The Prevalence of the Flat Earth Theory

Lauren Mitchell, Media Editor

“The Earth is flat.” This idea contradicts everything we have ever learned in school or thought about the world we are living on. The conspiracy theory has become more popular and has become less of a theory and more of a widespread belief with cars displaying “” and social media posts with flat Earth “evidence.”

Although some teens may joke about the Earth being flat, there are plenty of other teens and adults who truly believe in a flat Earth. According to, only two-thirds of American millennials believe the Earth is round, leaving a third of the U.S. to believe it is flat, with the percentage of people believing in the world being round decreasing with each generation.

In history, since the time of the Ancient Greeks, it has been known that the Earth is round. The idea was first proposed by Pythagoras around 500 B.C. with the Moon being round so maybe the Earth was too. Later, around 430 B.C. Anaxagoras also proposed the idea through solar eclipses. In 350 B.C. Aristotle declared the Earth was round based on the constellations. 

By looking at Lunar eclipses, where the Earth passes between the moon and sun, so that the Earth’s shadow is projected onto the moon, you can see that the Earth is round, not flat. When watching a ship sail off to sea, you can see that the ship doesn’t fade off into the distance, in fact, while using binoculars, you can see it is slowly sinking or traveling over the curve. This is simple evidence that proves round Earth, yet it doesn’t convince flat Earthers. 

The modern Flat Earth hypothesis was made in the 1800s, around the time of the scientific revolution, by Samuel Rowbotham, an English writer, who wrote the book, Earth Not a Globe based on the Bedford Level Experiment. He proposed that the Earth is a flat disc which is centered at the North Pole and Antarctica was a wall surrounding the edge. He gained followers using his own pseudoscience experiments in public debates with scientists. He also argued saying that the Bible supported this idea.

flat earth
Photo Credit:

In 1956, Samuel Shenton created the International Flat Earth Research Society, which revolves around the idea that the Bible insists on several occasions that the Earth is flat. The society, according to the, is “Dedicated to unraveling the true mysteries of the universe and demonstrating that the Earth is flat and that Round Earth doctrine is little more than an elaborate hoax.”

This society has fueled thinkers like Jenny Gibson, a newcomer to the flat Earth belief with two months of research on her belt, Gibson said on social media she was following a government conspiracy account. Then, when they started to post about the Earth being flat, she said when she first saw it she thought, “What? People believe the Earth is flat still?” Then after doing research, she started believing it was flat too. 

Similar to Gibson, Malachi Worley, who has been a flat Earther for two to three years, first thought the idea of flat Earth was completely bonkers. Worley’s uncle first brought it up to his family, then when Worley’s father did some research, he turned into a flat Earther and showed Worley. 

One difference between Gibson and Worley, however, is that Worley considers himself a “Biblical Earther” while Gibson is a traditional flat Earther. Both have the same belief of what the Earth looks like, but they differ on where they get their evidence and what they believe is past the firmament; the dome surrounding the Earth. 

“We take our evidence from the Bible, so what I believe in is the Earth is flat and we are centered around the Arctic,” Worley said. “And Antarctica is a huge ice wall, bordering the dome with hell underneath, waters past the firmament. Heaven right above the waters.” 

While spherical Earth is backed by evidence, flat Earth is supported by evidence as well. Worley’s main point of evidence was that scientists tell us constantly that the Earth is, “Spinning on an axis, we are spinning around the sun, we are spinning in this infinite galaxy.” However in the Bible, it says multiple times that the Earth is immovable, so how can we be spinning around at such high speeds if according to the Bible the Earth is immovable? 

Coincidentally, both Worley and Gibson both brought up two of the same pieces of evidence that they find irrefutable. One is the Antarctic treaty where it recognizes that the Antarctic territory is dedicated to peace and science, signed by twelve nations, and is the only continent without a native human population. Worley and Gibson found it odd that we can not explore much of Antarctica because the World does not want us to explore past Antarctica and find the firmament. 

Another odd piece of evidence they find compelling is that the United Nations symbol on their flag closely resembles the flat Earth map just without Antarctica on the edge. 

Online, I interviewed a flat Earth account called @wakeupsheople on Instagram, who wanted to stay anonymous, and has almost 13 thousand followers. As an account that constantly posts flat Earth evidence, they had plenty of evidence of not only the Earth being flat, but also how the government is covering it all up and faking the idea of space. He was very critical of the government and NASA, “The only thing NASA has ever sent to ‘space’ is our imagination… NASA is faking the whole concept of outer space, not just moon landings.”

About five months ago, when they first realized the Earth was flat, “I was eager to share my new-found knowledge which I thought was pretty obvious for others to see. I found out very quickly that flat Earth comes with a certain stigma and is ridiculed by many.”

One enormous point I gathered from the interviews was the fear of talking about their belief and the backlash they have gotten from it. Friends and family of both Gibson and Worley have not been very accepting. When he told his friends his belief, “A lot of my friends actually told me they did not want to be my friends anymore because I was a Flat Earther,” Worley said. “I have gotten a lot of backlash on Instagram and Facebook.”

While Worley may have told his friends of his belief, Gibson has only told her close family because of the fear of backlash. “I think a lot of flat Earthers like myself are afraid to speak out,” said Gibson. “I am in the business world so I have this fear that people will be like ‘she’s crazy.’” 

It can be seen on social media and through these personal experiences that this belief gets major backlash, however for people like Worley, who is a Biblical Earther, this counts as freedom of religion, so he shouldn’t be discriminated for this belief. “We are very attacked even though the first amendment says we have freedom of speech,” said Worley. 

As said before, this idea contradicts everything we have learned our entire lives. In schools, we have learned that the Earth is round, both Gibson, Worley, and @wakeupsheople all denied this idea of Flat Earth until they did their research. 

All three, during the interviews, brought up doing your own research and everybody practicing finding their own opinion through freethinking. In today’s society, Gibson mentioned how the younger generation is getting better at freethinking with social media and the easier spread of communication. As shown by @wakeupsheople, whose account can change people’s opinions and ideas just by sharing a post with their followers. 

As a result of all this quick spread of information, we have more anti-science ideas like the flat Earth theory and the idea of the space not being real. But how do so many people believing in something anti-scientific affect us? In some ways, it could lead to the end of democracy with the party’s emphasis on science or have our well-being suffer from less trust in scientific research for global warming and antibiotics. 

Anti-science only benefits the people whose beliefs are disproven by science, and flat Earth is easily disproved through science, therefore, anti-science followers. NASA, a space organization which flat Earthers see as the government tricking us, demonstrates flat Earthers’ anti-science. 

To come full circle, a third of Millenials believe the Earth is flat and the number increases with each generation, meaning anti-science increases every generation. All the research done by millions of scientists and the history we have collected from those scientists is just easily read as fake, so what does that leave us with?