Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Space Science

Should NASA Try To Refute Crackpots? 507

angkor writes "CNN has an interesting article on the dilemma faced by NASA: what is the proper way to deal with far-out theories given exposure (and legitimacy) by the media--ignore the crackpots or refute them?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Should NASA Try To Refute Crackpots?

Comments Filter:
  • by wiggys ( 621350 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @06:44AM (#4943508)
    After all, NASA are controlled by the illuminati lizards who want to keep the truth about life on other planets hidden from the rest of us.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      How can the flag flutter when there's no wind on the moon?

      The flag flutters because of the "sun wind", i.e. light pressure. If americans would have better physic lessons, they would learn about it..

      Why can't we see stars in the moon-landing pictures?

      Do you see stars when you make pictures on a clear night, but need to have a short exposure time
      because of the extreme foreground brightness??
      The human eye has much much more gain than a camera.

      Why did'nt we hear the noise of the rocket motor when the Moon lander was returning to earth?

      Hmmm, in space no one can hear you...

      OK.. Why not ask AMSAT to send a cheap satellite to the moon and take some images from the landing sites. Sent these picture to earth using ham radio, so that everyone can see them and no one can fake you again!!!!!

      Better ignore the ignorants...
      • The flag flutters because of the "sun wind", i.e. light pressure. If americans would have better physic lessons, they would learn about it..

        Wow, I hadn't heard anyone use that one before... Um, how much force does the light from the sun exert on a flag that small? Is the force relatively constant? Why isn't the dust on the moon blowing under this "sun wind"?

        The light from the sun does have a measurable force, but it is very very small relative to everything else affecting things on the moon (isn't even strong enough to blow the moon dust around). The flag was waving in the breeze because the the vibration caused by sticking it in the ground had very little damping in the flag fabric without the presence of air. Only the miniscule friction cause within the material itself damped the flags movement so it "fluttered" at its resonant frequency.
    • While it is certainly more fun to make fun of crackpots than debunking them, (I do that myself all the time) a book schoolteachers could use might help new generations from falling for crackpots and pseudo-scientists. I amd for producing such a book.
  • I say refute the crap out of them and get more press then the idiots making the wild claims.

    Nasa needs to get more public support, the more chances to remind people how magical walking on the moon was the more likely we will be doing it again.

    If you ask me the best way to refute it isn't to right a book, but to do it again. Would it really be that hard now that we have a space station to launch from.

    • by caveman ( 7893 )
      One of the best ways of attracting public interest, and (eventually, once the people who have become interested gain power) funding is to open your doors and make interesting educational programmes about your work. Get into schools, colleges, and make sure everyone knows where their money is going, and how government cutbacks have placed a stranglehold on your research.
      Let the crackpots join in, and let them make fools of themselves infront of millions. Problem solved.

      Just my $0.02
  • Why bother? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirTwitchALot ( 576315 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @06:46AM (#4943512) Homepage Journal
    You're probably not going to change the mind of someone who is CONVINCED the moon landing was a hoax. I don't see a need to spend money that could go toward research on trying to change people's minds.
    • The idea is not to change the mind of people who are convinced, but to keep them from convincing more people.
    • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sql*kitten ( 1359 )
      You're probably not going to change the mind of someone who is CONVINCED the moon landing was a hoax. I don't see a need to spend money that could go toward research on trying to change people's minds.

      It's a very simple calculation, based on how much influence the crackpots have over the Senate appropriations committee (or whoever decides NASA's funding). If the level of influence on NASA's budget >> the expense of convincing the crackpots, then they should do it, and if not, they shouldn't bother.
    • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Vellmont ( 569020 )
      The main impetus for this was the FOX "infotainment" show that made claims the moon landing was faked. While everyone should know that network that brought you Celebrity Boxing, Who Wants To Marry A (abusive jerk), and The O'Reilly is the LAST place you should be looking for science, sadly that isn't always the case.

      FOX is still a major network, and while they should be ashamed of themselves for spreading such blatant misinformation, it seems to me that NASA should have some response to this. Yes, I've heard the claim that responding to it only gives the crackpots more credibility, but when a major network (even the lowley FOX) suggests the moon landings were faked, the crackpots already have far too much credibility than they deserve.

      Now, you can argue about WHAT NASA should say or do, I'm not sure funding a book was the proper thing. It would seem too late to make a big stink about FOX being so irresponsible to air trash like this, being that it's been almost 2 years since it was first shown. Personally I think this argument should be about what NASA should do about this sort of thing, not if.

    • So why cant the moon landing be a Hoax?

      How can you believe something when it was only on TV? You didnt see it in person.

      Also why has no other country gone to the moon besides us? We havent even gone back since then.

      So why not be skeptical.

      I'm going to admit I dont know either way.
      I dont trust the government, the government is just as quick to claim something they cant prove is a hoax, like UFO sightings. Millions of people claim to have seen them, but its a hoax because the government prolly doesnt even know.

      So why dont we have the right to be skeptical of the government if they are skeptical of us?

      If you claimed to have found an unlimited energy source and your only proof was a video tape, and no one has since been able to duplicate your experiment in a lab, everyone would say its a hoax, including NASA.

    • Re:Why bother? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Blkdeath ( 530393 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @11:23AM (#4944413) Homepage
      You're probably not going to change the mind of someone who is CONVINCED the moon landing was a hoax. I don't see a need to spend money that could go toward research on trying to change people's minds.

