# Nathan Oakley's Flat Earth "Debates".

Discussion in 'Flat Earth' started by IanT, Jun 4, 2018.

1. ### Z.W. WolfSenior Member

The best I can figure is that they are following Samuel Rowbotham's argument for re-writing the standard model of perspective. This argument:

- Confounds resolution with perspective.

- Confuses convergence along the line of sight with an upward slanting line in a side view of the same terrain.

- Then confuses this abstract line with the actual level surface of land or sea.

- In general confuses abstraction with reality.

This section is about resolution, not perspective:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/earth/za/za33.htm
This is obviously an example of resolution, and has nothing to do with convergence. Figure 74 is an attempt to suggest that resolution is somehow different when an object meets another straight edged object; as if we would still resolve the white painted segment separately from the rest of the disk if it were not in contact with the straight edged base.

Would it? Why? The opposite would be true in most cases. The white segment would be more easily seen, because it would stand out in contrast to the dark board. This would imply that a white ship would appear less hull-down than a dark colored ship at an equal distance. Even when looking at the two ships through a telescope, we would see the ocean surface hiding less of the white ship than the dark ship. That would be a very strange sight.

But the shape has not changed? So how does this relate to distant objects changing shape? (I.e the bottom disappearing first.)

This is a mixture of an untrue assertion with a non-sequitur. He's priming the reader to think that there's something special about how well we can resolve the bottom of a distant object, because the bottom is "in contact" with the surface of the sea or land. Not only does this make no sense, the rest of Rowbotham's argument does not follow from this at all. It's just used as conceptual priming.

Wiki:
This is just a salesman's trick: Get your sucker client thinking along a certain line, then present your main spiel, and hope the client himself intuitively links the two together without actually thinking about it.

This next section is the actual start of Rowbotham's perspective argument. The not so subtle sophistry is that he's confusing convergence along the line of sight with a side view of the same terrain. The critical error involves line segment CH and the separation from line segment CD. It's as if the optical effect of convergence, the apparent slope of the land or sea along our line of sight, somehow becomes a real thing, separate from the actual land or sea surface; and something that would be relevant to a side view.

Convergence along our line of sight:

Yes, the ground or sea along our line of sight appears to rise. But this is an optical effect. Not a real thing that would somehow still remain a real thing from a side view.

In these next illustrations Rowbotham shows us a side view of a level land surface which includes the upward slanting line segment CH as if we would see the level land or sea rise on that same apparent slant we see in the line of sight view. It's as if that slant has some independent reality.

Segment CH somehow becomes the actual surface of level ground and segment CD becomes a line falling farther and farther below the surface. So is this a grade or is this level ground? It's supposed to be level ground! But somehow the optical effect and the reality have become merged. One can see that he's also sloppily mixing in the issue of loss of resolution at the intersection of the object and a perpendicular surface, without actually connecting the two arguments:
And we eventually get to ships disappearing bottom first on the FE due to the "real" laws of perspective.

This is another example of FE Believers confusing an abstraction with a reality. They seem to have a feeling that the optical effect of convergence along our line of sight is a real thing that affects a physical change in objects and affects the base reality of the terrain. But it's not even an optical effect that would be seen from other viewpoints.

Last edited: Jun 10, 2018
2. ### Z.W. WolfSenior Member

This is what I suspect they are thinking...

If you made a 3-D model of this view, including the lines, and if you turned it 90 degrees, you would see lines slanting upward or downward, and inward, with smaller and smaller boxes surrounding the lines.

They feel that these lines and boxes, which are abstractions to us, are real things and have some sort of real effect on the physical properties of distant objects. Physical objects would have to be small to fit into those small boxes, now wouldn't they?

If there is a change in the physical qualities of distant objects, they can be hidden partially or wholly by the horizon on a FE. Indeed, there is also a physical change in the whole land or seascape, including the horizon.

Further, I suspect that they believe this: Distant objects really are smaller... but only in their personal reality. Every person's perceptions have a reality that is seperate. If Anthony Riley is looking at a distant building, the building not only looks small, it is small... but only in Anthony Riley's personal reality. If Nathan Oakley is standing at the base of the same building, it looks large to him, and it is large. In his personal reality. There's no contradiction or paradox in this.

