes, endlessly circling the court of the Death Star (Polaris), while a few (planets) stealthily move from their assigned positions, hoping Death won’t notice.

    But the main two points I wanted to mention here are that (1) gravity in this game world is not Newtonian/Einsteinian gravity, but a natural tendency of all things to accelerate in a privileged direction (“down”) that is constant across the universe, and (2) light does not travel in a perfectly straight line indefinitely, but tends to curve away from universal down. Optically, this means that even a flat earth will appear to have a curvature, since the curved path from a distant object to your eye would pass through the plane of the earth. The higher you go, the farther you can see, while the position of the optical horizon gets lower, making the whole of the earth look more like a small circle.

    Obviously, I do not think the Earth is flat. But I do think that in refuting flat earth theories, we should be careful not to rely too much our round-earth-based theories of gravity and optics, or our presumption that the sun and the moon are distinct and constant objects. A flat earth would be a RADICALLY different kind of place from where we actually live; we should expect the laws of physics in such a world to be radically different as well. The challenge is: can we imagine laws of physics that might plausibly explain our experiences consistent with a flat earth? I suspect it’s barely possible, though not in a way that would satisfy Occam.

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