I've been reading up on the history of the flat Earth... is it a hypothesis? I'm not sure. Conception. Yes. That works. The flat Earth conception. Anyway, what struck me is that there really wasn't any idea of a flat Earth until the 19th century. Early myths and legends hinted at the idea of a flat Earth, but it was pretty well established by about 1000 BC that the Earth was a sphere, and no one seemed to be very bothered about it. Well there were a few quibbles in the Middle Ages about how there could be nothing standing on the Antipodes, since they would fall off, but hey, who says anything was standing there? But then all of a sudden Washington Irving shows up and says Columbus proved the Earth was round, and the next thing you know we have a Flat Earth Society.
I blame Washington Irving for this. OK. I like the guy. Rip van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow were great chillers. But if he hadn't created this idea that the round Earth was some weird modern theory, like evolution or geocentrism, invented by godless scientists, then I really doubt there would be any flat Earthers today.
But there's more to it than that. Even among non-flat-Earthers (who, in defence of the human race, I'll grant are the majority), the idea that Columbus discovered that the world was round still persists. How is it possible that one bit of modern day legendmongering could create such a fundamental disconnection between the modern world and three thousand years of continuous history?