Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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The Earth is Flat – William Cassidy

Famous rapper B.O.B. has recently been stirring up controversy, with his sudden lack of confidence in the Earth being round.

In the caption of this rather unflattering photo, he tweets “where is the curve? please explain this”. Logically speaking, round objects have curved sides. Our pal Bobby notices a hole in this: if the Earth is round, why can we not see a curve between the two cities?

By this logic, we can strive to understand his argument is something along these lines:

Flat objects have no curve. 

A line has to be either flat or curved.

The line between the two cities has no curve.

Therefore, the Earth is flat.

Let’s take a look at the specifics of this. First of all, is the argument valid?
Validity means that the form of the argument is phrased in a way that means if the premises are true, then the conclusion has to be true as well. Logically speaking, if a line doesn’t have a curve to it, it’s straight (or, flat). The picture above would serve to prove that the surface of the Earth has no curve, which means it would have to be flat. But in order for the argument to be sound, the premises must be true.

However, because of his large following, this argument of his gained a lot of popularity, especially considering the Earth being flat is such a debated (for some reason) topic. It gained enough popularity to attract the attention of famous Physicist Niel Degrasse Tyson, who used this entire scheme as a way to educate the general public by appearing on Larry Wilson’s “Nightly Show”.

“It’s a fundamental fact of Calculus and non-Euclidean geometry [that] small sections of large curved surfaces will always look flat to little creatures that crawl upon it,” said Tyson. Applying this principle to the previously supplied argument, we can say that the third premises is not true; the line only appears to have no curve, as the point of view from the camera taking the photo is too small to properly comprehend the size of the Earth, and by extension the angle of the curve of the surface.

So yea! We successfully determined that B.O.B.’s argument is indeed valid, but false, and therefore not sound. Tune in next week for more Philosophical Phun!

 

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