Sunday, May 6, 2018

Knowing How to Learn the Truth – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding the manner of discovering truth amidst the oddball ideas man comes up with that literally require our research and understanding to know the truth—which is especially true of the Land of Promise in the Book of Mormon. Below continues the experiment of the Eddystone Lighthouse viewing from Plymouth and Samuel Birley Rowbotham’s claim of a flat earth.
Those who disagreed with Rowbotham’s flat-earth belief claimed that from Plymouth, the Eddystone Lighthouse lantern could readily be seen, showing the curvature of the earth

When Rowbotham looked through the telescope on the beach toward the 144-foot high lantern with its 22-mile range of light sitting stop the 149-foot high lighthouse, only half of the lantern was visible, showing the Earth’s distinct curvature even more so than had been predicted, completely destroying Rowbotham’s “Flat Earth”theory.
    However, undaunted in this apparent failure to prove his point, Rowbotham claimed his opponents were wrong and that the experiment somehow proved the Earth was indeed flat. Unbelievably, many of those present, unable to understand the significance of only half of the top mounted lantern being visible, and being swayed by Rowbotham’s flawed and unsound claim, shook their heads and went away agreeing that "some of the most important conclusions of modern astronomy had been seriously invalidated."
    So it often is with theories and theorists when their pet beliefs and announced assumptive concepts have been shown to be wrong—bluster and denials and false claims are shouted out to the detriment of the evidence and to the swaying of public opinion. People seldom look things up for themselves, seldom want to put out the effort to verify claims, but are so often willing to listen to the strongest voice, or simply reinforce their previous thoughts, or jump on the bandwagon of something new.
    Rowbotham repeated his experiments showing a “flat Earth” several times over the years but his claims received little attention until, in 1870, a supporter of Rowbotham and a flat-earther by the name of John Stephen Hampden, a Protestant rector’s son whose mission in life had come to the eradicating of the “round earth belief” from the public conscience, offered a wager of 500 pounds in the weekly journal Scientific Opinion, that he could show, by repeating Rowbotham's experiment, that the earth was indeed flat.
Left: John Stevens Hampden; Right: Alfred Russel Wallace

The noted naturalist and qualified surveyor Alfred Russel Wallace accepted the wager. Wallace, by virtue of his surveyor's training and knowledge of physics, avoided the errors of the preceding experiments, and found the flat-earth claim to be false and showed, after adjusting Rowbotham’s method to avoid the effects of atmospheric refraction, that a curvature consistent with a spherical Earth—that is, the deviation of light or other electromagnetic wave from a straight line as it passes through the atmosphere due to the variation in air density as a function of height showed Rowbotham’s original figures and claims to be inaccurate. In fact, this refraction near the ground produces mirages and can make distant objects appear to shimmer or ripple, elevate or lower, stretch or shorten, even with no mirage involved.
    So Wallace easily won the bet.
    However, nothing that Wallace, nor the scientific judges involved in the experiment, or even the manufacturers of the telescope and its cross-hair center and lines, could say to the verification of the experiment and its results, would change Hampden’s mind. Nor did it sway Rowbotham, nor those who had been earlier convinced by his findings. Infuriated no one in the scientific community would listen to him, Hampden embarked on a 21-year campaign of harassment, threats, and libel that ruined Wallace’s life.
    In 1901, Henry Yule Oldham, a reader in geography at King’s College, Cambridge, reproduced Wallace's results using three poles fixed at equal height above water level.
When viewed through a theodolite (a precision instrument for measuring direction and distance, horizontal and vertical angles), the middle pole was found to be almost three feet higher than the poles at each end. This version of the experiment was taught in schools until photographs of the Earth from space became available.
    Rowbotham and followers like William Carpenter gained attention by successful use of pseudoscience in public debates with leading scientists such as Alfred Russel Wallace. Rowbotham created a Zetetic Society in England and New York, shipping over a thousand copies of Zetetic Astronomy to the Americas.
    The movement has been gaining strength and recruiting members for more than a hundred years, despite all the advances of science, astronomy, space flight and recordings, including NASA space photography, and our extensive time in space, as well as our scientific abilities to measure the planet. It is beyond belief that these “Flat Earthers” have increased in number and vociferous dialogue, especially on Social Media, where an increasing number of individuals communicate, unaffiliated with larger groups, many of which have members around the world.
    “Flat Earthers” claim the evidence for a flat earth is derived from many different facets of science and philosophy. The simplest is by relying on one’s own senses to discern the true nature of the world, which they claim looks flat, the bottoms of clouds are flat, the movement of the sun is a flat arc. These are all examples of one’s senses showing that we do not live on a spherical heliocentric world. This is using what's called an empirical approach, or an approach that relies on information from the senses. Alternatively, when using Descartes' method of Universal (Cartesian) Doubt, to skeptically view the world around us, they claim that one quickly finds that the notion of a spherical world is the theory which has the burden of proof and not flat earth theory.
The curvature of the earth is unmistakable from space

