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Neil deGrasse Tyson Blames Free Speech, Educational System For Rise Of Flat Earth Conspiracy Theory

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The interest in the idea that the Earth is flat, not round, appears to have grown over the past years.

Data from Google Trends, for instance, show that the search for "flat earth" has been growing since 2015.

Free Speech And A Failed Educational System

In a new video posted on his StarTalk YouTube channel, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson blamed two possible contributors to the rise of the flat Earth movement.

The growing popularity of the conspiracy theory that the Earth is flat is due to free speech and a failed educational system, he said.

DeGrasse Tyson has raised concern over conspiracy theorists who have the power to influence others about their views. In 2016, he had a Twitter battle with rapper B.o.B. who has been trying to convince other people that the Earth is flat.

"For me, the fact that there's a rise of flat-Earthers is evidence of two things. One, we live in a country that protects free speech. And, two, we live in a country with a failed educational system," deGrasse Tyson said.

It isn't the first time that deGrasse Tyson blamed America's educational system for the flat-Earthers. Two years ago, he also said that the educational system has become too focused on getting students to memorize information they will likely forget instead of honing their analytical skills.

"I blame the education system that can graduate someone into adulthood who cannot tell the difference between what is and is not true about this world," he said.

Analytical And Critical Thinkers Are Less Susceptible To Conspiracy Beliefs

Psychologists also think that improving the analytical skills of students could be an effective tool against conspiracy theories. Social psychologist Viren Swami, from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, said that analytical and critical thinkers tend to be less susceptible to conspiracy beliefs.

"It's really, really key that we teach properly critical-thinking skills and analytic skills," Swami said.

Other Factors That Fuel Belief The Earth Is Flat

Several other factors could also be driving the popularity of the flat Earth conspiracy theory.

People who feel uncertain are likely drawn to conspiracies, according to University of Kent social psychologist Karen Douglas.

Conspiracy theories seem to give believers a sense of control in the form of knowledge and insight that they think others lack. Embracing conspiracy theories boosts believers' self-esteem, which allows them to feel good about the groups that they belong to, Douglas added.

The conspiracy theory's growing believers may also be due to social media, Swami reveals. Minor celebrities who are skeptical that the Earth is round, such as B.o.B and TV personality Tila Tequila, have been tweeting about their ideas, boosting the conspiracy's profile.

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