Flat Earth is not the Answer: A Response to Philip Stallings, Part I
Philip Stallings posted a blog article (“The Biblical Flat Earth: A Response To The Principle”) in response to the article, “Flat Earth is NOT the Answer“. I would like to respond to some of Mr. Stalling’s comments, and try and show the type of misunderstanding that is often used to try and scientifically support flat earth. I do not intend to answer every claim he posts, but starting with this article, I will try and defend the article that started this, and address some of his key points.
In Part I, I want to examine Mr. Stalling’s comments regarding the apparent trend showing that flat earth interest starting increasing around the time that THE PRINCIPLE was screened in Addison and Chicago, IL in October 2014, followed by roll-out to more cities nationwide into 2015. This article will not address the scientific evidence, but will involve reading graphs.
In “Flat Earth is NOT the Answer”, it was stated that ,
There has been an explosion of activity around flat earth around the time that The Principle was screened in the Chicago area in October 2014.
The following graph was shown (from this article):
Please note the simple facts.
- This article is dated January 6th, 2016. This Google Trends graph is accurate for that date.
- The trend line is declining until THE PRINCIPLE screens in October 2014. After October 2014, the trend line turns upwards and accelerates.
Mr. Stalling replies, and states (plus posts his own MORE RECENT Google Trends graph),
That is hardly true. According to a Google trends search the data shows search volume nearly “flat” to previous searches years before up until the October release date of the film and beyond. Here is a screenshot of the trend by volume, yearly including the month the film was released:
In fact, the “explosion” that is seen is occurring in June 2015 and peaks in January 2016 (around the time B.O.B. and Tila Tequila came out in support for the flat earth and caused it to trend on Twitter and other social media). So rather than begin the criticism of the flat earth honestly, they instead, narcissiticly, arrogantly, and falsely imply that their movie was the basis of the “explosion of activity” regarding the subject.
I have to disagree with Mr. Stalling’s conclusion. First, the older graph from around January 6th (before Tia Tequila and BoB did in fact help blow flat earth up on the charts) show a clear change in trend after THE PRINCIPLE was released.
Let’s look at a Google Trends chart produced today (March 29th, 2016), annotated by me:
Please note the trends in time:
Flat earth showed some on and off interest starting in or before 2004 and through 2008, but overall was in decline until, you guessed it, THE PRINCIPLE was released in October 2014. That is a correlation. It does not prove causation, but it sure is interesting. October 2014, the screening of THE PRINCIPLE, is a turn around point for the trend, the trend which becomes positive (Increase1), and continues to accelerate (Increase2) as the film is distributed in its limited release. Now, In January 2016 Tia Tequila and BoB started tweeting about flat earth, and they added dramatically to the accelerating trend at that point. The question is why did they tweet in January 2016? This trend that appears to start slowly, but continues to accelerate upwards is often described as an exponential increase. It takes some time for word of mouth, social media activity, etc., to get around, and the trend continues to grow at an accelerated rate. Certainly when celebrities start tweeting about something it has the potential to continue to accelerate. Still this is part of the exponential growth phenomenon. Here is a graph of an exponential function:
This type of function describes many natural processes, such as growth of bacteria in a sugar solution, or growth of virus in your body or in a population (i.e., “going viral“, or “going exponential”). It starts slowly, but is continuously accelerating until it goes vertical. The trend shown by Google Trends certainly has that character, and all the events that contribute to it are part of the natural exponential process of ever expanding interest exhibited on the internet for flat earth. While we can identify some of the events that contributed to the exponential growth, those events become agents of the exponential process of going viral (i.e., first there were flat earth ideas which were declining over years, then THE PRINCIPLE came along likely contributing to the turn around and upward acceleration- possibly as part of a PsyOp to further discredit the film, which had nothing to do with flat earth ideas), the movie was rolled out in various theaters in 2015 potentially continuing the accelerations, then Tia Tequila and BoB came around and acted as agents to continue the increasing accelerating trend. They may have increased it beyond the initial exponential rate, because their celebrity status gives them more reach then the small advertising budget and word of mouth reach of THE PRINCIPLE. Other events may have also contributed. Much like bacteria in a sugar solution, at some point the food runs out and the trend collapses. This occurred with flat earth when everyone said, whoa, enough here, including retorts of Neil deGrasse Tyson and our article among others.
So, I have to disagree with Mr. Stallings as to what may have caused the trend change and upwards acceleration in flat earth interest. The trend certainly has an exponential character to it, even before Tia Tequila and BoB weighed in, but their actions certainly helped to continue the ever accelerating (viral, exponential) trend. This is how things go “viral” (aka go “exponential”). It starts slow but positive and continues to accelerate until it appears to go vertical. I cannot prove scientifically that THE PRINCIPLE was the catalyst for the change in trend, but I think his dismissal of the evidence is lacking in merit.
In my next article, I will look at some of the scientific issues Mr. Stallings raised.