Saturday, May 5, 2018

Knowing How to Learn the Truth – Part I

Much of our need within the scriptural record is in understanding the meaning and intent of the original writers, not some explanation given today by academicians or linguists who may or may not have a personal agenda they are promoting. To do so, we often need to understand more about the writings that we have assumed to have understood in the past (is that really what Mormon said and meant?”)
    In addition, there are oddball ideas presented all the time, both about the scriptural record as well as the descriptions and events pertaining to the Land of Promise. Of course, there have always been weird and capricious ideas floating around our society, often promoted by individuals with some type of hidden agenda—whether monetary- or power-driven, or fame-seeking.
    The problem, of course, is how much the rest of us consider the correctness or fallaciousness of the attitude or principle being promoted, and how much we will look into its correctness or erroneous nature for the real truth of the matter. The fact that this takes extra effort and sometimes a lengthy endeavor often precludes it from taking place, and seekers of information fall short of the truth.
    First of all, this article is not about oddball ideas, but about the scripture found in Tò katà Iōánnēn euangélion, also called the Gospel of John, the Fourth Gospel, or simply John, which is one of the four canonical gospels in the New Testament of the Bible, and essential to understanding the Book of Mormon as well as such things as the location and makeup of the Land of Promise. However, we will come back to this later.
    Secondly, to do this, we need to first discuss for a moment the aberrant ideas and where they come from. For our illustration, we will choose one of the extreme inane beliefs that seems to be gaining favor over the years, and most importantly, it has been gaining serious ground among young Millennials.
A current belief gaining traction is that of a “flat earth,” which includes the concept that the Sun is only about 3,000 miles from earth and is only 30 miles in diameter

As a reminder, the Millennial Generation is those born between 1982 and 2002, and today are between 16 and 36 years of age, and number 75.4 million people (due in part to increasing numbers of immigration), a larger number than the preceding generation of “baby boomers” (74.9 million).
    Simply put, this idea is referred to as the “Flat Earth Theory,” and now held by a large number of the largest generation currently living. In fact, a new survey has found that a third of young Millennials in the U.S. are not convinced the Earth is actually round. A national poll reveals that 18 to 24-year-olds are the largest group in the country who refuse to accept the scientific facts of the world being a globe.
    YouGov, a British market research firm, polled 8,215 adults in the United States to find out if they ever believed in the “flat Earth” movement. Only 66 percent of young Millennials answered that they “always believed the world was round.” Science teachers across the U.S. will be shaking their heads after learning that nine percent of young adults answered that they have “always believed” the planet was flat. While 84% of the population believes the world is round; however, only 66% among 18-24 year olds believe it is round, compared to 94% of those 55 and older.
    Obviously, it is the younger generation who are believing these frivolous ideas being presented by ever-increasing numbers of people and groups. In this case, the idea of a flat-earth can be traced back to 1849 and a 16-page pamphlet penned by Samuel Birley Rowbotham, an English inventor and writer who published, Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe (under the pseudonym “Parallax”).
Samuel Birley Rowbotham, English inventor and writer from The Fens who organized an Owenite utopian commune and claimed that the Earth was an enclosed plane centered at the North Pole and bounded along its perimeter by a wall of ice

Rowhotham developed his idea based on the Bedford Level experiment, a series of observations carried out along a six-mile length of the Old Bedford River on the Bedford Level of the Cambridgeshire Fens in the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. At the point chosen for all the experiments, the river is a slow-flowing drainage canal running in an uninterrupted straight line for a six-mile stretch to the northeast of the village of Welney, making it an ideal location for a direct measurement of the curvature of the Earth.
The long straight view of the Old Bedford River near Welney, Norfolk, Britain

As Rowbotham wrote in Zetetic Astronomy, “If the earth is a globe, and is 25,000 English statute miles in circumference as claimed, the surface of all standing water must have a certain degree of convexity—every part must be an arc of a circle. From the summit of any such arc there will exist a curvature or declination of 8 inches in the first statute mile. In the second mile the fall will be 32 inches; in the third mile, 72 inches, or 6 feet, as shown in the following diagram”:
Samuel Birley Rowbotham’s example of curvature in the Bedford Level experiment, showing 8”, 32”, and 72” in a vertical exaggerated example to show convexity
Rowbotham conduced the first observations starting in the summer of 1838, by wading into the river and using a telescope held eight inches above the water to watch a boat, with a flag on its mast three feet above the water, row slowly away from him. He reported that the vessel remained constantly in his view for the full six miles to Welney bridge, whereas, had the water surface been curved with the accepted circumference of a spherical earth, the top of the mast should have been some 11 feet below his line of sight.
    Thus, he claimed he had proven the Earth to be flat.
    He spent some time strengthening his beliefs and learning how to defend them at all costs. If that failed, he simply ignored or ran away from an opposing encounter as he did in the northern mill town of Blackburn in Lancashire, north of Manchester. During a lecture there on his flat-earth theory, he was confronted with a question asked by Augustus de Morgan, a British mathematician and logician who had formulated "de Morgan’s laws" and introduced the term mathematical induction, making its idea rigorous. Morgan’s simple question was: “Why do the hulls of ships disappear from view before their masts when sailing out to sea?”
The further away one gets from a disappearing ship at sea, the more the hull disappears while the masts still remain visible 

Unable to answer or explain why such would happen on a “flat Earth,” Rowbotham simply left the lecture. However, as he persisted in filling halls by charging sixpence a lecture, his quick-wittedness and debating skills were honed so much that he eventually could "counter every argument with ingenuity, wit and consummate skill.”
    When finally pinned down to a challenge in Plymouth in 1864 by allegations that he wouldn't agree to a test, Rowbotham, under the pseudonym of “Parallax,” appeared on Plymouth Hoe, a large south-facing public area along limestone cliffs overlooking the coast of Plymouth Sound. As witnessed by the astronomer and writer Richard A. Proctor,
Location of the Eddystone Lighthouse in the English Channel between Cornwall, England and Brittany, France 

Rowbotham’s detractors had claimed that only the lantern atop the 160-foot high Eddystone Lighthouse, 9 miles southwest of Rame Head, and 14 miles out to sea to the south of Plymouth, would be visible from the beach because of the curvature of the Earth. The lighthouse, built in 1696 on the treacherous Eddystone Rocks was located at the western end of the English Channel. It was the first lighthouse to be built on a small rock in the open sea and was famous in its day, with a white light flashing twice every 10 seconds, and a red light showing to the northwest from the tower window. It was an easy target for Rowbotham to see, and if he was correct about a flat earth, to view the entire lighthouse.
(See the next post, “Knowing How to Learn the Truth – Part II,” to see the results of the Eddystone Lighthouse experiment, Rowbotham’s reaction, and its effect on those who had gathered to view it)

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