From “Cosmos” to evidence of Big Bang, it’s been a tricky time for biblical literalists. Here’s why it’ll get worse
Thursday, Apr 3, 2014
The creationist crowd is in a tithy lately. First there was “Cosmos” — on Fox, no less! — giving short shrift to everything they hold dear. Then, adding insult to injury, for those paying close attention, long-awaited evidence of the Big Bang arrived. It’s been a rough few weeks.
But really, if you’re a biblical literalist, it’s been a rough few centuries, or millennia, actually. You see, according to the Bible, the earth is both stationary and flat. Most pointedly, there are at least two passages in which a single point is visible to the whole world (Daniel 4:10-11 and Revelation 1:7), and one (Matthew 4:8) in which the whole world can be seen from a single point — an obvious impossibility unless the earth is flat.
Although the Catholic Church had forced Galileo to recant his work questioning the immobile earth in 1632 — and only pardoned him in 1992 — they did so in part because they were certain the earth was a globe: a globe around which the sun, moon and all other heavenly bodies revolved. Such was the Ptolemaic system, which had dominated Western views for more than a millennium. And yet, the Bible itself reflects a radically different view of the cosmos, one shared by the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, in which the earth is both stationary and flat. And there is a wide range of scriptural passages to prove it.
The late Robert Schadewald made this point conclusively in “The Flat-Earth Bible,” an article posted on the Web back in 1995. Schadewald was a former board member and president of the National Center for Science Education, a leader in the fight against creationism and other forms of pseudo-science being pushed into schools. But he was as much an enthusiastic student of fringe or “alternative” science as a source of endless fascination as he was a critic of swallowing it whole.
“When I first became interested in the flat-earthers in the early 1970s, I was surprised to learn that flat-earthism in the English-speaking world is and always has been entirely based upon the Bible,” Schadewald begins his piece. Easily the most influential work is “Zetetic Astronomy, Earth Not a Globe,” by Samuel Birley Rowbotham. Its first, 16-page pamphlet edition, in 1849, predated Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” by a decade.