Can anyone refute these arguments that we live on the interior of a hollow Earth?

post by Fivehundred · 2017-07-21T16:51:09.671Z · score: -5 (2 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 96 comments

I found a website run by an interesting fellow called 'Wild Heretic' and it seems incredibly intricate and comprehensive. I've yet to see any other person argue as well for half so radical a claim. Think of this as an opportunity to examine arguments for highly unpopular views.

Wild Heretic believes that we live on the inside of a hollow sphere, lit by a half-light half-dark Sun at its center (he claims that light bends in order to produce the effect of rising and setting), that the moon is an optical illusion, that manmade satellites don't really exist, that the stars are light artifacts produced in the atmosphere and can never be seen above it, and he has a bunch of explanations for the other celestial bodies like comets and galaxies.

It all seems shockingly intelligent (aside from when he insists that the fact that the Earth doesn't move under your feet when you jump disproves heliocentrism). He also has nine main pieces of evidence for his model:

1. Some early modern maps have inversed latitude and longitude
2. Modern polyconic maps show more accurate sizes and shapes
3. 19th century balloon observations (that is, without an intervening medium) gave the impression of a concave surface
4. 4,000 foot plumb lines reportedly were farther away from each other at the bottom of a mine shaft
5. A laser shot between two posts (over water) seems to curve downwards
6. An old rectilineator experiment indicates a concave surface (the experiment has been criticized here)
7. Radar and radio wave horizons cannot be explained on a convex ball
8. Ships disappearing below the horizon are an optical illusion
9. Light bends upwards, which allows for the rising/setting illusion of the sun and moon

I would really like to know what people here have to say about this, since the comments on the site itself are very disappointing. (A lot of it does rely on a massive conspiracy involving scientists of many stripes, but it's probably best to overlook that.)


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-21T17:38:39.863Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not "shockingly intelligent", it's an incoherent babble.

The babble is locally coherent in places, but once you take a bit broader view, it reverts to incoherency.

Going down crazy rabbit holes can be a fun anthropological expedition, but it's not an exercise in reasoning.

comment by jimrandomh · 2017-07-21T20:32:12.385Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It may be a useful exercise. We know it's wrong because the subject matter is something we're familiar with; but imagine a similar body of work, confabulated by a similar process, on a subject we know less about. Would we still be able to tell there was something wrong with it? I'm not sure.

comment by turchin · 2017-07-21T21:36:05.492Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The game may be dangerous. One sleepless night I thought to create rational theology just for fun, but possible arguments in my mind start to grow so quickly that I have to stop my thinking before I succeed.

comment by RainbowSpacedancer · 2017-07-22T13:59:56.074Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you talk a bit more on this? I'm curious to know how you imagine talking yourself into believing something you don't believe, like some kind of double-think. And it seems avoiding scary thoughts is not a habit a rationalist would want to encourage.

comment by turchin · 2017-07-22T22:56:36.550Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok, let's spend a minute to construct a rational theology. At first, we need to prove that God exists. There are several independent ways to prove it:

1) Simulation argument. We are most likely are living in the world created by some form Superintelligence. It may create miracles, afterlife, whatever, and prevent us from proving that we live in the simulation. If we accept simulation argument, we also should accept multilevel simulation model, with higherst possible superintelligence on the highest level.

2) Mathematical Universe Platonia. If all possible math objects exist, then most complex objects exist too, more over, complex objects are dominating by the number between all possible math objects (like large digit are dominating on smaller digits). Thus most complex superintelligent computer programs must dominate as pure mathematical objects (programs are mathematical objects). However, it contradicts observations: we see a rather simple world. Solution could be that each superintelligence in platonia create multilevel simulation, so most observers any ways are downstream of simulations.

3) All the hell break loose if we accept Platonia, because not only mathematical ideas must exist, but also any linguistically presentable ideas. Thus in Platonia idea of God is equal to the God existence.

4) Forget Platomia and Simulation. But anyway we are going to create benevolent superintelligence during AI self-improvement in the next decades. It will be indistinguishable from God. However, it will exist only future half of infinity.

5) Forget Superintelligence. If some exotic interpretations of QM are true, and consciousness cause collapse, we need one and only one instance of consciousness to do so for all possible universes. Surprisingly, it is me: I am the only consciousness being in the world, all others are p-zomby. (High danger of mania of grandiosity detected.)

