Read Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea by Christine Garwood Online

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Contrary to popular belief fostered in countless school classrooms the world over, Christopher Columbus did not discover that the earth was round. The idea of a spherical world had been widely accepted in educated circles from as early as the fourth century b.c. Yet, bizarrely, it was not until the supposedly more rational nineteenth century that the notion of a flat earthContrary to popular belief fostered in countless school classrooms the world over, Christopher Columbus did not discover that the earth was round. The idea of a spherical world had been widely accepted in educated circles from as early as the fourth century b.c. Yet, bizarrely, it was not until the supposedly more rational nineteenth century that the notion of a flat earth really took hold. Even more bizarrely, it persists to this day, despite Apollo missions and widely publicized pictures of the decidedly spherical Earth from space.            Based on a range of original sources, Garwood’s history of flat-Earth beliefs---from the Babylonians to the present day---raises issues central to the history and philosophy of science, its relationship to religion and the making of human knowledge about the natural world. Flat Earth is the first definitive study of one of history’s most notorious and persistent ideas, and it evokes all the intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual turmoil of the modern age. Ranging from ancient Greece, through Victorian England, to modern-day America, this is a story that encompasses religion, science, and pseudoscience, as well as a spectacular array of people and places. Where else could eccentric aristocrats, fundamentalist preachers, and conspiracy theorists appear alongside Copernicus, Newton, and NASA, except in an account of such a legendary misconception?Thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating, Flat Earth is social and intellectual history at its best....

Title : Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea
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ISBN : 9780312382087
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 436 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea Reviews

  • Sharon A.
    2019-01-27 19:15

    Excellent guide through the surprisingly complex idea of the flat earthThis is the first book I’ve ever read on the Flat Earth idea and it’s a winner - engrossing, so readable, coherent, and enlightening. It’s critical in these days of conspiracy mongering and allegations of “fake news” (real and imagined) that we see the forest for the trees. Otherwise, we’re doomed. I feel so much more well-informed on the subject as a student of science & society. Highly recommended.

  • Marcus Shepherd
    2019-01-28 16:23

    How do you know the Earth is round? No, really. Because you saw a picture? Because you own a globe? What evidence could you throw up right now to prove the globularity of the ground you stand on?Looking through some of the other reviews, it seems like people focus on the proponents of the Flat Earth model with pity and scorn. "At times you want to find the people it talks about and slap some sense into them, at others you just feel sorry for them. Seeing the deliberate ignorance people impose on themselves is both amusing, and terribly frightening."Or: "It is finishes with an assessment of this belief across the years, comparing with initially entwined Creationist movement but remarking that a Flat Earth is simply too easy to disprove and therefore has been abandoned by almost the staunchest of Christian fundamentalists."But this book is really about so much more, and the epilogue demonstrates that. It's not about proving the Earth is round. It's about knowledge and what you believe in. It's about the development of a society that has shifted their faith from priests to physicists, and accepts what is told them. Likely, this book serves as a litmus test. If you're more scientificly-minded, you focus on the proponents of Flat Earth theory and marvel at how obtuse they are. If you're more philosophically-minded, you revel in the tale of Leo Ferrari and the question of how we accept things as facts. (Presumably, if you're flat earth-minded, you thought the book was great unless it was too critical.)I do not think, however, that this book was very well-written. It was obnoxiously repetitive and unbearably dull. Sometimes, definitions for the same concepts were given in each chapter, in case – one presumes – that the reader was too bored reading one chapter and skipped to the next. In an effort to be comprehensive, it over-covers the issues. Reading through the first half is a never-ending cycle of pamphlet printing and responding to criticism. Over and over again, the reader is treated to the same actions with minor changes. If I could do anything with this book, I'd give it to Bill Bryson and have him rewrite it. It would be a tenth of the length and ten times more interesting and humorous. (It kills me to see the humor hiding beneath the surface of this book, so close to coming out but buried under the dull, academic style.)In short, this book was somewhat interesting, but really not interesting enough to pick up for fun.Quibbles: I assume this topic was not limited to the Anglo world. What about Flat Earth belief in other parts of the world? This book glosses over them completely. Also: the author very rarely mentions how much influence the Flat Earth societies, especially the early ones, had in terms of members. It felt like there were three people in all England for 50 years.

