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Physics, Earth & Space Icon Physics, Earth & Space

Flat Earth Myth: A Favorite with ID Critics

David Klinghoffer

Flat Earth

Critics of intelligent design think they’re clever when they draw comparisons between ID and belief in a flat Earth. Professor Jerry Coyne, for one, says that HarperCollins, publisher of Michael Behe’s forthcoming book, Darwin Devolves, “should be ashamed at [sic] itself for publishing the biology equivalent of flat-Earthism.” Professor Nathan Lents has offered a similar view about design proponents.

It’s not surprising since the myth of medieval belief in a flat Earth is widespread. So smart alecks, including biologists at major universities, naturally reach for it as a taunt. But the joke is on them. Science historian Michael Keas explains:

Medieval thinkers understood that our planet is round. They reasoned that the Earth cannot be flat because, for one thing, the position of the North Star, Polaris, looks different depending on where you stand. As you move north from the equator, it appears to be closer and closer to the center of the night sky. Students at medieval Christian universities could explain this to you. How about students at universities today? I am confident that the vast majority could not. So who is the more enlightened?

The Flat Earth myth is debunked along with others in Professor Keas’s excellent new book, Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion.

Photo: North Star, by Ashley Dace [CC BY-SA 2.0].