Marcus Shepherd's Reviews > Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea

Flat Earth by Christine Garwood
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's review
Dec 17, 2011

liked it
Recommended for: few.
Read from December 17 to 20, 2011 , read count: 1

How do you know the Earth is round? No, really. Because you saw a picture? Because you own a globe? What evidence could you throw up right now to prove the globularity of the ground you stand on?

Looking through some of the other reviews, it seems like people focus on the proponents of the Flat Earth model with pity and scorn.
"At times you want to find the people it talks about and slap some sense into them, at others you just feel sorry for them. Seeing the deliberate ignorance people impose on themselves is both amusing, and terribly frightening."

"It is finishes with an assessment of this belief across the years, comparing with initially entwined Creationist movement but remarking that a Flat Earth is simply too easy to disprove and therefore has been abandoned by almost the staunchest of Christian fundamentalists."

But this book is really about so much more, and the epilogue demonstrates that. It's not about proving the Earth is round. It's about knowledge and what you believe in. It's about the development of a society that has shifted their faith from priests to physicists, and accepts what is told them. Likely, this book serves as a litmus test. If you're more scientificly-minded, you focus on the proponents of Flat Earth theory and marvel at how obtuse they are. If you're more philosophically-minded, you revel in the tale of Leo Ferrari and the question of how we accept things as facts. (Presumably, if you're flat earth-minded, you thought the book was great unless it was too critical.)

I do not think, however, that this book was very well-written. It was obnoxiously repetitive and unbearably dull. Sometimes, definitions for the same concepts were given in each chapter, in case – one presumes – that the reader was too bored reading one chapter and skipped to the next. In an effort to be comprehensive, it over-covers the issues. Reading through the first half is a never-ending cycle of pamphlet printing and responding to criticism. Over and over again, the reader is treated to the same actions with minor changes. If I could do anything with this book, I'd give it to Bill Bryson and have him rewrite it. It would be a tenth of the length and ten times more interesting and humorous. (It kills me to see the humor hiding beneath the surface of this book, so close to coming out but buried under the dull, academic style.)

In short, this book was somewhat interesting, but really not interesting enough to pick up for fun.

Quibbles: I assume this topic was not limited to the Anglo world. What about Flat Earth belief in other parts of the world? This book glosses over them completely. Also: the author very rarely mentions how much influence the Flat Earth societies, especially the early ones, had in terms of members. It felt like there were three people in all England for 50 years.
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