Why partisans look at the same planet and see wildly different curvature

At Five Thirty Eight, Maggie Koerth-Baker has yet another article bemoaning the way partisanship biases our views. Apparently, one side, based on eyeballing, thinks the earth is flat, while the other, relying on the views of so-called scientists, or the experience of international air travel, regards it as spherical, or nearly so.

In the past, before the rise of partisanship, we would have agreed on a sensible compromise, such as flat on Sundays, spherical on weekdays, and undetermined on Saturdays. Moreover, there was a mix of views, with plenty of Democratic flat-earthers, and Republican sphericalists.

Of course, there is no way to resolve questions of this kind, but apparently, ““warm contact” between political leaders” will enable us to agree to differ, which would be a big improvement, at least until we decided whether to risk sailing over the edge of the world.

18 thoughts on “Why partisans look at the same planet and see wildly different curvature

  1. Terry Pratchett invented an alternate world me called Discworld. It was flat and supported by enormously large elephants standing on the shell of the largest turtle in this alternate universe. Despite using Middle Ages London as his role model for his capital city Pratchett chose a “benevolent” dictator as his government system. The only view that mattered was the one held by this dictator. Simplistic for sure but there were only two sides to any debate in Discworld politics: the winning side (Dictator) and the losing side (anyone who disagreed with him).

  2. Sailing over the edge of the world would require water to float the boat, would it not? If Earth were flat, as still believed by some ignorant dinosaurs, what’s to stop all that water from pouring “over the edge”?

  3. @douglas Mackenzie
    The water is restrained by a wall of discarded plastic shopping bags that lines the edge of the earth.

  4. pr Q said:

    Apparently, one side, based on eyeballing, thinks the earth is flat, while the other, relying on the views of so-called scientists, or the experience of international air travel, regards it as spherical, or nearly so.

    If this is a crack at Right-wing science denialism on ecology (global warming) and economy (zombie theories!) then it is well taken. Although PrQ is, as usual, applying a partisan double standard The Left-wing engage in science-denialism on anthropology (race-and-gender) and history, which it has turned into a bad joke see the disastrous state of WW1 historiography and “black armbandism” in general. Fancy writing a history of Australia focusing on the bad bits No wonder the Australian Film industry is in the doldrums, our history is the Whig interpretation made flesh..

    My “both sides do it” conclusion supports 538’s lament about partisanship. But partisans don’t like evidence showing their partisanship. It’s upsets their self-image as disinterested scholars rising above the fray, surveying the scene with Olympian detachment.

    Left-wingers take their partisanship to extremes, using long-March-through-the-institutions “cancellation” power (SJW doxing, deplatforming, vilification law, memory-holing, retconning, sacking) to coerce cultural conformity to their discredited party line. Gramsci and Alinsky wrote that playbook. Of course Right-wing corporate spin-doctors are little better, the Wall Street Journal being paradigmatic example

    So flat-earthism seems to be an across-the-board phenomenon afflicting post-modern liberals of all ideological flavours. And most partisans are at least de facto post-modernists in that they believe science should give way to the political convenience of their own self-centred little group., In the Me Generation era, the point of everything (including intellectual activity) is to indulge the self.

  5. Pr Q said:

    Moreover, there was a mix of views, with plenty of Democratic flat-earthers, and Republican sphericalists.

    As opposed to nowadays, when the DEMs are sphericalists (globalists, surely) and REP flat-earthers? If you believe that you can believe anything.

    Didn’t we just go through a three year fiasco where DEM partisans turned all politics into a witch hunt for Trumps Russian conspiracy? Which, when cards were laid on the table, turned into a Big Fat Zero.

    To this non-partisan, the whole Russia-gate like the very essence of DEM “flat-earth” partisanship.

    No doubt Trump is guilty of asking foreign leaders such as Ukraine’s to help him in domestic politics. From his “Deep State” paranoid point of view, they are the only people he can trust. And he does have a point, considering the whistleblower is a CIA agent.

