Shaquille O’Neal Claims The Earth is Flat

Shaq claims the Earth is flat

Flat Earth was never a belief that was wildly accepted by scholars or experts. Even the ancient Greeks knew that the Earth was more like a sphere from multiple, independent lines of evidence. They even made a decent estimate of the circumference of the entire planet using basic mathematics and observations of shadows. It is a common myth that people in the Middle Ages thought that the Earth was flat and that Columbus risked travelling over the edge. The real reason people did not believe that the Columbus voyage would be successful was because they believe that it would be too long.

However, minor pockets of flat Earth activists has existed for a long time and continues to do so today. Initially dismissed as mere parody, many well-known celebrities, musicians, artists, and athlete have revealed that they believe the earth is flat, including Tila Tequila, B. o. B and Kyrie Irving. Now it looks like Shaq might be joining that crew.

Shaquille O’Neal use to be a famous rapper and basketball player. Among his many victories and awards, he has been an NBA champion four times and got the NBA Most Valuable Player Award in 2000. His rap album Shaq Diesel has sold platinum. O’Neal currently works on the Inside the NBA show as a basketball commentator and analyst and hosts his own podcast called The Big Podcast with Shaq.

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Why did Shaquille O’Neal claim that the Earth is flat?

In the podcast episode “Shaquille O’Neal and Kevin Garnett talk NBA and Area 21, plus Shaq sounds off on the Boogie Cousins trade and WrestleMania” that aired on Feb 27, 2017, O’Neal made the following statement (starting at ~09:25). Because it is a little bit difficult to tell the two other guys in the podcast apart, I have just written “Interlocutor” when someone else is talking.

Interlocutor: What did you make of the Kyrie stuff?

Shaquille O’Neal: I don’t…It’s true…

Interlocutor: What?!

O’Neal: The Earth is flat.

Interlocutor: Shaq, what are you talking about?

O’Neal: The Earth is flat.

Interlocutor: No it’s not.

O’Neal: Yeah, it is.

Interlocutor: No it’s not.

O’Neal: It is.

Interlocutor: No. It’s not.

O’Neal: Listen. There are three ways to manipulate the mind. What you read, what you see and what you hear.

Interlocutor: Conspiracies.

O’Neal: In school, the first thing they teach us is “Oh, Columbus discovered America, but when he got there, there were some fair-skinned people with the long hair smoking out of peace pipes…” So what does that tell you?! Columbus did not discover America!

Interlocutor: He found somewhere place people already lived.

O’Neal: I drive from coast to coast, and this [bleep] is flat to me [laughter breaks out among the rest]. Just saying.

Interlocutor: Okay, that is the dumbest thing you’ve ever said. That is the dumbest thing you’ve ever said.

O’Neal: I drive from Florida to California all the time, and it’s flat to me.

Interlocutor: 92 podcasts, and that is the dumbest thing you’ve said and that is a high bar to get over.

O’Neal: I do not go up and down in a 360 degree angle..

Interlocutor: Are you kidding me?

O’Neal: …and all that stuff about gravity…have you looked outside Atlanta and seen all these buildings? You mean to tell me that China is under us? China is under us?

Interlocutor: If you dug straight through your backyard, you can get to China.

O’Neal: No, you can’t. The Earth is flat.

Interlocutor: The Earth is not flat.

O’Neal: Yes, it is.

Interlocutor: We have seen the Earth.

O’Neal: We have not seen anything.

Interlocutor: Yes you have, you have seen it from satellite imagery.

O’Neal: Oh? Satellite imagery? That could be drawn and made up.

The primary arguments that O’Neal puts forward is that the road between the different parts of the U. S. seems flat, that it does not seem to make sense that China could be “under us” and that satellite images could be made up. The first claim can easily be refuted by noting the curvature is too short on that scale for it to be noticed. It is only about 8 inches per mile (or about 20 cm per 1.6 km). The second argument is not really an argument, but an appeal to incredulity based on a failure to understand gravity. China is not on a cave below the U. S. but on the other side of a sphere-like planet. The third argument is a conspiracy theory which fails because it would have to include too many people for it to be reliably maintained over such a long time period.

For completeness, it should be noted that the place that is on the exact opposite of the U. S. (its antipode) is not China, but the Indian Ocean near Africa.

The podcast finishes the Flat Earth segment by briefly discussing the possibility that Kyrie might have made a social commentary on fake news. O’Neal agrees that there is there is a lot of fake news out there and that nowadays people can just put out anything.

Is this for real? Does O’Neal really believe that the Earth is flat? It might be the case, but it might also be a sophisticated parody. These days, it is extremely difficult to tell a parody of pseudoscientific nonsense apart from someone who actually believes it. This is because pseudoscience activists make such absurd claims that it baffles the mind almost all the time.

How we know the Earth isn’t flat

Even the ancient Greeks knew that the earth was not flat. Eratosthenes estimated the circumference of the Earth in ~240 BCE with remarkable accuracy compared with modern measurements. Aristotle and others pointed to several separate pieces of empirical evidence against the flat earth idea. First, there are stars that can be seen on some places of the Earth but not others. This suggests that the surface of the earth is curved and not flat. Second, during a lunar eclipse, the shadow of our planet that falls on the Moon looks round. Third, when ships go far out pasts the horizon, it is always the top of the ship that disappears last. Had the Earth been flat, one would have expected that the entire ship would fade away at the same time.

