The Moon Landing
The Apollo 11 moon landing was a time of celebration for the US, as it meant they had
effectively ended the Space Race, getting the upper hand in the Arms race against the Soviet Union (their enemy during the cold war) and thus proving their superiority to the world.
The world was in awe over what mankind had achieved. They had successfully transported men to the moon! However, this is where the controversy lies, and one of the worlds most famous conspiracy theories comes into play- Did the moon landing actually happen?
The conspiracy theory
p1. The technology of the 1960s was not advanced enough to achieve a moon landing
p2. The supposed moon landing happened in the 1960s
c. They could not have landed on the moon, as the technology was not good enough
p1. The flag on the "moon" appeared to be flapping in the wind
p2. There is no air on the moon, and therefore no wind.
p3. The flag must not have been on the moon
c. They never landed on the moon
p1. If you were really on the moon, the sky should be full of stars
p2. The stars would be clearest from the moon, as there are no greenhouse gases or extra manmade lights.
p3. In the footage of the moon, there are no stars in the sky
c. They must not be on the moon
p1. In the footage, you can see a rock with a perfectly carved letter C on it
p2. The c could not be naturally made
c1. Humans must have carved it into it
p2. The rock was tampered with by humans
p3. The rock may be a prop
p4. Props are strategically placed on sets
c2. The "moon" must be a set
p1. You can see a stage light in the reflection of the astronauts helmets
p2. Stage lights would not be used in space
p3. Stage lights are only used on sets and stages
c. They must be on a set, not on the moon
p1. when light hits something it causes a shadow
p2. If there is only one light source, shadows will all point the same direction
p2. The sun is light
p3. The sun hits the moon from a single, direct angle
p4. The shadows in the footage of the moon are facing different directions
p5. Shadows facing multiple directions are caused by stage lights
c1. Stage lights are being used on the "moon"
p2. Stage lights were not taken to the moon, and are only used in sets
c. They must be on a set.
There would've been a reasonable motive for the American Government to want to stage the Moon Landing.
The US and the Soviet Union were the two super powers of the world during the 1960s, as well as enemies. The 1960s was the midst of the cold war (an era in which the US and the Soviets had extreme political and military tension). The two nations both aimed to be superior to the other when it came to arms. So, In 1961, US President John F Kennedy proposed a national goal: "before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." Kennedy was under a lot of pressure to meet this goal and this deadline. He had let the american public down a couple of times in his presidency (Eg. The failed Bay of pigs invasion). If he failed to meet his promise about the moon, Kennedy would've severely embarrassed himself and his nation. The massive amount of pressure on Kennedy would provided enough of a motive for Kennedy to stage the moon landing.
Theorists of the Moon Landing are guilty of hasty generalisation. They find a couple pieces of supposed evidence against the moon landing, and directly jump to the conclusion that it never even happened.
There is also an element of slippery slope reasoning involved. Theorists draw conclusions from the last conclusion, that leads to a chain of events that seems to complicated and too hypothetical to be true. For example:
-Kennedy was the president- He hadn't been a very good president so far- He was under pressure- He needed to impress the public- So he promised to get to the moon- the technology probably wasn't good enough- he staged the whole thing to make himself look better- he's managed to keep everyone involved quiet for this long.
Believers in the conspiracy theory could be guilty of Bandwagon. Conspiracy theories are becoming increasingly more popular, as they are being shared amongst more people (thanks to social media and the news). There are mass followings of these conspiracies, so people figure "if so many people are believing it, so should I!".
Moon landing conspiracy theorists are also culpable of taking on the cognitive Confirmation bias. They disregard any evidence that rebuts their beliefs. They have narrowed their minds to believe such a theory, that they are too stubborn to take on any other perspectives. NASA have responses and explanations for every claim made by the theorists. For example:
The Flag in the breeze:
NASA's explanation for this is that the moon has momentum and inertia. When the flag is being unpacked and set up, of course it is going to move. It is not flapping in the wind, but naturally waving as it is being set up.
Where are the stars?
There are no stars in any of the photographs of the moon because the moon is very bright. It reflects the light of the sun, and the cameras (which don't stand up to todays state of the art cameras) could not pick them up.
There are studio lights in the photos!\
No, there are not, it is simply lens flares. And the way the moon is so brightly lit is due to the fact that the sun is shinning directly onto it. As well as this, how likely would it be that NASA and the American Government would be silly enough to release an image where there are studio lights visible?
