Crucifying the Crucifixion

Let us take a hard, heretical look at the central tenet of Christianity: the Crucifixion/Resurrection scenario, as described in the New Testament. We will begin by assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are 100% historically accurate accounts of an actual (rather than mythical) hybrid God-man named Jesus. We will also temporarily accept, for the sake of argument, the doctrines of Creation and the Trinity.

The Crucifixion scenario appears to be founded upon a few operating assumptions:
1) Mankind is inherently sinful and evil.
2) Those who sin must die, while those who do not sin cannot die.
3) Blame (hence death) for sin is transferable to blameless creatures (including human virgins), but only by those who believe in such transferability.
4) God is completely blameless.

Putting it all together, the idea is that, by sacrificing himself to himself on behalf of mankind, the blame for all human sins can be transferred to God, thereby resolving the problem of mankind’s inherent sinfulness–for those who believe. And, joy of joys, Jesus still gets to live. How clever. Everybody wins. Right?

The problem with this scenario is, each these underlying assumptions is highly questionable:
1) Far from being inherently evil, human beings appear to have basically good intentions. Only extremely rare sociopaths go around plotting to do evil for the sake of evil. Everyone else realizes that, as a social species, our survival and well-being depends heavily upon how well we get along with each others. We’re hard-wired to be nice, and seek to become even nicer. Indeed, adherents typically convert to various religions because they think it will help them fulfill their pre-existing drive to become a better person. Religion would not exist if people were not already inherently good.
2) The death penalty for everything, including impure thoughts? (Matt. 5:17-48) Come on! Any nation that adopted such an absurdly overbearing system of law would be devoid of citizens within a week!
3) Transferring blame from someone who does deserve punishment to someone or something that does not is inherently unfair, by definition.
4) If an omnipotent God created everything according to his own predetermined plan, then he alone is to blame for everything.

Even if the assumptions behind the Crucifixion can somehow be rendered acceptable to those with even moderate reasoning ability and a healthy conscience, there is still the problem posed by the alleged resurrection. If Jesus resurrected, then in the end, he sacrificed nothing of value whatsoever. According to all four Gospels, the “death” of Jesus was both staged and faked!

If the Bible relays this scenario accurately, then God must be a seriously confused, morally debilitated monster of a deity, better suited for pity than for worship. The fake death of his Son/himself to give the appearance of taking advantage of a loophole in his own blatantly corrupt system of law, is so obviously absurd on so many levels that it is extremely difficult to understand why any rational, honest person would accept such nonsense as Gospel. If anything, the Crucifixion/Resurrection scenario makes far more sense as a ritual act of suicide, intended to convey God’s penitence toward us, for screwing things up so badly in the first place!

Believers, please try to take your faith more seriously, and strive to become better evangelists. I can testify from personal experience that truly understanding the core tenets of Christianity is the key to rejecting them.

Kent Hovind’s bizarre phone calls from jail

Definition of delusional: A guy who has cheated on his taxes and considers himself above the law, pontificating that his legal opponents should “obey the law!” I guess Dr. Dipshit doesn’t know that jails record phone calls. Let the world see what pathetic scum he truly is. He’s clearly living in his own dream world.

Prior to his conviction: The whining, the victim complex, the never ending mantra of “lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits!” This guy sure does love listening to his own bluster. In the first clip you will find yourself actually feeling sorry for his wife, listening to her say, with a notable tone of despair, that “I’m just hearing things [from you] that sound all the same.” Hovind’s cold reply, “Well, maybe I need to change…or maybe you need to change and accept it…Your hope is always that I will change. Maybe the hope ought to be that you will advance.”

Prick!

One wonders, how does someone this dishonest and deluded get this way in the first place? I guess it’s that when someone is this slick a bullshit artist, and he can convince himself of his own bullshit, then it becomes easy as pie to say literally any self-serving nonsense you can come up with, with unassailable confidence. Take note of the last thing Hovind says in the final clip, if you’re ready for a true Irony Meter-Breaker.

PS: Since Hovind wants to know what laws he’s broken, according to one source I’ve found, here they are: 26 U.S.C. § 7202, 31 U.S.C. § 5313(a), 31 U.S.C. § 5324, 18 U.S.C. § 2 and 31 C.F.R. sec. 103.11, 26 U.S.C. § 7212.

Half-Hearted Evangelism

One of the interesting differences I have found between formerly Christian atheists and currently Christian believers is, the former Christians among us often took our religious beliefs more seriously. That is, we took them seriously enough to look long and hard at whether or not the things we believed were actually true.

We looked into the origins of the Bible, and, like many Bible scholars, concluded that they are highly suspect, even from a Christian perspective. The Bible doesn’t mention anything about God endorsing the modern Bible canon, so upon whose authority was it assembled and declared to be the, “Word of God”? Hmm? The answer turns out to be, these books were selected not for their factual or “spiritual” accuracy, but for their popularity within the church at the time they were selected. As such, the Bible is as much a product of Christian doctrine as a source.

Not only that, those of us who studied the whole Bible–not just the carefully selected snippets children are permitted to hear in Sunday School–discovered that its contents are, to put it politely, morally questionable. See Genesis 38, Numbers 31, Judges 11, and numerous other Bible chapters extolling the virtues of deception, prostitution, theft, genocide, rape, human sacrifice, and worse. As Isaac Asimov put it, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

We also prayed, and discovered that prayer is just another superstition, and that the efficacy of prayer that we thought we saw in all of those testimonials was merely an illusion.