This feeling about the relationship between personal reality and physical reality is not at all uncommon.

In their minds we "ballers" are too literal minded and believe that there is a fixed reality independent of the person. This leads us to naively believe that objects have a fixed size. Our math misrepresents reality.
What about the fixed reality of the FE, then? Well nobody said they have to be consistent. The FE is more an idée fixe than a physical reality.

Last edited: Jun 9, 2018
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3. ### RorySenior Member

Have they presented any formulae for this belief?

For example: let's say Anthony Riley is at the top of a 1000-feet tall building on the flat earth. 10 miles away there is a 500 feet tall building, and 20 miles away there are two buildings, one 250 feet tall and one 1000 feet tall.

What angle will he be looking down to both the tops and the bottoms of the three distant buildings? How about their middle floors?

We can work it out quite easily, and have confidence that the answers will match reality. But what will his answers be? And will they match the real world measurements he could easily take?

4. ### edbyMember

Perhaps a picky point, but the ground or sea doesn’t really appear to rise, when we are actually looking at it, and not at a picture of it. Perceptual psychology posits something called ‘constancy’, whereby the brain as it were corrects information arriving from the sense organs, so that we don’t think the parallel railway tracks whose retinal images converge, are really converging.

In the case of your picture above, we have lines which are actually converging on paper or on the screen, and which project an actually converging image onto the retinal image. This causes an illusion, but not the illusion of actually parallel lines appearing converging. It’s the other way round. The actually converging lines on the paper appear to be parallel. Or rather, we can see in a sense they are parallel, but at the same time we see they are converging.

So the Flatearth perspectivists have got confused by pictures of reality, rather than reality. Rowbotham’s arguments about reality would not work without his pictures of reality.

5. ### RorySenior Member

Here's a video that's fairly typical of the flat earth reaction to Oakley and Mick's 'debate' (from 0.50 to 2.00):

Basically they're claiming the whole thing as a big victory.

Last edited: Jun 10, 2018
6. ### DavidB66Member

Very useful analysis of Rowbotham in Z. W. Wolf's comments above. I agree Rowbotham is probably the source, direct or indirect, of flat-earthers' confusions about perspective. It may be worth mentioning that the passages quoted are from the 3rd and final edition of Rowbotham's book. In the first edition there is a much briefer discussion of perspective, which is even more baffling. Rowbotham should at least be given credit for attempting to clarify his position, with the result that it is easier to identify its fallacies. Also worth noting that Rowbotham was aware that his doctrine of perspective is in conflict with 'orthodox' teachings on the subject. When modern flat-earthers repeat Rowbotham-type arguments I suspect they are not aware of this, and think they are stating an uncontroversial 'law' of perspective and not a cranky alternative view.

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7. ### deirdreModeratorStaff Member

So basically they don't understand the point of the curve calculator either. That's good information to know, I never would have guessed that.

8. ### Z.W. WolfSenior Member

Going back to Carpenter's ideas about the Bedford Level experiment...

Carpenter seems to have been imagining the top segment of the red line in this illustration. With one of the horizontal lines as the horizontal reticul in the theodolite.

Once some people get a notion into their head, it's almost impossible to move them away from it. We're often speaking a different mental language.

Last edited: Jun 10, 2018
9. ### RorySenior Member

I've been thinking the first port of call in this 'debate', if that is put forward, would be to ask the question:

"What is the correct equation for working out the hidden amount of a distant object on a 3959-mile radius sphere?"

If he thinks the calculator is wrong, and that it should be altered to account for perspective, let him put forward the 'correct' calculator and we'll see if it works.​

10. ### Majd SaedyNew Member

You make an excellent point about pictures and images, the brain is tricked into applying the same real-life algorithm to the converging lines in an image thus giving the interpretation of parallel lines, but I doubt that this is what tricks Flat-earthers into believing that perspective should be included in a calculations.

I think that they don't even understand their own argument, they just believe that perspective is the answer to all their problems and they want to debunk the calculator...

[...]