6) The same way anthropic principle in its worst form says that all visible universe must exist only for me to be able to ask a question what the fuck I am doing here. It implies some form of the illusion of retrocausality. (High danger of mania of grandiosity detected.)

7) Fuck off anthropic principle and QM. Let's turn to qualia. There is only two solution to dualism: either qualia don't exist at all (and it contradicts my experience), or qualia is the only substance that actually exist. In the last case, we have some ocean of possible subjective experiences and Panpsychism rules.

Now we have too many proofs that God exist, and they are rather contradictory. Surely, if I spent more time, I could generate more ideas like this, and now it will be rather improbable that at least one of them is completely untrue.

In the next part, I may try steelmaning Christian theology.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2017-07-23T18:47:04.532Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The panpsychism argument is probably the most compelling one among all of these. The problem with it is that if percepts are the basic substance of the universe howcome we have experiences that we cannot predict? It implies our future experiences are determined by something outside of our own minds.

comment by cousin_it · 2017-07-23T21:52:56.978Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or that our minds define a probability distribution over future experiences.

comment by turchin · 2017-07-23T19:48:26.564Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

One way to answer it is to turn to the solipsistic way - that is, there is no outside universe, but there are laws which convert one experience into the next one. I would not try to defend the point, as it has one clear weakness: it is not parsimonious, as it requires extremely complex laws to convert one experience in the next, and, more over, these laws are exactly the outside world, after some normalisation.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2017-07-23T22:34:35.915Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

these laws are exactly the outside world

That is my view precisely. One way out is to assert that there is at least one mind responsible for providing the percepts available to other minds, and from its perspective nothing is unknown and it fills the function of the "outside world".

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-22T00:15:51.971Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Something similar might be a useful exercise (e.g. cold fusion, maybe?). Hollow Earth has way too many immediate implications (so, how does gravity work? and why is GPS functioning? and lots of ways to see through hundreds of miles of atmosphere, shouldn't radars show us the Earth is concave if it's so? etc.)

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-22T01:06:31.764Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, I don't know a whole lot about physics or the other subjects he talks about. It just seems very well-argued to me. Would you care to elaborate on what you think is incoherent?

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2017-07-22T08:12:21.095Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know a whole lot about physics or the other subjects he talks about. It just seems very well-argued to me.

These two facts are related.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2017-07-23T15:26:55.590Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is the kind of snark that is entirely justified.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-22T01:35:10.057Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

All of it.

I recommend developing critical thinking skills.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-22T15:36:51.171Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is not a good response. Surely you can admit this is coherent?

At about 85km altitude temperatures start to rise until they hit the Kármán line which is 100km high. After this line, the heat abruptly increases rising rapidly to 200km whereby it starts to level off (100km is the very start of the radiation belts as well which become full strength at 200km funnily enough), although other sources say it continually rises. Temperatures can vary, depending on sun activity, but can reach as high as… wait for it…


I kid you not.

In case you don’t know how hot 2500°C is. Your oven in your kitchen can hit 240°C max. A ceramic laboratory oven for jewelers and dentists to melt gold can reach 1200°C. Temperatures in a blast furnace for melting iron can go as high as 2300°C.

The only elements in the periodic table that can withstand 2500°C are carbon, niobium, molybdenum, tantalum, tungsten, rhenium, and osmium. Except for carbon, these metals are very, very heavy and are of course extremely conductive to heat and most are very ductile when heat treated meaning they bend and coil. Carbon even has the highest thermal conductivities of all known materials! So, if you want to cook someone very efficiently and quickly, there is nothing better than a space capsule made out of graphite.

Now, admittedly, it is not always 2500°C. In fact the temperature range is usually between a mere 600 to 2000°C! depending on sun activity and if it is day or night, with these temperatures usually reserved for altitudes of 300km and above; the upper boundary of which is unknown.

Now guess what altitude all the NASA machines are supposed to orbit Earth?

We are told most satellites orbit the Earth at altitudes of over 500km to avoid atmospheric drag, with a few circling in Medium Earth Orbit which goes up to 35,786km!

