Why do some people think the Earth is flat?
Now, that is a good question. Even though many ancient civilizations had various differing flat Earth cosmologies, the idea of a spherical Earth had been largely accepted from the 6th Century onward.
Even though there have always been some believers in a flat Earth, the idea had a resurgence in popularity due to the activities of Dr. Samuel Rowbotham (1816–1885). Rowbotham produced several pamphlets and books, with the aid of William Carpenter, between 1849 and 1881. The most famous is “Zetetic Astronomy – EARTH NOT A GLOBE!“. In 1883 Rowbotham founded the Zetetic Society to promote his Zetetic Philosophy.
Zetetic Philosophy indicates one should put hypothesis and conjecture aside in order to let the results of tests, trials, and experiments speak the facts of the matter. That is, that which can be observed and measured is considered more true than something which is hypothetical. It places a higher trust in the senses than in reasoning.
William Carpenter himself also published several books from 1864 to 1885 in an attempt to provide further proof for a flat Earth. After moving to America he published the book “A hundred proofs the Earth is not a Globe“.
After Rowbotham’s death, Lady Elizabeth Blount, another of his proponents, set up the Universal Zetetic Society in 1893. The objective of the Society was “the propagation of knowledge related to Natural Cosmogony in confirmation of the Holy Scriptures, based on practical scientific investigation.” She also published a journal titled “Earth not a Globe Review”.
In 1956, Samuel Shenton set up the International Flat Earth Research Society (IFERS), better known as the Flat Earth Society, as a direct descendant of the Universal Zetetic Society. The emphasis on religious arguments was less than in the predecessor society. He dismissed satellite images as proof of Earth as a sphere, remarking, “It’s easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye” and attributed curvature to the use of a wide-angle lens.
In 1972 Shenton’s role was taken over by Charles K. Johnson. It was Johnson who introduced the idea of a global conspiracy against the flat Earth model. Johnson cited the Bible for his beliefs, and he saw scientists as pulling a hoax in order to replace religion with science.
In 2004 the Flat Earth Society was revived as a website by Daniel Shenton. This led to the official relaunch of the society in October 2009. In 2013, part of this society broke away to form a new web-based group also featuring a forum and wiki.