They call it the Algorithm. By "they" I mean those who watch YouTube and by "the Algorithm" I mean the computerized way YouTube decides what videos it suggests that you watch. And I have to say the Algorithm does a fairly good job of picking out stuff for me to watch.
I like to watch videos about science, math, and computers. This is pretty much what it brings me; those along with some videos on film criticism. (Please don’t judge.) But occasionally, the Algorithm will take a notion that I need to watch videos about the Flat Earth. These aren’t videos from people trying to convince me the world is flat: These are videos about people who spend their time criticizing the Flat Earthers.
It is my own fault because I have sat through quite a few of these and the Algorithm remembers that. I am quite frankly curious about why the Flat Earthers think the way they do. I’ve tried listening to the Flat Earthers themselves, but they are really long-winded. They truly love the sounds of their own voices, and it takes them forever to get to the point. Those who choose to critique the Flat Earthers condense it down to the point the Flat Earthers are trying to get at.
It makes an interesting study on the limitations of the use of argument in making a point, because...here’s the thing: We’ve been to space; we’ve looked at the Earth; we’ve taken pictures of it.
It is a ball.
If you are going to ignore the pictures from space; if you are going to ignore the fact that all of the other planets are balls; if you are going to ignore that the moon is a ball; the sun is a ball; then you are not going to pay attention to my arguments at all. And I am not going to argue with you. As Tracy Chapman says, "...I'm too old to go chasing you around / Wasting my precious energy."
I find it peculiar that there are those who do choose to spend their precious energy on the argument. One could think they were just trying to provide some educational service, to save some brands from the burning — because some of the Flat-Earthers are pretty sharp. But the critics often seem to take quite a bit of pleasure in showing the Flat-Earthers to be stupid.
I guess I have to admit to the fact that I recognize this because I’ve done it myself. I’ve attempted to show myself superior to someone else by showing that someone else to be stupid. I suppose I could also reflect now whether I am trying to show myself superior to those who critique the Flat Earthers by writing this.
I will have to think about that.
Thirty years ago when I arrived in town there were debates on The Theory of Evolution. Maybe there still are but they are going on out of ear-shot. In any case, at that time I met a man, a physicist. He was more actually: He was a musician, a historian of science, a Renaissance Man. Those who know me will know who I am talking about.
He was burdened by the fact that, after more than a century, the Battle for Evolution had yet to be won.
He’s gone now and has been for many years, but that thought he planted in my mind remains.
His error was in thinking the Battle would ever be won.
It’s more than the Battle for Evolution or the Battle of the Round Earth. It is the Battle for Handwashing; it is the Battle for Not Throwing Trash on the Street; it is the Battle for Being Faithful; it is the Battle for Being Kind.
These all have to be fought with every generation. We have to teach our children; we have to teach our students; we have to teach those who watch our behavior rather than listen to our words.
Our Algorithm as humans is to find the True and the Good and take it forward to the next generation.
Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to "like" the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.