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-24T00:38:23.071Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

First of all, reality is interconnected. If you are evaluating a hypothesis about reality (as opposed to an abstract puzzle), it should match everything you see. So, Hollow Earth. What are the implications? Clearly there is a vast conspiracy to conceal the truth. A massive, very expensive conspiracy -- someone has to generate all these photos made from space or from upper atmosphere, generate e.g. live video feeds from the International Space Station. There are no satellites, but GPS actually works, so there is some entirely unknown system which allows you to pinpoint your location anywhere on Earth. Gravity obviously works very differently from what the textbooks say. Etc. etc.

If Hollow Earth is actually true, you should be much more concerned about things other than the shape of the planet.

As to this specific example, it's misleading.

Speaking at a very crude level, temperature is a measure of energy. The higher the temperature of something, the more energy that something has. If we are talking about gases (like the Earth's atmosphere), we can simplify it even more -- temperature is a measure of how fast do gas molecules move.

However temperature (= speed) is a per-molecule thing. Let's take a cubic meter of space and put a single gas molecule in there. And let's make it move very fast -- as fast as it would take to correspond to 2500 degrees C. Will this molecule melt anything? Nope, it's energetic, but it's alone. The amount of energy it can transfer to something it hits is very very small.

How much something gets heated in a, technically, 2500 C environment depends on the density of that environment. If the gas is very rarefied, meaning the number of molecules per cubic meter is small, you won't get much heat. If it's dense (lots of molecules), you get a lot of heat.

That's why you can easily pass your hand through a flame (gas, low density), but you can't pass your hand through boiling water (liquid, high density) even though the temperature of the flame is higher than that of boiling water.

If you don't understand a subject, don't hurry to declare some explanations you see on the 'net convincing or coherent. You are not qualified to judge.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-24T09:25:18.731Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't understand why you think this is a refutation. What is giving energy to the molecules in the upper atmosphere, if not the sun? And if it is the sun, higher density matter like satellites would would experience extreme heat.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-24T15:08:22.246Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And if it is the sun, higher density matter like satellites would would experience extreme heat.

Not extreme heat. Satellites do get heated by the sun, certainly, but not to 2500 C. They absorb energy coming from the sun, but they also radiate energy -- the stable/average temperature depends on the balance of incoming and outgoing. Satellites have to manage this balance and they do. One very common method is reflective shields.

Think about it this way -- why doesn't the whole Earth overheat?

comment by cousin_it · 2017-07-23T18:52:31.254Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, satellite cooling is a real technical problem. You're one Google search away from learning all about it.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-24T09:29:37.493Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The claim being made is that satellites should be exposed to temperatures nearly twice as hot as the melting point of iron.

comment by cousin_it · 2017-07-24T09:35:04.044Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The claim is correct. The ISS is orbiting right in the middle of the thermosphere, and the temperature there is indeed higher than the melting point of iron. You're one Google search away from learning why the ISS doesn't melt. I know the answer, but it's important that you find it out yourself.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-24T10:37:37.886Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah, I already Googled but I got confused because the first guy who came up on the search seemed to be talking about something else.

But I used a different phrasing and got the answer. FWI, Google isn't always reliable for refuting crackpots and Wikipedia is very unreliable. If I assumed that the latter represented the state of human knowledge I'd be forced to concede that most of what Wild Heretic says is true.

comment by cousin_it · 2017-07-27T11:35:56.535Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you're not an expert on some topic, and it's not too politicized, then I think trusting Wikipedia and using it as a starting point is the best strategy available today.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-27T17:06:20.203Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

On a hard-science topic, probably. On a topic is any way connected to culture wars, not necessarily.

comment by cousin_it · 2017-07-27T20:47:16.497Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Quick check, did you read my comment before replying? Every word of it? :-)

comment by phonypapercut · 2017-07-22T17:41:42.165Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No. Temperature is not heat.

comment by James_Miller · 2017-07-21T19:59:25.990Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sometimes it can be. For example, refute the claim that the earth is flat and there is a general conspiracy to lie about the earth's shape so you can only use information which you personally gather.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-21T20:06:33.425Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's not terribly hard -- e.g. you can see the Earth's curvature from a normal commercial airliner -- but misses the real point. If there's a general conspiracy of such magnitude and pervasiveness, whether Earth is actually flat is likely to be the least of my concerns.

