Like much of the world, we at Answers in Genesis have been hunkered down for weeks in response to concern over the spread of COVID-19. Not only are the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter closed but the Answers in Genesis offices are empty, with many of us, including me, mostly working from home. This transition hasn’t been easy for me. I have difficulty working at home, because I find it so easy to get distracted here. It seems that at the office I’m more focused on my work, so I relish the occasional days that I need to go into the office.
If you look at the title of this blog, you may wonder what COVID-19 has to do with the flat-earth movement. I’ve been studying and reporting on the flat-earth movement for more than four years. One of the things that I’ve discovered is that flat-earthers are very much into conspiracies. COVID-19 has dominated headlines for weeks, and by far it currently is the most searched topic on the internet. If you search long enough, you will find websites promoting conspiracy theories about COVID-19. Since flat-earthers are heavily invested in conspiracies, the arguments some of these sites put forth should appeal to flat-earthers. Consequently, I’ve been curious as to what flat-earthers think about COVID-19, so I’ve been monitoring flat-earth websites and YouTube channels for weeks.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by the diversity of responses to COVID-19 among flat-earthers, but I was.
One of the things that I’ve learned from my study about people who think the earth is flat is that they are united by only two things, that the earth is flat and that there must be a conspiracy promoting the earth is a globe. Beyond that, there is much diversity among flat-earthers. There are theological differences, from what appear to be conservative Christians to New Agers. There are differences involving details of what the flat-earth model ought to be. Then there are differences in personality and style. Some of the differences in opinion can get quite heated, with some people in the flat-earth movement condemning others as sell outs, shills, or controlled opposition. This infighting can get vicious. Therefore, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by the diversity of responses to COVID-19 among flat-earthers, but I was.
Some flat-earthers readily accepted the two most common conspiracy theories about COVID-19 making the rounds. One of those two theories is that the entire thing is a hoax, with no one really getting sick from a new illness. The other common conspiracy theory is that people are getting sick, but the illness is not caused by a coronavirus but by 5G networks, which recently began rollout around the world. Some flat-earthers have managed to combine these two conspiracy theories into one, with the conspiracy being the coverup and blame shifting so that the masses don’t demand the dismantling of 5G networks. Why are the 5G networks so important to THE conspiracy? Why, 5G must be essential to further expand government control. This is ironic because, since the flat-earth movement has been a phenomenon almost entirely driven by the internet, the expansion of 5G will facilitate the promulgation of flat-earth nonsense.
A more serious aspect of this embrace of COVID-19 conspiracy theories is that some flat-earthers deny the germ theory of disease.
A more serious aspect of this embrace of COVID-19 conspiracy theories is that some flat-earthers deny the germ theory of disease. They argue that viruses don’t cause disease at all. They also claim that viruses are not living, which, by the way, some biologists agree with. However, these flat-earthers (and other conspiracy theorists) argue something very different from what the biologists who think viruses aren’t living believe. These flat-earthers claim that viruses are molecules that our cells produce and shed in battling infections and repairing damage. In this scenario, the COVID-19 virus supposedly is produced by human cells as they overcome damage due to 5G. This puts a positive spin on COVID-19, and the coincidence of exposure to the virus and illness is quite different from what is generally thought. I’ve seen one flat-earther on a video proclaiming this truth to people, telling them that he’s researched it. Of course, this implies that the flat-earther knows what he is talking about, because who can argue with someone who has researched a subject? But what does that “research” involve? If you think it involves a lab, test tubes, and the sort, you’d be wrong. His research amounts to watching YouTube videos of people who know even less than he does (yeah, I know that’s hard to believe). In short, all those brilliant scientists, such as Louis Pasteur, who pioneered the germ theory of disease were clueless. Why is this dangerous? Because it fosters an attitude of not taking COVID-19 seriously, which in turn can lead impressionable people to do things that could needlessly expose themselves and others to COVID-19. Unlike the notion the earth is flat, this thinking can kill people.
Where is the diversity among flat-earthers? I am surprised at the number of prominent flat-earthers who have not mentioned or hardly mention COVID-19. They usually have endorsed conspiracy theories about all sorts of things, but especially huge stories, such as 9/11. COVID-19 is the largest story since 9/11, and certainly is the biggest event since the rise of the 21st century flat-earth movement about five years ago, so their silence is obvious. One notable exception is Robbie Davidson, who organized and ran the Flat Earth International Conferences that I attended in conducting my research about the flat-earth movement. Robbie’s Celebrate Truth channel on YouTube recently has featured programs that appear to agree that COVID-19 is a real threat and don’t mention conspiracies. His approach is that COVID-19 might be the beginning of end-times apocalyptic events. He has been very clear that COVID-19 could be part of God’s judgement on the world. That wouldn’t make sense if COVID-19 were a hoax or a satanic conspiracy. Obviously, Robbie’s approach to COVID-19 is very different from the reaction of many other flat-earthers. And it is more responsible.
So, the response of flat-earthers to COVID-19 runs the gamut from hoax, to large conspiracy, to acceptance that it is a real threat and God’s judgement on the world, to what amounts to indifference. As I said earlier, this surprises me. But then, as I’ve noted before, there is far more diversity among flat-earthers than first meets the eye. Perhaps I ought not to be so surprised after all.