      I for one wish more people would start to doubt things they saw on television / the big screen. Things like the "Blair Witch Project", for example, show just how easy it is to convince people that fantasy is reality.

      n.b. I'm not saying the moon landing didn't happen, I'm just saying it's entirely possible that it was faked. Personally, I remain skeptical, but I don't fret about it. Did we land on the moon? Does it matter? Who cares! Of course the billions of dollars the American citizens are spending on NASA funding quite probably sticks in their craw some, but hey, it's their choice whether they want to spend money for the research NASA provides. Is the moon landing the only tangible thing for which they can plead for funding? If they have other reasons to request funding, so be it.

      As for people who are "CONVINCED" that it was a hoax, well, they're just as closed-minded as the people who are "CONVINCED" that it did happen. It's like anything else you haven't personally experienced; you have to take someone elses word for it. I'm sure we could spend weeks coming up with counter-arguments for every existing argument, and even counter-arguments for the counter-arguments. The problem is, however, all of this relies on the words of people who are making the original claims. That amounts to a lot of circular logic being employed by both sides. As for the people who were there, well, they have a vested interest in maintaining a unified front.

      Meanwhile, there are more important things down on Earth to concern ourselves with, so I'll now attend to them and forget the whole thing. {smile}

  • Evidence (Score:2, Informative)

    by legomad ( 596194 )
  • by Boiling_point_ ( 443831 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @06:48AM (#4943517) Homepage
    Outsource it!

    NASA's core business is delivering science and engineering, not education.

    There are plenty of educated, credible and vocal people who don't work for NASA who can and will provide necessary refutations (word??) for pseudoscientific nonsense.

    NASA could probably achieve the same goal (convincing swinging skeptics) to the same level of efficiency through a PR department staffed with a couple of researchers and the occasional "read this or ask them" press release.
    • Sure nasa could easily respond with some press releases, or a PR department, but the real problem is that crackpots don't go away. If nasa starts answering questions, people are bound to think up more and more, until nasa has spent millions trying to shut these guys up. It's a lost cause. I think nasa realized that no matter what they do, there will always be crackpots bothering them, if not about the moon then about aliens or something else. That's why they've chosen not to waste their time/money on this.
    • by jesterzog ( 189797 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @07:02AM (#4943548) Homepage Journal

      NASA's core business is delivering science and engineering, not education.

      One of Nasa's three stated mission objectives [nasa.gov] is "to inspire the next generation of explorers". Exactly how could the next generation be inspired if they think NASA was lying up-front about its most inspiring accomplishment?

      • Quick! Go ask the first 100 people you see whether or not we have visited the moon. I think that you will see that the majority of people whole-heartedly believe, or at least suspect, that we have.

        The number of people who are running around screaming that NASA fooled everyone is, I imagine, pretty small. Even if it is as high as 20%, that means 4/5 of the next generation are open in some degree to the idea of space travel, and they have succeeded, all without wasting money on the minority of yahoos.

        Keep in mind that there is a percentage of people who think that there is no such thing as atoms, that science was created by God as an ultimate test of their religious faith and that the earth is flat, or that it is supported on the back of a turtle in an infinite ocean, or something like that.

    • Thats like me looking at UFO footage (theres plenty of so called scientists who do this) And claiming its real.

      The government is quick to call it swamp gas, air balloons, everything under the sun besides an un indentified flying object. The government is to arrogant to admit they dont know something.

      So if they cant admit they dont know what a UFO is, why would they admit the moon landing could have been staged?

      IT only happened once,theres no absolute proof,it could be as fake as Alien Autopsy.
  • by ottawanker ( 597020 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @06:49AM (#4943519) Homepage
    "The issue of trying to do a targeted response to this is just lending credibility to something that is, on its face, asinine," NASA chief Sean O'Keefe said in late November after the dust settled."

    Why bother trying to convince the "crackpots"? What percentage of the population are they, and does it really concern NASA? Maybe the most telling thing about the whole story is that NASA does seem concerned.

    If they really want to prove them wrong, then take me (and everyone else) to the moon, and we'll check out that flag and footprints to see if they're there.

    Nasa will not be able to convince all the "crackpots" until there is a viable station on the moon that people can go to for vacation.
    • by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki AT cox DOT net> on Monday December 23, 2002 @07:05AM (#4943554)
      No, this is to stop the crackpots from getting on the Art bell show and spread thier message like a plague.
    • Maybe that's why we cut back the space programme...they're afraid the hoax will be uncovered ;-)
    • The problem is that NASA isn't that good at keeping secrets anymore and this would've leaked out a LONG time ago through retirees that don't fear their jobs anymore. You can't cover up something as big as faking a bunch of moon landings. Anybody can confirm it just by launching their own probe to the moon or using a high powered telescope to see the debris on the surface. They can even bounce a laser beam off the mirror on the moon used to measure earth-to-moon distance if they were really intent on it. They're just crackpots and giving them any press is just what they're looking for. Besides, if this had any credibility it'd be on www.nasawatch.com.
  • I mean, seriously, why waste good money on a bunch of people who don't believe that the NASA went to the moon? I mean, sure, some point they make are compelling about lack of stars, flag wave while there is no wind. But each and everyone one of those points been tackled by claims like overexposure, not so perfect cameras, etcetera. So why waste money on a bunch of idiots who do not believe the NASA? Besides, even IF you would prove it to them, there will always be a few retards who will still refuse to believe it all, claiming that the evidence was set up as well and more of such claims.

