Posts Tagged “apollo 11”

No sooner did I publish my last blog post on irrational and erroneous beliefs, especially about Obama’s citizenship and the putative “moon-landing hoax,” than I noticed that the “moon-landing hoax” theory has a public proponent, and that is Whoopi Goldberg. This report comes via Real Clear Politics (video available there):

Whoopi Goldberg questioned the original moon landing on today’s edition of “The View.” Goldberg, a co-host, wondered who shot the footage and why the flag was “rippling” if there was no wind.

The flag rippling has been explained — by Mythbusters and others — and the lander had external cameras requiring no one to hold them.

Not that these facts are likely to sway Whoopi or any other moon-hoaxer. It would be nice if people like Ms Goldberg weren’t so gullible or ignorant … but they are.

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Americans are not only among the most religious people in the occidental world, they’re also among the most paranoid and conspiracy-minded. Perhaps the two tendencies are psychologically linked … I tend to think so, especially since perhaps the most common paranoid-conspiracy theory currently in circulation — i.e. the claim that President Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen — is mostly being propagated by Christian fundamentalists. That Obama is, indeed, a citizen — as explained by numerous sources, ranging from fact-verifying groups like FactCheck, to major media outlets like the Los Angeles Times, to Web sites such as Snopes — has had absolutely no measurable effect on this belief among fundamentalist Christians in the U.S. Facts do not matter to them, not when there’s a paranoid conspiracy they can cling to instead.

The 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing has also pushed into the open yet another conspiracy theory, which likewise appears never to die. CNN reports on this persistent controversy:

It captivated millions of people around the world for eight days in the summer of 1969. It brought glory to the embattled U.S. space program and inspired beliefs that anything was possible.

It’s arguably the greatest technological feat of the 20th century.

And to some, it was all a lie.

Forty years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon, a small cult of conspiracy theorists maintains the historic event — and the five subsequent Apollo moon landings — were staged. These people believe NASA fabricated the landings to trump their Soviet rivals and fulfill President Kennedy’s goal of ferrying humans safely to and from the moon by the end of the 1960s. …

Conspiracy theories about the Apollo missions began not long after the last astronaut returned from the moon in 1972. Bill Kaysing, a technical writer for Rocketdyne, which built rocket engines for NASA’s Apollo program, published a 1974 book, “We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle.” …

Decades later, Kaysing’s beliefs formed the foundation for “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?” a sensational 2001 Fox TV documentary that spotted eerie “inconsistencies” in NASA’s Apollo images and TV footage.

Is there a connection between the same Fox News channel, which is currently fueling the “Obama-is-not-a-citizen” mantra, and the Fox Entertainment division that aired this documentary? I doubt it. They’re part of the same media empire, yes, but are separately run. Fox Entertainment has given us many things that the religionazis at Fox News would never have approved of, e.g. Married With Children.

But I digress.

That the moon landings were hoaxed is, of course, nonsense. At least one of the reasons is one that CNN cites:

Critics of moon-landing hoax theorists, and there are many, say it would be impossible for tens of thousands of NASA employees and Apollo contractors to keep such a whopping secret for almost four decades.

Not to mention an even more obvious objection: Had NASA “hoaxed” the Apollo 11 moon landing, why would they have gone to the expense of faking several more? If the point was to make people think astronauts had landed on the moon, that would have been accomplished by just the first “hoax.” What need would there be to orchestrate any more?

What’s more, there’ve also been several attempts to show that the moon hoaxer’s claims are untrue … most recently this was done by the TV show Mythbusters, just under a year ago, in one of their more famous episodes. Also, astronomer Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has an extensive, point-by-point rebuttal of the Fox network so-called “documentary,” along with a list of other moon-hoax-related resources for your perusal. [Just added: The Skeptic’s Dictionary has a new entry on the moon-landing hoax, too.]

But as it turns out, none of this really helps alleviate the controversy. The people who subscribe to it are impervious to insignificant little things like “facts” and “verification.” Those don’t matter … the only thing that does matter, is one’s emotional attachment to the conspiracy theory. Of course, that’s what conspiracy theories and religious fundamentalism have in common — that underlying appeal to emotion and sentimentality. Ultimately that’s all they have going for them … but given how susceptible human beings are to emotion and sentiment, that’s more than enough. People usually choose wishful thinking over verifiable fact.

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