When I first came upon the flat-earth theory, I thought it was a joke. Surely, people are trolling everyone on YouTube and the ever-expansive cesspool of the blogosphere. Like millions, I dismissed flat earthers as a fringe trend – here today, gone today.

Except for one very small detail: the trend never left. In fact, the flat-earth theory has become so popular, in YouTube’s “Astronomy” category, you’ll find several flat earthers having surreptitiously forwarded their videos. But the “problem,” depending upon your personal opinion, recently took on a life of its own.

In a Forbes article this month, contributor Trevor Nace reported that only 66% of Millennials believe that the earth is round, or spherical to be more precise. That, Nace argues, is a disturbing trend, a confirmation that the young generation are becoming too individualistic and making up their own science.

I’m not placing too much emphasis on the original YouGov survey. In something as explosive as flat-earth theory, you have to ask questions in a particular manner. Otherwise, the results are open to significant interpretation. Still, I did find it odd that a substantial percentage of the working population apparently side with the much-maligned and criticized flat earthers.

Which segues into my next point: why the extreme hatred for flat earthers?

Certainly, I can understand why most people would ridicule the flat-earth theory. I can also appreciate the frustration and anger towards those who believe something that most perceive as patently false. But what about the hatred? It’s almost surreal.

When you step outside the situation, you should quickly come to the realization that people believing in the flat earth theory is no different than those who believe in ghosts, Bigfoot, or space aliens. In fact, society embraces the latter categories – think of all the mystery documentaries that we see on the History Channel and other networks.

But flat-earth theory? Forget about it! If you believe in this conspiracy, you’re in for a world of hurt.

This got me thinking…there has to be a reason for this vitriol. I believe one of the central reasons for the hatred towards flat earthers is the NASA budget.

During the fiscal year 2011, the total budget for NASA was $18.4 billion. In this era of wild government spending, that doesn’t sound like much. But consider that this amount accounted for approximately 35% of total spending on academic scientific research for that year.

As has been mentioned previously on Crush The Street, we’re losing the science race internationally, and the Trump administration wants to make even more cuts in research!

This means that whatever little is earmarked for the science budget, NASA takes a huge chunk of that pie. Most Americans likely wouldn’t have a problem with this because we wouldn’t want to lose our supremacy in space.

But what are we actually doing with these billions of dollars that could go towards more useful or practical endeavors? It’s great that we send a bunch of former fighter jocks and lab-coat researchers to flip around like monkeys in the International Space Station, but come on! I’d rather create jobs and businesses for the unemployed, under-employed, and the homeless.

And what about this race to Mars deal? My question again is, what’s the point? Unless we’re intending to bring back truckloads of gold and precious metals, I don’t see how this benefits us.

But the one entity that does benefit from this space tomfoolery is NASA. The fewer questions we ask, the better for them. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to go off on a “conspiracy theorist.”