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The flat Earth theory was believed by many cultures around the world including Ancient Egyptian and Babylonian cultures as well as China up to the last few hundred years. The flat Earth theory states that the world is a flat disk rather than a sphere. As early as the fourth century B.C. however, philosophers and scientists realized that the Earth was actually a sphere. Aristotle was one Greek philosopher who advocated that Earth was a sphere. This debate has raged on in many cultures throughout the centuries. Now, some believe that most educated people since around the fourth century B.C. and on realized that the Earth was a sphere, and that the belief that the flat earth theory was widespread is just a myth that took root in the 19th century. It is now thought by many, including the Historical Association based in England, that Columbus did not believe the Earth was flat and that this story was merely a myth spread by Washington Irving in his book about Columbus.
Many people who believe in the flat Earth theory turn to the Bible in order to back up their theory. They quote various passages in order to back up their theories and interpret certain passages literally. Not all of them rely on the Bible though or simply on the Bible. Samuel Shenton who formed the Flat Earth Society, one of the most modern flat earth groups, believed that his beliefs could be proven using common sense and science. The Flat Earth Society was one of the most modern flat Earth organizations in the past century, but that too faded when its last president died in 2001. The name is still being used, although the new organization or organizations are not necessarily linked to the old society.
Those who adhere to the flat Earth theory have certain answers to criticisms of their theory. Charles Johnson, who was a president of the Flat Earth Society, said that the Moon landing was also a hoax and that it was scripted and filmed on a set in Hollywood. Gravity is seen as a mystical force – that does not exist – to many who believe in the flat Earth theory. Charles Johnson accepted Aristotle’s idea that things naturally fall downwards. Adherents to the flat Earth theory have often been criticized and parodied. Some of the web sites that use the name are simply satires.
Astronomy Cast has an episode on Earth.