    NASA should realize that there also are idiots on this planet who should be ignored.

    • by odaiwai ( 31983 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @06:55AM (#4943537) Homepage
      Because these anti-science crackpots are trying to make it look as if NASA spent billions with nothing to show for it. They're trying to undermine the faith that society has in science.

      I could draw parallels with creationism.

      • They're trying to undermine the faith that society has in science.

        That is a bizarre point of view for someone who appears to embrace science for its own sake. That comment, along with your creationism cut, appears to betray a regard for science that borders on religion.

        My understanding of science is that faith is irrelevant. You ask a question, test the question, and analyze the results. I fail to understand how its purpose or value can be affected by public belief in it. Indeed, given DDT, PCBs, thalidomide, agent orange, phlogiston, the Hanford site, etc., etc., etc., I should rather hope that public policy toward science be critical enough to question it effectively. In fact, I am horrified by the thought of the public having "faith" in science.

      • Because these anti-science crackpots are trying to make it look as if NASA spent billions with nothing to show for it. They're trying to undermine the faith that society has in science.

        Those who refuse to provide proof are the "anti-science crackpots". Society's faith will in science will be undermined if science as treated as something that must be believed based merely on a statement from a self-proclaimed authority.

      • Because these anti-science crackpots are trying to make it look as if NASA spent billions with nothing to show for it. They're trying to undermine the faith that society has in science.

        You're painting with a pretty wide brush there, I must say. Some (many, I'd wager) people who doubt things like the moon landing are merely skeptical; it doesn't mean they're somehow opposed to science as a whole. Problem is, generally the only ones who get substantial airtime are the extremists. {sigh}

        The world is a much bigger, more diverse place than Fox portrays. ;)

  • far-out theories given exposure (and legitimacy) by the media

    Like theories about the evils of MP3 from people who think pink make mice tails rot off?

  • A policy (standard procedure) for how to treat "far-out" theories is silly, not to mention restrictive. All theories should be argued and discussed credibility-wise, and let people make their own decisions.

    It's a non-issue.

    • You're assuming that the people arguing for the hoax are making logical, rational arguments. They aren't. That's why it's called "pseudoscience". They make outlandish claims and back it up with "prinicples" that sound good, but have no basis in scientific fact. It's the same thing that makes astrology popular.

      Remember, most of these people won't be convinced until you bring each and every one of them to the moon, and even then some will insist it was a drug induced hallucination.
  • Is it my imagination, or are the people who believe the moon landings were faked often the same people who there's an aliens conspiracy in the Whitehouse?

    Maybe it's just the the two groups are lumped together as crackpots. Either that, or it was the aliens who prevented the Apollo missions from succeeding.
  • Belief (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wtcher ( 312395 )
    People will believe what they want to believe. Evidence is ignored or twisted into something that helps their cause; human beings, for as long as the history books remember, have been leaping ahead into possibilities so minute, so improbable in order to feed a familiar sense of understanding; people wish and hope for what they'd rather know rather than what is, at times, oft eventually convincing themselves of something that may be untrue.

    • Wow look at the UFO videos, the crop circles, alien autospy, hell all of this bullshit could be created by the government as part of a psyops program to confuse and scare other enemy governments into wasting resources on invaders that dont exist.

      You need to wake up and learn to believe what you can actually prove, not just what you see.
  • If enough people believe it, then it happened. If they don't, it didn't. So we just need to know how many people believe it - cue a Slashdot Poll?

    There is no spoon.

    • If enough people believe it, then it happened. If they don't, it didn't.

      The vast majority of people once believed that the sun orbited the Earth, which was flat, but that didn't make it any more true. Beliefs in fact have no effect whatsoever on reality. That's why religion isn't taken seriously these days.
  • by acehole ( 174372 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @07:00AM (#4943547) Homepage
    It never ends with them, you can't please them.

    You show them documents, they say they are fake.

    Show them footage, they say it was done in a studio.

    Show them the moon lander through a telescope, they say the telescope has been tampered with.

    Take them to the moon and show them the lander in person, and they say it was planted.

    Last time i posted this reply i got some replies suggesting that the crackpots be left on the moon.
    • Tell them to take off their helmets while in the vacuum of space.

      That'll convince them, or they'll say that they are in a big room, with all of the air removed, and it is a big conspiracy to silence them.
    • That's right. Mockers are just mockers. There's no way to convince incorrigibly pessimist freaks. If they don't believe NASA, it's their problem, not NASA's. Even if NASA would make another last ditch attempt to send some people to the moon, these crackpots would still cry "Liar! Liar!"

    • by sh0rtie ( 455432 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @07:52AM (#4943639)

      Show them the moon lander through a telescope, they say the telescope has been tampered with.

      Thats the whole point of these debunking missions you can't see the lander on the moons surface or the rovers, even with modern telescopes the size relationship between the lander and any earth based telescope is just too small its like looking for a grain of sand from 100,000 miles away.

      I believe Japan is launching a mission [isas.ac.jp] in 2003 to photograph the moon [estec.esa.nl] (called LUNAR-A) from a hi resolution camera on a low orbit satellite , also a californian company is doing the same with a mission called Trailblazer [bbc.co.uk] which also should prove/disprove that mankind was indeed on the moon.
      In order to see if someone is lying you cannot ask the said lier to show evidence especially if fabrication of evidence was an issue in the first place , that is why its probably a better idea for a independant non connected 3rd party to verify the accused lier's claims.