comment by lmn · 2017-07-22T17:52:01.671Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Science is based on the principal of nullius in verba (take no one's word for it). So your attitude is anti-scientific and likely to fall a foul of Goodhart's law.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-24T00:40:27.087Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Which particular part of my attitude is anti-scientific?

comment by lmn · 2017-07-25T01:56:40.821Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That what you describe as the "real point" amounts to an appeal to authority.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-25T15:19:03.810Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You misunderstand. The real point is that in the case we're talking about I suddenly discover that my picture of how the world is constructed is all wrong. Not only the world of physics, but the world of politics, culture, etc. as well. It turns out I don't really understand how it all works which should be very worrisome. And while mundane physics looks more or less the same (after all, I know how to go about my daily life without falling into the sky or somesuch), finding out that societies function in some entirely different manner than I expected is a good cause for alarm.

comment by lmn · 2017-07-26T04:27:19.168Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok, now your just (intentionally?) missing the point of the hypothetical.

Also, science can and has been (and certainly still is) wrong about a lot of stuff. (Nutrition being a recent less-controversial example.)

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-26T14:56:43.616Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Science is a methodology, not a set of conclusions.

At any given moment in time scientists are definitely wrong about a lot of stuff.

comment by lmn · 2017-07-27T05:40:07.042Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Agreed. Which is why the scientific approach is think about how to refute the claim that the earth is flat using only information you personally gather, rather than making snarky comments about the implausibility of the conspiracy.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-27T16:45:41.936Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

the scientific approach is think about how to refute the claim that the earth is flat using only information you personally gather

I disagree.

Science is not about having to poke everything with your own finger. In particular, science is perfectly fine with having to deal with uncertain evidence. I think your approach went out of favour somewhere around XVII century.

comment by James_Miller · 2017-07-22T00:12:10.322Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Last time I was on an airliner I looked for but could not see any evidence of the Earth's curvature. Don't religions show you can get huge numbers of people to believe things are that not true? And I bet some great religions were started as high level conspiracies to get populations to have beliefs useful for their leaders.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-22T01:24:02.238Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

At risk of derailing the thread here, I'd say there are no examples you can bring of a politically created/patronized religion displacing native beliefs, assuming the mentality of the public didn't favor that religion. For instance, Anglicanism may have suited the British state well, but it wasn't arbitrarily forced onto a resistant Catholic population.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-22T01:31:11.948Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Convert or die" was a very popular proposition for many centuries.

Take, I don't know, former Yugoslavia. The Bosnians are mostly Muslim, the Serbs are Christian Orthodox, and the Croats are Roman Catholic. You think that's because they all had different mentalities?

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-22T16:11:15.513Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did the Ottoman Sultans invent Islam?

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-24T00:45:43.578Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Given that you know the expression "Ottoman sultans", what do you think?

comment by AspiringRationalist · 2017-07-23T04:07:33.126Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No. The Ottoman Empire started in 1299. Islam, and various very powerful caliphates, had existed for centuries before that.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-24T09:06:31.971Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ugh... I'm talking about whoever created Islam or Christianity in the first place, and Lumifer's response didn't seem to acknowledge that. I am indeed aware that Islam predates the Ottoman dynasty.

comment by James_Miller · 2017-07-22T01:35:37.068Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

From Wikipedia:

"During the Saxon Wars, Charlemagne, King of the Franks, forcibly Roman Catholicized the Saxons from their native Germanic paganism by way of warfare, and law upon conquest. Examples are the Massacre of Verden in 782, when Charlemagne reportedly had 4,500 captive Saxons massacred upon rebelling against conversion, and the Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae, a law imposed on conquered Saxons in 785 that prescribed death to those who refused to convert to Christianity."

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-22T15:32:26.937Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah, I mean a religion that was created or originally propagated through patronization. Every religion has been patronized for political purposes at some point. Christianity is a pretty good example of a religion that was not useful to the authorities during its early years.

comment by James_Miller · 2017-07-22T16:56:59.379Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Matthew 22:21 Jesus said "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's".

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-24T09:12:09.165Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're not giving the full quote, and even if he had said that, it wouldn't remotely meet any burden of proof for showing Christianity was probably created for political purposes. The behavior of the Roman authorities towards Christianity seems to offer more evidence against that, as well as the embarrassment for having their Messiah be crucified by a Roman governor.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-22T00:20:02.506Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It helps if you're over an ocean and there are no clouds.

