The myth of the flat Earth is a modern misconception that Earth was widely believed to be flat rather than spherical during the Middle Ages in Europe. But in reality during the Early Middle Ages, virtually all scholars maintained the spherical viewpoint, which had been first expressed by the ancient Greeks. From at least the 14th century, belief in a flat Earth among educated Europeans was almost nonexistent.
“Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life” author Stephen Jay Gould wrote that “there never was a period of ‘flat Earth darkness’ among scholars (regardless of how the public at large may have conceptualized our planet both then and now). Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the Earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology.”
Additional historians of science David Lindberg and Ronald Numbers point out that “there was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge [Earth’s] sphericity and even know its approximate circumference.”
The flat earth psyops and lie was used to point to the ignorance of certain parties, and in particular the Catholic Church. It has been drummed up again by the usual suspects as something called the “flat earth theory” in recent years to be used as a catch basket to associate with and ridicule “conspiracy theorists.”
The flat earth model has often been incorrectly supposed to be church doctrine by those who wish to portray the Catholic Church as being anti-progress or hostile to scientific inquiry.
It is also used to convey the idea that ancients were generally ignorant and not as advanced as they really were. In “Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians” Jeffrey Russell describes the Flat Earth theory as a fable used to impugn pre-modern civilization.
The Earth is Flat Canard in Action
James Hannam wrote:
The myth that people in the Middle Ages thought the Earth is flat appears to date from the 17th century as part of the campaign by Protestants against Catholic teaching. But it gained currency in the 19th century, thanks to inaccurate histories such as John William Draper’s History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874) and Andrew Dickson White’s A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). Atheists and agnostics championed the conflict thesis for their own purposes, but historical research gradually demonstrated that Draper and White had propagated more fantasy than fact in their efforts to prove that science and religion are locked in eternal conflict
The flat-Earth myth, like other myths, took on artistic form in the many works of art and story telling displaying Columbus defending the sphericity of the Earth before the Council of Salamanca. American artists depicted a forceful Columbus challenging the “prejudices, the mingled ignorance and erudition, and the pedantic bigotry” of the churchmen.
This bogus history seemed to have originated with Washington Irving (author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”) in his four-volume series titled “A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus.”
This quote attributed to Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) is another lie and fabrication. The issue before Magellan was not the shape of the Earth, but its size.
“The Church says the Earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow of the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the Church,” he said.
American historian Jeffrey Burton Russell traced the 19th century origins of what he called the Flat Error to a group of anticlerical French scholars, particularly to Antoine-Jean Letronne and, indirectly, to his teachers Jean-Baptiste Gail and Edme Mentelle. Mentelle had described the Middle Ages as 12 ignorant centuries of “profound night,” a theme exemplified by the flat-earth myth in Letronne’s “On the Cosmological Opinions of the Church Fathers.”
In Thomas Jefferson’s book “Notes on the State of Virginia” (1784), framed as answers to a series of questions (queries), Jefferson uses the “Query” regarding religion to attack the idea of state-sponsored official religions.
The first president of Cornell University, Andrew Dickson White’s advocated that it be established without any religious ties but be “an asylum for science.” In addition, he was a strong advocate for Darwinism, saw religious figures as the main opponents of the Darwinian evolution, and sought to project that conflict of theology and science back through the entire Christian Era.
In Walt Disney’s 1963 animation “The Sword in the Stone,” wizard Merlin (who has traveled into the future) explains to a young Arthur that “man will discover in centuries to come” that the Earth is round and rotates.
For more on anti-religious black propaganda read “The Spanish Inquisition as ‘Black Legend’ Propaganda.”