Be Reasonable: Episode #002 – Michael Wilmore

Michael Wilmore is a member of the Flat Earth Society – a group whose members believe that the conventionally-accepted notion of a spherical Earth is incorrect, and that in reality the Earth is flat. Society members have a range of ideas and beliefs as to how and why the spherical Earth concept is false, with many believing that much of the conventional science is clouded by inaccuracy, conspiracy and dogma.

Marsh and Hayley spoke to Michael to find out why he believes the world is flat, how he and his fellow members reconcile their beliefs with the accepted science, and the criticisms his ideas are met with by the general public.

  1. #1 by Bevin on February 25, 2013 - 21:21

    Great show! The one thing I really want to know is WHY? He concedes that a conspiracy must be in place to perpetuate the round earth, but what would anyone gain? Along the line of Marsh’s thinking, the only thing that would change the way I live my life if the world is flat is that I would never take a flight anywhere from the southern hemisphere to anywhere else in the southern hemisphere. South Pole or not, it would have to take much longer than the itinerary advertised. Who benefits from that?

  2. #2 by Simon on February 26, 2013 - 00:33

    Interesting interview, it would have been interesting to hear what he had thought of the flights that travel very close to the South Pole (Argentina to New Zealand for example), if the earth was flat, then the trip distance and time would be very large and how he can reconcile the difference their theory would predict for that. Same for the satellites that travel over the Antarctic region or photos from space showing the Contenent’s shape.

  3. #3 by Chew on February 26, 2013 - 03:50

    Have you seen this? Not that it would have mattered; he would have just came up with another idea to handwave them away.

    My personal favorite rebuttal when flat earthers bring up a non-rotating Earth is gyrocompasses: they automatically seek true north because one gimbal of the gyroscope is weighted which causes the spin axis of the rotor to precess until it is pointing north and parallel with the ground. Or are the hundreds of thousands of pilots and mariners in on the conspiracy too?

  4. #4 by Trystan on February 26, 2013 - 12:23

    It’s weird how zetetic astronomy is accepted for its total empiricism, yet such empiricism goes out of the window when a contrary view is offered.

    Has Hayley had elocution lessons?

  5. #5 by Disagreeable Me on February 26, 2013 - 12:28

    Fascinating but frustrating podcast.

    I personally would have preferred it if you had pressed him more on his own beliefs rather than allowing him to spend so much time trying to represent the views of flat earthers as a whole.

    It’s obviously a group with a wide number of disparate viewpoints, however if no single viewpoint is represented then it’s hard to get a sense of how that viewpoint can be made consistent with what we observe. Without learning about his own beliefs you might as well have been interviewing a round-earther who was well-informed about what flat-earthers believe.

    I also found it maddening that he was not asked to explain why, specifically, he believes in a flat earth in the first place. He mentioned he had done his own research and found that there was better evidence for a flat earth and poor evidence for a round earth, and he also mentioned that he only believed in a conspiracy because the evidence he had gathered supported a flat earth.

    But what is that evidence!?! You didn’t ask him and he didn’t say. He seemed to be intelligent and reasonable so I am driven mad with curiosity to find out what could have convinced him to believe something so crazy! I’m probably going to have to join their forums to find out.

  6. #6 by NickT on February 26, 2013 - 15:23

    Fascinating episode! I’d love to hear some moe about the evidence Michael has found that convinces him the Earth is flat. I guess I’m going to have to go and delve into that myself.

    As far as his point about trans-polar flights, there are certainly flights to the south pole, but owing to the fact that the south pole is so remote, there are no viable emergency landing options for flights to cross the pole. Also, there is no real need to do it, as there aren’t any major commercially viable destinations that would have a great circle requiring a trans-polar route. There are commercial routes that run between Buenos Aires and Auckland, close enough to the pole to cause problems to the ‘South Pole ring’ continent idea in terms of distance travelled.

    It may be worth ‘South Pole ring’ flat Earthers (which I note Michael is not) investigating one-off flights such as that of N5612 Polar Byrd 1 which Modern Air flew over the South Pole, from New Zealand to Chile.

    On a pedantic note (sorry)… Marsh: acceleration due to gravity is ~ 9.8m/s²; and Voyager never went to Mars. These are both incidental points though, and I hope you can forgive my pedantry?