I bet some great religions were started as high level conspiracies

Anything in particular you have in mind?

comment by James_Miller · 2017-07-22T00:39:29.863Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but I would rather not say in part because I don't have proof and because I don't want to falsely signal to any of my future students that I don't like them believe of their religion.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-22T00:43:33.993Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah yes, academia. The bastion of free inquiry and free thought.

However I'm somewhat familiar with the early history of Islam and the idea of a "high level conspiracy" doesn't fit well. When Muhammad started having his revelations, he was basically a nobody and even after that for quite a while his fate was very touch-and-go.

comment by AspiringRationalist · 2017-07-23T04:04:37.240Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Qur'an wasn't written down until a while after Muhammad's death, by which time there was an incentive for leaders to edit it for their own benefit.

See also Emperor Constantine I's efforts to quash dissent within the Christian community in order to make it more politically unified.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-24T00:44:08.585Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Qur'an wasn't written down until a while after Muhammad's death, by which time there was an incentive for leaders to edit it for their own benefit.

True, but so what? I am sure there was editing, but I am also sure that the post-standardization Koran was very similar to the floating set of surahs at the time of Muhammad. You can't just substitute one set of religious teaching for another this way.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-24T09:04:48.669Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, that's precisely my point. Religious doctrines get sorted out over centuries so that the most viable survive. People who deliberately set out to create their own cult can't match this.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-24T15:09:44.965Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

People who deliberately set out to create their own cult can't match this.

They can get lucky. Example: Joseph Smith.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-24T18:47:52.818Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure, but (without even mentioning how much it takes from mainstream Christianity) Mormonism is... 150 years old. How many Quakers do you see these days?

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-24T19:12:44.579Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What is the point that you are making? Religions get born, go through natural/social selection, some survive -- for some time, some do not. This is all uncontroversial, as far as I know.

When you set up a new religion, you don't know how successful will it be, but the probability of it becoming very successful is not zero.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-24T20:31:45.316Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a safe assumption that any religion with ancient roots was not made up by someone for political purposes.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-24T21:18:59.032Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't see why. Religions mutate and evolve.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-25T22:18:16.493Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I admit it's possible for components of a religion to be taken from political propaganda (certain parts of the NT fit the bill), but inventing the idea as a whole... I can't see how that would work out. Except maybe in the case of Islam, but even then it was just grabbing on to the coattails of Judaism and Christianity.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-26T00:48:43.141Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can't see how that would work out. Except maybe in the case of Islam

So you can see. And the example is the second most popular religion in the world.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-26T00:56:10.784Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure it counts. Muhammad certainly existed. Most of the theology wouldn't have been made up as you describe. I'm really just talking about the origin story, since whether Islam actually came from Arabia isn't certain.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-26T01:46:33.269Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

since whether Islam actually came from Arabia isn't certain.

I haven't read anything which doubts that. What is the alternative theory?

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-26T12:30:17.350Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The idea as I know it comes from Patricia Crone, but it's been picked up by other historians like Tom Holland. Basically, it claims that Muhammad came from Jordan and the idea of Islam originating in Medina was an attempt to 'Arabize' the new religion.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-26T15:17:35.180Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah, interesting. But it seems that this "Revisionist" school is about critically analysing Koran and hadiths -- basically not taking them at their word which is entirely reasonable. The claim that Islam didn't originate in Arabia is mostly limited to Crone and even she looks to have abandoned this claim: Wikipedia says "Later, Patricia Crone refrained from this attempt of a detailed reconstruction of Islam's beginnings".

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-26T17:24:43.336Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Um... did you read the following sentence? She didn't abandon the idea at all. And there's at least one major work that argues for it: 'In the Shadow of the Sword.'

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-26T18:03:39.361Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I did read the following sentence and noted that it does not have any footnotes attached to it -- as far as I can see it's an unsubstantiated assertion by some Wikipedia editor.

Besides "I'm not going to admit I was wrong, I just will stop talking/writing about this" counts as abandonment in my book.

