Weird Earth
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Aliens. Ley lines. Water dowsing. Conspiracies and myths captivate imaginations and promise mystery and magic. Whether it's arguing about the moon landing hoax or a Frisbee-like Earth drifting through space, when held up to science and critical thinking, these ideas fall flat.
In Weird Earth: Debunking Strange Ideas About Our Planet, Donald R. Prothero demystifies these conspiracies and offers answers to some of humanity's most outlandish questions. Applying his extensive scientific knowledge, Prothero corrects misinformation that con artists and quacks use to hoodwink others about geology—hollow earth, expanding earth, and bizarre earthquakes—and mystical and paranormal happenings—healing crystals, alien landings, and the gates of hell. By deconstructing wild claims such as prophesies of imminent natural disasters, Prothero provides a way for everyone to recognize dubious assertions. Prothero answers these claims with facts, offering historical and scientific context in a light-hearted manner that is accessible to everyone, no matter their background.
With a careful layering of evidence in geology, archaeology, and biblical and historical records, Prothero's Weird Earth examines each conspiracy and myth and leaves no question unanswered.


Modern Flat Earthism
In fact, flat-earth beliefs were a rare fringe idea with few followers until relatively recently. In the 1800s, the most famous flat earther was Samuel Rowbotham (1816-1884). In the 1860s, he pioneered the modern flat-earther notion that the earth was a disk centered over the North Pole (Fig. 2.2), bounded on its outer edge by a wall of ice (instead of Antarctica over the South Pole, which cannot exist in their version of geography). The skies above were a dome of fixed stars only 5000 km above the earth's surface, consistent with the old medieval notion of the heavens before the birth of modern astronomy. His ideas were first published in a pamphlet called Zetetic Astronomy, followed by a book called Earth is Not a Globe, and another pamphlet The Inconsistency of Modern Astronomy and its Opposition to the Scriptures, which revealed the Biblical literalist roots of most flat-earth thinking. According to Rowbotham, the "Bible, alongside our senses, supported the idea that the earth was flat and immovable and this essential truth should not be set aside for a system based solely on human conjecture". He is correct in saying this, because there are at least 16 places where the Bible says the earth is flat or talks about the "four corners of the earth" or talks about the "ends of the earth" or the "circle of the earth" or suggests that you can see the entire earth from a high place. Rowbotham and later followers like William Carpenter and Lady Elizabeth Blount kept promoting the idea and founded the Universal Zetetic Society, even after the death of the Rowbotham in 1884. This incarnation of flat earth thinking died out some time after 1904.
After about 50 years of virtually no organized activity, the rebirth of flat earth thinking occurred in 1956 with the founding of Samuel Shenton's International Flat Earth Research Society, based in his home in Dover, England. It was always a tiny group, with a very limited membership corresponding with a primitive homemade mailed newsletter, yet every once in a while they managed to get a short burst of publicity in the newspapers. In the 1960s and 1970s, when Gemini and Apollo astronauts first began to produce images of the earth from space, Shenton dismissed the images as hoaxes (the common belief among flat earthers ever since), saying, "It's easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye". Later, he attributed the curvature of the earth seen in NASA photographs as a trick of the curvature of wide-angle lenses. "It's a deception of the public and it isn't right".
After Shenton's death in 1971, Charles K. Johnson picked up the mantle, and inherited Shenton's library from his wife. He reorganized the group as the International Flat Earth Research Society of America and Covenant People's Church, where they maintained their lonely quest at his home in the town of Lancaster in the Mojave Desert. They reached a membership as large as 3500, scattered around the world, paying annual dues of $6 to $10. The society communicated via the quarterly Flat Earth News, a four-page tabloid written and edited almost entirely by Johnson and sent in the mail. As hard-core Biblical literalists, they emphasized all the passages that state that the earth is flat. Every few years, they would get smirking coverage in the newspapers, but their membership declined during the 1990s, especially after a fire at Johnson's house in 1997 destroyed all the records and contact information of the membership. Johnson's wife died shortly afterwards, and then the society itself vanished when Johnson died on March 19, 2001.
Flat earth thinking might still be a tiny fringe belief with no organized leadership were it not for the internet and the ability of believers all around the earth to find each other and organize a virtual community. The Flat Earth Society was resurrected in 2004 by Daniel Shenton (no relation to Samuel) as a web-based discussion forum, then eventually relaunched as an official society, with a large web presence and their own wiki. As of July 2017, they claim a membership of 500. Based the publicity from all the celebrity entertainers and musicians discussed at the beginning of this chapter, however, it appears that flat earth ideas are much more common (see Chapter 18), even if the believers are not official members of the Flat Earth Society. There are a number of other flat earth societies on the internet not affiliated to Shenton's group. The first Flat Earth International Conference met in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Nov. 9 and 10, 2017, with about 500 attendees. In May 2018, there was a three-day flat earth convention in Birmingham, England, with several hundred attendees who traveled all the way to England to hear a spectrum of speakers with a common belief in the flat earth. Even more alarming, about a third of millennials are not convinced that the earth is round (discussed in Chapter 18). And there are calls on the internet for a reality show to let the flat earthers test their ideas and actually try to travel off the edge of the earth!