      Of course this still probably wont be enough for the hoax/conspiracy believers as they will say NASA skewed the results or "tainted" the 3rd party.

      You must remember, we live in an age of liers [enron.com] and fraudsters [andersen.com] and no one is untouchable even a established science agency such as NASA or members of the American goverment [bbc.co.uk], after all no one thought Enron or AC would be one of the biggest frauds in history so it is somewhat understandable that people don't believe everything they see

      But for the "ignorant" masses an independant investigation will go a long way to dispell any doubts, especially from one by a country independant from that of the said "fraudsters", plus with any luck they might be able to complete some worthy science along the way.

      • No I want to see a Japanese man step foot on the moon.

        Our government could easily place a lander on the moon so what, thats not proof a human was there

        I want to see the footprints. I want to see other humans from other countries walking on the moon.
        I want to see the flag exactly where it was in the 1960s still there.
    • Compromise (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Uruk ( 4907 )
      I think NASA should refute them, but not spend too much time on it. It should be easy quick and inexpensive to put together a dossier of information which non-paranoids would accept as reasonable evidence that it happened. Sell it for $19.95.

      It's important to address the concerns because unresponsive government is not good government. Even if they're crackpots, address them long enough to say "You're crackpots, here's why you're crackpots, good night" If they don't do anything, then it is fuel on the fire.

      On the other hand, if they provide proof in the form of some dossier, the conspiracy theorists are in a position of having to refute more and more documents, and saying that the conspiracy goes even deeper than they thought in NASA. The kookier they get, the fewer people will buy their crap.

    • The debunkers have a point. That was over 30 years ago and one look at today's world tells us it was obviously impossible. And everytime you vote for not funding the space program, you help them prove their point.

      I know what I saw in my backyard on July 20, 1969. Watching under a full moon, watching the moon landing on TV. I know what I saw.

      But I know now that I was wrong. What do I tell my daughters?

      The essence of science is repeatability. Show me this wasn't a hoax. Wasn't a one time stunt at the most.

      Don't give me a book. Don't debunk this with photoshop.

      Give me a space program. Let's go back.

    • You'll never be able to prove UFOs or Alien Abductions are real unless you physically show people.

      You'll never be able to prove that the moon landing happened unless you physically bring people to the moon.

      I'd believe the moon landing happened if other countries also went to the moon, the fact that its only the USA who sent men to the moon allows skeptics to claim its a hoax.

      It would be hard for skeptics to claim UFO sightings are a hoax if other governments were claiming its not, but because our government says its a hoax and other governments dont comment on it , well then its a hoax. Forget what millions of people say, forget video tapes, forget physical evidence like weird metals, its all fake or done in the studio.

    • Some of the arguments are self-refuting through contradiction. Consider the points previously cited:
      1. The Americans had to show a success in getting to the moon, because they were locked in competition with the Russians.
      2. It is impossible to send men to the moon, because they would be killed by the radiation.
      From this, two conclusions are inescapable:
      • The competition with the Russians was pointless, because the Russians could not have sent men to the moon either.
      • The Russians were too stupid to know this, because they kept building the N-1 booster despite the knowledge that they could not put men on the moon. Yet they did.
      Making such a conspiracy theorist look like a complete idiot in front of their friends and family is a good way to get them to shut up, and if they are afraid to talk about such nonsense for fear of a severe beating about the concepts with logic, the meme will stop spreading. The real problem is that most people are so ignorant that they have nothing to use as a template for calibration of their bullshit filter.
  • .... once and for all. It should not be that much of a problem proving that the landings took place. Build it into a probe mission to photograph the stuff left on the moon? Perhaps as a kind of "The moon landings 30something years later" kind of documentary? .... but eeeehhh. No wait, I can see it now, a vision, it is crearing up, yess there it is, the conspracy theory they will put up after any attempt by Nasa to prove the moonlandings existed:

    "How NASA faked its proof of the fact that the moonlandings are not a fake; read all about it at www.crackpot.org"

    Sigh! They should really create a new top level domain suffix,

    There seems to be no shortage of csutomers for it.
  • These idiots who would naysay mankind's greatest feat of exploration are completely mental, and all the logic in the world won't disuade them from their own crackpot idiocies. Fucking nutters, the lot of them.

    I think Buzz Aldrin had by far the right idea. If they won't see sense, try to knock some into them!

    In the meantime, I fully recommend "Full Moon" by Michael Light. Absolutely beautiful pictures of the moon, scenes of beautiful desolation. They make you wonder why we ever stopped going there.
  • Co-opt the media to propagandize the truth. They seem to have done a very nice job of propagandizing that the moon landings were a lie (and that little grey men pay visits to hicks out in the hinterlands on a yearly basis.) Find the people responsible, pay them more to work for you, and "re-educate" the masses appropriately.

    I'll bet it costs less than having to pay a board of Ph.Ds and senior engineers to try and convince the lowest common denominators in the public scientifically, not to mention a hell of a lot more effective...
  • Let the Idiots (Tm) *prove* that NASA faked it, instead of just claiming it. Let them do the same forgery with 60's technology, let them produce rocks & dust with the same characteristics as the moonrocks NASA brought back.
  • The easy way to prove that we had been to the moon would simply be to go back. Oops, wait we can't go back. How is it that we can't do something now that we could do in the 60's?