Last edited by a moderator: Jun 21, 2018
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11. ### RorySenior Member

Two related videos have popped up on youtube recently: in the first, Sly Sparkane attempted a simple explanation of angular size and line of sight:

This was then followed up by Nathan Oakley's 'debunking' - which seemed to demonstrate a lack of understanding I find almost impossible to comprehend:

Basically, he takes Sly's assertion that "a point at eye level will remain at eye level despite an increase in distance" - fairly elementary - and misinterprets it as meaning that when objects are moved away from the camera "they all stay in exactly the same 'line of sight'".

Interestingly, Mick's name comes up quite a lot in the comments - as does "R" - with Nathan repeatedly quoting Mick as having said that "you can point the camera wherever you like".

I believe that's called "taking words out of context".

12. ### RorySenior Member

Then there is this video, which may be the most relevant of all:

In a private conversation with Riley that took place during a live video debate, Nathan tells him:
Which appears to support the idea that he doesn't really think the earth is flat, and that he's doing all this for clicks, attention, and pocket money.

Last edited: Jun 25, 2018
13. ### LDavid47New Member

I was just going to post the video that Rory added. That's a prime example of how someone that seems so passionate and persistent with this FE movement is really just looking to make money. I believe a majority of the prominent YouTubers fall into that same category, and only the easily convinced conspiracy folk that watch the vids are hardcore believers

Actually I think a significant portion of the audience, as "Cat Earth" suggests at 6:31, are debunkers. "The more we argue with him, the more it seems like he has an argument". Unless these videos are getting traction, then it's probably best to ignore them. It's just a handful of guys arguing for the heck of it.

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15. ### LDavid47New Member

Exactly. I use to think I could fight the good fight and change their minds by directing them to this site or to Wolfie, Sly, or CoolHardLogic channels. But I gave up on that endeavor

16. ### RorySenior Member

Any regrets about doing the 'debate' with Nathan?

17. ### Clouds GivemethewilliesActive Member

You do have to wonder where FEers point their satellite TV dishes, and whether Madison Star Moon uses a mobile phone.

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Not really. It was a waste of time, but it was interesting. His audience is so small that it's not really going anywhere. It's like a mini fiefdom for one sided jousting with debunkers.

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Dear Mr. West,

Thank you for your efforts in the name of reason. I'm content with flat-earthers having their peculiar opinions, but there is poisoning of young minds going on. That troubles me.

The craziest thing Oakley does is ask sweetly for a syllogism, and then scream if the only rational mind in his sideshow actually presents a syllogism.

If any have a few moments to see a little of real refraction, check out

At about ten minutes you get to see refraction with a prism made of paraffin (1cm radiation is the trick).

I suppose Gouda cheese would work to refract electromagnetic radiation as well, [...]

My wife is distantly related to Lawrence Bragg, the gentleman showing refraction with a paraffin prism. One might correctly assume I'm rather tickled at that connection, even if distant.

Last edited by a moderator: Mar 18, 2019
20. ### Mike BertelsonNew Member

Nathan Oakley has altered how he debates. He still mutes and talks over people. That much hasn't changed. Now his focus is on claiming what is and what is not science. In his latest videos Nathan and Quantum Eraser "explain" what is and isn't science and how the rest of science are not properly using the scientific method. He's now taken to asking anyone who debates him to provide their hypothesis, a null hypothesis, an alternate hypothesis, the independent variable, dependents variable, and then when it all doesn't fall into his definition of science he won't discuss it because it's not "science"...and then go on to say that he doesn't have to prove the earth is flat because it is "demonstrably so" and therefore no support is needed...seriously, this is the tack he's taking. They're a group of people with not technical background telling scientists and engineers that what they're doing is not science that they've "hijacked" the term science and the scientific method.

Mike

21. ### RorySenior Member

I heard recently a good breakdown of where they sourced the information they're using for this line of argument: it showed very clearly that they've cherry picked what fits their narrative, and left out many things, in the same passages of writing, that conflict with what they're promoting.

22. ### Mike BertelsonNew Member

Absolutely. Cherry picking is what they do. I watched that breakdown too. Many of the citations being from individual scientists and others from institutions (e.g. universities). In the end I find myself wondering what those people would think about the conclusions drawn and what fields were listed as not being science.