    I have so many questions about how the wealth of evidence for a spheroid Earth is negated by the flat Earth evidence! I’ll have to go away and investigate further I think.

    And at the back of my mind is the conspiracy angle… Who stands to benefit from such a conspiracy? Why bother hiding the nature of the universe?

    The conversation left me with the impression (maybe false?) that no two flat Earthers believe the same thing anyway, and this raises red flags about these beliefs in my mind.

    An intriguing insight into an alternative belief. Thanks for a great second episode.

  7. #7 by Martin on February 26, 2013 - 15:54

    That has to be the longest way ever of basically saying ‘none’ to the burden of proof question.

    I still think the whole flat earth theory is a wind-up. The fact that Michael was so eloquent and reasonable kind of confirmed it for me.

  8. #8 by Murff on February 26, 2013 - 18:09

    Well, I have personally flown over the South Pole in an Air Force C-141B, during the yearly Operation Deep Freeze. We fly down every year to deliver supplies to scientists, and if the crew has never done it, when they depart they fly over the Pole…just because it’s cool. FYI, I was a flying crew chief on the mission.

  9. #9 by Moscrow on February 26, 2013 - 19:01

    This was really interesting, definitely the best so far (of 2). I was curious to hear what a flat earther might say and I was amazed to hear how calm and reasonable he was. He seemed to be very intelligent, and yet… so wrong. Thanks for this MS

    Why not include a link to their website? Would that constitute promotion of their beliefs?

  10. #10 by Moscrow on February 26, 2013 - 19:07

    I also wanted to ask if they think other planets are flat too, or is it just the earth?

  11. #11 by Disagreeable Me on February 26, 2013 - 19:10

    Nobody believes you, Murff, you illuminati shill!

  12. #12 by Mike C. on February 28, 2013 - 16:05

    This is just totally absurd! I mean the ancient Greeks were able to determine the Earth’s radius and that it IS round just using simple trigonometry. This guy is off his rocker!

  13. #13 by Richard Carter, FCD on February 28, 2013 - 19:13

    Disagreeable Me (comment #5) has made pretty much the comments I was going to make. Not once, as far as I could tell, did the interviewee state what he personally believes, or why.

    He doesn’t believe for one second that the world is flat. He just likes inventing ‘explanations’ (I use the word loosely) to explain how the world might be flat (even though it isn’t). Very postmodern (and pre-enlightenment). He’s having a laugh, basically.

    At least your interviewee in episode 1 seemed genuinely to believe the nonsense she claimed to believe.

  14. #14 by Myk on February 28, 2013 - 22:21

    There’s clearly nothing that will convince these people other than actually sending them to the ISS. (Actually, they might still claim that it’s all a big simulator.)

    And yeah, I get very annoyed at flat-Earthers saying “well, some people believe this, and some people believe thus-and-so. I don’t personally believe that [easily disproven and patently absurd notion], so I can’t answer that question.”

  15. #15 by Ed Darrell on March 1, 2013 - 06:01

    Flat Earth Society inducted Karl Rove, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor into the Flat Earth Hall of Fame last year.

    But not Pete Rose.

    Go figure.

  16. #16 by Simon Spooner on March 2, 2013 - 11:58

    I get the impression that deep down, most flat-earthers don’t really believe what they say, they just enjoy being contrary in order to provoke arguments or to intellectually frustrate those who don’t know enough science to be able to strongly argue against them. Of course, they don’t admit they are just choosing to be contrary, as doing so would nullify their position.

    Overall a very engaging and enjoyable interview, although I was tearing my hair out with such questions as:-

    Do you think the Sun, other planets and moons in the Solar system are flat as well? If you admit those bodies are approximately spherical, why is the Earth different?

    If the Earth is accelerating “up” at ~ 9.8m/s² to produce a force on Earth analogous to gravity, what is this mysterious force that is accelerating the Earth? Why doesn’t this acceleration move the Earth out of the solar system? If the other solar system bodies are also accelerating in the same “up” direction due to this mysterious force, how come the mysterious force has a different strength on those bodies as they would need a different amount of force to accelerate their different masses to keep at the same speed as the “upward” moving Earth.

