Back in the days of Galileo & Co - in a world where the Heliocentric model was fresh out of the crib, and European exploration of the world was in its infancy - the world would've been ripe for such new ideas concerning the nature of the Earth.
Now it's my conjecture that it was only at this point in history that the idea that we live on a globe gained a lot of ground.
The conventional history states that people knew we lived on a ball right back as far as the ancient Greeks. That people were aware of this and were comfortable with the idea, and that the Copernican Revolution was in effect just a switching of a model with a globular Earth at the centre, for a model with a globular Earth orbiting the Sun.
Now I would contest this idea just based on pure logic. In a world where the Earth is the centre of the universe it really doesn't matter what shape it is. Even if you figure out that the heavenly bodies are going around your Earth (around and underneath the Earth relative to your position on it) this still doesn't necessitate a globe. The Sun and Moon could be going down into a distant sea, or some distant hollow opening, or anywhere the imagination can conjure.
Even with a model where the Earth is afloat in empty space as we envision it now, with orbiting bodies going around it, there is still no real need for it to be a ball. It could be any other shape, and people could be living on a flat level surface atop any other shaped Earth. To jump to a position where people are hanging upside down relative to one another on a ball would be quite a leap.
We must also take into account the historical picture. Before the Age of Exploration and the discovery of the Americas by Columbus, Europeans had limited knowledge of the Earth's geography. Even places as far as China were only known through tales and semi-mythical accounts. Accurate pictures of the night sky from anywhere other than Europe would have been unavailable to philosophers and astronomers living in Europe.
It's only once you place the Sun at the centre of the solar system and have the Earth revolving around that Sun that you need Earth to also be ball-shaped. In a geocentric model the Earth is separate from everything else - it doesn't have to be a circular luminary. However, once you have the Earth as just another orbiting body in the sky then it has to be circular like everything else up there.
I would speculate that this is partly why the Copernican Revolution was such a huge deal at the time. Big and important enough for people to be deemed heretics for openly believing in it. It wasn't just the substitution of one cosmological model of spinning orbs for another. It was a shift in the entire way we see the Earth on which we live. It literally turned the world on its head.
Now again, this is just my speculation. However, even just looking at things from the traditional historic point of view it's easy to see how the Copernican model gained ground with intellectuals at the time.
It produced a model that explained the relationship between the Moon and Sun. It also tallied beautifully with many of the observations about the world that were coming to light at the time. Galileo, through his telescope, observed for the first time the moons of Jupiter - a seeming replica in miniature of the solar system model.
As European explorers traversed the oceans they noted that everywhere in the southern hemisphere the stars rotated clockwise and not anti-clockwise like in the north. They also discovered that as you travelled further and further south the temperature got colder and colder - just like when you travelled north. This all lent itself very much to the idea that the Earth was indeed a ball, and that the Copernican worldview was correct - and as a consequence this became the fashionable mode of thinking amongst men of education and letters.
(Francis Drake with globe)
I've speculated on this blog before that Shakespeare's Globe theatre was evidence that this was a new and fashionable way of viewing the world for progressive people at the time. We can also see that it became fashionable for people to be painted with globes around this time as well. Had I been living during this era I myself would have no doubt been equally enamoured with these new fantastic ideas and discoveries.
Of course, these discoveries also ran parallel to other, more earthly, discoveries. In fact, it was the very same thinkers and intellectuals that made the new discoveries in natural science and mathematics that paved the way for the Enlightenment. The wave of enquiry that produced the Heliocentric model led to the many other discoveries that our modern world stands upon today.
The expansion of European empires, exploration, science, technology, art and philosophy. It all blossomed together. From the same culture, by the same thinkers and philosophers, generation after generation. Right up until and through the Enlightenment. The success and fruits of this collective cultural trend were undeniable. The unstoppable march of science and reason was self-evident.
This march also slowly and comprehensively marginalised and eroded religion, not to mention every other culture on Earth that it came into contact with. It was the future, and everything else was a relic of the past.
But what if some of the foundations of this great burst in understanding and progress were wrong? It's here that we come back to Flat Earth and other alternative cosmologies.
If you look at the history of the Flat Earth movement it seems that it was in the 19th century that it really started to publicly challenge accepted science. This seems very odd at first as we're brought up to see flat earth as a very primitive and very old idea. It seems a little bizarre to modern eyes that people in the 19th century would embrace such a thoroughly debunked and outdated concept.
However, if we look back we can see that maybe the march of science was losing a little confidence. We had things such as the Michelson-Morley experiment and Airy's Failure at this time, where difficult questions that weren't easily answered were being probed. Were doubts maybe creeping in about aspects of the cosmological picture at this time? Could the historical trend that had brought so much progress have some of its fundamentals wrong?