By declaring themselves the final authority on what qualifies as science and how to apply the scientific method they’ve built a “device” to avoid any debate they wish. The argument between Oakley and Knodel on Globebuster a couple of weeks ago is a good example of how they’re applying this. Under the guise of “it’s not science” and it’s “not an experiment” because Knodel didn’t follow the scientific method, Nathan just dismissed out of hand Bob’s whole discussion; refusing to even discuss it.

It’s a clear appeal to emotion fallacy specifically designed to dismiss an argument as unworthy of discussion because “it’s not science” and “not an experiment”. Oakley has also gone so far as to say "it's not my definition of science" implying it simply is what it is and he's somehow impartial in all of this. Ultimately it's a house of cards waiting to come down around them but it is an interesting tack to take.

Mike

Last edited: Mar 19, 2019
23. ### chrislNew Member

I've been wondering where they got that very narrow definition of a scientific experiment. Do you happen to have a link to that breakdown?

24. ### RorySenior Member

The YouTube channel it was on got taken down, unfortunately. A lot of Oakley's stuff comes from his associate, John Stunja, aka 'Quantum Eraser'. He takes it from various textbooks and papers, which can usually be found by googling certain phrases he presents in his arguments (they're usually in the form of gmail drafts).

One definition I remember looking up - to do with the 'independent variable' - was taken from a tip sheet for teachers of young children.

25. ### LREKingNew Member

Stephen Wright: When I was out in the middle of the desert, a UFO landed. Three 1-inch-tall guys got out. They walked over to me. I said, "Are you really 1 inch tall?" They said, "No. We're really very far away."

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26. ### chrislNew Member

I think I may have found the one:

http://www.geosociety.org/documents/gsa/geoteachers/NatureScience.pdf

Exactly like you said, I saw the link in one of John Stunja's gmail drafts that he shared during a Flat Earth Debate. What a peculiar community that is.

Last edited: May 15, 2019
27. ### RorySenior Member

What Stunja does with that document is a superb demonstration of cherry-picking. For example, he glosses over passages such as:
Et cetera, et cetera...

Here's one of the 'scientific sources' I landed on by looking up one of his quotes:

It seems to be an activity sheet for K-12 teachers.

Last edited: May 16, 2019

I think this all goes back to the works of Karl Popper and his book "The Philosophy of Science"

When debating with AGW sceptics they often use what I call the "Feynman Gambit" which is similar - In that they simply say climate science isn't science

and then quote something Feynman said - to prove their point

29. ### WigglesNew Member

I've gone on that Nathan Oakley show a few times. I agree it's a waste of time. I find it humorous how angry Nathan gets. His explanation for distant objects being obscured by earth's surface is that the angular size of the bottom part is too small. But... I've found an island, Baccalieu, where I live, and the WHOLE island disappears when I try to look at it from the beach. So technically the whole island is the "bottom part". But I know for a damn fact that the whole island has a large enough angular size to be seen, because I've seen portions of the island from higher elevations (and in fact GREATER distances from the island than the distance you are from it at the beach).

So this debunks Nathan's claim, [...]

Last edited by a moderator: May 23, 2019
30. ### WigglesNew Member

A sphere may be the simplest curved object, but there's no guarantee that if a small local area of the earth has a constant fixed curvature then the rest of the surface of earth has that same fixed curvature value. Flat earthers have often pressed me to disregard all other evidence and only use evidence I've personally produced. I've used my personal evidence to do what you've done with the "radius calculator" Mick and convince myself that the curvature of earth where I live is between 1/4000km and 1/12000km (assuming I could measure the elevations and distances myself, which I don't know how to do actually). But technically you can't prove earth is a sphere and R=6371km from a viewer height, object distance, and amount hidden. You can only prove locally, the curvature of earth is 1/6371km from this information alone.

I don't know myself how to prove "from scratch" that earth is round and has radius ~6371km. I know it must have taken the Greeks many years to accumulate all the evidence they needed. I guess I just find it fun to prove what I can.

Last edited: May 23, 2019