Of course, most intelligent people respond with the fact that “man has been into space. How have they not discovered that the earth is flat?” After all, even from about 35,000 feet in a plane, the curvature of the earth is detectable, given a wide enough field of view (about 60º) and a cloud-free horizon. This height places the horizon at about 230 nautical miles away, and would show the radius of a small circle of the earth’s surface that can be observed. However, the true curvature of the earth would be the actual edge of the disk, a great circle of exactly the same diameter as the earth.
    To see the actual curvature, which is vastly greater than this circle you would have to be able to see the entire earth. Actual earth-disk circumference is 21,600 nautical miles. Earth's surface disk visible from FL350 (Flight Level 350=35,000 feet based on barometric pressure and inches of mercury, i.e., standard pressure) is about 1446 nautical miles.
    On the other hand, the “Flat Earth” response to views of this curvature is that all the space agencies of the world and all the astronauts and cosmonauts are involved in a conspiracy faking space travel and exploration. In addition, these theorists claim that when viewed from planes, the curvature of the glass windows creates a curvature to the view of earth.
    However, the fact that the Great Circle (orthodromic distance) route over the pole is shorter than a direct route across the ocean from America to Europe, should suggest to the most naive “Flat Earther” that the earth is round.
Mike Hughes, a 61-year-old daredevil-turned-rocket-maker-turned-round-Earth-skeptic—intending to launch himself 52 miles into the sky to prove his “Flat-Earth” theory, though only reached 1875-feet

This led to the recent amateur rocket launch by 61-year-old “Mad” Mike Hughes, a “Flat Earth” limo driver who wants to run for California governor, and to prove the Earth is flat. He lifted off near Amboy, California, in a homemade steam-powered rocket he built out of scrap metal parts in his garage, which cost him around $20,000. His goal was to snap a photo proving that astronauts conspired to fabricate the shape of the planet.
    The stunt was supposed to be the first phase of the flat-Earth space program and received backing from flat-Earth groups. Reaching near 350 miles per hour, Hughes deployed two parachutes that brought his vehicle back to a desert landing about halfway between Victorville and Needles, California, south of the Mojave National Preserve, and north of the Sheephole Valley Wilderness. Next on his agenda, is to reach space where the true image of the planet can be photographed.
    He did not rise high enough to take his promised picture, but assures us that his next flight will be into space where he can take such a photo.
(See the next post, “Knowing How to Learn the Truth – Part III,” to see how these theorists treat the reality of space shots and views from outer space)

1 comment:

  1. Oh... how I have experienced this "determination" to hold true to ones belief system even though the brain says... it's not true. I spoke to one LDS MesoAmerican theorist who after I suggested that the llama and alpaca were the two animals that Joseph called the curelom and cumon... he stated as matter-of-factly that neither animal had any value to man... but they have now figured that the animal know as the Giant Sloth.. was one of the animals. I remember asking him what value did the giant sloth have to man. His response was.. "more value than a llama or alpaca". Then he turned and walked away saying there is no need to discuss this with me.