Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Earth is Flat! And Other False Beliefs Based on Dogma and Pseudoscience that Stress the Need for Critical Thinking

          I was having a discussion with a couple of friends this morning at a local coffee shop about the prevalence of dogmatic beliefs in our society.  Beliefs that involve the outright denial of logic and rational thinking that takes place when arguing against things like the theory of evolution in the face of the wealth of scientific knowledge that we, as human beings, have gained in out short history of existence on this planet (just a blip on the map, compared to the approximately four and a half billion years since our planet was formed). I find it hard to imagine that a person in this day and age can actually believe in things like the denial of evolution, the embracing of fundamentalist religious ideologies, supernatural existence of things like ghosts and ESP, etc., with not only a complete lack of ANY evidence for these beliefs, but mountains of documented scientific evidence that indicates these things to be so highly unlikely that the probability of there being any truth to these beliefs is virtually nonexistent.
          That being said, I was reminded of something that I overheard in a discussion that two people were having while I was waiting at the plasma center last week. (I am a poor college student at the moment, and I donate plasma every week for some extra gas money) I was sitting there and overheard a 29 year old woman telling her friend how she had just learned that the earth was round! Hearing that, my first reaction was to assume that the woman was not being serious. However, upon a little further listening to her discussion, I am convinced that she was being serious. She even said at one point that she had always thought that the world was flat, and was amazed to learn that it was in fact round.
          I understand that this woman obviously held her beliefs about the world being flat out of ignorance. However, upon hearing things like this, I am constantly reminded of the fact that there are still people in the modern world who either don't understand the facts, or outrightly reject the evidence of reality for their deeply held dogmatic beliefs. This has me constantly being reminded of how important it is to fight against those who continually attempt to push pseudoscience into the school classroom, as well as getting classes in critical thinking into the required core curriculum. It is so sad that there are so many people out there who live their whole lives without ever questioning their own core beliefs, and the fact that there are still people out there who believe that the Sun rotates around the Earth is a testament to this. Here, in this video is a good example. In the video is an Iraqi "Researcher on Astronomy" who is debating with a physicist and arguing that the world is flat, based on Koranic verses:

          This dogmatic belief in the infallibility of the Koran in it's description of the natural world is the faulty premise that he is basing his argument on. This belief that the Koran is infallible is a dogmatic belief that does not stand up to scientific scrutiny when examined, as do the holy books of most religions. This just goes to show how important it is to employ the scientific method, and examine even our most deeply held beliefs, or else the dogma of the past can always lead us down the path of ignorance and halting our moral, ethical, technological, and societal advancement.


  1. Thank you for showing us the viewpoint from the Islamic fundamentalist. It seems that we, as freethinkers in the US, Canada, and Europe, focus our attention almost solely on Christianity. It is refreshing to see someone introduce another religion's viewpoint.

  2. Well....the man in the video was Islamic, however, his fundamentalist viewpoint is not that much different from Christian fundamentalist viewpoints. After all, both religions stem from the same ancestor, the Muslim religion is just a slightly younger offshoot of the same ancestor of the Christian religion.

    This type of ignorance, or outright contradiction to known, established science, is common to people with all types of dogmatic views. Although, if I understand you correctly, that is the point you were trying to make. You can look across the dividing lines of different beliefs, and see the same type of damage to critical thinking caused by all types of dogmatic beliefs.