C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society


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Orbs of medieval rulers

Invoking Christopher Columbus is no longer politically correct, due to a great deal of mythology that has built up around the Italian explorer—not the least of which is flat earth propaganda. Far from fanatics clinging to flat earth mythology, unanimous scholarly opinion from Augustine to Aquinas pronounced the earth spherical. In addition to the mythology that medieval Christians believed the Earth was flat is the increasingly scurrilous claim that Columbus was an exploiter of the Native Americans and that the indigenous peoples of Mexico suffered more under Christians than under the Aztecs.

As credible historians have noted, such criticism is based on the fallacy of the noble savage—the idea that humans are naturally good and that societies left untroubled will be happy. Yet the historical reality is that cruelty is common in all cultures.

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Columbus was by no means perfect, but today's assaults are at best a function of historical illiteracy and at worst, an attack on Western Civilization and its Judeo-Christian foundations. Hank is the author of more than twenty books, which have cumulatively sold millions of copies. Bible Answer Man Hank Hanegraaff. Follow Donate. Iriving described briefly a couple objections raised about the shape of the earth—passages from the Psalms and St.

They worried that it was impossible to sail across the torrid zone at the equator, that only the northern hemisphere was inhabitable, and that the circumference of the earth was so great as to require three years to sail across the Atlantic. Whatever liberties Irving took in crafting his biography, he did not lose sight of historical truths.

Instead, and perhaps more disturbingly, he enlisted those truths in the service of truthiness. His biography was less about Columbus and more about the timeless struggle between on the one hand rationality, science, individuality, and anti-aristocratic modernity and, on the other hand, a retrograde, oppressive, medieval Church. Within a decade, William Whewell had published his History of the Inductive Sciences online here.

In a section on antipodes, he admitted that most people throughout history had known the earth was round.

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Only a few people who preferred scriptural evidence over physical evidence denied the sphericity of the earth. Lactantius, of course, and now Cosmas Indicopleustes, who says nothing about antipodes but offers an easily mocked tabernacle-shaped world and flat earth.

By the latter 19th-century, the supposed truth of the Columbus story had completely replaced the historical truths. Chrysostom, St. Augustine, St.

Understanding the core tenets of the flat-Earth hypothesis

Jerome, St. Gregory, St. Basil, St Ambrose. In the end, Columbus prevailed and along with Vasco Da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan finally settled the question of the shape of the earth. Historical truth had surrendered to truthiness. The warfare of Columbus the world knows well: how the Bishop of Ceuta worsted him in Portugal; how sundry wise men of Spain confronted him with the usual quotations from the Psalms, from St.

Paul, and from St. Despite decades of historical work and dozens of articles and textbooks and, more recently, blogposts, the Columbus myth is alive and well in the United States.

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The cosmologist Lawrence Krauss recently invoked it. President Obama equated opponents of clean energy to people who opposed Columbus on the grounds that the earth was flat. The president received much applause when he said at in the video :. If some of these folks [opponents of clean energy] were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the flat earth society. They would not have believed that the world was round. There was a period of or years when all of the extraordinary insights of the Greek philosophers were utterly lost.

People thought the world was flat.

From Whence the the Columbus/Flat-Earth Myth Came

And truly thought the world was flat. There were demons that lurked at the edge of the map. In the fourth century with the fall of Rome and the sacking of the great library at Alexandria scientific darkness fell across Europe. Even the language of learning, Latin, splintered as warring tribes took over. The theology of the day was defined by Augustine, and the Christian church was mostly anti-science.


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The learning of the Romans and the Greeks was denigrated as pagan knowledge. Even the knowledge of the round Earth was lost for many centuries. Typically, it combines two fables: first, people in the middle ages believed that the earth was flat; second, Columbus proved that the earth was round. Occasionally we do find a person in the middle ages who argued for a flat earth.

One such example is Cosmas Indicopluestes, a sixth-century Byzantine traveller-turned-monk. In his The Christian Topography he attacked pagan ideas about the sphericity of the earth and the universe. His empirical and philosophical objections are not particularly persuasive. He did not disguise the fact that his goal was to use scripture to refute the fictions and fables of Greeks, by which he means pagan Greek philosophers. Cosmas did not help his cause or the reputation of Byzantine scholars in general, at least in our eyes, when he argued that the earth was shaped like a parallelogram, surrounded on all four sides by oceans.

Cosmas placed this parallelogram inside a tabernacle, which reflected the shape of the cosmos. Cosmas became the poster child for the deluded premodern world filled with people who believed the earth was flat.


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In the sixth century this development culminated in what was nothing less than a complete and detailed system of the universe, claiming to be based upon Scripture, its author being the Egyptian monk Cosmas Indicopleustes. Egypt was a great treasure-house of theologic thought to various religions of antiquity, and Cosmas appears to have urged upon the early Church this Egyptian idea of the construction of the world, just as another Egyptian ecclesiastic, Athanasius, urged upon the Church the Egyptian idea of a triune deity ruling the world.

According to Cosmas, the earth is a parallelogram, flat, and surrounded by four seas. At the outer edges of these four seas arise massive walls closing in the whole structure and supporting the firmament or vault of the heavens, whose edges are cemented to the walls. These walls inclose the earth and all the heavenly bodies.

But there is no evidence that he was the vanguard of a widespread movement. Instead, he seems to have recognized that his theory was peculiar. His goal in writing his The Christian Topography was to refute the more commonly held belief that the world and the heavens were spherical.

David Lindberg dismisses Cosmas:. Cosmas was not particularly influential in Byzantium, but he is important for us because he has been commonly used to buttress the claim that all or most medieval people believed they lived on a flat earth. Flat Earth cartoon 12 of 32 Dislike this cartoon? Flat Earth cartoon 13 of 32 Dislike this cartoon?

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C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society
C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society
C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society
C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society
C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society
C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society
C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society
C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society
C. Columbus versus the Flat Earth Society

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