I’m not going to stand here and present some egghead scientific argument based on fact. I’m just a regular dude. I like to watch football, quote Chevy Chase movies and crank the radio when Motley Crüe comes on. Rock, flag and eagle, if you know what I mean.
I won’t change my mind on anything, regardless of the facts that are set out before me, and I don’t have to because I’m an American; I know what I know and what I know will never change.
So when NBA superstar Kyrie Irving first came out with his belief that the earth was flat, I laughed at him with the rest of the world, because I knew that it was round; just like I laughed at Donald Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway coming out with her belief that Barack Obama was spying on Trump using a microwave, because I knew that microwaves are almost exclusively used for Totino’s Pizza Rolls and not for covert surveillance operations and high-stakes political agendas.
Then former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal decided to back him up (him as in Kyrie, and most likely not him as in Trump) and I laughed at Shaq, too, because that movie “Kazaam,” where he plays a genie, was terrible and also because of the knowing the earth was round thing.
And my laughter was justifiable. The media said so. Society said so. It was science.
But then I realized something. Maybe Kyrie, Shaq and the surprising number of people joining the “Flat Earth Society” movement since its inception in 1956 aren’t so crazy after all. Maybe they were actually on to something. Science is, after all, a liar sometimes.
In Ancient Greece, everybody knew that the earth was the center of the universe because Aristotle said so. He had the facts. The figures. The 300 B.C. version of a PowerPoint presentation, probably.
But when Galileo came along, he proved Aristotle wrong and came up with his own PowerPoint presentations and scientific theories. After that, everybody knew that comets were an optical illusion and that there was no way that the moon could cause the ocean’s tides. Galileo would end up, of course, also being wrong.
In the 1600s, Sir Isaac Newton got hit on the head with an apple and discovered the premise for a 2013 feature film starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney (“Gravity”). The movie would turn out to be a blockbuster smash, sure, but Newton also thought he could turn metal into gold and died eating mercury.
Like I said — science is a liar sometimes.
Science or no, what it boils down to is: Does anybody really know what’s going on here? Like, really truly know, beyond a certainty of a doubt? Is there even such a thing?
If you’re like me, which is going to be likely in this scenario, you just kind of showed up in this place one fluorescent-lighted day with a firm smack on the cheeks from some dude with a stethoscope, without really being too sure what the deal was.
Not long after that, people started telling you things. They seemed to have a pretty good bead on how it all worked, so you took what they told you as fact.
You believed your mother when she told you that it was illegal to turn on the overhead lights in the back seat of the car at night. And you believed your father when he told you that you wouldn’t be interested in watching “Pulp Fiction” with him because it was actually just a documentary about oranges.
The notion that lights on in the car at night are super-annoying and that kids probably shouldn’t be subjected to Quentin Tarantino movies, or the fact that the people telling you this stuff might have another agenda for doing so, never once crossed your mind.
Then you got to school, and most of your teachers taught you what to know, without necessarily teaching you how to think. Or at least how to think for yourself. Who had the time? What with all the urgent standardized placement tests to take, all the great American school-board-approved novels to cross-examine, all the PowerPoint presentations to present on history books written according to the men who wrote history.
Whether it is or isn’t, this is how it is, is what you eventually come to realize. The people who took time to think otherwise were the ones who fell behind.
I don’t know whether the earth is flat or if it’s round. I’ve seen pictures from space, but I’ve never been there to take one. I don’t know who killed Kennedy. I’ve read what the Warren Commission Report has to say, but I wasn’t there to write it. I don’t know if we’re in a Biblical-type firmament or “The Matrix” or a turtle’s dream in outer space.
But I do know that science is a liar sometimes and that sometimes history is, too. And that sometimes we laugh at people who tell us something that contradicts what we think we already know without really ever wondering why we’re so sure we know it.
So, to conclude this session of dime-store Philosophy 101, rather than continuing to ramble on about how I’m sure that I’m not sure I’m sure of anything — and what a Schrödinger’s cat that fact is in and of itself — I’ll leave you with a quote from the great philosophically-enlightening 1997 sci-fi adventure comedy featuring a young Will Smith and a less-old Tommy Lee Jones, by the name of “Men in Black.”
It’s that scene where they’re on the park bench and T.L.J. has just dropped a red-pill of a knowledge bomb on the Fresh Prince, telling him about how, like, they’re not alone in the galaxy and everything and asking him to give up his civilian identity as he knows it — including but not limited to or specifically mentioned his emerging rap career — and to come get Jiggy with him and the super secretive Area-51-privy-type operation and to help him and the rest of the M.I.B. wrangle cosmic vagrants and defend the galaxy and etc., etc.
This is what he said: “1,500 years ago, everybody knew the earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody knew the earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago, you knew that people where alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”
I guess sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. But in a world of blind certainty, who’s to say which is which?