  • Tommy Carlson
    2019-02-18 15:29

    So, here's the first book conforming to my 2015 "no books by white men" resolution, Flat Earth by Christine Garwood. It examines fairly recent beliefs in an actual flat Earth. It's an amusing read, in places, but drags most of the time.It starts out with a couple chapters explaining why we as a culture thought folks back in Columbus' time even thought that the world was flat. (Actually, I didn't think they thought that, nor I suspect do many people today.) Turns out it was evil secularists, trying to drive a wedge between religion and science! No, really, that's what the first couple chapters are about. It's awkward, as if she has an axe to grind, but just a wee axe, not deserving of a longer treatment.Then we get into some fairly modern-day believers and their activities. The characters are, at times, colorful. Often, they're just misguided fools, spewing the same bad arguments over and over. They're often lauded at the time for their debate skills, despite their lack of good arguments. Obviously, there are parallels with creationists today. These parallels are mentioned but not really analyzed in any way.Eventually, the book works its way through several people. It ends with a summary that criticizes secularists a bit more, while somewhat lauding the Flat Earth people for no apparent reason. There's a mention of the parallels to creationism again, but no analysis, again.And therein lies the problem with the book. It just doesn't know what it wants to be. Reconciling science and religion is a juicy topic, but isn't treated in depth here, nor even-handedly. Parallels with creationism are ripe with possibilities, but the text never examines these other than to merely mention them. They're no evolution of Flat Earth theories, just the same ones offered over and over.All that leaves is a book about wacky people who believe wacky things. Frankly, that could be enough, given sufficient wackiness. These folks lack that level of wackiness. They're not boring, mind you. (Well, some are simply boring people.) They're just not interesting enough to carry the book by themselves.Overall, it's not a bad read, but nor is it really a good read. It was good enough that I read it all the way through, yet I would be lying if I claimed I wasn't looking forward to the end just a bit. I want to give it two and a half stars.

  • Karen
    2019-01-23 18:38

    This is a bit long winded at times, and bogs down in retoric, but after all how many ways can you sustain a Flat Earth theory. What is amazing that against all odds (science in particular) people can still believe, and justify thier belief. It always good to look at both sides of any story, how else do we make decisions.

  • Hazel
    2019-02-02 22:27

    Amazing expose on the history of flat earth belief, and the complexities involved. At times you want to find the people it talks about and slap some sense into them, at others you just feel sorry for them. Seeing the deliberate ignorance people impose on themselves is both amusing, and terribly frightening.

  • Katie
    2019-02-12 21:40

    This was an interesting book about the history of the flat earth idea, mainly starting in the early 1800's up to today. It is well written and poses some interesting ideas at the end about why people believe in crazy ideas.

  • Darby
    2019-01-26 15:21

    In the Middle Ages people believed that the earth was flat, for which they had at least the evidence of their senses: we believe it to be round, not because as many as one per cent of us could give the physical reasons for so quaint a belief, but because modern science has convinced us that nothing that is obvious is true, and that everything that is magical, improbable, extraordinary, gigantic, microscopic, heartless, or outrageous is scientific. - George Bernard Shaw

  • Shiloh
    2019-01-27 23:30

    Very very thorough and fair look at the various people and groups who have insisted that the Earth is flat. Occasionally the organization is a bit rough, but Garwood had a lot of material to cover, so that's understandable.

  • Bridget
    2019-01-31 17:22

    When i saw this book at the library I found myself fascinated by the concept. It took me a little bit to get in the swing of it... but it was certainly worth it. Christine Garwood has done an immaculate job in her research. The book's subject matter lies somewhere between religion and science, following the life of the theory by the people who tried to spread the word. I also learnt a whole lot about the history of science and how people think!My favourite part was the chapter about the Flat Earth Society (Canada). It was funny and quirky and a little bit tragic. The people involved in that particular part of Flat Earth history were jokers and drinkers and creative thinkers. They used the society to try and challenge people to think critically. Actually... they were 70's hipsters.Which is basically the whole point of the book for me.Thinkthis book has furthered my desire to think critically about every aspect of my life that I can. I realised that I can't explain most of my fundamental beliefs to anyone: What proof do I have that the Earth is round? How could I explain it to someone? o.O I'm working that out as I go. Thinking critically and realising that we can't explain why the Earth is round, that we can't demean people for their fundamental beliefs and realising that not everyone understands the way the world we might are all really important things for me and this book really brought that out for me!

  • Susan Wight
    2019-01-27 21:26

    The Idea of a spherical world had been widely accepted in educated circles from as early as the fourth century BC. Yet, bizarrely, it was not until the supposedly more rational nineteenth century that the notion of the flat earth really took hold. This book traces the history of the Flat Earth idea. It has taken me quite a long time to read this book as it is fascinating in parts but the very nature of denialist arguments render it repetitive as different manifestations of the Flat Earth Society have repeated earlier experiments and ‘proofs’. The most interesting section was on the Canadian Flat Earth Society founded as a joke but one with philosophical overtones. The founders were pointing out the importance of critical thinking and the importance of questioning authority. We can laugh at genuine flat earthers but how many of us can actually explain a proof of the globular earth without just pointing to a model globe or photos taken from space? Flat Earthers argue that the ‘common sense’ of our own eyes tells us the earth is flat and that the Bible (and their own branch of ‘science’) backs them up. I must reread the children’s book The Librarian Who Measured the Earth …

  • Guy Robinson
    2019-02-07 21:20

    A book about people believing in a Flat Earth from ancient times to the 1970s. It corrects the most fundamental errors and documents the most excessive proponents, who often had a most challenging time.It covers modern misconceptions, the western progression towards the provable shape of the Earth, a Victorian showman, Parallax, his varied disciples, an American religious city that fell under the control of a Flat Earth Bible literalist, the Flat Earth Society that operated during the Apollo space missions, the absurdist Flat Earth Society that questioned knowledge and the American society that petered out.It is finishes with an assessment of this belief across the years, comparing with initially entwined Creationist movement but remarking that a Flat Earth is simply too easy to disprove and therefore has been abandoned by almost the staunchest of Christian fundamentalists.A very enjoyable book.

