Flat Earth Society President Dies

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Flat Earth Society President Dies
Author(s): 
John R. Cole, Contributing Editor
Volume: 
21
Issue: 
3–4
Year: 
2001
Date: 
May–August
Page(s): 
6
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Charles K Johnson, president of the International Flat Earth Society for almost 30 years, died in March at age 76. Johnson succeeded the late Samuel Shenton of Dover, England, as head of the often-ridiculed organization, which steadfastly opposed evolution and most of the physics, geology, and astronomy of the past half millennium.

As former NCSE president Bob Schadewald stressed, Charlie was "on the level". He sincerely believed that a literal reading of the Bible required one to recognize that the world is flat. His flamboyant newsletter was contemptuous of fellow creationists who accepted GREASEBALL EARTH THEORY (he tended to capitalize every third word or so) because they were not true biblical literalists. "Greaseball" was his universal term for round-earthers who, he noted, would obviously slide off a spherical earth.

Many creationists resented being lumped with Johnson, but they actually shared his logic and approach to science, relying on scripture as the ultimate authority in science and demanding that "common sense" and direct observation were the only tools needed or even allowed in scholarship. Johnson often showed people a photograph of his wife in Australia, noting that she was standing upright and not hanging upside down by her toes as she would have to have done had the world been a GREASEBALL. He had proof he was eager to share that the sun is 32 miles wide and 3000 miles from earth (just a bit closer than Heaven) and that John Kennedy and his close friend "Nicky" Khrushchev worked together to foment the hoax of a space race and moon landing in order to make a fortune for their friends. (The moon landing was a Hollywood stunt actually filmed near Johnson's trailer home in the Mojave Desert or perhaps in Arizona. It was scripted by Arthur C Clarke.)

The Flat Earth Society traced its roots to the Universal Zetetic Society, founded in England in 1832 by Sir Birley Rowbotham, author of Earth Not a Globe. Robert Schadewald befriended Johnson and his wife Marjory, writing several articles on the movement that illustrated the intellectual history and themes linking the creationist movement with both flat-earth and geocentrist belief (see, for examples, Schadewald's "Looking for lighthouses" in Creation/Evolution 1992; 12 [2]: 1-4 and his "The evolution of Bible-science" in Scientists Confront Creationism, ed. Laurie Godfrey, New York: WW Norton, 1983, 283-99).

Marjory Johnson's death several years ago and a fire that destroyed Society mailing lists and documents to severely limit Johnson's activities in his last years. At his death he was attempting to reconstruct the 2000 names in the FES membership — some of whom (such as this writer) were not believers.