    Moreover, the DEMs were guilty of the exact same “crime” at the exact sane time. Back in 2017 Politico broke the story that Clinton sought to enlist Ukraine suppirt in her 2016 US elevtion campaign:


    Donald Trump wasn’t the only presidential candidate whose campaign was boosted by officials of a former Soviet bloc country.
    Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.

    This, to my untutored eye, looks just as bad as anything Trump did. Yet it elicited a Big Yawn from media-academia DEM partisans.

    I personally can’t get too worked up about Trumps solicitation of foreign meddling in US elections. The US has about 50 million Latin American voters. Over the past 50 years a sizeable fraction of them entered the country illegally. Now they, or their descendants, exercise their voting right to influence US elections in favour of their DEM patrons. If this isn’t partisan solicitation of foreign influence in US elections then I don’t know what is. Yet where’s the outrage from DEM spokespersons in the media-academia complex?

  6. All educated Europeans accepted Aristotle’s proofs of a round would. There was never any belief in sailing off the edge of the world. It is fake history invented in 1828 for his Columbus biography by Washington Irving, author of such noted scientific works as Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Remarkably enough, the Irving canard gets repeated today in works by people trying to maintain the thesis of eternal conflict between science and religion.

    The flat earthers claim there is a wall of ice at the southern edge of the world that prevents water falling off.

  7. For Jack Strochi,

    Quite a few Latin American US voters are descended from people who became defacto US residents after the Mexican Cession of 1848. The cession happened due to the Mexican-American war. – Ikonoclast.

  8. The Left-wing engage in science-denialism on anthropology (race-and-gender) and history …

    Citation needed.

    Fancy writing a history of Australia focusing on the bad bits

    Citation needed.

    Left-wingers take their partisanship to extremes, using long-March-through-the-institutions “cancellation” power (SJW doxing, deplatforming, vilification law, memory-holing, retconning, sacking) to coerce cultural conformity to their discredited party line.

    Citation needed.

    Didn’t we just go through a three year fiasco where DEM partisans turned all politics into a witch hunt for Trumps Russian conspiracy?

    Citation needed.

    Now they, or their descendants, exercise their voting right to influence US elections in favour of their DEM patrons.

    Citation needed.

