Sunday, 4 January 2009

The "Moon Landing Hoax" and are such questions important?


Was it all faked? Was this just another Meg Ryan sex scene?

But seriously ... I wrote this in case anyone ever pops up the question. No, not THAT question...
I usually avoid discussions on these subjects like the plague, but there you have it.

Feel free to forward if anyone brings the issue up. Whether you want to bring it up gently or shove it in their faces is up to you :)

Some time ago a good friend asked me whether I believed the moon landings were real.

I must admit that I was flabbergasted that such an assertion can be made in this day and age but conspiracy theories have always seemed to hold a strange sway over people.

I will address this point later because I feel it is quite important.

To me, the moon landings represent one of the crowning achievements of our civilization (admittedly, some of our other achievements are rather more dispiriting). They have been a huge inspiration and unifying force for humanity. They have made us realize, much more than anything else, that we are one species and that our planet is an interconnected and fragile habitat. The moon landings were largely responsible for setting the foundations of the Environmental and Green movements in recent decades.The first photographs of the Earth from space are simply awe inspiring.

I cannot begin to describe what an amazing journey that was and what these astronauts had to go through to prepare themselves for it. But I can readily state that the hoax claim does disservice to the memory of the visionaries who died working to make these programs a reality and to those who managed to muster the strength of will to endure the harsh training, risking their lives and everything they held dear to achieve this amazing feat: to go where no human had been before.  It is hard to understand the sacrifices these people made. So it is with sadness that I read stories of harassment like these:

09/10/02 — A wire story released this week said police are investigating allegations that 72-year-old former astronaut Buzz Aldrin punched 37-year-old conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrel in the face after Sibrel asked him to swear on a Bible that he really did land on the moon.

It was a whole generation's mystical experience of a lifetime, making us feel so grand and so small at the same time. It took the Apollo 11 crew about two days to travel the approximately 380,000 km that separate the Earth from the moon.

The whole experience has been chronicled in a multitude of media, books, interviews, TV programs and was reported with excitement all over the world in 1969. This was not the first mission that had tried. There were several others before it, both Russian and American – but this was the one that made history.

One of my personal favourites is a documentary made entirely from footage of the Apollo missions: "For All Mankind", you can get it on Amazon. (Brian Eno's score still gives me goosebumps after all these years).

You can also watch it here:

But what is worrying is that fake moon landing statements can still unashamedly be made when a simple 5-minute search on the internet yields a treasure trove
of evidence debunking every "moon landing hoax" claim ever made. So I did a quick Google search and, after a minute of sifting through the garbage, I hit gold:



These are just three of the sites where people have done their research and spent hours to reveal the conspiracy theorist claims for what they are; A pile of trash. You see, it is extremely easy to make a batshit crazy claim seem appealing but it often takes a lot of effort to debunk it. For the moon landings, sometimes it requires two or three PhDs in various subjects (physics, engineering and perhaps biology) to even begin to be able to address each individual point, not to mention information about the operation itself. Those programs were a huge effort that involved hundreds of people working over many years to get to that point. It is virtually impossible to know every little detail about them.

Conspiracy theories still maintain a seductive grasp over many people. They have been used as political tools by authoritarian regimes in the past, as well as today, to push controversial political agendas, unify the masses under some dubious pretext and forge national consciousness by identifying an external enemy/conspiratorial entity - among other reasons. They are also typically used to spice up our sometimes mediocre and unexciting private lives, responding to the perennial human need to feel that we live in a infinitely mysterious and deeply intriguing unchartable Universe. Such theories often claim there are ominous forces trying to control our everyday lives and create the pleasant illusion of a cause worth fighting for. In short, believing in conspiracy theories often injects meaning into people's lives while taking away some personal responsibility. It is not our fault things are the way they are. It is the government, aliens, the illuminati, you name it. This is why people who believe in them often continue to do so even when incontrovertible evidence has been presented before them. They sometimes even use the evidence, in a perverse twisted logic, as further proof that their theory is correct!

The sad truth is that most people don't care enough to investigate the validity of such wild claims. Because it takes time. Because we all have better things to be doing. And they simply believe whatever tickles their fancy. Yet it still remains important that we spend time and effort disproving these theories whenever they crop up, even though it may seem stupid and pointless. Even though it may be beneath us. Because the harm they can cause is immense and at their worse they can lead to countless deaths of innocents. Take for example the lasting damage the "Protocols of the learned elders of Zion" hoax has made to Jewish people. Ultimately, it is a wave of barbarism we are resisting, a return to the Dark Ages before the values of the Enlightenment imbued our society, when people were ruled by fear of the unknown and charlatanism, superstition and prejudice were rife. The so-called Age of Reason that came with the Enlightenment was the opposing force rising up against this barbarism, when the appetite to learn more about the world and our part in it, a desire to understand better, pushed back the darkness of superstition and mystical beliefs. For, understanding something, equally means diminishing fear of the unknown. So that, in time, we may grow to accept it for what it truly is. And perhaps sometimes even love it.

Seeking this understanding takes away nothing from the grandeur and mystery of the Universe; Yet it adds a vital new perspective and several more layers of reality to marvel at!