On Fiction: A Brief Note on “Flatline”


I do not mean to be mean, but let’s just say I am not impressed with this intellectual arsenal. Of course, the worst part about it is that the song is a bit catchy, so I have (unsuccessfully) tried to listen to it a few times without paying attention to the words. For that sin, I confess to you all and hope for your forgiveness.


All in all, I think the scientific consensus regarding the fact that the world is a sphere (well, an oblate spheroid if we want to be technical) will likely remain unaffected. It has been a rather long consensus. In response to the song, Tyson tweeted at B.o.B saying that he has set scientific thinking five centuries back. This, however, is an understatement. The truth of the matter is that ever since we have had recorded history (about 600 BC), educated people have known that the world is not flat.


In fact, Eratosthenes (276 BC-194 BC) got a very accurate measure for the Earth’s circumference, whose calculation depended on a spherical Earth. The widely taught belief that people—well, those filthy, backward Catholics, to be exact—believed the Earth was flat into the fifteenth century, is nothing more than a lie which was propagated by the Protestant side during the Thirty Years War in Europe and then was carried over into the United States.


The other big lie spread through those times was this entirely fictional war between science and religion, where those backward religious fanatics and superstitionists (i.e. the Catholics) were constantly engaged in battle with the heroic scientists who were trying to free the human mind from religion’s bondage all along. Of course, this became a convenient fiction for the anti-religious attitude of the French Enlightenment and—at length—was lapped up by the new atheists.


The chief foe to this account of events is historical fact. Mendel, the father of modern genetics, was an Augustinian friar. Copernicus was likely a Catholic priest. In more recent times, Msgr. Georges Lemaître, the astrophysicist who convinced Albert Einstein of the veracity of the Big Bang and the first to formulate what has come to be known as Hubble’s law and the Hubble constant, was a Belgian Catholic priest. This is not to mention the medieval attitude that God has written two books—creation and revelation—and that scientific enquiry and theological contemplation both reach up to the Divine. This should come as no shock to anyone who is familiar with Jesuit education.


On the other hand, we should not attempt to whitewash history. Of course, there have been instances where particular people have impeded scientific progress and have made backward arguments and claims, but which attitude is the standard and which the exception? Any fair historical analysis can only lead to one conclusion.California Pregnancy Centers Fight Law Requiring Abortion Information 

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