Naifa Rizani

Nov 26, 2020

5 min read

Behind the Curve: Breaking the Science

“We accept the reality of the world with which we are represented. It is as simple as that” — Ed Harris, Truman Show (1998)

When Isaac Newton comes up with the revelation of gravity, it does not start with robust scientific thinking or a complex mathematics finding. Instead, laws of gravitation were discovered when an apple fell down to his body while he was asleep under the tree and beg him a question of “why this apple falls down from a tree?” (not exactly what he said, but according to the graphic story of him that I read when I was little). Through this phenomenon, people began accustomed to the idea of gravity. It is not because they understand Newton’s mathematical finding, but simply because they do see an apple dropping from a tree.

Every revolutionary discovery that surrounds us in this modern era, in the past, came upon all the worldly experiences of overcurious people. These people may have gained a certain level of expertise that enables them to come up with phenomenal scientific innovation. Even so, what they have created (or invented) is widely accepted because it becomes significant to people’s everyday lives. Then it is fair to say that, science is acknowledged not essentially by the quantification of math or the sophisticated scholarly notion. Rather, it is accepted because we all see similar experience in our daily life.

As science takes us into this modern life, they too have transformed into something beyond our everyday experiences. An apple dropping from a tree turns to a realization that we live in a giant ball that has no ends. This concept of the spherical earth has been around since the Hellenic period of the Pythagorean school and has since evolved. Nevertheless, Pythagoras does not show us a direct picture of the spherical world as it is known only by those who have the fundamental knowledge of math. Instead, the acceptance of ‘the world is round’ is pointing to the first image of space in 1946, when Apollo 8 visited the moon for the first time and gave the people of the world the first image of the place that they live in.

The knowledge that is not seen here, sparks a contested debate by those who cannot see the curve of spherical land suggested by the scientist. These people are Behind the Curve and described as Flat-Earthers. As stated by the name, they believe that the earth is flat. They projected that earth is just a large planetarium planar where the sun and moon are not circling around but rather, spinning above us.

The Netflix documentary Behind the Curve shows us that flat-earthers are battling against science, which they referred to as astrophysicists and basically all the people in NASA. Science, according to them, is a big conspiracy by the government (or, powerful people) that instruct us to the truth that they constructed. This, naturally, ridiculed by the subject as they refute back on how flat-earthers do not perform their research scientifically. As in, they neither follow the acclaimed methodological approach nor process that researchers do in proving a scientific assumption.

Though, flat-earths do conduct their experiments scientifically. This may be the other side that has always been left out of the depiction of them but the documentary offers us a glimpse of how science is also part of them. Within their existing knowledge of what they can see, they bustling around to find relevant and supporting findings. While the claim seems utterly ridiculous, it is apparent that we do not experience the curve of the land that we step on in our daily life. Solely by our bare vision, the earth is as flat as a wood board, and these people are endlessly trying to prove that. They conduct a series of publication, discussions, even experiments to prove that the image of the earth does not necessarily prove that it is round.

The struggle of the flat-earths, depicted in the documentary, led me to doubt the understanding of science as terms. Science in Newton’s age began with something that we would all encounter in our own bodies. Today, it has become something beyond our comprehension. It is understandable how flat-earths have come to terms with their beliefs that the spherical world is not what we see nakedly by our own eyes. The only thing they have struggled to do is to crack the current prevailing understanding of what science encompasses.

In retrospect, people in science seemingly grappled to diminish the flat-earthers. Besides all the mockery, they refuse to deal with them in a scholarly manner. They cannot provide a satisfying answer to those who cannot comprehend the knowledge that is not seen and resolved to denial. The science that supposed to make sense of all, only, and solely, be understood by them. It is then, sure, that the superiority of knowledge is held by them and all of us (who is not in science) is only able to grasp the information fed by them.

For me, Beyond the Curve is not just a snapshot of a flat Earth society, but a glimpse of science has come to be. The presence of them in a way shows that today science is struggling to shape the truth. It is no longer a revolutionary eureka moment, but rather a repetitive and continuous process of maintaining the current and proven reality that has come about. It still is, of course, a continuous struggle for flat earthers to prove their reality. But it will only be a matter of time in their growing community that they are able to find compelling findings that the world is flat. Well, unless the people in NASA are sufficient to persuade them otherwise.