We live in an era where conspiracy theorists talk about human-made viruses launched into the air and government plots to seize our existence. But what if they are onto something? What if the world that we are living in is not a globe? What if we were created by an intelligent being, instead of a process of biological evolution? What if instead of embracing technology and its innovation, we feared it like a villain? This moment in time—one unlike what many of us have ever lived—is a pertinent one in which to question our human experience, and to wonder what will happen after we return to our post-Covid-19 lives outside of our homes. Will we live in a reality that we can’t even imagine yet? What if we end up questioning everything that we knew before? For some people, alternative thinking is reality.
Mark Sargent / What if the world as we know it does not exist?
On February 10, 2015, at 3 a.m. Mark Sargent had a revelation: “I don’t think it’s a globe anymore. I think we are in a building. We’re in a box. We’re in The friggin’ Matrix, or a big sound stage, The Truman Show.”
Sargent, a former software engineer and professional videogamer, is a self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist. In 2015, the American became interested in studying these alternative realities and proving them wrong, until he came to one that baffled him.
“It turned into this big snowball where I’m staring at the globe, turning it over and over, again and again, and going, ok, how would I prove the globe in a court of law? And I could never come up with a satisfactory case for the globe,” says Sargent. “Apparently, I had unearthed something by accident that should not have been happening, and it just kept getting weirder and weirder, and bigger and bigger, and now we have conferences in multiple countries.”
Sargent is the protagonist in the 2018 documentary about “flat earthers,” Behind the Curve, and shares his truth at Flat Earth conferences around the globe. He produced a series of videos on a YouTube channel which has 85,000 followers, explaining his ‘Flat Earth clues’ which are the basis of his theory about the flat ‘stage that we are living on—its southern outer limit is defined by a barrier in Antarctica, he explained. Sargent points to the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed by the United Nations in 1959, as evidence of this barrier.
As he says: “Antarctica is locked-down, you can’t do anything there, it doesn’t matter how rich your country is.”
Sargent also claims he’s found proof that outer space does not exist: So why isn’t the sky black?
“If you had the ability to create a sound stage, a giant studio, let’s say you could make one that was very, very large, you could do just about anything you wanted on the inside of it, you know you could project stars and planets on the ceiling,” says Sargent. He adds that the sky, which is actually a big clock, also decorates the fabricated world that we are living in, and provides us with a (false) sense of inspiration, meaning, and hope.
But the big question is, who built the sound stage?
Unfortunately, Sargent doesn’t know, but he has some ideas: “One option is a giant civilization that is much older and much more powerful than ourselves, or some sort of God—and at this point, I’m not going to start naming names. But whoever it was, it absolutely wasn’t us. We are talking about engineering on a scale that is way beyond us.”
You could say Sargent is referring to a being who is more intelligent than we are. But who is this “some sort of God”? Although he says he believes in God, he doesn’t definitively call out the creator of our reality.
Randy Guliuzza, a former physician and civil engineer with a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University, and the Institute for Creation Research where he works as a researcher and representative, however, do have a definitive answer about who created our world.
Randy Guliuzza / What if humans were created by an intelligent being?
Proponents of Creation Science, or Creationism, say that our planet is so complex that the only way to explain its creation is by an intelligent being, who followed principles of engineering. Creationists, unlike Sargent, do identify the creator as a God, aka, Jesus Christ.
As Guliuzza explains, according to Creation Science, we were made as fully-formed humans: “The biblical account is that Adam and Eve were created and all human beings were descendants from Adam and Eve. There were two of them and they were fully human. And we would say there’s an equivalent of an Adam and Eve for dogs. There was an equivalent of an Adam and Eve for cats. There was an equivalent of the original common ancestor for all the different types of creatures that we see today.”
Guliuzza is an apt person to talk about Creation Science, because before he became a Creationist 30 years ago (he’s in his 60s now), he was a Darwinist. As a representative for the Institute, his area of expertise is explaining how organisms adapt, from a design and engineering point of view, such as noting that “all of our biological processes can be explained by engineering principles and the more they are consistent with engineering principles the more evidence there is to conclude that they were in fact engineered.” Everything we see on our planet was designed with a clear intention and purpose, by God, Guliuzza goes on to explain.