    I believe its called an "International Space Station" or a "Space Shuttle" both of which have given dismal returns on investment. NASA started going downhill in 1970.

    It hasn't hit bottom yet.

    That aside, prehaps the biggest piece of evidence for us actually going to the moon is the Soviet Union. Does anyone believe for an instant that the Russians wouldn't have done everything in their power to show that the US had not actually been to the moon if they could? You have to remember that this was during the Cold War and the Russians would have loved to do anything to give the US a black eye.

    Prehaps space flight will really take off once we find some other source of power then solid/liquid fueled rockets.

    • Wheres the video tapes of the soviets dancing around on the moon with their flag? or the chinese? what about some of the europeans countries? The japanese?

      I find it disturbing that only the USA went to the moon and somehow we cant do it now but we did it in the 60s.
  • by ChrisJones ( 23624 ) <cmsj-slashdot@te n s h u . n et> on Monday December 23, 2002 @07:18AM (#4943579) Homepage Journal
    You can't reason with them, you can't ignore them, so the only answer is to simply point at them and laugh.
    I want to see NASA appoint an official representative to go and visit all of the conspiracy nuts, point at them, and laugh.
    This way the nuts will become so ashamed of themselves that they'll climb into their tinfoil beanies, get into their metal trailer homes and cry until the visitors take them away ;)
  • Ignore them (Score:3, Insightful)

    by egjertse ( 197141 ) <`gro.ttuf' `ta' `todhsals'> on Monday December 23, 2002 @07:20AM (#4943581) Homepage
    I think the keyword here is "crackpots". They're a fringe group of lunatics who are not at all likely to be swayed by any attempt by NASA to prove them wrong. So why bother wasting any time on it? Post a link to badastronomy.com on the front page of nasa.gov and be done with it; no need to waste any more time or resources on them. Besides, as previous posters have mentioned, a lot of people have already put together detailed explanations of all the "anomalies" the crackpots are pointing to. So why spend time and money duplicating their work?
  • If people claim the moon shots were faked, they are accusing people who worked at NASA of fraud. They are falsely accusing someone of commiting a felony. Isn't that libel?
  • by jesterzog ( 189797 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @07:27AM (#4943601) Homepage Journal

    The point of this isn't the minority of crackpots, and hopefully it never will be. I've been around several schools as an astronomer since that ridiculous Fox special aired locally, and personally I think that's where it hurts most. For example, the children in one school had had a "debate" about the moon landings the day before we arrived, and the side claiming it was a hoax had won hands down.

    This wasn't because the arguments in the show were actually good, it was because the teachers and parents of the children didn't have a clue how to contradict the arguments that'd been presented. The only information they had access to was the extremely crack-pot Fox special.

    This shouldn't be a case of "think about the children", though. It's at least as much a case of "think about the adults". They don't need to be crack-pots, only ignorant.

    Most people simply don't know how to critically evaluate information presented to them. I was taught the difference between fact and opinion in school, but I wasn't taught to use it implicitly with the world around me. I figured that out myself. Personally I think that most people never learn. They just take information presented to them on a plate, and believe whatever seems most convenient or to their liking at the time.

    If people were taught to pro-actively think for themselves then it might be different, but most of the time they're not. Instead they're taught to rely on someone else for the answers to any remotely hard questions... which is why there's so much reliance on psychics, daytime talk shows, astrology, mainstream media and sensationalist television. That's my theory, anyway.

    If people actually cared, we wouldn't have to put up with trashy media like this in the first place. They don't care about correct information, they just want any information to believe is correct.

    • Wish I had modpoints...common sense just isn't what it used to be. Even the most basic question aren't asked (like "where does this information come from?" [and thus "what colouring do they give this information?" is left out too]), and it affecting people.
      I know a couple of people who should just know better; one's an admin for his own webdesign company (survived the bomb, fyi) and the other is a machinist gone on to a communications degree. These people should know better, but they just don't ask the right questions! They have no knowledge of optics, reaction mass etc, and they just believe what's on tv. Or they go to cleuless sights where they get pseudo-science shoved down their throught (sciencebox.cx (or something...went there once, fled back to arxiv...hell, even /. gets better *trolls* than that)).

      God, if only people would just ask the propper questions, or at least know where to look to get correct information.

      Anyway, my soloution: shoot the crackpots. Think of it as Darwin's way of telling them that they lose. We just can't afford to let these people breed, or they'll form a that vocal minority telling us that there is no greenhouse effect, and it's the aliens/terrorists that have stolen antarctica.
  • NASA should hire Chris Carter to plant fake clues, and build it up into such a wacky, all-inclusive conspiracy that it collapses from its own weight.
  • wrong question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @07:42AM (#4943627)
    Asking whether NASA should refute crackpots is the wrong question. Questions of whether the moon landing actually took place are symptomatic of a deeper problem. If NASA spends many billions of dollars on a project and all the average person gets out of it is a photo op that could have been staged at a Hollywood studio, it's no wonder that these questions come up. Refuting them at such a late point is too late.

    NASA got itself into this problem by presenting itself as a frontier organization, a group of heroic explorers. And to maintain that image, they are wasting lots of money on useless projects like the space shuttle and the space station.

