Klinghoffer: “We’re Not Flat-Earthers”

At the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog, they’re defending themselves against charges that even your Curmudgeon never dreamed of making. Their latest post is: Flat-Earth Myth, Anyone? Recalling Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Long Pedigree. It was written by David Klinghoffer, a Discoveroid “senior fellow” (i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist), who eagerly functions as their journalistic slasher and poo flinger. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

There’s only one Neil deGrasse Tyson, winner of last year’s Censor of the Year award. Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture recognized celebrity TV educator Dr. Tyson for his outstanding work in foisting a photoshopped narrative of scientific history on viewers of the popular series Cosmos, animated by a desire to falsely cast religious faith as the enemy of scientific progress.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That Discoveroid “award” was so un-memorable that it was one of three silly items we mentioned in our Darwin Day Free Fire Zone. For a better example of the Discoveroids’ attitude toward Tyson, see Klinghoffer: Tyson Is Smooth, Cunning, & Snarky.

But where does flat-Earth fit into this? Here are some excerpts from Klinghoffer’s post, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Well, a neat article at Newsweek [Even in the Middle Ages, People Didn’t Think the Earth Was Flat] reminds us that others pioneered in the same censorious field long before Tyson came along. Douglas Main [author of the Newsweek article] gives the example of the myth that claims benighted religious scholars once insisted upon the doctrine of a flat earth. No, wrong, says Mr. Main.

We know all about that. It’s true that both the Old Testament and the New have an ark-load of scriptural references that unmistakably describe a flat earth — we gave several examples in The Earth Is Flat!, but as we’ve previously posted, at least since the time of Aristotle, educated people knew the world was a sphere. And a generation after Aristotle, in the third century BC (well before the time of the New Testament), Eratosthenes computed the earth’s size.

In spite of the clear words of the bible, because the earth’s shape and size were known by educated people, no European before Columbus was foolhardy enough to try to sail East (ooops!) West to reach the Orient. They didn’t know about North and South America, which divided the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, so the ocean was assumed to be too vast for their ships to cross. But Columbus somehow had the size of the world figured wrong, and his backers, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, didn’t know any better. He was fortunate in blundering into some unknown islands, which he mistakenly thought were the Indies (a cause of linguistic confusion to this day), and he probably lived out the remainder of his life thinking he had reached the outskirts of Asia. Anyway, Columbus wasn’t trying to contradict any flat-Earth beliefs. .

Okay, back to Klinghoffer:

Where, then, did the myth [of medieval flat-Earth belief] come from? The pedigree goes back more than a century and a half: …

Klinghoffer quotes from the Newsweek article which mentions some well-known literary works by 19th century writers such as Washington Irving. Where is he going with this? Be patient, dear reader. Then he quotes Newsweek again:

The flat-earth lie was ammunition against the Creationists. The argument was simple and powerful, if not elegant: ‘Look how stupid these Christians are. They are always getting in the way of science and progress. These people who deny evolution today are exactly the same sort of people as those idiots who for at least a thousand years denied that the earth was round. How stupid can you get?’

Klinghoffer is correct. That specific charge against religion is wrong. But it doesn’t change the very real and well-known conflicts between science and religion — such as the infamous Galileo affair and the Scopes Trial, both of which Klinghoffer somehow fails to mention.

Klinghoffer’s whole point is that because the flat-Earth accusation is false, that somehow means that the Discoveroids aren’t engaged in a war against science. But we know that they are. Near the end he says:

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

After that he finishes by once again soliciting reader responses as to who will be the Discoveroids’ latest Censor of the Year. Our nomination: reality itself. Why? Because reality — when properly studied without interference from religious fanatics — always censors nonsensical beliefs.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “Klinghoffer: “We’re Not Flat-Earthers”

  1. But Columbus somehow had the size of the world figured wrong

    It was because he believed the estimate given by Ptolemy, who got it from Posedonius (and ignored or discounted Eratosthenes).

  2. Charles Deetz ;)

    It seems that Klingy is equating the DI stooges with “benighted religious scholars”. ROFL!

  3. “animated by a desire to falsely cast religious faith as the enemy of scientific progress.”
    How much progress has IDiocy actually made last half of a century?

  4. “animated by a desire to falsely cast religious faith as the enemy of scientific progress.”
    And who destroyed the Roman medical records when they took over…Not atheists.
    Who held back and still does medical research (ie cutting up bodies…stem cells)……Not atheists.
    Who condemned various scientist during the dark ages?……Not atheists.
    And what group do you think fits as an answer????