  9. Alan,
    That is all news to me. But one thing that I thought to myself when I read the last sentence is that a flat earth would have to have at least 3 sides so what would stop the water from falling off the other two sides. But then I thought what a stupd question gravity is the attraction of two objects with mass.
    The water would be pulled towards the earth by gravity. There would be no gravitational force pulling in any other direction so the water would be in effect glued to the earth. So if you asked a flat earther to sail with you to the edge of the earth to actually observe this phenomena he would reply that people could sail there but a person could never actually see it because it is always pitch black near the edge of the world and gravity and the prevailing winds would combine to prevent anyone from sailing or falling off the edge.
    If it were me I would ask the flat earther how it could alway be dark when the reason that the sun does not shine at the poles for 24 hours a day for part of the year is that the earth is round and the pole tilts away from the sun. But if I were the flat earther I would say the atmospheric ether absorbs the light rays of the sun, moon and stars and that because the edge of the earth is so far away no light of any kind can reach there. Furthermore flat earther me would tell round earther me that my ideas about gravity are all wet because one one gets that far away from the suns rays there is no ambient temp. so there is ice on all 3 or 4 sides or circumfrance of the earth holding the water in and this ice extends out farther in distance than the distance between Peking and London let alone between Brisbane and Perth.
    This ice field is so vast and so high in the middle that it is impossible to cross. But if it were possible to cross we wouid find another world much like earth and then another and another and another but each one would have a different history.
    My response would be, what you say is baloney because we have space ships that can fly to Mars how could it be impossible to fly across such an ice field. Mis response would be look, this talk about space ships is pure baloney. It is all theater. The rulers make this stuff up to make themselves seem more technologically advanced than they are. So like the wizard of oz they can manipulate us better.
    My repsonse to that would be, look I have a relative who works at NASA. I trust him and he says that space ships are real. Mys response is that NASA has many levels to its organization the higher up that a person goes in to the organization the more of the truth that they learn. So that things can function smoothly those who work at the mid levels have been given secrets that they are not allowed to discuss with anyone else. They know that they are spied on to make sure that they do not discuss the classified material that they are aware of with anyone else. Because of this seperation of knowledge no one at NASA can put the pieces of the puzzle together to would prove that it is all a hoax except for those at the highest levels, who have been very carefully vetted for political reliabilty.
    My response to that is, you know what mister flat earther, I do believe that conspiracies such as the one that you discribe do exist. But in this particular circumstance it could it not be that those who promote this conspiracy theory are in fact the ones pulling to wool over your eyes. Is it not possible that there is a politcal motive to perpetuate this space travel is fake meme? My response to that is I have heard this charge before and I am sceptical of its merit. We are trying to correct a false perception that most people have because zhese people have been deiliberately fooled by lies that have been repeated over and over and over again by powerful and rich institutions for the ulitmate purpose of personal gain by those who control these institutions. For the people in charge of these rich and powerful institutions which we have been exposing to actually support or promote our whistle blowing would be counter to their interests.
    Ok Ok I respond I can see that where I was going to go with this is not going to work on you. I was going to say that bad conspiracy theories can be used to discredit conspiracy theories in general. But since your conspiracy theory about space travel being fake is actually a good conspiracy theory. My conspiracy theory that the leadership of the UK and the USA actually went to great lengths to make it only look like they were trying with a 100% effort to defeat Nazi Germany is a bad theory that I am being encouraged to promote to discredit your conspiracy theory.
    Therefore I want to ask you a question that is totally unrelated to scientifc dogma, or foolishness. Do you want to live in a world which attempts to operate on the principle treat others as you would want them to treat you or do you want to live in a world which operates on the principle exploit others before they exploit you?
    I forgot who is asking this question?

  10. Jack, you’ve cancelled your own logic…

    “Left-wingers take their partisanship to extremes, using long-March-through-the-institutions “cancellation” power (SJW doxing, deplatforming, vilification law, memory-holing, retconning, sacking)”. All left wingers do these things?

    “As opposed to nowadays, when the DEMs are sphericalists (globalists, surely) and REP flat-earthers? If you believe that you can believe anything.”

    And please, absolutist statements are in need of a goodwins jar: “Left-wingers take their …”

    What is a left winger as defined by you Jack? Who is in the middle? A vaccum?

    I take your points Jack re “DEMs” doing it too, yet I see that as politics more than partisanship.

    “turned into a Big Fat Zero” until out of office.

    And this is bordering on a conspiracy theory … “If this isn’t partisan solicitation of foreign influence in US elections then I don’t know what is.”.

    JQ prefaced with; “bemoaning the way partisanship biases our views” is showing.

  11. Alan said:

    All educated Europeans accepted Aristotle’s proofs of a round world. There was never any belief in sailing off the edge of the world. It is fake history invented in 1828 for his Columbus biography by Washington Irving, author of such noted scientific works as Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

    Well, you learn something new every day. Just the other day I discovered that that the phrase “medieval theologians debating the number of angels dancing on a pin-head“, that stock-in-trade insult of journalists, was an early example of Fake News circulated by the liberal media of the day. Just like the (associated) “myth of the Flat-Earth“.

    Some things never change.

  12. Curt

    I think the flat earth theory is dangerous nonsense, just like the endless cable documentaries on ancient aliens, giants and similar tosh. Why? Because they endlessly propose that ‘they’ are hiding the truth for nefarious purposes and once you accept that ‘they’ are hiding the real flatness of the earth or whatever, it becomes very easy to believe that ‘they’ are faking climate science or election results.

    An extreme example is that Australia is, for various reasons, deeply inconvenient to the flat earth theory. Their solution is that Australia does not exist. If you board a plane in say, Los Angeles, ‘they’ fly you in circles and drug your food so that when ‘they’ land you in Canada you will think you are in Australia.

  13. Jack, absolutely nothing more that is linked, even tangentially, to race, genetics, ethnicity, migration, IQ or religion. I’ve requested this previously.

    To other commenters, please, no replies to Jack on these points.

  14. Medieval people were at least sophisticated enough to know that different stories serve different ends, and distinguish between them. They knew, for instance, that the world was round as a geographic fact, while biblically it was flat. No conflict – different stories.

  15. Alan,
    It was certianly not my intention to imply that you were a flat earther. I just did not know that educated Europeans prior to Magellan thought that the world was round. Or that, flat earthers maintian that it is ice that stops the water from falling off the earth.
    One other small point I think that the number of people who think that the moon landing was faked for cold war politcal purposes is a larger group of people than those who believe the earth is flat. But I would not be surprised if someone tells me that an international survey has been done on this question that proves me wrong.

  16. JQ – “apparently, ““warm contact” between political leaders” will enable us to agree to differ”

    It’s a thing. In similar vein, more recent than the citation for the final par of Koerth-Baker’s yet more recent article linked in the OP:

    ‘Mental rigidity’ at root of intense political partisanship on both left and right, study finds
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190829081401.htm
    Date: August 29, 2019 Source: University of Cambridge
    Summary: New research shows that reduced cognitive flexibility is associated with more ‘extreme’ beliefs and identities at both ends of the political spectrum. Researchers say that heightening our cognitive flexibility might help build more tolerant societies.

    Also in Science Daily at about the same time I found this of related interest:

    True lies: How letter patterns color perceptions of truth
    Researchers uncover why certain ads and fake news claims may seem accurate
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190925113002.htm
    Date: September 25, 2019 Source: Society for Consumer Psychology
    Summary: Cause-and-effect statements may seem more true if the initial letters in the words are in alphabetical order because the human brain prefers patterns that follow familiar sequences.

    …The finding suggests that companies may be more likely to convince consumers that a slogan or claim is true if the causal statement follows an alphabetical order, King says. The more frightening implication, though, relates to fake news. Headlines with cause-effect statements that are in alphabetical order may feel more true, even if they are not.

    “Consumers need to make evaluations based on fact or experimental evidence rather than whether something feels right,” says King. “The alphabet is a random, arbitrary sequence we have learned, and it can play tricks on the brain when it comes to making judgments.”

    They tested truthfulness ratings for the order in first and differing letters of each word in what amounts to three word slogans.. How about alliteration, and a sight reader’s usual whole word recognition? How about third letter order of words in a such a three word successful slogan, for instance, “debt and deficit disaster”.

    Also appearing at about the same time a breakthrough in neuroimaging brain layers. I wonder what it might reveal about the physical connectedness of truthfulness, three word slogans, and alphabetical order, and how that knowledge may be employed politically…

    Neuroimaging reveals hidden communication between brain layers during reading
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191001102222.htm
    Date: October 1, 2019 Source: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

    Summary: Language involves many different regions of the brain. Researchers have discovered previously hidden connections between brain layers during reading, in a neuroimaging study. The team used laminar Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (lfMRI) to investigate what happens when people read Dutch words like ”zalm” (salmon) compared to pseudowords (”rorf”), revealing top-down influences on deep brain layers for the first time.

    “”This is a breakthrough finding for all imaging research,” says Peter Hagoort, director at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen and co-author of the study. “For the first time we have established different activation profiles at different layers of cortex, and figured out how this pattern is related to top-down influence in cortical processing. This has far-reaching consequences for cognitive neuroimaging, expanding our knowledge of brain networks.””

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