To the average person, there appears to be a growing number of people who believe — somehow — that the world is actually flat and that we are all being “lied” to by world governments. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has actually been to space and has seen that the world is round, but is unphased by these so-called “flat-earthers.” He flatly (pun intended) denies a global conspiracy, and says that perhaps the best way to deal with such willful ignorance is just to ignore it. After all, he posits, “if you wrestle with a pig, the best you can be is a pig wrestler.” It’s folky wisdom like that which puts Chris into another stratosphere of intelligence. Chris Hadfield is the author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything
and features in the new docuseries One Strange Rock
Chris Hadfield: When the very first balloon was launched that could carry people it was in Paris in the late 1700s and it was Montgolfier the brothers, they had hydrogen balloons and hot air balloons and it was the cutting edge of science. It was the cutting edge of technology. We just learned how to capture a gas like hydrogen that would be lighter than air as you could take a balloon and the first balloon rose and Ben Franklin was there and it was huge and magnificent, all of those scientists. And it rose but it got out of control and it went and landed out in the countryside 15 miles away from Paris and the peasants there attacked it with pitchforks because they thought it was an alien coming from space. The schism between learned understanding and scientific pursuit and the common perception of what was normal was that close just 15 miles away. It was an enormous gap between what we knew and what we were doing and what a lot of folks knew yet or what had become part of common knowledge. So there's nothing new about the speed with which we're inventing things and the ability for people to understand what's going on. There's a recent populous sort of wave of anti-science as if that's something new. It's mostly because social media has given everybody what appears to be an equal voice. On the corner of Hyde Park in London there's Speakers Corner and that used to be the Internet where you could go stand there and yell any stupid thing you wanted and if people wanted to gather around and listen that was their choice, but if you weren't interested in whatever that person was spouting then you didn't need to listen. But now the Internet has sort of turned everything into the Speakers Corner so you really have to just decide what are you going to listen to and what aren't you. And if someone decides to put forward some stupid idea that is patently false like if somebody says the sky is orange, you can have an argument about it if you want, but it's obviously not true so there's really no point in even engaging in conversation. Or if somebody says the world is flat, it's patently untrue so there's no point in engaging in conversation because all you're doing is giving that person credibility for something that we've known for thousands of years to not be truth. I don't even worry about it. The world is full of fascinating interesting new discoveries and we're pushing the very boundaries of what we know. Stephen Hawking, who just recently died, the work that he did in trying to understand how the universe works the original thinking there's so many brilliant motivated people around that's why would you engage with someone who is being deliberately ignorant? I don't mind people that just don't know when they're just in the process of learning, but if someone has chosen to take the facts and be deliberately stupid about them then I think they've discounted themselves from rational conversation so I don't bother. If you wrestle with a pig the best you can be is a pig wrestler; I want to do better than that. So just because somebody says something, no matter how big their megaphone is, it doesn't mean that they deserve conversation. Just use your own brain, that's why we each have one, and choose who you're going to disregard.