When a crazy man wearing a bathrobe, a tinfoil hat, and armor fashioned from pizza boxes leaps out from the shadows downtown and begins raving about how NASA is part of a league of people hell bent on hiding the fact that the Earth is at, we immediately dismiss them. Yet, when a neatly dressed, successful, and equally crazy rapper makes the same claims, we listen. How bizarre a phenomenon is that? For those who do not know what I am referencing, the rapper B.o.B. made a huge public stink in late January about how he believes the Earth is at. What is most disconcerting about this is not the fact that anyone actually believes him, but that there is an entire organization called the Flat Earth Society, composed of people who really do believe that the Earth is at.
Now, as crazy and humorous as it is to envision all these people donning their tin hats and meeting up to discuss how the Earth is a pancake, there is a dark side to this pandemic of stupid that we need to discuss. There is a growing anti-science sentiment emerging in our country, and it is actively hurting our society. Anti-vaxxers are directly responsible for the return of previously disappearing diseases. People who think mental illnesses aren’t illnesses are directly responsible for the stigma around them, as well as our garbage mental health care system. Continued debate about the existence of global warming has inhibited our ability to focus on what causes it and how we can adapt to it. In the 21st century, many of us still can’t seem to grasp that we are all human beings, with no significant differences between any two members of our species. The list goes on and on, including all kinds of conspiracies and their degra- dative effects on our society.
I do not know how these Flat Earth believers will hurt us. All I know for certain is that they are a threat to our educated society. They are part of a larger horde of people whose uninformed beliefs are ushering in an age of stupid that will continue to harm us all. Before we get too upset with them though, remember that these confused individuals aren’t maliciously harming our society, and as such we cannot say they are bad people. They are just listening to the wrong sorts of role models. We should look to our teachers and scientists for answers, not our favorite celebrities. Imagine the difference we would see if scientists’ tweets were held in as high a regard as celebrities’!
We need to challenge people to think, and we need to educate people in such a way that enables them to do so. Otherwise, we end up with droves of people who honestly believe that gravity doesn’t exist, and that we live on a pancake accelerating upwards through space. This movement I’ve described represents a serious issue in our country today that must be addressed. Education, critical thinking, and public support for the sciences are essential to protecting the progress we have made so far and insuring our future success. We need to begin actively promoting and defending all three. It needs to happen soon too, before some other celebrity declares that the moon is a hologram, or worse, that tinfoil hats are fashionable.