otseng wrote: ↑Sun Jul 24, 2022 7:02 pm Another reason we should doubt the skeptics’ argument that the Biblical authors were claiming the universe is actually a snow dome is the skeptics have made similar claims that the church, in particular during the Middle ages, believed the earth was flat, which in reality is a straw man argument. When digging deeper into the claim, it turns out it was all a myth.
Getting back to this. It’s popularly believed that people in the past, in particular the church, had believed the world was flat and Columbus proved that the earth was round.
There is a piece of ‘common knowledge’ about the Middle Ages we have heard repeated over and over again: that medieval people thought the earth was flat. In addition, there’s a second claim we’ve heard a few times: that Columbus faced opposition to his attempt to find a western route to Asia because people thought the earth was flat and he’d fall off.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus was shocked when his ship made landfall in a land Europeans had never explored. Along the way, he proved that Earth isn’t flat after all. Right?
Wrong: Despite a persistent legend, neither Columbus nor his Spanish patrons thought Earth was a finite plane instead of a round planet. And you can blame one of the United States’ greatest authors for creating a myth that still surrounds one of history’s best-known figures.
For generations now American school children have learned that Christopher Columbus proved the earth was round. They have learned that the Church tried to prevent Columbus from sailing west to Asia, fearing that he and his seamen would sail off the edge of the earth or plunge into a chasm. They know that Columbus persevered and eventually overcame religious opposition. And they know that Columbus was right. At its core, the Columbus story pits humble rationality against dogmatic obscurantism in a sort of secular inversion of the David and Goliath story. Judging from the students in my intro classes, the Columbus story is thriving in American schools.
The only problem, as any historian or historian of science will tell you: it’s a myth.
As I pointed out before, there is no evidence to support these claims and it’s all just a myth.
According to historian Jeffrey Burton Russell, “no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat.”
The myth of the flat Earth, or the flat earth error, is a modern historical misconception that European scholars and educated people during the Middle Ages believed the Earth to be flat.
The earliest clear documentation of the idea of a spherical Earth comes from the ancient Greeks (5th century BC). The belief was widespread in the Greek world when Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of Earth around 240 BC.
According to Stephen Jay Gould, “there never was a period of ‘flat Earth darkness’ among scholars, regardless of how the public at large may have conceptualized our planet both then and now. Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the Earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology.” Historians of science David Lindberg and Ronald Numbers point out that “there was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge [Earth’s] sphericity and even know its approximate circumference”.
In 1828 Washington Irving published A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, in which the story’s hero audaciously proves to medieval Europeans the world is not flat. American school children ever since have learned the story of how Columbus “proved” Earth is round. Unfortunately for critical thinkers everywhere, Irving, famous for stories like “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” exercised a great deal of artistic license. He was more interested in telling an electrifying story than an accurate history.
The truth is, Columbus’s peers generally believed Earth was round. In fact, the awareness of a round Earth dates back at least to Pythagoras during the 6th century BC. It is unfair to generations of students to mislead them with an unnecessary story that is debunked with some basic fact checking and historical thinking.
The debate about the shape of the Earth has been settled for over two thousand years. An ancient scholar named Eratosthenes—the head of the famous library of Alexandria in Egypt—even correctly approximated the circumference of the Earth using experimental measurements of shadows in two cities and some geometry.6
Despite modern legends about Medieval backwardness, there never was a time when educated people went back to thinking the Earth was flat.
The myth was propagated by anti-religionists as a tool to mock Christians and mischaracterize church history.
The fault lies with 19th century writers such as Washington Irving, Jean Letronne and others. Letronne was “an academic of strong anti-religious prejudices… who cleverly drew upon both to misrepresent the church fathers and their medieval successors as believing in a flat earth, in his On the Cosmographical Ideas of the Church Fathers,” published in 1834, Russell writes.