As to Tom Holland, he is a writer, not an academic. Pop science, of course, has a rather large liking for outrageous claims.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-26T18:18:08.929Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Refraining from a 'detailed' reconstruction seems quite reasonable. In history, you don't generally have to explain how something happens to assert that it did.

Holland is indeed something of a pop author, but once you've translated Herodotus it's hard to claim that you have no real expertise in history.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-26T18:44:23.167Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In history, you don't generally have to explain how something happens to assert that it did.

That does not apply to outside-of-the-mainstream views.

once you've translated Herodotus it's hard to claim that you have no real expertise in history

History is a very big subject. Translating Herodotus does not give you any insights into VI-VII century Arabia.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-28T16:28:01.268Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That does not apply to outside-of-the-mainstream views.

It does indeed. Evidence that x is true is not the same as an explanation of how x occurred. For instance, we can see that an ancient city was burned down around a certain year, but not know for what purpose or by whom.

History is a very big subject. Translating Herodotus does not give you any insights into VI-VII century Arabia.

You just complained that he wasn't an academic.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-28T17:16:33.065Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It does indeed.

With straightforward archeological evidence, yes, it does. But if you are talking about a different interpretation of well-known sources, it's not like you have new facts -- what you are offering is a new narrative and that needs, basically, to make sense. "Making sense" here implies fitting into a larger context better than the old narrative which, in turn, involves better explanations of how and why things known to happen happened.

You just complained that he wasn't an academic.

The point of that was to draw your attention to the criteria for his work. An academic (outside of gender studies and such) generally has to be very careful about his claims and very explicit about the evidence he uses. There are a lot of safeguards against jumping to conclusions and shoddy scholarship tends to be ruinous to a reputation.

A popsci writer, on the other hand, has incentives to produce an exciting and controversial story which will sell well.

comment by Stabilizer · 2017-07-22T05:04:03.912Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't have time to refute each of arguments, because there're too many. But consider number 5 in your list. He describes a laser experiment that he claims cannot be accounted for on the current picture of the Earth. But if you think it through, it is perfectly well accounted for.

Here's the version of the experiment performed by the two Polish guys on a lake. They place two stakes 2km apart. The stakes have lasers attached to them at 30 cm height from the surface of the water. They measure the height above the surface of the point at which the laser beams meet and find it to be 39-40cm above the surface of the water.

Wild Heretic claims, on the basis of this diagram, that on the convex Earth theory (i.e., the widely accepted theory) one should expect the height from the water at the point where the lasers meet to be smaller that the height at which the lasers are mounted. But Wild Heretic's diagram misrepresents the state of affairs. Here is a better representation I drew and associated calculations that I did, which show that the convex Earth theory correctly predicts that the laser beams would meet approximately 38cm above the surface, which is very close to the observed 39-40cm.

EDIT: As dogiv points out below, I mis-interpreted the experiment. So the argument above is not a refutation of the experiment as described.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-22T15:25:58.440Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you! That's the kind of thing I'm looking for.

comment by Stabilizer · 2017-07-24T03:56:09.614Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure. His arguments look pretty easy to refute using some basic physics and some Google searches. Let me know if you find any other argument of his that you find particularly compelling and I'll take a crack at it.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-24T09:39:13.059Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hmm, his argument that stars can never be seen anywhere at high altitudes (excepting the 'fraudulent' NASA photographs) doesn't yet have an unambiguous counterexample I could find. He doesn't deny that the stars must be higher than the atmosphere but think they only become visible near the ground.

But the articles on the solar equinox and the solstice are probably the best on the whole site. Or they just seem that way to me, because I don't know enough math to refute them.

comment by Stabilizer · 2017-07-24T18:41:41.440Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Stars become invisible at high altitudes because the Earth becomes very bright compared to the stars. This happens because when you are higher up, you see more of the sunlight reflected by the Earth. This happens because at higher altitudes more of the Earth is visible to you. Thus, your eyes or your cameras cannot distinguish the relatively dim light of the stars. The sky still appears black because there is no atmosphere to make the light scatter and give you feeling of being light outside that you experience on the surface of the Earth. You can see the stars if you are on the night side, you have good cameras, and you set the focal point to the sky.

