Our Name-Calling
Doesn't Mean
They're Not Morons!
Craig Wilkins

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Craig Wilkins"
Subject: Re: Did we land on the moon?
Date: February 04, 2002 1:20 PM

Leave it to FOX to interview 200 NASA guys, provoking them with preposterous arguments, until some clown finally blurts out in frustration, "anyone who does not believe we went to the moon is a moron!" Leave it to FOX to then put him on as the rebuttal to their pet production! That's not unlike when they were interviewing Andrew Newberg, whose book Why God Won't Go Away was being touted as scientific proof that God exists (even though it is anything but; rather, it's a most compelling natural explanation for the mystical experience). A correspondent tells us that while Fox News in San Diego was showing Newberg talking, they placed animated white smoke floating in the background behind his head. But when they switched to a head-shot of the leader of the local atheist group that they'd included for "balance," they surrounded his head with animated black smoke!

Although I don't watch television at all, based on the several reports I've received from PAM correspondents, FOX must be a textbook example of biased journalism, particularly when it comes to converage of claims of the supernatural and the paranormal.

You're right: name-calling is no way to prove one's case. However, engaging in name-calling is not a sure-fire test that one has no case to make. The moon conspiracy bit, like Christian Creationism, Holocaust Revisionism and the Christian Nation myth, is so ludicrous that it's very tempting to engage in name-calling any time one encounters it. The NASA guy did it when the Moon Hoax bit surfaced. I did it, and Michael Shermer did it, too. It's one of those things that makes you want to go, "that's just so preposterous that I don't even want to talk about it!" Indeed, when the FOX story came out, I literally didn't want to cover it! I didn't want to waste my time or the precious little space we have in PAM! Essentially, I didn't want these "morons" dictating to me that I must now dedicate time, energy, and space debunking this bullshit! That's exactly how I felt and that's precisely what I told myself, eyes wear tug odd!

Although we eventually bumped it for something much more interesting, we had at one point obtained permission to run Michael Shermer's first impressions of this madness (which is very interesting because right off the top of his head, without even studying the issue, he got most of his points right and made very few errors: that's how transparent this whole thing is!).

And it's too bad that they did such a monumentally unconvincing job with this moon thing. Had it been at least halfway interesting, I think it might have achieved the mythical proportions of the Kennedy assassination, the O. J. Simpson murder trial, the "elections" of George W. Bush and Gerald R. Ford, and many other truly intriguing mysteries, hoaxes, put-ons, and frauds which have left us all standing there shaking our heads in wonderment and derision.

I would recommend checking out the write-ups from NASA, CSICOP, and the Skeptics Society on this one before coming to any conclusion either way. Then you will have both sides (the FOX program being the other side).

Here's a particularly amusing web site claiming that the moon shot was a hoax.
After spending less than two minutes on it, I wandered over to the photos page to see how they handled the claims that because you cannot see stars in the photo, it therefore has to have been faked. Sure enough, this is the first point they make!

Their second point is a new one on me (I don't remember it from reading the reports when this news story was hot). They say that at "point G" (one of many circles and arrows on the photo) you can clearly see the American flag on the Lunar Module. This would never happen on the moon, they tell us, because there is no atmosphere: light cannot reflect off the air molecules so it can light up the dark side of an object. (Or so they tell us.) In the very next sentence, though, they talk about bending the light rays. Well? Which is it, Professor, reflecting or bending?

Anyway: if this was true, if we needed air molecules in order to see anything at all on the "dark side" of an object that's resting upon the lunar surface, then I'd think everything in space would be either totally black or totally white -- like those crude silk-screen images we made in school by cutting a stencil out of a piece of paper. Looking at the photo, right next to "point G" where you can sort of make out an American flag, I can see something on the lunar surface, very close to the flag decal, that's extremely bright white from the sun shining upon it. Contrary to the pronouncements of our "Science Answer Man," the light doesn't need to reflect off air molecules: we only need to have it reflect off of something (anything) in order to provide enough light to (say) read a copy of the Weekly World News or (for example) allow the image of the American flag to show up on a snapshot of the Lunar Module.

There is nothing that I remember about air molecules from high school physics (or any studies since then) that requires their presence to see where no light shines directly from its source. Light needs to get there from somewhere, and your two main choices are directly or by reflection. However, your choices are by no means limited to "directly" and "reflected by air molecules" (or even "bent" by air molecules -- whatever that means!). True, the presence of an atmosphere makes the "dark side" of something not nearly as dark! I'll grant that! Reflection of light by air molecules contributes significantly to such illumination. But this fellow appears to be saying that you shouldn't be able to see anything on the "dark side" of an object without the presence of air molecules either reflecting or bending the light (depending on which sentence you read).

