December 29, 2008

Flat Earth

Following up on yesterday's post, I realize I didn't address the flat Earth thing.

At first glance, it just seems like a bad argument stemming from a misunderstanding of the progression of science, and perpetuates misconceptions about when people believed in a flat Earth. But since John is likely a creationist, there's more to what he's saying.

John is trying to say is that scientists thought the world was flat when the Bible supposedly tells us that the Earth is a sphere. And that eventually science caught up with the Bible. I'll wait while you finish laughing.

This common goofiness is one example of the wider semantic game creationist apologists play. In this case, they're taking words from the Bible that describe the world as round and claiming that the Bible meant "spherical." At the time, believers understood the Bible to mean that the Earth was like a flat circle. The "firmament" referred to in the Bible is imagined to be the dome of the sky... literally a dome suspended over the flat circle. This makes observational sense, because if you are out on a plain, the Earth is perceived as a flat circle around you with the sky as a dome above your head.

From an early time, scientific thinkers were saying that the Earth was a sphere. Pythagoras was saying so as early as the 6th century BCE, but measurements came later. The Bible does not say anything explicit about the Earth being a sphere, and even if the New Testament said "by the way, the Earth is shaped like an orange" that would have been old news.

Apologists sites are good places to learn how weak the defense is of the Bible when it comes to cosmology. These are the people most invested in the idea of an inerrant Bible, and their arguments are not very compelling. Here's a page that speaks from the point of view that we should not absolutely conclude that the Bible described a flat, circular Earth. It does this by trying to cast doubt on the use of words meaning "circular." At one point, it tries to convince us that the Hebrews had no word for sphere.

Apologists have to explain away the instances in the Bible where we hear about what sounds like a flat, circular Earth. They wouldn't have to do that if the Bible were clear on a spherical Earth.

The Bible clearly does not make a point of enlightening us on cosmology. There is no explanation of the spherical nature of the Earth. The Bible fails as a source in this case. It allows us to maintain a flat Earth belief, and so it is outdated in its geodesy.

People like John show an ignorance that their own creationist apologetics have left behind. How can we take his complaints seriously in this case?

Posted by James at December 29, 2008 1:15 PM
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Comments

You said "bible" and my mind went "click" and then "zzzzzzzzzzzzz."

Posted by: Patti M. at December 29, 2008 7:04 PM

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