Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

When logic fails, throw propane on the fire?


Many of us have had discussions that became heated, because the other person would not see reason, we would not see reason, or neither of us would see reason. And that is if there are just two opinions involved.

Here is an article about someone who got a bit carried away with making his point and lost perspective.

A family argument over whether the Earth is flat or round became so heated that one of the participants threw a propane cylinder onto a campfire, prompting an intervention by firefighters.[1]


Flat Earth Hitler 1aa

I know. Dramatic, but harmless

Don’t worry.

Everybody knows that propane tanks have safety valves, so they don’t blow up.



It turns out that propane tanks do not share that opinion.

The following video does an excellent job of explaining why a full tank may take a while to explode. This is a BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion), which any first responder should be familiar with. We should know enough to not throw, or even gently place, containers of flammable material on fires, unless intending to cause an explosion.


What about the topic of discussion? Is the earth flat?

Common sense tells us that the earth is flat.

Science, a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results,[2] shows us that the earth is not quite flat.

There is an excellent short article explaining the way science has improved our understanding of the shape of the earth.

In the early days of civilization, the general feeling was that the earth was flat. This was not because people were stupid, or because they were intent on believing silly things. They felt it was flat on the basis of sound evidence. It was not just a matter of “That’s how it looks,” because the earth does not look flat. It looks chaotically bumpy, with hills, valleys, ravines, cliffs, and so on.[3]


Nowadays, of course, we are taught that the flat-earth theory is wrong; that it is all wrong, terribly wrong, absolutely. But it isn’t. The curvature of the earth is nearly 0 per mile, so that although the flat-earth theory is wrong, it happens to be nearly right. That’s why the theory lasted so long.[3]


There were observations that were not consistent with a flat earth. The rest of the article explains the way science showed us the more accurate answers.

Was the person right to throw a propane cylinder into a fire? No.

If the earth is not flat, does that mean that it is round? No.

Read The Relativity of Wrong and learn a bit about how science works and what it means to be wrong.


[1] Police, firefighters called in after flat Earth debate turns heated – Man angered by suggestion Earth is flat threw propane tank into fire, police say
CBC News
Posted: Jun 14, 2016 5:09 PM ET
Last Updated: Jun 14, 2016 6:00 PM ET

[2] Skeptical Quote of the Week
Quote by Dr. Steven Novella
The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe
Podcast #410
May 25th, 2013

What do you think science is? There’s nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. Which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic? – Dr. Steven Novella.


[3] The Relativity of Wrong
By Isaac Asimov
The Skeptical Inquirer
Fall 1989, Vol. 14, No. 1, Pp. 35-44
Article from Tufts University



  1. The same effect (is it flat or not) is used all the time in science as another way of “lying with statistics”. You can make a graph say whatever you want……it all depends on the scale of the x and y axes.

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