I'll get to the equinox thing later.

comment by dogiv · 2017-07-24T15:22:50.253Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This doesn't actually seem to match the description. They only talk about having used one laser, with two stakes, whereas your diagram requires using two lasers. Your setup would be quite difficult to achieve, since you would somehow have to get both lasers perfectly horizontal; I'm not sure a standard laser level would give you this kind of precision. In the version they describe, they level the laser by checking the height of the beam on a second stake. This seems relatively easy.

My guess is they just never did the experiment, or they lied about the result. But it would be kind of interesting to repeat it sometime.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-24T18:29:45.708Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would Snell's Law possibly explain it? Someone claimed to me that it makes light refract more with decreasing altitude.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-07-24T19:14:48.556Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't you want to get a handle on basic physics first, before going natural-law-hopping across Wikipedia?

comment by Stabilizer · 2017-07-24T18:20:32.227Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks. You're right. I mis-interpreted their experiment as written. I'll try to read it again to see what's going on and see if it's explicable.

comment by Manfred · 2017-07-21T21:29:18.277Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Refute" is usually not an objective thing - it's a social thing. You can probably prove to yourself that pi=3 is false, but if you write "pi=3" on a sheet of paper, no argument will make the ink rearrange itself to be correct.

This is one of the problems with a falsificationist idea of scientific progress, where we never prove theories true but make progress by proving them false. If evidence against a theory appears (e.g. the ability to see different stars from different parts of the earth might be thought of as "refuting" the idea of a flat earth), a proponent of that theory never has to give up on it. They can just patch the theory. Maybe light does a special little dance to make all the observations look like we're looking out at a universe, etc. If you try to refute someone, they can just refuse to be refuted and add another patch to their theory.

After doing some reading, I feel like this guy actually does a pretty admirable job of seeing open questions and admitting ignorance. For example, he doesn't know about the coriolis effect, so he calls it "a mysterious thing that happens to objects falling down mineshafts" and wonders whether it could cause an error in the readings of plumb bobs hanging down a mineshaft. Again, I think this is a good thing, though not as good as knowing about the coriolis effect before trying to understand the structure of the cosmos. The trouble seems mostly to be that he's read a lot of books that are full of shit, and believes them.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2017-07-23T15:26:08.576Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is one of the problems with a falsificationist idea of scientific progress, where we never prove theories true but make progress by proving them false. If evidence against a theory appears (e.g. the ability to see different stars from different parts of the earth might be thought of as "refuting" the idea of a flat earth), a proponent of that theory never has to give up on it. They can just patch the theory. Maybe light does a special little dance to make all the observations look like we're looking out at a universe, etc. If you try to refute someone, they can just refuse to be refuted and add another patch to their theory.

Criticism is a much wider concept than falsification. You can criticise a theory for having too many patches to work around apparent problems.

comment by Heretic · 2018-09-14T06:44:57.053Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)


Hypothethesis, with some issues.

Without doing research or being influenced by any previously made statements or research, I began to play with the thought that we could in fact actually be living in a massive cave. The asteroids that land on our plain, actually come from the cave ceiling.

The cave is so large that we cannot with the naked eye see this ceiling. But there may be a way we actually do at a certain time- at night, when the "stars" are visible.

Down on the ground we have caves, both underground and inside of the mountains. Some of them have a cloudy, misty atmosphere on the ceiling. In some of them the cloud completely obscures the ability to see the ceiling above them.

Some of these same types of caves have glowing organisms that are dotted around the ceiling and walls. The ground is covered with bits of rock that have, with time, detached themselves from the cave ceiling and rained down on the ground below.

Given this kind of cave system that does exist in parts of the world, can cause this theory that we live in a massive cavern, be plausible.

We have clouds above. The stars are out at night (some visible in the day) Meteors raining down on our plain.

The missing links or issues to this is with the fact that we have a sun and a moon. How these fit in this whole picture is another enigma to crack.

It happens that some cavern systems get flooded with water. The water, however, doesn't always from from the rain seeping into the cavern, but comes from somewhere else under the ground.

There are many different ancient storys from countries around the world that talk about a great flood, or floods that covered most of the Earth at some point or various times in the ancient past. These storys are independant from each other because of the fact that these civilizations were not aware that there were others out there far beyond their borders. So the flood storys are likely true.

There is the notion with some pretty compelling evidence out there that all water actually comes from underground, and that we are not living in a bathtub so-to-speak with some land mass sticking out above the water's surface, and that this watery "bath-tub" has always been here.

