We’ve all had something canceled this year. Some lost graduation or their first year of college. Others lost weddings or birthdays. Flat Earthers, though, lost something even more important: the chance to tell the truth. Or, well, what they think the truth is.
A Flat Earth group planned an expedition to prove their theory but was canceled in the wake of COVID. This did not stop an Italian couple from setting sail in hopes of proving that the Earth is, indeed, flat. It, of course, isn’t, but that didn’t stop these two. According to Italian newspaper la Repubblica, the couple purchased a boat in the port town of Termini Imerese. They intended to sail to Lampedusa, an island nestled between, Sicily and North Africa, where their evidence would be found.
The couple never made it there, however, instead of making landfall on Ustica, an island to the Northwest of Termini Imerese (and very much in the opposite direction of Lampedusa). Upon their arrival, the couple entered quarantine before they could leave the island. This clearly was inconvenient to the couple as UNILAD reports they attempted to escape quarantine twice. After finally accepting defeat, the pair completed the isolation period, abandoned their vessel, and took a ferry back to the mainland.
The entire enterprise sounds kind of comical, something that did not escape those that met the two Flat Earth Believers. In an interview with Italian publication La Stampa, translated by VICE, Dr. Salvatore Zichichi highlighted the lack of consistency in their beliefs: “The funny thing is that they orient themselves with the compass, an instrument that works on the basis of terrestrial magnetism.”
Addressing the Larger Issue
It’s easy to dunk on Flat Earthers for believing something that is ostensibly untrue, however, approaches like that are part of why discourse has become so polarized. It is important to understand who these people are and what motivates them. Daniel J. Clark’s 2018 documentary film Behind the Curve attempted to do just that, offering an intimate look at the folks who believe and try to prove their theory. Additionally, video essayists on YouTube like the team at Wisecrack have tried to understand how conspiracy theories like a Flat Earth become popular, and the possible answers to overcoming it.
This kind of conversation can seem trite, but learning to approach these subjects with empathy and understanding is key when the discussion turns to more serious subjects. The same skills needed to convince someone that the Earth is round is the same set that you might need to convince them that climate change is real and anthropogenic, or that vaccines aren’t linked to autism, or whatever public rebuke of science is. It is through these skills and approaches that true progress can be made.
Still stuck on the whole Flat Earth thing? Yeah, me too. You should check out our piece how believers reacted when SpaceX proved that Earth is round (again) earlier this summer!