Earlier this week B.o.B was spitting "mad knowledge" on how the earth was flat. It kicked off a Twitter spat between B.o.B and Neild deGrasse Tyson.
I watched the interaction shaking my head in disbelief. Not because I think it's ridiculous that B.o.B experiences the world as flat, (because we all do), but his absolute rejection of the math, science, and engineering proof that world is a sphere and not a disc. Watching him passionately defend flat earth reminded me of when I was 6 years old and insisted that the moon followed me. ME. All because my senses told me so. No adults or books they read to me could cause me to reject my own experience as true...until they demonstrated the phenomenom experientially. Later, my science class was able to provide charts and pictures that made it crystal clear to me. The moon was not my stalker.
But hey, that's how it goes when you are developing your science literacy chops. You start from a place of personal experience, question input -- especially if it is new and you have no familiarity with it and update your reasoning. Or not. Lizzie Wade's essay In Defense of Flat Earthers was generous and a strongly worded critique to science communicators to not come so hard for people who are still on the scientific literacy journey.
Take a look especially at the tweet that started it all: “The cities in the background are approx. 16 miles apart … where is the curve? please explain this.” There’s something touchingly genuine about this to me, some deep seated desire to work through confusion and toward truth. This isn’t a man who never learned science, or who has some fundamentalist objection to examining empirical evidence about the world. This is a man who has looked at the world around him and decided that mainstream science isn’t doing a good job at explaining what he sees. ~Lizzie Wade, The Atlantic
I read that and thought, awww she is so nice. I wasn't as generous in my opinions of B.o.B's Flat Earth thesis. Hip Hop Scientist asks, explain this flat earth thing to me B.O.B? (Seriously, the insistence that the
Illuminati, UN and airlines know that the earth is flat but cons the rest of us to think it is round is for what reason? Why? Who profits from the worldwide con game?)
That's because I see B.o.B's challege of earth shape as something I doubt Lizzie Wade may be aware of: Hotep F*ckery.
Everything about this song is peak Hotep. The conspiracies about 9/11 and the Holocaust. References to Free Masons and the Illuminati. A bar where he calls science a “cult.” Which is like calling gravity a “nice idea.” I’m 99% sure he recorded this while rocking a tinfoil beret. ~Damon Young, Very Smart Brothas.
Link to full critique of B.o.B's Flat Earth thesis and contextualization of Hotep here: QUIZ: EXACTLY HOW HOTEP ARE YOU?
"Hotepness" is a culturally specific ideology among African Americans that spends a considerable amount of time and energy denouncing traditional educational and academic studies in part as a rejection to colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism that has harmed African people and indigenous people around the world. (I get it. I'm all for Decolonzing STEM, but spreading lies all for the sake of nationalist spirit is not the answer). It is replete with strong references to Egyptian and Egyptian-esque knowlege sources. It's f*ckery because it is riddled with anti-academic and pseudo-science lines of thinking that takes a little bit of info and just runs wild with the story telling.
False deepness built on plausible stories that appeal to emotionally hungry people who want, nay need answers to understand the messed up stuff that happens in life. So, while B.o.B's queries might be good skepitical questions in a vacuum, they are not because of my (and other Blackacademics) cultural awareness of his points and rebuttals made on Twitter and in his diss track Flatline. Listen to Dr. Chris Emdin's response "Earth is Round" for a sound science & pseudoscience rebuttal.
This is why #HipHopEd matters. It's a necessary frontline in the battle of anti-intellectualism and science illiteracy, in particular, that is leaving African American and urban communities in the dust. Hotep's engaging style of dropping knowledge and charisma is terribly inviting to urban youth who have been (and continue to be) overlooked by mainstream science and academic audiences. HipHopEd offers a familiar and I posit, equally engaging style of knowlege dropping that might be the best way to shut down foolish anti-science theses.
Other worthwhile references to check out.
The Lyrics To B.o.B.'s Flat Earth Anthem 'Flatline' - With Science Annotations ~ Alex Knapp at Forbes.
And this great, very fair engaging explainer that really explored the Flat Earth theory from their point of view and offers some really great explanation and history of the 'movement'.