Why do we Think the Earth is a Sphere? A Question to Stimulate Critical Thinking

Modern science and common sense tell us that the earth, the moon, the sun, and many other celestial bodies are spheres, but why should we take this information for granted as fact?

When I first heard about the Flat Earth Society and researched them, I laughed and told myself "OMG, these people are crazy." However, I started thinking, and I realized that I have no right to condemn anyone for believing that the earth is flat for the simple reason that I do not personally have access to the conclusive scientific evidence that the world is a sphere.

According to the Flat Earth Society, Antarctica is a wall of ice surrounding a disc-shaped world.
According to the Flat Earth Society, Antarctica is a wall of ice surrounding a disc-shaped world.

Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to argue that the Flat Earth Society is right and that the world is flat, I am just using this situation as an example of how critical thinking can help people to better tolerate and accept one another, despite our different beliefs and opinions.

I am proposing a theoretical Third Level in critical thinking. The First Level, in this instance, is the out-dated belief by the FES that the world is flat, the Second Level is the discredit thereof by people who adhere to modern science and common sense, and the Third Level is the consideration that the FES has the right to its belief, and that it should not just be condemned because it goes against knowledge that we take for granted as a society. The result of this Third Level critical thinking is that the mind is opened, and while not personally believed, seemingly outrageous claims are at least brought into perspective as something to be tolerated as the beliefs of others.

Think about it, most of us are not astronauts and have therefore not observed the planet from a spacecraft. Similarly, I am sure none of us have single-handedly graphed the surface of the planet to prove it spherical. I know that this is gross oversimplification and that I could go on, but you get the idea. Essentially, we only know that the world is a sphere from what we have read in books, seen on television, been told by others, etc. I am not proposing a conspiracy theory in which the government is lying to the population about the shape of the planet, but I am trying to demonstrate that it is possible for them to do so since we can not see the world from afar for ourselves.

While it would be an immensely elaborate lie for no particular gain, as far as any of us know, the information we have regarding the structure of the planet might not necessarily be true. Therefore, it is safe to believe that the world is a sphere (among most other things the science books tell us), but think about whether or not you can know something for sure before you judge someone else for his or her alternate beliefs thereof.

Critical thinking will make this world, spherical or not, a better place.

Flat or Spherical?

How sure are you that the world a sphere?

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Comments 8 comments

pisces chick 6 years ago

no info

rdlang05 profile image

rdlang05 4 years ago from Minnesota

It is this kind of epistemological skepticism that lead to post-modernism and pluralism. It's ok to "keep an open mind" as you say, or to "tolerate", but (though I think you may disagree with me) there is one truth, and sometimes it is just reality that one person is right and one is wrong.

Interesting premise though.

Spongy0llama profile image

Spongy0llama 4 years ago from Canada Author

Thank you for your thoughts... I really just pulled this one out of the air a couple years ago, to be perfectly honest :)

rdlang05 profile image

rdlang05 4 years ago from Minnesota

Haha well in that case it's well written for something so spontaneous.

KenWu profile image

KenWu 3 years ago from Malaysia

This is really a critical process! Can't really judge what it the shape of our earth!

Spongy0llama profile image

Spongy0llama 3 years ago from Canada Author

I personally think the earth is probably a sphere, but in general, I think we need to be more careful about what we take for granted.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

This approach to critical thinking may be appropriate as an intellectual exercise, but I'm not sure we can afford to encourage it at this point. We live in a world where the great preponderance of scientific evidence says human activity is accelerating global warming, but many refuse to accept what the scientific "authorities" say on this matter. Yet vitally important policy decisions that have a real impact on our future hinge on whether the electorate chooses to accept as true information we cannot individually verify. Maybe what we need to focus on is that we all have a duty to critically and rigorously evaluate information provided by authorities rather than just accepting that everybody has the right to believe whatever they want.

Spongy0llama profile image

Spongy0llama 3 years ago from Canada Author

I like your approach. I've always considered this to be one of my "flimsier" hubs. I agree that due consideration is what we owe the authorities and professionals in whatever field. Of course, not without a healthy dose of critical evaluation, as you say.

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