    What should NASA do? They should present themselves as a scientific organization and forego the wild-west mentality. They should stop presenting astronauts as "heroes", reduce manned space travel to next-to-nothing, and instead go mostly with comparatively low-cost, unmanned probes. As you may have noticed, people don't generally ask whether unmanned probes are fake or not, and even if they did, nobody would really care very much.

    And, of course, the other problem is that the US population isn't exactly up to speed on science, on average. Refuting a single crackpot is too little too late, but NASA should take its educational role in the sciences more seriously and they should get the funding to do it--they are trying, but they aren't making a dent.

    If we had a scientifically literate population, and NASA stuck to doing science and didn't create a heroic mysticism around manned exploration, crackpots wouldn't stand a chance. The way it is, NASA is merely reaping what they sowed.

  • by bedessen ( 411686 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @07:46AM (#4943633) Journal
    If Dr. Sagan was around I'm sure he would point out that debunking crackpottery encourages critical thinking. That was pretty much the whole point of his book The Demon Haunted World, the idea that we are constantly bombarded by claims, arguments, and pitches. By taking on arguments logically rather than emotionally you can separate the legitmate claims from the pseudoscience. These sort of skills have wide relevance in our modern world. Every person that has ever been subjected to an infomercial, a verbal sales pitch, a car sales pitch, a print ad (or about a thousand other forms of persuasive speech) would benefit from logical, critical thinking. Additionally, you are much better at constructing valid arguments if you understand logic and reason, and aren't forced to make emotional appeals, ad hominem attacks, etc. to convince someone of your viewpoint.
  • Can hubble resolve the garbage we left on the moon? Crackpots aside, that'd make some neat pictures.

  • I find it interesting that everyone is referring to the non-believers as "crackpots".

    One thing that always stood out in my mind was a High School teacher of mine telling us that the computational power used to deliver people to the moon way back when was equivelant to the computational power in "current" (1994?) calculators.

    Up untill that moment I had no reason to doubt the moon landing. After that, however, I started to wonder - not doubt, mind you - but wonder.

    Is it really such a hard thing to find a hint of disbelief in? Way back when, on their first attempt, people fired a big-ass rocket off the earth, located and landed safely on another planet, walked around a bit, launched succesfully off of that other planet, located and landed safely back on earth.

    I mean come on, yeah, in all likelihood it happened, but can you say that with absolute certainty that it DID happen (or as close to absolute certainty that reality will allow)? Are you so certain as to be able to label those who disagree with you as crackpots without even talking to them first?
    • One thing that always stood out in my mind was a High School teacher of mine telling us that the computational power used to deliver people to the moon way back when was equivelant to the computational power in "current" (1994?) calculators.

      This is not quite the case. The onboard computers may have been quite low powered (more like 1984 calculators, acutually...), but dont forget the huge amounts of mainframes on the ground that did all the serious number crunching to feed the little nav-comps.

      During the same period, Sozuz craft used a mechanical drum autopilot system, and the first few Shuttle missions had a number of TI programmable calculators stuck to the dash with velcro, to assist in working out ground station aquisition times, IIRC, as the onboard gear was a decade out of date.

      So on-board byte-bashing is no reason to lose faith in Moon Landings, after all you can see where you are going!

    • Given the replies thus far, I think I may have mispoke by giving the calculator story.

      Ok, assuming that every refutation that has been given thus far about my under-powered computer thought is true, is it still so far fetched that the moon-landing MIGHT NOT be true?

      Are you so absolutely sure in the truth of the moon-landing that you're willing to throw around the term "crackpot" in reference to anyone who may disagree with you? You have every right to claim that they're wrong and give reasons as to why you believe they're wrong, but throwing around the term "crack-pot" seems a little pre-judgemental and ivory-towerish, n'est pas?
  • My personal opinion would be to take the long-term view. Let the conspiracy nuts dig themselves deeper and deeper at your expense. Then in a few years the evidence will start rolling in.

    You've got TransOrbital's TrailBlazer mission [transorbital.net] which will take photos of the landing sites. Followed a few years later by TransOrbital's Electra II [transorbital.net] which will drive rovers up to the landing sites. And within 15 years we'll have Chinese astronauts [newsmax.com] on the Moon (they say by 2010, but personally I think that's about 5 years too optimistic).

    None of these things will convince the conspiracy nuts. Nothing would. But that's not the point. The point is to discredit them in the eyes of the public.

  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @08:09AM (#4943657) Homepage
    In arguments with people, I have a goal that I shoot for. I try to make sure that I've reached the point where: a) I am sure that my opponent has heard me and understood me; b) I am sure that I have heard and understood my opponent; c) I can state my opponent's views, and his or her reasons for holding them, in a manner that my opponent agrees is accurate; d) my opponent can state my views and their rationale in a manner that I agree is accurate.

    Even with very intense religious or political discussions, it is usually possible to reach this goal.

    And, for the most part, this goal is usually about as far as it is possible to go, at least in a single argument. After you get that far, you need to give it a rest for six months or so and not keep harping on it.

    It is very unusual for anyone to say "By gosh! you're right! I just changed my mind." But if you can get a mutual understanding of each others' point of view, the chances of productive progress sometime in the future are much increased.

    At work, say, with discussions with colleagues or supervisors, what typically happens (when I'm right and have presented it well) is that nobody agrees at the time, and nobody says that they've changed their mind, yet three or six months down the line I will see some partial or incremental progress in the directions I've advocated.

