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Apr 13, 2024  |  
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Christopher Tremoglie, Commentary Writer


NextImg:Why do people still believe the Earth is flat?


Several years ago, NBA star Kyrie Irving made headlines when he claimed that Earth was flat.

He made the comments during a podcast in 2018, and his incorrect assertion spread like wildfire. Irving’s controversial comments were part of the news cycle when other players came out of the woodwork to state they agreed with him. But then the story seemed to go away and fade into obscurity.

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However, it seems that while Irving’s comments disappeared, the opinion that the planet is flat is still prevalent among professional athletes — and apparently among other wealthy and educated people around the world.

Bleacher Report published in an article that Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Jason Kelce said there are a surprising number of players in the NFL who believe the Earth is flat. The topic was discussed on a recent episode of the New Heights, a podcast Kelce does with his brother Travis Kelce, a tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Eagles offensive lineman mentioned the conspiracy that apparently a surprising number of NFL players inexplicably believe.

“I was on the practice field last year, and one of our coaches was walking by, and I was like 'Man, how many people do you think on this field believe the Earth is flat?” And he was like 'I don't think there's nobody out here that believes that.’ I was like ‘You'd be surprised, if you start polling, you'd be surprised,’” Kelce said. “And before I even finished that, somebody right next to me said, 'I mean, how you know it isn't?’”

But why does this keep happening?

I would assume that some people crave the attention that comes with saying outlandish things. There appears to be some science to explain why so-called "Flat-Earthers” reject science. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect, named after the scientists who published a study on it in 1999. It’s a phenomenon of “a cognitive bias in which people with limited competence in a particular domain overestimate their abilities.”

“These Flat Earthers have a high degree of overconfidence in their knowledge of science, which is pretty curious, because in our new study, we found they have the lowest actual knowledge of science in our sample,” said José Arroyo-Barrigüete, an economist at Comillas Pontifical University in Spain and professor of quantitative methods. “It is a very bizarre circumstance where the less you know about a certain subject, the more overconfident you are in your abilities in that subject.”

Arroyo-Barrigüete conducted his study about people believing the Earth was flat because he was “concerned that these kinds of beliefs are much more widespread than people thought.” He surveyed more than 1,200 people, many of whom were highly educated and wealthy. Many of the respondents were “in the top bracket in terms of salary.” He theorized why people have such bizarre and eccentric beliefs.

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“We found that 17 percent said they were not sure the Earth was round. This is very worrying to us. In theory, you give people education and things like this can disappear,” Arroyo-Barrigüete said. “People who have very high means have easy access to education."

He continued, "They should not fall for this. They are also not disenfranchised. You may think, well, there’s a lot of conspiracy theories going around for people who feel disenfranchised. This is not the case for this sample. There’s still a percentage who do not know as much about science as they think they do. They still feel they are above the rest.”