- Education and Science
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.
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.