    I believe that the same goal should be applied to the "moon-landing-hoax" debate. NASA should try to present clearly and publicly, the reasons why people believe the moon landing occurred, AND should try to address the opponents' arguments intelligently and respectfully.

    NASA should not expect to convince the "it's-a-hoax" crowd nor to settle the debate, but NASA needs to acknowledge that the government has lied to us on occasion, and that saying, in effect, "it's true because we say so, and your opinions don't count because you're crackpots" is arrogant and inappropriate.

    The Amazing Randi has not "settled" any debates about psychic phenomena, but he's done a lot of good.

  • NASA should assemble all the crackpots and tell them about the giant mutant space goats coming to devour the planet, then herd them all onto the rockets that will take them to safety....

  • by KjetilK ( 186133 ) <kjetil@@@kjernsmo...net> on Monday December 23, 2002 @08:40AM (#4943693) Homepage Journal
    I see a lot of people saying that "you'll never convince the crackpots anyway, so why bother?".

    It is not about the crackpots. It is not even about moon landings. It is about teaching reasonable folks about critical thinking and evaluating evidence.

    There are many people who believe what they see on Fox, because there are no easily accessible sources that give them the other side. These people also vote at elections, and one of their votes count as much as your vote (at least theoretically... :-) ). They shape policy as much as you do, and really, democracy can't work unless you have a well-educated public who can tell when they are being lied to.

    That's why NASA, and every well-educated person has to spend time teaching everyone about evaluating evidence, not because of the moon landings, but because you can't have a working democracy without.

  • They present these claims as factual, so they should be sued for defamation and slander by every scientist and astronaut that worked on the Apollo program. They should be left penniless, destitute, with judgements against them that they can never hope to pay off. Let them see how much of an audience they get when they are living in refrigerator boxes under bridges.
  • Nor can you win over crazy. It's fruitless to try and only serves as a solid world troll.
  • It Won't Matter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vjmurphy ( 190266 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @08:42AM (#4943703) Homepage
    The crackpots will always believe that they are correct, regardless of what the scientific community does. For example, the Air Force was constantly berated for not "explaining" the Roswell incident more completely. But when they did, all the crackpots said they were just covering it up with their explanations.

    The "Moon Landing is a Hoax" crackpots are the same: if NASA doesn't refute them, then they can continue with their silliness. If NASA does refute them, then the crackpots either say "See, if NASA is refuting us, we are important" feeding into their delusions, regardless of the information NASA releases. It's a Catch-22.

    Plus, any information that NASA does release would be used against them in some way: any little deviation, correction, etc, automatically triggers the "conspiracy sense" these idiots have.

    It is a lot like the John Edwards stuff: you can explain exactly how he does his tricks, exactly how he gathers his information, but none of that will actually convince a person who believes.
  • Come on now, can't you see what's due? Try to imagine what would you do if someone came into your garden and said "hey, this is my house and my garden". Would you start arguing with the guy? I sure wouldn't. I would probably:
    - Tell him to get his ass outta here or else I'll call the cops
    - Call the cops
    - Use physical force (aided by appropriate tools) to get the guy off my property
    but sure as hello I would -not- argue with him. If I would argue, I would give a very small legitimity to the claim. And he'd take it from there and get more and more obnoxious, so I would really have to kick his ass.

    Why should NASA refute these crackpot claims, argue with sleazy journalists in search for fame? You don't argue these outrageosly stupid allegations, because if you do, you give them at least a little bit of validity.
  • The belief in psuedoscience has not increased nor decreased. People are, by nature, susceptible to wild ideas. Sometimes, in the case of research based theory and science, this yields fantastic results. The majority of the time, though, it just yields fantasy.

    All the article is pointing out is that we're now in the Sun entering the house of Virgo new-agey crapfest that resurfaces every ten years or so. Science will once again become popular at some point. When it is popular again, it'll be for all the wrong reasons.
  • We shouldn't have to wait for NASA to do this. We can all talk to people about this - most people are happy to accept evidence and reasonable explanations. Check CSICOP [csicop.org] for materials.

    My favorite way to refute psychics is a joke: "I don't believe in psychics, because you have to make an appointment".

    So, go out there and do your job... :-)

  • Is-it true that 50% of Americans believe in UFO ?

    UFO as 'I've been abducted by little green men', not UFO simply as Unknown Flying Objects, which do exist of course.

    Should NASA help also to dismiss these myths?
    It's going to be hard: when you really look at it it is really a belief: it's the same thing as fighting against astrology or other stupid myth.

    The only thing that can help fighting those myth is better teaching, trying to change the mind of adults is nearly impossible.

    I'm French but I'm not criticising the US, in France we have our own crackpot theories:
    - astrology is a huge marcket here
    - to apply to any jobs we have to write by hand a letter so that a specialist can check in our handwriting our qualities and default!

    *Sigh* and I'm not even joking: it is sad but true.
  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @09:18AM (#4943791)
    There is one way to refute the folks who think we faked the missions to the Moon: show samples of Moon soil from the Apollo missions and compare them against the Moon soil sample brought back by the Soviet Luna 16 probe in 1970.

