Why Ancient Sailors Knew the Earth is Round

I have written about the concept of a flat earth several times before (here, here, here, here, and here). Since before the time of Aristotle, most philosophers understood that the earth is a sphere. In fact, Eratosthenes was able to measure the circumference of the earth’s sphere around 240 BC. Thus, the idea that most ancient scholars thought the earth is flat is a complete fabrication.

Before Christ was born, even uneducated sailors knew the earth is round, because they saw something that I happened to witness myself two days ago. I am currently on a Thanksgiving cruise. Saturday, however, I was sitting on the beach. I spent most of my time reading, but I would look up from time to time to take in the view. One time, I saw this:

This picture was taken using the maximum zoom on my Android phone (30x). All of the pictures you see in this post were taken with the same camera at the same zoom setting. What is that? You might think it’s an offshore oil rig or something, but I knew it hadn’t been there the last time I had looked out at the ocean. Thus, I knew what it was – the top of a ship. So I continued to take pictures of it as it moved to my left and towards shore (where the port of Ft. Lauderdale is). After a while, here is what I saw:

Notice that now you can see more of the rigging on the top of the ship. After a while, even more appeared:

Now, even more is visible:

Even more:

And now you see most of the ship’s hull:

Now please understand that I could see this with my eyes as well. However, the camera isn’t as good as the eye, so the zoom was necessary in order to get pictures.

This is why even uneducated sailors understood the shape of the earth before the birth of Christ. They could see a ship’s mast before its hull when it came towards shore, and they could see its hull disappear before its mast when it moved away from shore. Only the curvature of the earth’s surface could explain this. On a flat earth, you would see the entire ship ship seem to grow larger as it approached. Alternatively, if it was sailing away, you would see the entire ship get smaller and smaller until it was too small to see. On a round earth, however, the bottom of the ship is under the curve of the horizon, so you can’t see it. The farther the ship is from you, the larger the portion of the ship that is hidden by the curve.

It doesn’t take any modern technology to understand the shape of the earth. You just have to be observant, like the ancient sailors were.

NOTE: Someone I respect suggested I should add a note about the Rayleigh Criterion, because some flat-earthers use it in an attempt to explain the photos shown above. Not surprisingly, only someone who doesn’t understand physics would do that. This article shows why the explanation doesn’t work.

Prominent New Atheist Becomes a Christian

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an influential New Atheist who became a Christian. (click for credit)
Not long ago, I wrote about an associate of New Atheist Richard Dawkins becoming a Christian. Well, another conversion has taken place, and this one involves a more prominent member of the camp: Ayaan Hirsi Ali. At least one well-known atheist considered her “the fifth horseperson” of New Atheism, riding right alongside Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. However, she has dismounted from that apocalyptic horse, as demonstrated by her article, “Why I am Now a Christian.”

I have to admit that she is not one of the New Atheists I have read, so I really didn’t know anything about her or her views until I read the article linked above. Based on what she wrote, I can see why her early experiences with religion drove her away from belief in a deity. At the same time, however, I find her reasoning as to why she became a Christian to be a bit unusual. In the end, she says that Western Civilization was built on Judaism and Christianity, and we must protect it against its many foes. While that is clearly true, I don’t see how it drives a person to faith in Christ. I see faith in Christ as very personal. She seems to see it in a more political light.

Now, to be fair, she does give a personal reason as well. She says:

Yet I would not be truthful if I attributed my embrace of Christianity solely to the realisation that atheism is too weak and divisive a doctrine to fortify us against our menacing foes. I have also turned to Christianity because I ultimately found life without any spiritual solace unendurable — indeed very nearly self-destructive. Atheism failed to answer a simple question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?

I think she should have led with that reason. Nevertheless, as I have said before, God calls us in many different ways. I encourage you to read her article in its entirety. If nothing else, it gives another perspective on how terribly weak the atheist worldview is.