Preface
1. Science and Critical Thinking
2. The Flat Earth
3. Ptolemy Revisited
4. The Hollow Earth
5. The Expanding Earth
6. Did We Really Land on the Moon?
7. Magnetic Myths
8. Earth-Shaking Myths
9. Quacks and Quakes
10. Was There a Great Flood?
11. Are Dinosaurs Faked?
12. Is the Earth Only 6000 Years Old?
13. Mysteries of Mount Shasta
14. The Myth of Atlantis
15. The Mysterious Ley Lines
16. Crystal Con Artists
17. Water Witching
18. Mysterious Earth: Why People Want to Believe Weird Things

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Publié par
Date de parution 14 juillet 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781684351237
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

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weird earth
weird earth
DEBUNKING STRANGE IDEAS ABOUT OUR PLANET
DONALD R. PROTHERO
This book is a publication of
Red Lightning Books
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
redlightningbooks.com
2020 by Donald R. Prothero
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
First printing 2020
ISBN 978-1-68435-061-2 (hdbk.)
ISBN 978-1-68435-136-7 (web PDF)
This book is dedicated to the great geologists who trained me and inspired me :
Harry Cook
Mike Woodburne
Mike Murphy
Lewis Cohen
Peter Sadler
Paul Robinson
Wally Broecker
Neil Opdyke
Dennis Kent
Bill Ryan
Walter Pitman
Rich Schweickert
Larry DeMott
Dewey Moore
Bob Dott
CONTENTS
Foreword
Preface
Acknowledgments
1 Science and Critical Thinking
2 The Flat Earth
3 Ptolemy Revisited
4 The Hollow Earth
5 Is the Earth Expanding?
6 Did We Really Land on the Moon?
7 Magnetic Myths
8 Earth-Shaking Myths
9 Quacks and Quakes
10 Was There a Great Flood?
11 Are Dinosaurs Faked?
12 Is the Earth Only Six Thousand Years Old?
13 Mysteries of Mount Shasta
14 The Myth of Atlantis
15 The Mysterious Ley Lines
16 Crystal Con Artists
17 Water Witching
18 Mysterious Earth: Why People Want to Believe Weird Things
Notes
For Further Reading
Index
FOREWORD: ROMANCING THE STONE
The book you hold in your hands by my friend and colleague Donald Prothero is one of the most captivating you will ever read. Once you start in, you won t be able to put it down as you will be constantly amazed by what strange ideas people have about our planet. I ve been studying weird beliefs for over a quarter century, and in reading this book I was still stunned by what some members of my species think about earth, including that it is at the center of the universe, that it is only six thousand years old, that all those dinosaur fossils are faked, that it is a giant magnet, that it is flat, that it is hollow, that it is constantly expanding, that we never visited its moon, that there are mysterious ley lines around it directing the planet s energies, and that there was once an ancient advanced civilization on it called Atlantis.
On this last claim, on May 16, 2017, I spent nearly four hours on Joe Rogan s wildly popular podcast debating an alternative archaeologist named Graham Hancock, who believes that long before ancient Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Egypt there existed an even more glorious civilization that was so thoroughly wiped out by a comet strike around twelve thousand years ago that nearly all evidence of its existence vanished, leaving only the faintest of traces that he thinks include a cryptic warning that such a celestial catastrophe could happen to us.
Hancock has put forth variations on this general theme in numerous well-written and best-selling books, including Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth s Lost Civilization (1995), The Message of the Sphinx: A Quest for the Hidden Legacy of Mankind (1997), Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization (2002), Magicians of the Gods (2015), and most recently America Before: The Key to Earth s Lost Civilization (2019). I listened to the audio editions of Magicians of the Gods and America Before , both read by the author, whose British accent and breathless revelatory storytelling style is, I confess, compelling. But is it true? I m skeptical. As I explained in my June 2017 column in Scientific American : First, no matter how devastating an extraterrestrial impact might be, are we to believe that after centuries of flourishing every last tool, potshard, article of clothing, and, presumably from an advanced civilization, writing, metallurgy, and other technologies-not to mention their trash-was erased? Inconceivable. 1
Second, Hancock s impact hypothesis comes from scientists who first proposed it in 2007 as an explanation for the North American megafaunal extinction around that time and has been the subject of vigorous scientific debate. It has not fared well. In addition to the lack of any impact craters dated to around that time anywhere in the world, the radiocarbon dates of the layer of carbon, soot, charcoal, nanodiamonds, microspherules, and iridium, asserted to have been the result of this catastrophic event, vary widely before and after the megafaunal extinction, anywhere from ten thousand to fourteen thousand years ago. Furthermore, although thirty-seven mammal species went extinct in North America (while most other species survived and flourished), at the same time fifty-two mammal genera went extinct in South America, presumably not caused by the impact. These extinctions, in fact, were timed with human arrival, thereby supporting the more widely accepted overhunting hypothesis.