We have a lot of hard evidence from marine archaeology where we have found ruins and cities under the ocean in the deep, and even in very deep places. This can only be the absolute proof so far that they drowned when the water from underground rose. That the water continues to rise with time, may not necessarily be due to the ice-caps melting, but could largely be that the water vents under the ocean are releasing water, though, at a very slow rate.

This could very well be used to support the Flat Earth theory further, and that our known plain is far more vast than we currently believe.

Before this water filled the cities below the, today, ocean floor, one would begin to think, "how much water below the Earth surface was there before this happened?

" About 71 percent of the Earth's surface is water-covered..."


If we reverse this into the 71 % of this current water when in a frozen state in snow caps and ice mountains, when thinking about these cities now under the deep ocean, we' figure that these areas were then only about 29% dry land when these cities existed where they do now.

When we look at the map of the Earth and see how it is supposedly the the largest extent covered with water. And then we have cities and other anomalies that look man-made, and that now lay at the bottom of the ocean, we cannot help but wonder where does such vast amounts of water come from?

We are talking about a lot of water here. This water could simply not have been frozen solid in vast ice reservoires anywhere near us. Such ice caps would have to reach a large number of miles into the sky to keep it in place until a time it starts to melt, run down these ice-mountains creating an ocean, filling the land below.

So, the water must likely originate from underground, and/or also comes from beyond our known plain.

I hope this didn't sound too unclear. I hope that perhaps these thoughts and ideas may be of some use to further research.

Thank you.

comment by drethelin · 2017-07-22T19:54:40.281Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is why we need downvotes.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2017-07-22T14:17:07.848Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I really don't understand the "old maps" argument. I mean the surface of a ball is the same as the surface of a spherical hollow, so the maps should look the same anyway.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-22T16:25:53.531Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thought it was worth posting, but even he doesn't think it's very convincing on its own.

comment by turchin · 2017-07-21T20:37:01.179Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think that Wild Heuretic doesn't actually believe in what he is writing, but he is attention whore and troll.

On the other side, if a skilled rationalist would meet moody Omega, and Omega said: you either present best possible proof of the flat earth, or I will kill you, the result may look something like this.

comment by cousin_it · 2017-07-21T20:38:29.853Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)


At the moment my best guess is that the moon is the back of the Sun.

Surely any of us could do better than that!

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2017-07-21T17:17:10.537Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Let's assume all the arguments linked are in fact sound. First obvious question is does he offer anything that resembles a falsifiability condition? If not then he doesn't present anything remarkable or particularly difficult to dispatch with since his is a scientific, material hypothesis.

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-21T17:24:24.149Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nearly every link provides falsifiable claims, although some are difficult to test.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2017-07-21T18:05:04.710Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Those are a lot of links to sift through though - can you give an example of just one? :)

comment by Fivehundred · 2017-07-22T00:58:02.057Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Many are given in the words themselves, so I don't see why you're asking. The laser between posts?

comment by ReaganJones1 · 2017-08-16T00:59:26.375Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

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comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2017-07-27T13:02:58.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Meh. You can have two systems of coordinates related to each other by r_1 = R_Earth^2/r_2, theta_1 = theta_2, phi_1 = phi_2, t_1 = t_2 and as per general relativity both will give you the same answers if you use them right. (But one of the two will be much much easier to use right than the other.)

comment by metatroll · 2017-07-22T08:26:39.332Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Like the UMMO cult and Fomenko's New Chronology, that site is a psyop run by an intelligence agency, an experiment in creating a minority with an isolating and controlled belief system. We all actually inhabit a set of giant flying saucers, with artificial gravity coming from the bottom half and an artificial sky projected on the top half. "Long-distance travel" always involves a temporary illusion of some sort while we are ferried from one flying saucer to the other.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2017-07-22T06:52:04.534Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The first argument that comes to my mind is that General Relativity is a very beautiful theory. By the time of Newton the scientific establishment was already fixed on the idea of a spherical earth. If this was a massive conspircacy then it would be very weird that, after the conspiracy had already fixed which hypothesis it was going to favour, Einstein found an elegant piece of mathematics that was consistent with the hypothesis that they had happened to pick.