The Danger of Depending On Feelings


The Engineer is fascinated by space.  Planets, comets, astronauts – it’s all interesting.  We did a project on space and learned all about our galaxy and solar system, and he loved watching videos of rovers and the International Space Station.  He knows the planets but we’re still working on the order of the planets.  He says space is a rectangle, by the way.  Galaxies in a box.

As I watched the Engineer and the Princess happily play Planet Hop (what we do after we put the planets in order) I remembered that I wanted to ask his opinion about something I read the night before.

I’ve read about a lot of different conspiracy theories, but this one stumped me.  Have you ever heard of the Flat Earth Society?  I hadn’t.  Not until I saw a post by a Flat Earther on Facebook.  At first I thought it was a joke.  Then I did a web search and found the society’s website.  I’m stunned.  Flabbergasted.  Boggled!  People actually believe this?

It turns out that people actually do believe it: that the earth is a disc surrounded by a wall of ice (guarded by NASA, the arch-deceiver, who keeps people from falling off the edge.)   There’s a long list of improbable explanations: GPS is rigged, NASA doctored images from space, and there’s a vast round-earth conspiracy trying to keep the truth from the masses.   Pure tin-foil hat stuff.

I think it’s hilarious.  And I think it’s really sad.

I think it’s sad because people don’t want to believe something so basic because their perception doesn’t match what the experts are saying.

A basic tenet of the Flat Earth belief is that the earth doesn’t look or feel round when you walk around on it.  It doesn’t seem spherical to us.  In fact, it’s so subtle that it took modern society a great while to prove that the earth isn’t flat (Magellan’s voyage around the globe. The ancients, of course, had things figured out well before then, but I’m not getting into that murky mess right now.

Anyway, my point is, we humans tend to rate our own experiences and feelings higher than others’.  Even if those other people are experts and know more about the subject than we ever could.  We’ve equaled feelings and opinions to facts and science.  That’s an extremely dangerous way of thinking.  I feel that rattlesnakes are cute and cuddly.  I won’t get hurt if I dive off this cliff.  I feel that I can keep a campfire under control in a drought-stricken area.  See my point?

This ties right into a blog post by fellow blogger Jen at her Laughing at Chaos blog (part of the latest GHF blog hop.)  I’m not going to try to recap her post because she’s far more eloquent than I could be on this subject.  She wrote about the rise of anti-intellectualism, and what kind of effect that has on our gifted kids.  Go read it – it’s worth a few minutes of your time.

It’s sad.  It’s depressing.  According to one of the articles (Psychology Today) linked in the Laughing at Chaos post, some 18% of Americans believe that the sun revolves around the earth.  Yikes!

So with all that in mind, I wanted to get the Engineer’s untarnished, five-year old opinion on this theory.

I told him about the Flat Earth Society and briefly outlined what they believed.  I asked him what he thought – if the earth could be flat.  He matter-of-factly said:

“the planets are round.  You can see that they are in the pictures (from space.)”

It’s that simple for him.  He scampered off to continue building a super-car with Duplos.  Clearly, the Flat Earth Society isn’t winning another member.


Want those planets?  Here’s the free printable: solar-system pdf.  Note: the planets are not to scale.  I cut ours out and glued the label on the back for self-checking.  Ours are laminated for durability (heck, the kids stomp on them, flip them, fling them.  Love that laminator.)  If you need a good graphic for helping kids understand the scale of the planets, go to this wiki page for a great image.  I included the sun and Pluto because we are focusing on the order of planets (and planetoid) for now.  

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