    Given that these two samples are pretty much the same element-wise, that should end the arguements once and for all, so there you hoax-believers. :-p
  • by devnullkac ( 223246 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @09:44AM (#4943912) Homepage

    I prefer Buzz Aldrin's response... The Daily Show featured a video by a hoax advocate as he harrassed the astronaut on a city street. Aldrin simply ignored the guy until he got in his face calling him a liar and demanding that he tell the world the truth, at which point he punched the guy in the face and continued on his way.

    More at Bad Astronomy [badastronomy.com]

  • by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @09:47AM (#4943928)
    Reluctantly, I think NASA should debate the crackpots - but with hard data AND personal testimonies. Line up every guy that's been to the moon and INVITE the people to call them liars to their faces, along with presenting the crackpots with their evidence. Doing it on both levels works wonders - the crackpots have to look both impolite and ignorant.

    I do think this is important because with the prevalent media, though it can give us much information, it's also highly biased towards spectacle and word-games. It's a virtual reality of talking heads, word-juggling, and popularity contests with far to little connection to anything actually relevant. Anyone can come up with a bunch of pretty words, push a few buttons, and ridicule a few people to polite to be jackasses, and bam - instant "credibility" despite the fact said person has any relevant arguments, evidence, or credentials.

    Debating the crackpots isn't just good for science or society, it'd be good for our culture.
  • by SwedishChef ( 69313 ) <[craig] [at] [networkessentials.net]> on Monday December 23, 2002 @09:49AM (#4943940) Homepage Journal
    Channel surf around on cable or satellite these days and you are likely to find pseudo-scientific programs all over the place. "Scientists study the Bermuda Triangle" was one headline I remember. Even The Learning Channel dips into these low spots from time to time. And given the lack of scientific knowledge on the part of most Americans (or even a large segment of Slashdotters for that matter) there will always be a certain number of credulous people.

    One of my co-workers was talking to his brother who mentioned that he had watched one of these no-moon-landings programs and now believes that there never was a moon landing. My co-worker responded, "The only people who believe that there was no moon-landing are the morons who believe the CIA killed Kennedy." A long silence ensued.

    The mass media panders to people like this and most rebuttals would only reach those who were clueful anyway. My advice is to laugh at anyone who says that a moon landing never occured. And roll on the floor when you meet a flat-earther.
  • by bono2001 ( 539564 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @09:57AM (#4944003)
    If we had continued to explore the moon and established a base there and maybe moved on to the planets and the stars we wouldn't be having these debates would we? Going to the moon was (IMHO) man's greatest scientific and engineering achievement. We got there and just stopped. We had no vision for anything beyond meeting Kennedy's goal of sticking it to Soviet Russia before they stuck it to us. Literaly thousands of highly trained and dedicated engineers, scientists and techicians were given pink slips. The whole program was dismantled! We couldn't build a Saturn IV today if we tried! So is it any suprise that our collective memory of the achievement starts to fade into the realm of myth and legend?
  • Education (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @10:35AM (#4944140)
    The key is education. You can't even attempt to make a logical arguement or use factual evidence to convince an uneducated person. Look how our politcal campaigns are won. The only way to combat this is education. People who disbelieve will be dead by the time you convince them otherwise. We need to teach history accurately, and give children a solid foundation in Science and logic so they can reach their own conclusions when confronted with someone selling snake oil. They need to understand the distinction between sciene and science fiction. We have raised 3 generations that given the development of a transporter would say "oh they've had that on Star Trek forever". One problem here is that both the facts and the entertainment come from the same TV (same channel even), and most of the teachers majored in "Education".


  • I say sue 'em (Score:3, Interesting)

    by surprise_audit ( 575743 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @11:18AM (#4944377)
    Yep, sue the folks that claim NASA didn't put men on the moon.

    What the "no, they didn't go" idiots are doing is spreading libellous remarks, defaming the character of the many good, honest folks who made the moon missions possible. People died to make the missions possible.

    If criminals in prison can sue the state for "not giving them access to sports facilities", or for "interfering with their freedom of religion by not allowing them to have live chickens to sacrifice" (both Readers Digest stories from several years ago), then surely NASA can shake enough dollars out of the money tree to nail those idiots to the floor... Wasn't it recently said that that NASA were going to shell out $15M to get a book written and published refuting the nay-sayers? That would be a good war-chest...

    I don't know quite how it stands in the US, but in England the defamers have to provide, in court, sufficient evidence to prove that what was said or written was factual, or face the consequences. If you flat out say someone is lying about something, and can't prove it, you're in deep shit.

    At the very least you're made to publicly retract the statements, and often pay damages on top.

    Come to think of it, that might be a good strategy - make 'em prove NASA didn't go to the Moon. The definitive way to prove it would be to go to the locations NASA visited and photograph the lack of footprints, the empty space where the landers are sitting, etc. Not only would NASA be vindicated, they'd get a moonshot funded by the idiots who claim they didn't go...

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Monday December 23, 2002 @11:59AM (#4944665) Homepage Journal
    My real problem with a $15k budget to debunk the Capricorn Oners, is that it smacks of effort. Some cheap/volunteer high school student intern could make a web page for NASA on this subject, in a few days, just with some simple (i.e. web) research. It could even just be a page of links, or even just a single google search link. There's already plenty of people out there that have done this job for NASA.

    Even if you're lax and give the intern a week, that still doesn't cost $15k unless you're paying the intern three quarters of a million dollars per year.

    Wacko thought of the day: this was all just a left-wing conspiracy to discredit Fox. ;-)

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears