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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 15:21 GMT
One giant hoax for mankind
Apollo 15 on the Moon, Nasa
More interesting than a movie studio
BBC News Online's science editor, Dr David Whitehouse, himself a Moon author, explains why he thinks Nasa should have gone ahead with its controversial book idea on the lunar landings

Am I the only one who thinks the US space agency (Nasa) has missed a good opportunity in cancelling the book planned to give a rebuttal of the Moon hoaxers?

You know the ones. The people who believe that the lunar landings were faked in a military hangar somewhere.

Nasa said the aim of the book was to provide a resource for teachers to answer pupils' questions about the conspiracy theory.

The agency said it pulled out of the publication because it felt the publicity surrounding the book was distracting from its intended purpose.

You can understand Nasa's thinking. It does not want to see a headline, "Nasa proves it went to the Moon", as it implies the agency has something to explain - which it does not.

But the sad fact is the belief the Moon landings were a hoax is a growing one, and if it is ignored then those with unsupportable ideas are left unchallenged and given free reign to convince others.

Nasa should have produced the book and said: "that's that. End of discussion." Not that it would have made the conspiracy theorists see sense.

Manufacture a conspiracy

What always puzzles me about conspiracy advocates is their lack of critical thinking and how they parade their deficiencies as virtues.

Face, Nasa
The "face" of Mars
It is as if the question is all important and the answer irrelevant; as if the need to believe the conspiracy overwhelms the evidence.

As for the evidence that the Moon landings were a hoax - there is none. Or at least, none that stands up to anything more than trivial investigation.

The fact is every single shred of so-called evidence put forward by the Moon hoax theorists is either obviously stupid - a result of their own ignorance of basic science - or has a straightforward explanation.

But why believe a simple explanation when you can manufacture a conspiracy?

They are not alone

The Moon hoaxers are not the only ones. There are also the UFO conspiracies, the flat-Earth conspiracies and those who actually believe that crop circles are made by some non-human force/alien/entity.
Crop circles: Obviously man-made
So are they all true? Are there alien bodies held in a deep freeze in Area 51 in the US? Does the US Government really have a crashed UFO it picked up at Roswell in 1947? Are crop circles made by aliens who, given their diverse descriptions, appear to be having a convention on our small planet?

Also let us not forget the face on Mars, or those other strange features in the Martian deserts which are artificial structures, remnants of some ancient city now partially buried by drifting Martian sand dunes.

Perhaps those who believe these crazy ideas think that the world would be a more interesting place if the X-Files were true? Perhaps they fervently believe they are on a righteous crusade to uncover the "truth".

Laughing matter

The real truth is out there and it is a lot more interesting than the conspiracy theorists realise. What they are doing is imposing on the world their own suspicions of deceit, mass lies, cover-ups and double dealings.

But they say: "Look at the past. History is full of people who were laughed at by their contemporaries but who were later vindicated".

What they fail to realise is that just because a few geniuses were laughed at in the past does not mean that everyone who is laughed at today is going to turn out to be a genius.

The next time you hear that we did not land on the Moon, the correct response is to laugh.

See also:

08 Oct 02 | England
08 Nov 02 | Science/Nature
07 Nov 02 | Science/Nature
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