  • Suzy
    2019-01-18 23:24

    I was really looking forward to reading this book. However, after the first 10 pages I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it. There are many inaccuracies in the author's attempt to place things into historical context. Bizarrely, for a history book, ideas and people are described using very emotional, petty language, which was off-putting and made it very difficult to take her seriously. It was also a red flag for me that early on I needed to fact check some things that I had doubts on (On a side note: I feel like a "highly entertaining and often hilarious" history book about the earth being flat shouldn't require multiple fact checking searches 10 pages in). Since I wasn't sure I would be able to stomach the rest of the book, I spent some time looking through various sections to determine if it would get better. In the end I was left feeling that this book wasn't for me, though it probably would have been had the book been edited well.

  • Bonnie Samuel
    2019-02-03 17:27

    From anti-vaxxers to climate change deniers to anti-evolutionists, the capacity of human beings to hold onto incorrect beliefs despite mountains of evidence proving them wrong is pretty astonishing. Although I found this book to be pretty dry, the characters highlighted demonstrate that when a person desperately wants to believe that something is true, any attempt to change their mind is futile, since they'll always find a way to discredit the evidence either by decrying it as fake, manipulated, "just someone's idea", "they don't really know", "they're just guessing", "that's what they want you to believe", "it's just a theory" or a hundred other ways they find to dismiss widely accepted and proven information. I was amused to find out that Zion, IL, a town not far from where I live, was founded as a utopia for flat-earthers.

  • Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
    2019-01-26 21:27

    After the introduction, this book, well, went into more detail than I was interested in. Honestly I'm more interested in how this came to be accepted as history than in every crank who has thought the earth was flat. As an aside, though, the book mentions an early example of viral marketing/pseudo-advertising (false missing person notices in newspapers) involving a Washington Irving book. I wonder if this was the first instance.

  • Ari
    2019-01-31 18:12

    Aristotle knew the world was round, as did the vast bulk of ancient and medieval writers in Europe. The flat-earth movement as we know it is a 19th century creature. It started in Victorian England as a strange mix of religious fundamentalism and postmodern skepticism. This book explains how the movemement got started and where it went. Much food for thought in terms of how cults or wacky beliefs can grow even in educated countries.

  • Alvin
    2019-01-19 19:35

    Unfortunately, this book tries to be a comprehensive history of its subject instead of an entertaining overview. Boring, unecessary details abound and are – unforgivably – repeated. Give it a skim if, like me, you are fascinated by misguided eccentrics, but don't plan on reading every word.

  • Aaron Gladki
    2019-02-01 21:30

    This was a hard, hard slog and only pigheadedness kept me at it much past page 70. Reads like a PHD thesis, and as for the cover quote about the book being an entertaining an often hilarious read, well, I'm not sure what book they were writing about. It sure wasn't this one....

  • Eric
    2019-01-27 23:15

    Nonfiction book about various flat earth societies and believers throughout the last several hundred years. The book also spends the first few chapters debunking the idea that ancient (i.e. pre-medieval) people believed the earth was flat.It's okay.

  • Filjan
    2019-02-07 23:22

    Don't waste your time reading this. The author just throws in every "fact" she can find, including a whole chapter on a Flat Earth society that was a hoax. Properly edited this book would have been a quarter as long and twice as informative.

  • Steven Williams
    2019-02-18 15:12

    Fairly interesting, except it kind of seemed like same thing over and over again. Only the names and times seemed to change

  • Anthony
    2019-01-27 23:15

    Excellent history of resistance to the idea of a free-floating Earth in surprisingly modern times. The parallels to the Evolution debate are obvious. Very easy to read and informative.

  • Yeedle
    2019-01-28 15:28

    Great book, lot's of witty humor. It's so dispassionate (objective) that at times you can be fooled into thinking that the author really considered the earth to be flat...

  • Zack
    2019-01-30 20:29

    Caught between pop-history fun and the nitty-gritty facts. Too dull for the former and missing too big of gaps for the latter (too much focus on a few individuals). Meh. Not really worth the time.

  • Steve
    2019-01-23 20:31

    Long, boring thesis like writing. Entirely misses the point of church influence by not even discussing the trial of Galileo and its significance.

  • Tom Holt
    2019-02-11 17:37

    Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea by Christine Garwood (2008)