Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous
by Christine Garwood , Thomas Dunne Books 2008
Reviewed by Michael Zimmerman
Garwood, historian of science at the Open
University in England, has produced a thoroughly enjoyable and
engaging first book. She examines the belief that the world is flat
from a wide array of perspectives and makes a number of important
She demonstrates quite convincingly, for example, that, contrary
to what most people believe, the ancients knew the world was not
flat: "the earth has been widely believed to be a globe since the
fifth century BC." Indeed, growing acceptance of a flat earth
occurred in the 19th century and was largely promoted by Biblical
literalists. Garwood does an impressive job of comparing those
professing this belief with modern day creationists.
She also makes the case that it is all but impossible to argue
effectively with true believers - Alfred Russel Wallace, co-founder
of the theory of natural selection with Charles Darwin, ended up in
years of litigation after he accepted a challenge to demonstrate
that there is curvature to the surface of the earth. Modern
believers assert that the space program is a "big, giant hoax."
When, on the 25th anniversary of the first manned landing on the
moon, a 1994 Washington Post poll estimated that approximately 20
million Americans thought the landing was staged on earth, it is
obvious that some outrageous beliefs still hold sway.
Garwood is respectful throughout, analyzing the philosophical
underpinnings of those who have doubted the earth's rotundity.
- Michael Zimmerman is Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences and professor of biology at Butler University.