Sunday, September 25, 2005

Conspiracies pt1

Ever since I can remember I have been a big fan of Charles Fort and Fortean thinking.

Fort observed that if events did not fit in with current scientific theories about how the world worked they were simply discarded and forgotten. He devoted his life to collecting accounts of odd, inexplicable or strange events, usually taken from newspapers or scientific journals.

Fort wasn’t pursuing any particular alternative scientific theories of his own, he was just pointing out that a lot of weird stuff goes on that people prefer to ignore rather than deal with. Good Fortean stories are often very funny; partly because they are bizarre and partly because of the way establishment figures respond to them.

The classic example of a Fortean story is ball lightning. For years scientists dismissed accounts of ball lightning as fantasies and then people photographed it. Ooops…

Of course, it’s not just science that chooses to ignore anomalous information. This sort of behaviour takes place in all fields. And as such, Charles Fort is regarded by some as being the patron saint of conspiracy theorists. Which is a tad unfair on Charles as what he was advocating was that people listened to any account or idea with a completely open mind and then judged it on its own merits, without prejudice. That’s not quite the same thing as being a conspiracy theorist.

I mention all this because a news story last week reminded me of a Fortean Convention I attended about ten years ago in London. The highlight of the convention was a talk given by a guy called David Percy about photographic proof that the Apollo Moon Landings were faked.

This was long before the explosion of the Internet and the proliferation of conspiracy theories that have accompanied it. Consequently I, and most of the audience, hadn’t heard this theory before. It came like a bolt from the blue. The most remarkable thing was the ferocity of the response from some of the audience members. They were, to put it mildly, fucking pissed. It was clear they wanted to lynch the speaker for even suggesting such a thing. Forget the evidence, the guy was a heretic. It was an illuminating experience and reminded me that, for all their posturing, scientists can be just as emotive and subjective as any religious fundamentalist. A more reasoned response to Percy’s claims came later on but that hasn’t erased my memory of that first, emotional response to his suggestion.

Trying to be a good Fortean, I took what Percy had to say on board and went off and thought about it for a while. Eventually I decided that some of the Apollo photographs do look dodgy but that in itself doesn’t prove that Apollo was a fake. A much stronger argument lies in the fact that the space between the Earth and the Moon is often filled with potentially lethal radiation. The Apollo astronauts in their unshielded capsule, outside the protection of the Earth’s magnetic field, ran a very high risk of being frazzed.

Anyway, NASA announced last week that ‘man was returning to the Moon by 2018’. Err… that would be forty-six years after the last Apollo moon landing. Well, that’s a slap in the face for all those conspiracy theorists who maintain America didn’t have the technology for a successful Moonshot in 1969 isn’t it? What’s equally bizarre is the fact that the mainstream media hasn’t picked up on the peculiarity of the timescales involved and relayed the NASA announcement uncritically and without comment.

Fort would have loved it.


Ian said...

I told a friend's daughter (two and a half years old) yesterday that there have been some men that went to the moon - she said "no, Uncle Ian, no, no"
So there we have it.

Postman said...

My wife (amongst many other oddities) is a convinced No Man set Foot on the Moon Klan.

However the new photos now available are pretty convincing, they are on my blog, just search for something like Moon landing.

(Hint)You need to go to highest zooom level to see the full detail

de said...

I've always assumed the moon landing pictures were "sexed up". They got to the moon alright, and then took rubbish pictures. So they touched them up a bit.

They never would have assumed that years later people would assume a massive conspiracy. They just wanted to impress the Ruskies.

Sparkling said...

Having never heard of Charles Fort, this was an interesting read.

I haven't made my mind up about the moonlanding as yet.