Is YouTube Responsible For Creating Flat-Earth Believers?

ZapperZ

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Please say it ain't so!

A researcher from Texas Tech University presented her findings at the recent AAAS Meeting, and found that most people started to believe in the Flat Earth idea after viewing YouTube videos!

Interviews with 30 attendees revealed a pattern in the stories people told about how they came to be convinced that the Earth was not a large round rock spinning through space but a large flat disc doing much the same thing.

Of the 30, all but one said they had not considered the Earth to be flat two years ago but changed their minds after watching videos promoting conspiracy theories on YouTube. “The only person who didn’t say this was there with his daughter and his son-in-law and they had seen it on YouTube and told him about it,” said Asheley Landrum, who led the research at Texas Tech University.
It is symptomatic of many things in this day and age. People use things they find on the 'net as their primary source of information (I'm looking at you, Wikipedia) without ever considering the validity, authenticity, or quality of the information that they are getting. I'm not saying one can't use or read these things. But one should not make one's mind with such certainty from these types of sources.

But I suppose that if you can fall that easily into believing that the earth is flat simply by watching these YouTube videos, than you'll believe in anything.

Zz.
 

ZapperZ

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Wikipedia is a reliable encyclopedia ...
Now that's funny, after I've documented errors in a number of entries.

Zz.
 

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People need to be trained to do a better qualitative meta-analysis. I doubt that any of the physics jocks here could stand up to a good crank outside their field - say an Andrew Wakefield or Michael Behe. Similarly, the average person can’t cope with crank physics but they should be able to reason how highly improbable it would be for all of science to be wrong and some YouTuber to have the answer
 

BWV

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Now that's funny, after I've documented errors in a number of entries.

Zz.
Studies have been done showing a lower error % than published encyclopedias
 

Wrichik Basu

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Every resource has its negative aspects. It all depends on how you use it. You can use WhatsApp for chatting away to glory, and also for interacting with learned people and thereby boost your knowledge.

Something similar exists for YouTube as well. Youtube doesn't check for quality and authenticity of videos. If you are not aware, there is every chance that you will land up in the wrong place. Maybe that's why the PF media gallery was created with a view to separate out the authentic scientific videos.
 

ZapperZ

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Studies have been done showing a lower error % than published encyclopedias
I don't recommend encyclopedias either.

Zz.
 

DrClaude

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There used to be gatekeepers, people who would filter information and cut out the BS. There are of course some pro and cons to this, but overall it seemed to work ok in western democracies.

Now, everyone can put out content, making it easier for fringe ideas to be disseminated. Add to that the demagoguery against the "elites" with the knowledge (who, ironically, are rarely the real, powerful elites), and you basically get the world we are in right now.
 

Wrichik Basu

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Now that's funny, after I've documented errors in a number of entries.
Moreover, after Wikipedia made provisions for allowing the public to edit without logging in, spam has become a problem.
 

DrClaude

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This is getting off-topic very fast. This thread is not about the validity of Wikipedia.
 

ZapperZ

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Now, everyone can put out content, making it easier for fringe ideas to be disseminated. Add to that the demagoguery against the "elites" with the knowledge (who, ironically, are rarely the real, powerful elites), and you basically get the world we are in right now.
Yeah, and that's why I was laughing when I read the last part of the news article when it reported this:

But she conceded that some Flat Earthers may not be swayed by a scientists’ words. When the US astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explained how small sections of large curved surfaces will always appear flat to the little creatures that crawl upon it, his message was seen by some Flat Earthers as patronising and dismissive, Landrum said.
Yet, the Flat Earthers didn't think it was insulting and "patronising" when they make wholesale dismissal of scientists as conspirators. People like this will always try to paint themselves as the "victims", that things are being done to them, and are completely blind to what they do to other people.

Zz.
 
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Please say it ain't so!
Well, it ain't so. The reason is more about the existence of cheap, non-filtered, easily available channels to express personal opinions. Youtube is just (a loud, flashy) part of this.

Also, I have a feeling that it is somewhere in our 'genes' to diverge from the safe, well known paths in case there are enough of us together and it does not cost too much - and to be honest being a flat earth believer right now even can bring benefits instead of harm.
With adding in Photoshop and other 'reality manipulating tools' what I see is the development of a fragmented pile of broken 'realities' barely intersecting with each other. Without some kind of applied Darwinism enforced on the personal ideas I don't really see any way around this.
 
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The Flat Earth Society was founded in 1956. I don't think YouTube was around back then (and of course a belief in flat earth predates that society). It IS likely true that MORE people now believe in flat earth because of social media but social media is not the cause, stupidity is.
 

BillTre

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I don't recommend encyclopedias either.

Zz.
Well, what do you recommend for those who are not so scientifically inclined as a source of information on various topics like this?

You don't like encyclopedias, you don't like wikipedia, most people are not going to read research literature since they don't have the background to understand the concepts and jargon. What does that leave, popularized science articles whose availability is spotty and quality is often suspect.

Rather than just pointlessly complain, it would be more useful to provide an pathway to some solutions.
Maybe make comments (or insert links to relevant PF threads) on all the youtube videos and wikipedia articles you don't like.

I know a contractor who says there are three aspects of a job, of which you can only get two optimized: price, speed of getting it done, and quality. You can oten get two of them for a project but often not all three (perhaps unless you are related to the contractor).
Similarly for people with a causal interest in science, they often want to easily access information (therefore search the web, not take university courses or read textbooks (some of which have errors also)), they often don't want to pay for the information or invest lots of time to get an "answer", and they would like it to be correct (presumably).
Determining the correctness would probably be difficult for the nonscientific and most likely let slide if it seemed to "make sense".
 
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I think a large part of this is the distrust of authority. The counterculture of the 1960s and the widespread belief that the Viet Nam war was a horrible waste of lives strengthened the idea that those in authority are liars, or at least that what they say is tainted by their self interest. Pretty soon, this leads to "you have to be a fool to believe..."
 

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As much as I've seen in YouTube, the comment section mostly mocks the flat Earth idea. So, I'd say YouTube can be used to promote flat Earth belief, I don't think that's where it started, though. It is also 'popular' to be against widely accepted beliefs, to insist the governments are evil and new world order and yade yade yade ..
 

Klystron

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Although written and presented as a modern novel with lovely brilliant ladies, courageous dedicated friends, and often hilarious insights into publishing, Italian semiologist Umberto Eco has written the definitive skeptical text on popular anti-science theories. Flat earth, hollow earth, Illuminati, and the persistent knights Templar among others, are examined and explained in detail with primary and secondary historical references. Though mainly focused on Europe with an interlude in Brazil, reading Foucault's Pendulum gives one a better understanding how 'moronic beliefs' multiply and spread.

While this thread is specific to Flat Earth theories shown on Youtube, Eco explains the origins and participants in these persistent phenomena.
 

Dr. Courtney

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I think the failure of public education in the sciences bears more of the blame. Stupid YouTube videos can only create flat earth believers if the watchers have not learned to think critically and draw conclusions from weighing the available data for themselves.

Science education has drifted over the past decades from a method-centered approach to a fact-centered approach, and thus it is more strongly an appeal to authority regarding what (set of facts) to believe and a less of an objective approach imparting of an objective method to draw conclusions based on observations and data.

It is always easier for later voices to undermine purported facts based on appeals to authority than it is to undermine the ability to think independently and draw valid conclusions from the available data.
 

DrClaude

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Science education has drifted over the past decades from a method-centered approach to a fact-centered approach,
Is that really the case? Fifty years ago, teaching was definitely not hands-on, but rather rote learning.
 

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