(In response to this survey I’ve compiled my responses to Doompony, along with a couple of new connections. I dismissed his case because he was not able to provide a model of planetary motion which explained retrograde motion. You can read that forum thread here.)
Skepticism—real Cartesian skepticism, of the sort Dawkins would blush at—is the true impetus behind this movement. This is an emergent response to a complete societal loss of trust. If institutions, scientists, teachers, doctors and lawyers are all proven liars, then it makes sense that people will only trust what they can confirm to their own satisfaction. Keep in mind that human society is effectively our ecology at this point, because only farmers really have to be realists anymore (and that’s shaky). Therefore the deeper parts of our brains that govern desire and behavior, from which a subset of thoughts emerge as “rational”, conscious ideas, has formalized the dream association as universe = society. If you have a dream about the “world” in the scientific sense, it is probably a metaphor for the “world” in the biblical sense.
So, imagine that Descartes’ evil demon, of “utmost power and cunning has employed all his energies in order to deceive me.” Except it’s my entire society, because I’m a working class badwhite kid and they all secretly agree I deserve to go extinct. The new epistemology is best represented by ingenius artistic metaphor:
I.e. How can you prove you are self-aware if you can’t prove that you’re aware in the first place? Take a bow Jayden Smith, you’re not the hero we needed, but you’re the one we deserved.
A lot of people are claiming that the flat earth theory is 100% trolling. I say one generation’s joke is the next generation’s cliche, and the third generation’s culture. Please note that the punchline of the flat earth joke is “trust in nothing you can’t see”.
This perfectly distrusting epistemology is what causes the disbelief in belief itself that I keep complaining about in Generation Z. If everything is made of lies and snakes, then all knowledge is restricted by the limits of a person’s individual capacity for scientific reasoning. Therefore, scientific knowledge in the future will converge over time to the average person’s level of understanding.
We all expected this shift to pre-Christian paganism in response to the death of secularism (Science is dead and we killed him), but it is a bit alarming how quickly the zeitgeist is moving in that direction. I thought we would at least keep conservation of momentum around, but it appears we will be returning to Greek-era physics (best-case).
Others say the flat earth theory is 100% due to bad actors pushing FUD. I’d compare the emergence of this phenomenon to the Alt-Right. There are people consciously pushing it, but there are people pushing a lot of things and flat earth is the one that resonated with the social mood. That is, there are a lot of products being marketed, and flat earth is the one people bought. Before, in Glubb’s Age of Intellect, it was quantum field theory. I.e. “Believe only what you see with your own eyes” vs. “believe the most complicated-looking mathematics”.
This is a dark joke and it will end on a sour note. You can’t have clean water without basic scientific literacy. But, to end things on a bit of a lighter note, here’s a gallery of Jayden Smith memes: