Flat earth theory used to be a byword for outmoded or irrational thinking, however it is now gaining ground in the Philippines.
A Facebook group called ‘Philippine Flat Earth Society (Certified FE Group)’ has attracted nearly two thousand members representing ‘chapters’ of believers from across the nation.
The majority of members appear to be (mainly male) millennials, but there is also a scattering of American expats.
As well as sharing memes and YouTube links supporting their views, the ‘closed’ group also provides an opportunity to arrange what appear to be well-attended local meetings.
It also serves as a forum to discuss other conspiracy theories, with faked moon landings and ‘chemtrails’ being among the most popular.
In its introduction, the group says it is “Certified by the United Council of the Philippine Flat Earth Community”, suggesting that there is a wider network of believers beyond the group.
Members frequently dismiss critics of their beliefs, accusing them of peddling “pseudoscience” or being in the thrall of dark forces. Disparaging terms for non-believers include “globetard”, “globehead”, “curvert” and “illuminatipuppets”.
Biblical and scientific flat earth believers
The underlying basis for the belief appears to be mainly theological, with numerous Bible verses shared as confirmation of the theory.
The belief also appeals to Muslims. Muhammad Fakhrul Azrul, for example, wrote: “How the first time you all know the earth is flat? Im know cause do searching in Holy Al Quran.”
However, many members — including some who describe themselves as atheists — are keen to share what they consider to be irrefutable scientific proof of their ideas.
A member called Steven Paul made the following observations:
If Earth really was a globe, airline pilots would constantly have to adjust their controls so as not to fly off into space.
If Earth really was a sphere hurtling through space, the water would be wobbling all over the place, instead of staying flat.
Johnrich Mantilla Tabamo, a moderator of the group, also offered a scientific perspective, writing:
Dear Curverts, If the Earth was a ball, Nile River has to flow uphill to compensate the curvature of the Earth. Is this enough of a proof for you that the Earth cannot be ball?
Another moderator, an expat called Robert D Scott, claimed that he had tested his theories on some of the world’s brightest minds. He wrote:
I have talked one on one with university professors in astrophysics and they couldn’t explain the things I question them about.
He also says that he preparing to prove the theory with a groundbreaking experiment involving firing laser beams across the ocean.
In another attempt to prove the theory, Andrew Smith presented dash-cam footage as proof that the sun is much closer to the earth than generally believed. He wrote:
So how far is the Sun? 149 million kilometers? I don’t think so. Funny thing, as I was taking the video and driving towards the Sun it seemed as if I was getting closer to it. Not sure if it’s visible in the video. [It isn’t — Ed]
It’s not only in the Philippines that flat earth theory is experiencing a resurgence in the internet era. A Facebook group called “Flat Earth – No Trolls”, for example, boasts more than 37,000 members from across the world. The theory has also attracted support from a growing number of celebrities.