“How do you get past the fact that organisms seem to operate purposefully, and they behave purposefully and when I look at a heart, a heart seems to have a purpose, it’s pumping blood and the vessels seem to have a purpose, and all of this together looks like it’s a circulatory system and that has a purpose. How do you explain this design without a designer? Our explanation would be, yes, organisms do have an incredible amount of information, and in all of human experience we have only seen information come from an intelligent source.”
In Creation Science, the concept of purpose is not only about how our biological functions were designed, it is also about our reason for living. Guliuzza explains that by understanding Creationism, you can also embody why we are here on earth.
“We are not adrift on a planet, spinning about with no reason for being here, through some purposeless origin of life in some warm little pond, with no goal in mind where it just happened that you stumble upon human beings. From what we can see, life looks pretty incredibly designed, and the more we dig down scientifically, the more complexity and unity we find. And the broader we look, the more we see how organisms work together in this incredible system where there is a benefit to each and every one of them.”
Guliuzza notes that with purpose could come greater meaning in our lives. Could that purpose be as simple as concentrating on the happiness and joy of spending time with others, without distractions?
LaVern Schlabach / What if technology is evil?
Arthur, Illinois, is an Amish community that is relatively unchanged since its founding more than 150 years ago. LaVern Schlabach lives there, less than three miles from the home where he was born 58 years ago. Like the other 900 or so households in the community, Schlabach’s has no television, internet, or cell phones. He’s used the internet a few times, but says “for me to find my way it would take all day.” Schlabach and his community, like other Amish, are Christians and they generally shun technology to keep a “safety net” around their culture, while at the same time contributing to the greater good when they can— like a community in Sugarcreek, Ohio which used their sewing and crafting skills to create hundreds of masks and face shields for Covid-19.
As Schlabach says, Amish culture is based around the family circle and keeping it intact, teaching children how to bake, care for animals, be self-sufficient, and above all, loved.
“Our salvation is not based on being Amish, it is based on accepting the blood of Jesus Christ and being forgiven for our sins, but we also recognize the safety of our culture,” says Schlabach. “If we don’t take care of that, our grandchildren won’t have that opportunity.”
In the last 20 years, some technology, like more landlines, and portable phones for construction workers have been introduced in Arthur, to support local businesses, and there might be a landline which a few families could share, Schlabach says. For example, Schlabach does have access to a landline, which he uses for his custom furniture business, which he started in 1988 and now employs 50 people, but that phone is in a separate building. He can also receive and send emails, but the messages are delivered to him from a third party via fax. It’s possible that as technology evolves, a ‘council of elders,’ the community’s decision-makers, might introduce more changes, he says. Maybe even the internet. He adds: “The world around us keeps changing, we are not trying to keep up with that, but we are still trying to communicate so we can do business.”
Schlabach has never known another way and says to allow technology in, would take away from the “family circle” focus on each other—his wife of 40 years, six children, and 33 grandchildren.
“It’s not beneficial to the family circle—it creates individualism instead of togetherness. A cell phone used for business and business only, that is one thing,” says Schlabach. “In the evening, we like to get together to play games and do something as a family. Just sit down and visit. I don’t know how we would have time for that if we had smartphones and iPhones and all that. It’s quiet. There is no interruption from the outside.”
Schlabach says keeping the circle intact is particularly important for Arthur’s young people: “For a young person there is so much bad information available at the fingertip. TVs were big, now, today, a young person can reach out and put something in their pocket that is worse than any TV ever was.”
He’s seen the negative effects of technology while outside of Arthur (he only rides a bicycle or drives a horse and buggy, but will use a shuttle service if he needs to travel beyond the village), for example, at a business lunch, where he noticed a group of people at the next table who were more focused on their phones, than each other. He’s also seen what happens outside of the circle from a brother who decided to leave the community.
“I think my brother realizes now raising children outside of the circle is much different than how he was raised. He is faced with things that he was never faced with growing up,” says Schlabach. He adds that protecting the circle is about maintaining a sense of peace and lack of fear. “How many people experience the rough roads and don’t know how to work it out? My grandparents and parents taught by example: They took us to church, we have our daily devotions that teach us how to work through the daily struggles. Do we ever run into situations where we are afraid? Yes, we do. But ok, it’s all in God’s hands. He will see us through.”
Schlabach has his own reality, just like we all do. Whatever it is, it is based on what we are taught, on what’s around us. This ability to question it and develop new ways to make sense of it, is what makes us human. That’s true whether we believe the earth is flat, created by a higher power who is smarter than we are or who is guiding us to simple happiness.