In the modern era, the weight of the evidence that the earth is not flat is absolutely crushing. It includes images from space, geomagnetic reversals, the Coriolis effect, people circumnavigating the entire planet, the existence of time zones, comparison with other planets, center of gravity and so on. The science is settled. The Earth is not freaking flat and former basketball players who claim otherwise do not have any credible arguments or evidence for their position.

There are also massive problems with the underlying conspiracy theory. How could NASA hide all of this from everyone? It would have to involve many thousands if not tens of thousands of conspirators and that could never be kept hidden for so long. There is also no clear reason or aim for the conspirators. What could they possible gain from fooling everyone that the Earth is really flat?


Debunker of pseudoscience.

17 thoughts on “Shaquille O’Neal Claims The Earth is Flat

  • Emil Karlsson,

    Don’t quite your day job Shaquille.

    Seriously through, what is it with all these celebrities who think the Earth is flat? You would think that their ability to easily travel the globe would predispose them against that nonsensical idea.

    People who continue to believe the sun circles this Earth is just as laughable as this. I wonder how long those two beliefs will persist after space travel becomes common place and we have colonized other planets in the solar system. Will people continue to deny that the Earth is round or that it circles the Sun, once it becomes common place for people vacation in space stations orbiting the Earth, where they will clearly be able to see the Earth and see that it is round and that it orbits the Sun?

    I also wonder if people will continue to deny that we’ve been to the Moon once people living on Earth will be able to see the lunar colonies at night from their bedroom window.

    • Really good questions. Some Moon landing deniers do not accept experiments using retroreflectors, but that might be a bit too complicated for them compared with a potential future where they see lunar colonies.

      I really hope there comes a time when people stop with a specific pseudoscience, but those have a tendency to stick around for a long time.

      I just do not know at this point. That is itself a bit scary, I think.

  • My pancakes were flat. I think…right before I ate them. (And I really did just have pancakes)

    I have a funny feeling though that even pancakes might conform to the curvature of the earth.

    Shaq, really? C’mon man! Assuming this was not a parody, people buy into insane conspiricy theories far too easily. This one is so easy to check out it makes absolutely no sense to believe in a flat earth today. Let alone five hundred years ago.

    • I like those images, but I suppose that he might just call everything fake. Flat earthers are a bit tricky since they reject so much of scientific knowledge that it is hard to find any starting point that they accept to build from.

    • Emil Karlsson,

      Maybe you could start by asking the flat Earthers what they think the motivation is for the conspirators to hide from us the “fact” that the Earth is flat. Also point out to them that in order for their conspiracy theory to work governments around the world, who have historically been mortal enemies would have to work together to fool everyone into thinking that the Earth is not a spheroid. If they think the conspirators are pretending the world is a globe in order to deny the “truth” of their holy book, say the Bible or the Qu’ran, than point out to them that there have been world leaders who share their faith and were devote Christians or Muslims, who also believed that the Earth was round. Ask them what motivation they would have to deny “the truth” of “God’s word” when it was staring them right in the face, and they would most likely want to convert others to their religion and not turn people away from it.

      If they believe that the conspiracy is motivated by something other than to deny the “truth” of a particular religion, or even if they believe that that is their motivation, point out to them no one is stopping anyone from doing the one thing that prove the Earth is flat. No one is stopping anyone from traveling to “edge of the Earth.” If they’re so convinced that the Earth is flat, why don’t they mount an expedition to the “edge of the Earth” and bring a camera crew a long with them? That way they could easily prove that the Earth is flat, and everyone who thought otherwise since the Greeks have been wrong.

      Point out to them that if you travel the Earth and stay in a straight line and keep the same Latitude, not only will you not find the edge of the Earth, but you’ll eventually end up right back where you started. That would not be possible if the Earth were flat. Ask them how its possible for someone to achieve such a feet?

      If they insist that anyone who claims to have circumnavigated the globe is lying, ask them why no one has been able to mount a successful expedition to the “edge of the Earth” with a camera crew to document it, like the one you suggested earlier.

      Ask them who or what is stopping them. Why is it that no one has ever brought back video or even photographs of the “edge of the Earth?” As far as I know, no one has even tried to fake that.

    • Great points! I think one of the hardest things for flat earthers to explain is the motivation and extreme effectiveness of the conspirators.

    • Emil Karlsson,

      Its very similar to creationism if you think about it. Creationists also have an incredibly difficult time coming up with even a remotely plausible reason as to why people, especially those who share their faith would be working so hard to “hide the truth” in favor of evolution. At least with that conspiracy people wouldn’t have been trying to cover up “the truth” for anywhere near as long a period of time.

  • It now appears that Shaq was just joking. Glad I discussed this possibility in the above post. Really hard to tell a parody apart form the real thing.

    • Really hard to tell from his original podcast. Could just as well have been for real considering the apparent spread of flat earth belief among some celebrities…

  • Pingback: Why Bother Debunking Flat Earthers? – Debunking Denialism

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