After rocket launch postponed, flat-Earth fights over who's the dumbest
Could the flat-Earth movement be on the verge of a crash?
A self-taught rocket scientist is out to prove the Earth is flat. And not all flat-Earthers are happy about that.
Like a real-life Wile E. Coyote, "Mad" Mike Hughes has built himself a steam-powered rocket of his own. He wants to fly 2,000 feet up into the California air on Saturday. His ultimate goal is to build an even bigger rocket. A flat-Earth rival to NASA.
When the news went "all around the world," as Hughes said — a slip of the tongue, surely — many flat-Earthers were "happy that it's giving flat-Earth some exposure," Karlee Midrano said.
But now it's looking like the flat earth spaceman is looking unprepared. His original launch date was postponed because he didn't have the right permits.
Now some flat earth folks are uneasy. What if this all goes wrong?
"[Flat earth believers] are saying, 'What happens if he drills himself into the ground?'" said Mark Sargent of EnclosedWorld.com, a prominent flat-Earth evangelist. "You could try to paint flat-Earth in a bad light."
Flat-Earth is already ridiculed as the dumbest idea in the world. It's the theory that powerful people are tricking us into believing the planet is a ball so they can horde the natural resources out on the edges of the disk.
Powerful people do, in fact, lie to us all the time to make themselves rich — but not about this. And every time flat-Earth makes the news — whether from basketball star Kyrie Irving or rapper B.o.B or reality star Tila Tequila — it gets laughed off the Internet.
If Mad Mike face plants in the desert, flat Earthers worry, support for the growing theory could pancake, too.
David Weiss, a flat-Earther, says in a YouTube clip: "He will probably break his neck or more likely die. He will then win the Darwin Award for dumbest human and the MSM will run wild with it, connecting all flat-Earth researchers with its stupidity. The media fallout will be unprecedented!"
We wanted to ask the rocketman himself about these worries, but Mad Mike did not respond to an email or a Facebook message.
"He's hard to get a hold of," said Midrano, a photographer in Pennsylvania. "It's so awful because he's making rockets, but he's said he's not into computers. He's not up to date with those sorts of things."
Midrano is proud to say she's partly responsible for Mad Mike. She said her activism on YouTube and her involvement with a billboard saying "Research Flat Earth" helped convert Mike, and her enthusiasm helped get flat-Earthers to fund his rocket project, totalling $8,000. Midrano herself donated several times.
A flat-Earth space program faces questions no scientist since Copernicus has had to consider, like: what if the rocket goes too far and falls off the edge of the Earth? Are there dragons over there? Will they eat him?
Those are (mostly) jokes. But many flat-Earthers do think something very strange: the Earth has a dome over it, like a snow globe, or the one Mr. Burns put over Springfield in The Simpsons Movie.
This puts future rocketmen in danger.
"You could probably take a rocket and punch it into the dome," Sargent said.
Philip Stallings also believes the world is covered by a dome. He is the founder of the Biblical Flat Earth Society, which bases its beliefs on the first book of the Bible, Genesis, which suggests the Earth is flat and covered by a solid roof, called the firmament.
Could a spaceship slam into the firmament? Stallings thinks it's too far out; the bible is silent on the subject. NASA has an answer, but none of these guys believe in NASA.
Kevin Anderson is the head of the Creation Research Society, which teaches Creationism, the biblical teaching that the universe is 6,000 years old and evolution never happened. When people see flat Earth stunts like Mad Mike's, they wonder whether good Christians should also believe in the flat Earth, and they call him up.
"I never fielded a question about a flat Earth in my life," Anderson said. "In the last year, I've fielded about three. Everyone's asking — 'Do you believe in flat-Earth'?"
He doesn't, but it's a natural question. Creationist Christians ignore evidence just as completely as flat-Earthers — evidence from NASA, from the National Science Foundation, from every university in the world — to stick to their ideas.
Anderson said people like Mad Mike "make us look silly. It makes the Bible look silly." Anderson, too, thinks the firmament is too far away for a rocket to hit it. He is more interested in other pressing questions, like whether dinosaurs went extinct because they didn't fit on Noah's ark.
Everyone in this story thinks everyone else is stupid. Scientists think creationists are idiotic; creationists think flat-Earthers are moronic; some flat-Earthers think fellow flat-Earther Mad Mike is the dumbest of all.
Mike was quoted by the Associated Press saying, "I don't believe in science ... There's no difference between science and science fiction."
"A lot of flat-Earthers are upset" about Mad Mike, said Midrano, who was convinced by the Internet three years ago that the earth is flat. "They're going, 'I don't even want to be involved in this. I don't want to even call him a flat-Earther; he's giving us a bad name."
Mad Mike, though, built a rocket on his own. And he's strapping himself in. And he's going to fly it through the air.
So how stupid could he really be?