On this other web site,
they're hawking James Collier's book, Was It Only A Paper Moon? I guess if you assert something with enough confidence (and a few derisive chuckles, thrown in and timed just so), you can get some people to go along with you on just about anything! At one point in the testimonial pitch, he describes what happened during a talk-show he was on (copied and pasted verbatim: the errors are all theirs):

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One enraged listener said that the eagle-feather and hammer that astronauts simultaneously dropped on the moon, was an experiment proving there was no atmosphere on the moon's surface. That person was definitely angry, convinced that I didn't understand basic physics. I explained that the experiment wasn't done to prove the absence of atmosphere, but to prove that an eagle feather and a hammer would both fall at the same rate of speed because the moon has gravity (1/6th a strong as Earth's).

"On Earth," I said, "they would both fall at 32-feet per second-per second.

The caller actually started to holler. "No, no, an eagle feather will float down on Earth and the hammer will fall faster. On the moon there is no air so they both fall at the same speed!"

I told him to get an eagle feather and try it. It's Galileo's law: no matter what the weight of any two objects is, they will both fall at the exactly same speed.

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If I were any more concerned with this than to show you an example of bad science that deserves nothing more from me than to call the guy a moron, I'd openly wonder if this guy weren't a plant of some sort, pretending to be a crank and thereby making the opposition look bad. "I mean, didn't you take physics in school!?" As far as the eagle's feather bit, did you even need to go to school to figure that one out? Here's a guy laughing at someone who's pointing out the obvious, who turns around and insists that if you drop a hammer and a feather on the earth, "they will both fall at the exactly same speed" -- atmosphere notwithstanding!

Yes! These guys truly are morons!

I promise you that I didn't sit here for hours and hours trying to find the stupidest parts of these web sites. Take my word for it: I found both of these within two minutes of logging onto each respecitve web site, three minutes tops! And I'm somewhat of a slow reader! I found the first one after typing "urban legends moon conspiracy" into Google. I found the second one after Google took me to about.com's UFOs/Aliens section, to a list of links called "Mars & the Moon." I merely scanned over the list and clicked on the first interesting looking link, "interesting" meaning (at the time), "likely to have something on the moon-shot hoax, hopefully but not necessarily supporting the notion that it was a hoax." That link came on the second page and was called, "The Moon? Not!! Some people still believe the lunar landing was faked."

And they're right! Some people believe this! So what? As I mentioned earlier, I really have more interesting and productive things to do with my time than to even cover stuff like this! And as I mention time and time again in our Letters Section, "I do not accept the burden of providing you with a basic middle-school science science education!" I've said this (or something similar) to, perhaps, fifty times or more. For example, in the piece, "And Yet You Call Me 'Rigid'" (perhaps my all-time favorite showcase of letting some crackpot religious propagandist do all your thinking for you, to the point where you know enough to insist that I retract a single statement that I have heard numerous scientists repeat), the writer expects me to concede on one point, offering to concede on another. So he "reminds" me that the Big Bang theory is "just a theory":

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I am afraid we each have to concede on this point; after all, the big bang theory is just that -- theory.

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This is one of my favorite lines that they use, that the "Theory of Such-and-So" cannot be taken seriously because it is "just a theory"! I just love it when some pompous ass who is pretending to be so highly educated in the field of science reveals his ignorance in such a profoundly stupid way (or should I say "moronic"?)! I responded by saying:

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To say that the Big Bang Theory is "just a theory" is to betray a pronounced ignorance as to how scientists define the word theory when applying it to science!

Once again I find myself having to make the same suggestion (and having to make this suggestion, one more time, in the face of my opponent having insisted that I make a concession).

My suggestion to you is this: I strongly recommend that you get an education.

Furthermore, I sincerely urge you (anyone, for that matter) to obtain your science education from the science department of a major, nonsectarian university (or at least obtain your understanding of science from a recognized scientist or philosopher of science).

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I'd originally been looking for one of the letters where I tell some poor clown to get his education from a science professor rather than a preacher, but actually I'm pleasantly surprised that I had to go back three whole months just to find myself having told someone to get an education of any kind!

The real problem here is that the cutting edge of science is much further ahead of the average person's education than it ever was. One hundred years ago, the gap between the leading edge of science and the knowledge of the average citizen was not very great. Today's gap allows people to have a fairly sophisticated education and still lack the education required to avoid being taken in by clever fakes like those who have swindled this fellow. There's really not much we can do apart from taking a generally skeptical stand any time someone vies for our assent to this or that claim. If someone appears to want me to say, "Oh, really! I didn't know that!" then you can bet that my skeptical filters are up. If they aren't, you can be sure that at least they ought to be!

If you can track down a recording or transcript of Dr. Dean Edell's opening monologue for the Thursday following the HeavensGate suicides, he states this as well as anybody I've encountered. A few days later, I tried to summarize what I had heard in my monthly column, "Such Educated People! Wot!?"

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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