    Why is there an “up” direction? Scientific evidence (such as the WMAP survey) says the Universe is the same in all directions, there is no “up”!

    So many questions and probably so many more hand-waving explanations from the flat-earthers. It’s hand-waving all the way down!

  17. #17 by Stuart on March 2, 2013 - 14:57

    I don’t think this podcast is right for me….I love you guys and all your work, but I find it difficult to label this a skeptical podcast. I know it’s stated that you are coming to these interviews in a polite and good-natured way, but does that mean you are going to let people come out and say whatever they want, unchallenged? If so I’m not interested unless they’re going to actually present something approaching evidence for their beliefs.

  18. #18 by Mike on March 8, 2013 - 00:35

    Not to denigrate but I feel there has been a trick missed with Be Reasonable, Haley and Michael are both brilliant people whom I admire much, nevertheless I cant help but wonder what an amazing podcast this would be if the above where acting as referees between the two points of view under discussion. Take the last episode, I feel a discussion between Phil Plait or Pamela Gay versus Michael Wilmore would have been much more engaging. I am reminded of the old saying ‘nothing positive to say don’t say it’ tho I don’t mean this to be derogatory I enjoy everything from the MSS, I am just throwing my two pennys in the ring.

  19. #19 by Michael on March 8, 2013 - 12:53

    I found this “sceptics” podcast incredibly disappointing and frustrating. Somehow the Hayley and Michael never managed to even make any compelling argument against his viewpoints other than the fact that his views entailed a conspiracy. Unless you have actually researched the science to question his absolute nonsense, I don’t see the point in interviewing him.
    I am all for hearing peoples eclectic and alternative viewpoints – but there comes a point when you are just hearing dribble. Would you listen to a church minister speak for half an hour on a podcast without any atheist rebuttal? Probably not. Likewise, I don’t think any sceptic likes completely irrational viewpoints to spew into their brain without the host challenging them.
    This podcast has potential to be so much more and I really hope it does improve. If you really want to “be reasonable”, you have to accept that some ideas and viewpoints are so eclectic and irrational that they are not even worth postulating. If you do want to play with them – then they need to be prepared to actually debate back and provide a compelling argument.
    There is nothing wrong with choosing to interview people like this. However, you need to realise what you are getting yourself into. You are giving open airtime to people with crazy views yet asking sceptics to spend their time listening to the content. If you honestly want to produce a high quality podcast – you need to seriously consider whether you want to debate or give airtime. There is nothing wrong with giving airtime to such views, but if you want sceptics to like it, you need to provide some backlash and reasoning. You need to be reasonable.

  20. #20 by Disagreeable Me on March 14, 2013 - 16:25

    Hmm. Unlike some of the other commenters, I’m open to the idea of not being overly confrontational and allowing these people to air their views. If you don’t offer them that chance they may be less willing to talk openly and honestly about what they believe. As such, the first episode was fine.

    However I really think you need to at least press them on why they believe what they believe, even if you don’t really want to argue against them. That’s the problem I had with this episode.

  21. #21 by Murff on March 17, 2013 - 15:47

    Yeah, I was under the impression that this podcast would give people who believe in odd things a place to explain their views and answer question in a non-confrontational environment. So far, I think Mike and Hayley have done a great job. It has to be difficult to find the questions that help us understand, without arguing with the guest.

    These people, especially the lady in the 1st episode, seem to open up a bit when they are not being attacked.

  22. #22 by Jack Lewis on March 18, 2013 - 02:48

    This has already been mentioned but the obvious question to ask this guy would have been the purpose of such a conspiracy.

    Also how come flat earthers think the spherical nature of the earth is only valid at the poles? You can fly from east to west or the other way around and dismiss the flatness of the earth right away. Once again a show where too much respect is given to people who probably don’t even believe the idiotic views they spout for attention. A bit more thought in the questions that were going to be asked would make listening to these sort of interviews a lot less frustrating.
    I’m only speaking for myself here but I see enough stupidity daily that listening to a podcast like this and see really stupid people be treated with unearned respect is really annoying and I have no clue why they should get the kid glove treatment from anyone let alone skeptics.

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