  5. The problem isn’t with “benighted religious scholars” who thought the world was flat. It’s that the people who originated the collection of myths in the bible clearly thought the world was flat (and the center of the universe…). And as the Curmudgeon states, educated people knew the world was spherical before the bible was written. So watch out, Klingy. Once you admit one thing in the bible is wrong, people might start wondering what else in it is nonsense. All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall…

  6. When it comes to Bible science you have
    conservatives, flat and stationary Earth, and anti-evolution,
    moderates, stationary Earth and anti-evolution, and
    liberals, just anti-evolution.
    You can see how some might get mixed up sometimes.

  7. Cyano de Bacteregerac

    Ptolemaic cosmology did disturb the more literally-inclined fathers of the Syrian churches, as opposed to their Greek-world counterparts. Cosmas Indicopleustes was their last known proponent; we don’t know if flat-earth belief lingered on, because shortly afterward, Syrian Christianity was subsumed in the Islamic world and had no time to concern itself with such matters.

    Thing is, round-earth cosmology was easier on the believers (Christian, Jewish, Muslim alike) than heliocentrism and evolution because it could be conceded without relinquishing the doctrine of our world as the center of God’s interest. Copernicus, Bruno and Kepler pulled the rug from under this belief, making it a leap of faith. Then, deep time did away with the idea of mankind as God’s plan from the outset, and evolution obliterated the line between mankind and the other animals.

    So, the medievals weren’t flat-earthers, but that wasn’t for being “progressive” and “skeptical” people, it’s simply because they could afford to embrace Aristotle’s system of heavenly spheres wholeheartedly at only the minimal cost of slightly reworking it (in fact, it was Aristotle’s notion of an eternally existent universe that they found unacceptable). Attempts at a similar fitting of deep time and biological evolution to a basically anthropocentric faith have been made by such groups as BioLogos, but have proved quite unsatisfying so far. Which is why special creationism, especially YEC, continues to appeal to believers in a way flat-earthism and even geocentrism never have.

  8. michaelfugate

    They may not be flat-earthers, but they are still wrong about common descent and natural selection.

  9. Summarry:

    1. If Christians 500 years ago believed the Earth was flat, then evolution is true.
    2. Christians 500 ago knew the Earth was round.
    3. Evolutionists are wrong and censors.

    It’s like Klinghoffer was dared to see how many fallacies he could cram into one essay.

  10. Educated medieval people may have known the earth was round, but educated people were rather thin on the ground back then. So Klinghoffer is at least as wrong as the people he attacks.

    How did educated medieval square (so to speak) a round earth with the flat one clearly assumed in the Bible? They didn’t; they just pretended not to notice how what the Scriptures said conflicted with known fact. After all, it was one thing to know something like that; it was another to challenge the authority of the Church by saying it in public. The rack and the stake were always waiting for such troublemakers, even though Church scholars were aware that the world was round, and even had some idea of how big it was.

  11. If the earth is round, how could Jesus see all the kingdoms of the world from a single tall mountain? Clearly Klinghoffer and other round-earth creationists believe man’s word over the Bible in this matter.

  12. Paul D. asks: “how could Jesus see all the kingdoms of the world from a single tall mountain?”

    Obviously, he could see through the Earth.

  13. @Paul D.

    If the earth is round, how could Jesus see all the kingdoms of the world from a single tall mountain?

    Atmospheric refraction.

    See? Biblical science gets it right every time. The Bible was talking about refraction long before evolutionists even knew it existed. Likewise what the Pyramids were built for.

  14. In olden days, people were not so taken with the idea of reading a text in a narrow literal sense. I recommend this book which has many examples of how people read the Bible in the last couple of centuries BCE and first centuries CE:
    James L. Kugel
    The Bible As It Was
    Belknap Press, Harvard, 1997

  15. @Curmudgeon But then Hell would block his line of sight. And how does standing on a mountain help?

  16. @TomS Just read Philo of Alexandria (1st century CE). The preeminent Jewish philosopher and historian of his day interpreted pretty much the whole Old Testament metaphorically whenever it suited him.

  17. Cyano de Bacteregerac


    The debate may not have had the prominence it does today but it was definitely there, with exegetes of Syrian Christianity lambasting their Greek coreligionists for straying too far from the plain meaning of the text. Lactantius, John Chrysostom and Severian of Gabbala were among the notable authors standing for the flat-earth cosmology. And this controversy also held sway in the Jewish world, see Rabbi Slifkin’s “The Path of the Sun at Night.”

  18. Kugel’s examples are taken from rather less sophisticated writers than Philo and Origen, who had to deal with Classical learning.