It's here that we come to Einstein. When I studied science as a teenager I always found it strange that Einstein's revolutionary concepts were accepted so readily by the scientific establishment. Science in effect traded Newton's clockwork universe - the cherished world view of reasoned men - and substituted it for something much more counter-intuitive - Einstein's paradox laden relativistic space-time.
Normally such huge revolutions in thinking find a lot of resistance and it often takes at least a generation to overcome this. Now there was some resistance to the ideas Einstein was proposing, which I'm sure some people will point out. However, it still always struck me as odd how quickly it was all embraced. Of course, now I look back I can see that the reason Einstein's ideas were so quickly adopted was possibly because science needed Einstein. His ideas explained many of the things that science was struggling with - particularly relating to cosmology. In many ways Einstein rescued everything the scientific establishment cherished.
Now it's interesting to note that Einstein first published his special theory of relativity in 1905, six years before man first reached the South Pole (1911). I find it really amazing that man could explain the entirety of the cosmos before even fully exploring the Earth's surface. Now, of course, this doesn't mean that Einstein was wrong, but it does help put things into perspective a little. It also highlights the technological limitations that existed even as recently as the beginning of the 20th century.
It was only approximately 100 years ago that man developed the technology to fully explore the polar regions of the Earth. So no-one could have known through direct experience the true geography of Earth before this time.
Now I would ask the simple question; what would happen if they started exploring these polar extremes of the Earth, and they discovered that the cosmological model they had such unerring faith in wasn't 100% accurate?
Would they tell the world? Would they keep it quiet until they'd conducted more research? Would the scientists and leaders even believe the information they were receiving from the explorers they'd sent forth? How big a shock would it be to an individual or to the system as a whole to discover that the nature of reality was so fundamentally different to what was assumed?
What effect would such a revelation have on the world at large? Most of the population at this time, despite all the post-enlightenment progress, was still heavily religious. What effect would such a revelation have on people's behaviour? In 1950's America people were still so religious that some feared that listening to Rock & Roll would result in eternal damnation. What effect would the knowledge that our entire cosmology was wrong have on people such as that?
What effect would it have on the march of scientific progress were the world to discover that science was so wrong about such a fundamental truth? And that religions and their primitive unreasoned doctrines were much more close to the truth after all?
Would an enlightened ruling elite keep such a truth from the less educated world population for fear of it destroying and undermining all the progress humanity had made? Would it be feared that such a revelation would return the world to unthinking religious darkness?
If we look at alien and conspiracy lore one of the common themes often repeated was that the authorities couldn't release knowledge of aliens and UFOs back in the fifties because such a revelation would have caused panic. That it would have led to the breakdown of society, as people weren't mentally prepared for such a huge world-changing revelation.
I would hazard a guess though that this was something of smokescreen - like most of the "alien/UFO" media outpourings we've seen. People, even back then, were raised on a diet of sci-fi and rocket ships. Alien life, though extraordinary, was very much within the worldview of the average person, certainly people raised in the western world anyway.
I would guess that the real secret that couldn't be revealed to the general public for fear of societal breakdown was the knowledge that the very nature of reality was somehow fundamentally different to what we had thought. It's a fear I would have shared at the time had I been in a similar position.
Of course, it should be said at this point that all of the above is purely hypothetical. Just speculation on my part. Anyone who's read this far may be thinking that it's absurd to even consider that the Earth may not be a globe, and that Flat Earth or some other alternative cosmology may be closer to the mark.
Personally, I don't have any fixed opinion. Just a fascination with the topic in general. I am very confident though that what we're shown from space by NASA and their friends is largely fraudulent. It's this that leads me to feel that such speculations are completely justified and maybe even necessary.
The fact that NASA & Co have failed to return to the Moon after almost 50 years - despite the significant advance in technology - should be enough to raise alarm bells for even the most believing of people. On top of this the sheer absurdity of all the proposed attempts to go to Mars we see portrayed in the media, before even attempting to go back to the Moon no doubt, is also epically impossible to rationalise.
And so this leads me to the title of this post; The Endarkenment.
The enlightenment was a beautiful thing, and the benefits and knowledge gained as a result of it immeasurable. I can easily imagine why, in the name of progress, secrets could be kept to preserve the fruits of this collective labour (though I don't think I could ever acquiesce in such a deception). However, to successfully continue such lies, in the face of such questioning, and in an age of such technological brilliance, would require the human population to be so dumbed down and so repressed from childhood onwards that we'd be living in a dark age far darker than any previously experienced.
To fake the Moon landings was one thing and happened in a now distant era, but to attempt to fake Mars landings in our current era could only be laughable or diabolical. For such a thing to succeed people would have to be manipulated to the point of zombification.