Third, Hancock grounds his case primarily in the argument from ignorance (since scientists cannot explain X, then Y is a legitimate theory) or the argument from personal incredulity (because I cannot explain X, then my Y theory is valid). These are God of the Gaps -type approaches that creationists employ, only in Hancock s case the gods are the Magicians who brought us civilization. The problem here is twofold: (1) scientists do have good explanations for Hancock s Xs (e.g., the pyramids, the Sphinx), even if they are not in total agreement, and (2) ultimately one s theory must rest on positive evidence in favor of it, not just negative evidence against accepted theories.
Hancock s biggest X is G bekli Tepe in Turkey, with its megalithic T-shaped seven- to ten-ton stone pillars cut and hauled from limestone quarries and dated to around eleven thousand years ago when humans lived as hunter-gatherers without, presumably, the know-how, skills, and labor to produce them. Ergo, Hancock concludes, At the very least it would mean that some as yet unknown and unidentified people somewhere in the world had already mastered all the arts and attributes of a high civilization more than twelve thousand years ago in the depths of the last Ice Age and sent out emissaries around the world to spread the benefits of their knowledge. 2 This sounds romantic, but it is the bigotry of low expectations. Who s to say what hunter-gatherers are or are not capable of doing? Plus, G bekli Tepe was a ceremonial religious site, not a city, as there is no evidence that anyone lived there. Furthermore, there are no domesticated animal bones, no metal tools, no inscriptions or writing, and not even pottery-all products that much later high civilizations produced.
Fourth, Hancock has spent decades in his vision quest to find the sages who brought us civilization. Yet, decades of searching have failed to produce enough evidence to convince archaeologists that the standard timeline of human history needs major revision. Hancock s plaint is that mainstream science is stuck in a uniformitarianism model of slow, gradual change and so cannot accept a catastrophic explanation. Not true. From the origin of the universe (Big Bang), to the origin of the moon (big collision), to the origin of lunar craters (meteor strikes), to the demise of the dinosaurs (asteroid impact), to the numerous sudden downfalls of civilizations documented by Jared Diamond in his book Collapse , catastrophism is alive and well in mainstream science.
The real magicians are the scientists who have worked this all out.
On this final point about scientists as magicians: as someone with zero training in geology, when I read about the work that professional geologists like Donald Prothero have conducted to determine the age, nature, and processes of the earth, I feel exactly the same way I do as when I see the magicians Penn and Teller catch bullets in their teeth or when the magician David Copperfield makes the Statue of Liberty disappear. When you don t know how the trick is done-or in this metaphor, how the science is conducted, understanding, say, how geologists determined that the earth is 4.6 billion years old-it feels like magic to me. But once geologists like the author of this book reveal how the secret of science is done, you understand that it s not real magic, as in paranormal or supernatural forces at work. It s scientific magic.
Romancing the stone we call earth through all these alternative theories may appeal to our fantasies and imaginations, but ultimately we want to know what is true. So as you read Weird Earth , I hope the scales will fall from your eyes as they did mine when I read it, understanding fully why all those crazy ideas about our planet that people have concocted over the millennia are wrong and why science really is the best tool we have for understanding nature.
MICHAEL SHERMER is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, the host of the Science Salon podcast, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. For eighteen years he was a monthly columnist at Scientific American , and he is the author of a number of New York Times best-selling books, including Why People Believe Weird Things, The Believing Brain, Why Darwin Matters, Heavens on Earth , and Giving the Devil His Due .

1 . Michael Shermer, Romance of the Vanished Past, Scientific American 317, no. 6 (2017): 75.
2 . G. Hancock, Magicians o

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