You can’t have failed to notice that Flat Earth theories are enjoying a moment right now. Netflix are running a documentary entitled Behind The Curve, examining the Flat Earth community, and that comes just a few months after the release of another sphere-sceptic production: Flat Earth: The Biggest Lie of All which has earned a respectable 5.7 star rating on IMDb.
Flat Earth theorists have also been popping up recently on UK daytime television, arguing their case with Piers Morgan and Philip Schofield, while rapper B.o.B, social media personality Tila Tequila, and former cricketer ‘Freddie’ Flintoff have publicly addressed the issue. It seems that the theory that was once regarded as the preserve of pre-Columbus westerners and delusional crackpots and science-deniers is now edging into the mainstream.
But where Morgan, Schofield and Netflix are prepared to go, it seems that bookmakers are frightened to tread. Last year, a Grimsby man attempted to place a Flat Earth bet with a number of the UK’s leading online bookmakers. Gerrard Gallacher wanted to bet £100 that the Earth would be revealed to be flat but couldn’t find a bookmaker willing to take the bet. After the story garnered national and international attention, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power opened a novelty market providing odds of 200/1 that the Earth would officially be described as flat within five years.
While Paddy Power were the only bookmaker prepared to entertain the bet, the odds they offered were considerably shorter than you might expect. After all, prior to the 2016-16 season, punters were able to back Leicester City to win the Premier League at 5000/1, and a quick glance at the Paddy Power site shows you can back Schalke to win the Premier League at 500/1, Aberdeen to win the Scottish Premiership at 200/1 and Heather Watson to win Wimbledon at 300/1.
Of course, the traditional view is that this debate was settled a long time ago. The Earth is spherical and we have the photos to prove it. Besides, so the argument goes, wouldn’t keeping the flat nature of the planet secret require a conspiracy of silence unprecedented in the history of conspiracies?
But Flat Earthers have a number of theories to counter these criticisms, including the possibility that NASA employees patrol the ends of the Earth to prevent everyone discovering the truth; that there is a Pacman-style effect in play to ensure that people who reach the edge of the Earth simply re-appear at the opposite end, and that the flat Earth may be surrounded by a giant ice wall.
And it is no surprise to see that Flat Earth theories are being given a fair hearing. The internet era has enabled alternative theoreticians and fact-sceptics from every field of human endeavour to advance their ideas in public without the filter of the mainstream media, science or ‘experts’ getting in the way. From the moon landings to 9/11; from the whereabouts of Elvis to the immigration crisis on the southern border of the United States, eyebrow-raising takes are the new intellectual normal.
And that brings us to a question that might unveil the biggest conspiracy of all. Given the resurgence of interest in Flat Earth theories why aren’t bookmakers prepared to offer a Flat Earth market? After all, if you can bet on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle naming their first child Genghis, Jesus or Buddha, or on Tony Blair to be the next Labour leader, why not let the public vote with their money in the great Flat Earth debate? Could the refusal of bookmakers to take a serious bet on the shape of the Earth, prove that they know something they are not letting on?
It seems like the truth is out there, but they won’t let you bet on it.