There are multiple more explanations for why the moon landing was not a hoax, and alas, these reasons can not be 100% trusted either, and they may be guilty of fallacies and cognitive biases too. The point is that the conspiracy theorists only hear what they want to hear. They refuse any rebuttal and do not listen to both side of the story equally.
Critical thinking tools
We can also evaluate the theory using Critical thinking tools:
Occams razor can be applied to the Moon Landing conspiracy. The concept of Occams razor is that the simplest explanation for an occurrence is usually the best one. The more assumptions you have to make to get to a conclusion, the less likely it is to be true. In the case of the moon landing, there are too many things we have to assume and guess and pick apart. It is a very complex conspiracy that involves extensive amounts of reasoning and explantation, when perhaps the far simpler, "official" version of the story is the best one to follow.
The thinking tool of Superman can also be applied to the conspiracy. People seem to forget/ignore how many people would be involved in order to pull off this conspiracy. If the moon landing had been staged, it would've required a large cast of people. They would've needed camera, lighting and sound people, directors, film producers, editors, media spokespeople etc. There would be such a large population of people who would know the "real truth" (if that happens to be that it was staged). In order for the American Government to fool the public that the landing had happened, they would have to somehow keep all the people involved in he staging quiet. Theorists overestimate the ability for humans to keep a secret. with such an open, free media, it is highly unlikely that this"truth" would've gotten out to the public.
And of course, as most conspiracy theories are, the moon landing conspiracy is considered falsifiable. There is a possibility that their statements can be proven false, and therefore it makes it much less trustworthy.
Despite all this, there are several things that the conspiracy theory is not guilty of. Cui Bono cannot be applied to this theory, as there is a reasonable motive as to why the government may do this. Not making it to the moon, as promised, would've had a severe impact on John F Kennedy's reputation, and therefore the entire American Government. They would have seemed weak and disappointing. America gained a lot from landing on the moon. They became the most technologically advanced, well respected, idolised country in the world.
In addition to this, we can also not apply the fallacy of "same same" to this theory, as the claims are not entirely ridiculous. The evidence that theorists provide makes sense, and seems to be legitimate (on the surface). People have fairly decent reason to believe in the evidence that is presented to them.
There aren't really ethical implications that can be applied to this case when questioning if it existed. It is not like the holocaust, where millions of people died, and labelling these deaths as fake can have a significant impact on the families of the victims.
However, by disregarding the occurrence of the moon landing, it disregards the years of hard work, incredible talent, and scientific genius that went into making it happen. The people involved in getting man to the moon are very highly accomplished and their talent should be acknowledged. These people would be extremely offended if someone were to rule their years of work as fake.
Extension- Create your own conspiracy
Context:The Titanic was a British passenger liner that was the largest ship there had ever been at its time (1912). The Titanic departed from Southhampton, towards New York City on her maiden voyage, when she struck an iceberg and sunk. More than 1,500 people died as the ship sunk to the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is known as one of the worlds biggest commercial disaster in modern history.
However, could the Titanic all be a fraud? Did the ship actually sink for the reasons we believe? Was the whole event really an accident?
Motive: Since the Spanish-American war in the late 1800s, America had been laying low. They wanted to remain independent and isolated from the drama occurring in other countries throughout Europe. The prospect of the first World War was growing increasingly, and America did not want to become involved. America was an ally of Britain, who was a western power similar to the US. The British were prepared to go into a world war, but america was not. Britain were a part of Europe, and their proximity to the drama taking place in europe was threatening to the US. If Britain were attacked, America would have to step in and become involved. Therefore, the US wanted to loosen their ties to Britain, and separate themselves a bit.
In order to do so, the US planned to interfere with one of Britain's current proudest achievements- The Titanic. The ship was magnificent, and had been labelled with the guarantee to never sink. The world was in awe of the massive cruise liner, and the public across the world listened in to their home radios when the ship departed on her maiden voyage.
America interfered in the following ways:
America had provided the Titanic with one of their "finest captains", when in actuality he had a mental disorder and had experienced suicidal thoughts. He was told to purposely hit the iceberg and cause the ship to sink. The windows at the bottom of the ship were all open, because workers had been instructed (by Americans) to open them. They were told they would be saved if they did so. The open windows made the ship sink faster. This must be the case, as structurally, the ship was too large for it to be possible for it to sink in the fast span of 3 hours. The rescue ships did not make it to save the passengers for hours after the boat had sunk, when in actuality, the boats could have reached the Titanic much faster than they did. Therefore, they were stalled by American agents. The boats were being sent from America, so they would've been able to control how long they delayed before going to save the remaining passengers. The ship didn't have enough life rafts to save the whole population of the boat, so we can assume that the British were threatened by the US to remove them. They could've fitted 500 more people onto the boats, and saved their lives, but they chose not to, because the workers were American agents plotting to make the event look as disastrous as possible. The Iceberg would've been visible to the human eye for at least 7 minutes before it was struck, and there were several sailors who were looking for the ship. They must have seen the iceberg coming, and chose not to report it because they were also American agents. There were no cameras in the 1910s, so the Americans were not in danger of people putting visual evidence against them. Most of the witnesses would be dead, so it would not be hard to keep people quiet.
Some of the arguments are sorted into standard form below:
p1. America provided Britain with the captain of the Titanic
p2. america wanted to make Britain look bad
c. America wanted the titanic to sink.
P1.The captain was mentally unwell
p2. The captain had experienced suicidal thoughts
c1. The captain was easy to manipulate
p2. America wanted to sink the titanic
c2. American officials manipulated the captain into sinking the titanic on purpose
p1. The titanic lower windows were open
p2. Windows do not open by themselves
p3. Opening windows on a ship will let water in
p4. Water in a ship will make it sink
p5. America wanted the ship to sink
c. Workers were told by american officials to open windows on the lowest floors of the Titanic to make it sink
P1. The titanic sunk completely within 3 hours
p2. It is impossible for a ship of that size to sink that quickly
p3. the ship had passed all the sink-proof tests before departing, including withstanding icebergs.
c. The ship must not have sunk naturally
p1. The iceberg would've been clearly visible to the human eye for at least 7 minutes before it hit
p2. There were two sailors keeping an eye out for icebergs
p3.It is highly unlikely that the workers did not see the iceberg
p4. The workers did not immediately report the iceberg to the driver of the ship
p5. America wanted the ship to hit an iceberg
c. The workers were hired by America to ensure the ship hit the iceberg.
p1. There were not enough life rafts to save the whole ships population
p2. Ships that are fully prepared for any obstacles would have a complete set of life rafts
p3. America wanted as many people to die as possible
c. America blackmailed Britain into not stocking enough life rafts
The titanic was all a fraud! It was controlled by the American Government, because they wanted to cut ties from Britain and make the British look bad (therefore making themselves look better).
However, this does not fully justify people believing in them. Conspiracy theories have a large element of danger. They have ethical implications. If people rule a tragic event as fake, that will deeply affect all the people involved in the event. It is insensitive and immoral to say that certain events never happened, when the friends and families of people who suffered in those events are still suffering from the tragedy. For example, people claiming that the holocaust was a fraud is an offence to the millions of people who genuinely suffered for years throughout that era.
Conspiracy theories are also dangerous in the way that they ask us to give up on the workings of society. Social interactions are all based on trust. Majority of what you know comes from what people have told and taught you. You trust what they are telling you, and therefore you become a more knowledgable person. However, if you believe in conspiracy theories, you begin to mistrust one of the most reliable sources of our society- the government. If you can't believe the government, they you arguable cant believe anyone, and therefore can't trust anyone. If trust in a society is lost, all social interactions will collapse.
I don't think the government should speak out against conspiracies. It would make no difference in changing the mind of conspiracists. Theorists are guilty of Confirmation bias, and have worst intentions. They only hear what they want to hear. Any evidence against their arguments is not considered at all, and is just brushed off as lies. If the government were to speak against conspiracy theories, the people who believe in conspiracies would say that they are lying, and that it is all fake and they cant be trusted. They automatically assume the worst. The rest of the public- the people who don't believe in conspiracies- would see the governments action as a petty step. They would be involving themselves in matters that a large government should not have to worry about. They hold the power, and they needn't be wasting their time meddling in conspiracies.
The government would not gain anything from speaking out. They would not change the minds of people, but simply fuel their fire.
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Realclearscience.com. (2016). 6 Tests for Evaluating Conspiracy Theories. [online] Available at: http://www.realclearscience.com/lists/6_tests_for_conspiracy_theories/ [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016].
Rundle, M. (2014). 11 Proofs That The Apollo Moon Landings Were NOT Fake. [online] The Huffington Post. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/07/18/apollo-11-fake-proof_n_5599372.html [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016].
YouTube. (2016). Conspiracy Theory : Did We Land on the Moon ?. (FULL) (February 2001). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIy8ZqqK5G8 [Accessed 14 Sep. 2016].