Welp. Shaquille O’Neal — retired NBA superstar and star of the 1996 movie Kazaam — believes the Earth is flat, and you know what? I’m not interested in trying to convince him otherwise.
This is tough to admit for a space reporter like me, but I’m not the least bit interested in trying to convince any “flat-Earther” that our planet is actually round.
You may be saying to yourself, “Oh, that’s a really close-minded way of seeing your fellow humans, Miriam. All they need is a logical explanation and positive encouragement and they’ll learn the truth, right?”
Eh, probably not. Abundant social science evidence on everything from global warming denial to moon landing conspiracy theories shows that simply giving people more information won’t make them change their minds when they have strong preexisting beliefs.
If a person has gone so far as to convince themselves that the Earth is flat, bucking all basic scientific evidence to the contrary, that means they would be convinced that I’m lying to them.
So, yeah, forgive me, but I don’t see much point in arguing with that. I’ll find another wall to beat my head against.
The fact is, you have to believe so many conspiracies in order to arrive at the conclusion that the Earth is actually flat that it’s doubtful that my logical arguments will help convince anyone otherwise.
Yes, NASA spacecraft and actual astronauts have taken proper photos of Earth from space before, but that won’t help if you believe that NASA is covering up evidence of a flat Earth and that the agency faked the moon landing.
Sure, our observations of the solar system only really fit if the planet is round, and even eclipses only make sense if the Earth were a sphere.
But again, none of that means anything if you can’t accept that hundreds of years of scientific inquiry have led us to some type of truth about the shape of our world.
Just to be clear, there’s a difference between a person who’s genuinely curious about how we know the Earth is round — which is a good question for anyone to ask — and a person who really believes it’s flat.
I’m happy to engage in a dialogue with someone who wants to understand how we know the Earth is round, but I see no point in trying to convince someone that the Earth is not flat.
As former Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank famously told a town hall questioner, “Trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table.”
I understand that it’s difficult to believe something you can’t see on a day to day basis. I get that me telling you that the curvature of the Earth is visible from space and even a plane is not the same as actually seeing it for yourself.
It also might be a weird leap of logic to think that even though the Earth seems flat to you as you’re driving across the country, the planet is still a globe.
But just because you can’t see something doesn’t make it any less real. The Earth is round, whether you want to believe it or not.
Far be it from me to try to convince you otherwise.