Yet, for some reason, Christians continue to cling to the belief that prayer and the Bible support their beliefs better than they support our lack of belief. Consider the following essay I recently received from a believer:

Read the Bible and Pray

Editorial #2 by Joseph Yosuk Lee

Introduction:

If you are a non-Christian, please let me warn you that this editorial is a band-aid solution in order to help you become a Christian. This editorial cannot help you become a Christian. Only God’s efficacious grace can save you. There is no way you can earn God’s grace by praying or by reading the Bible. However, reading the Bible and praying to God can help.

My Band-Aid Advice:

Whenever I talked to other non-Christians, they bitterly complained that Christianity is a religion such that the pastor brainwashed the congregation to believe in God. I told them that they should read the Bible, and they said that they have already read it. As I tested their knowledge about the Bible, they were not able to answer the important questions such as being born again and many important stories mentioned in the Bible. I told them that they did not read the Bible carefully. Many non-Christians complained that they already read the Bible, and yet they fail to notice the important messages in the Bible. This is proof that many non-Christians do not read the Bible very carefully.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans
10:17

Of course, there are many religious studies professors, who read the Bible very carefully and can recite more verses than the pastors, and yet they still do not believe in Christ. The reason why most religious studies professors fail to believe in God is that they probably fail to pray.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of
thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

When I was an undergraduate at Berkeley, I met a physics major, who told me that he read the entire Bible twice, and yet he did not believe in the Bible. I asked him whether or not he ever prayed. Of course, he never did pray, and I told him, “Not praying for a Christian is as same as not doing an experiment for a physicist.” The reason why I mentioned the importance in doing an experiment is that most physicists do not like to do experiments and want to be like Albert Einstein by reading their physics textbooks to find some theory how the universe works. So, how can you make a discovery in physics without doing an experiment? Most world renown physicists, who won the Nobel Prize, are experimentalist and are not theorists. In fact, Albert Einstein did not win a Nobel Prize for thinking about relativity. He won a Nobel Prize in setting up an experiment of the photoelectric effect. To win a Nobel
Prize in heaven, you should read the Bible, but you need to pray. Some people find a way to accept Christ by only reading the Bible. However, a person who prays has a greater chance of accepting Christ as his savior because it shows an attitude of submission.

Of course, my dad told me that he read the Bible and that he did pray, and he said, “If I prayed and read the Bible, how come I still do not believe in the Bible?” So, I told my dad about my physics friends at Berkeley, who tried to calculate the acceleration of gravity. There were about 30 physics and engineering majors in my physics class, and I told my dad that the average acceleration of gravity was calculated to be 6.0 m/s2 in our course when the acceleration of gravity is 9.8 m/s2 . So, did my physics friends at Berkeley discover the new acceleration value for gravity? My dad said, “They did not perform the experiment correctly.” I said, “You answered your questions, dad. You did not pray correctly either.” I can tell that my dad was very frustrated with me, and he just does not want to read the Bible carefully or to pray according to God’s will. My dad prayed that I get into Harvard and MIT, and he never prayed again when I did not make it to those schools. Despite my dad’s good intentions in praying for me, he never prayed that I would be like Jesus Christ. Prayer allows to conform our will to that of God’s will, but we do not take control of God through our prayer.

Last of all, there are probably some people, who did pray according to God’s will, read the Bible carefully, and yet their hearts were hardened. In order to be a Christian, God has to soften and open your heart to the gospel. Other words, there is no way that you can be a Christian by praying or reading the Bible. You become a Christian by God’s efficacious grace. Although he may not believe in God now, he can still believe in God in the near future.

Please share this editorial to your non-Christian friends by forwarding this e-mail.

Well, here I am, sharing it all. Does anyone feel like converting yet? I sure don’t. What a lame effort. It’s a bit disappointing, really. Band-Aid advice, indeed. Maybe God’s grace just isn’t efficacious enough, or something.

The author goes on with a boilerplate statement of how to become “saved”:

Steps in becoming a Christian.

1. You need to know that you are a sinner.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

The Hebrew translation for ‘sin’ is ‘missing the mark (of perfection in terms of thought and action).’

2. You need to know is that there is a price on sin.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death.”

3. You need to know is that Jesus paid the price.

Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

You must trust his death on the cross as the sacrifice for your own sins.

4. You need to know is that you must call upon the Lord in order to go
to Heaven.

Romans
10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

‘Whosoever’ means everyone-it includes you. ‘Calling upon the name of the Lord’ means to cry out to God in prayer and ask Him to save you. Being ‘saved’ means to be saved from your sins and from Hell. You must believe that Jesus Christ is full God and full man in order to be saved. See John 3:16, John 20:28-29, and Colossians 2:9.

5. Last of all, Jesus will sanctify (to purify or make you holy) you as time progresses.

Hebrews 13:12 ‘So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.’

*Just pray and call out to God through this simple prayer like:*

Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, who deserves to go to hell, but thank you for paying the price for me. I invite you to come into my heart right now and forgive me for my sins that nailed you to the cross. Save me and take me to Heaven when I die. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the son shall not see life;’ John 3:36.

I lost track of how many times I prayed that prayer or one like it as a child and adolescent, often a little fearful that I didn’t follow the formula just right, or say the little prayer with enough sincerity, despite literally being in tears. Yet, when I asked this fellow his opinion of my case, he insisted that in order for me to become an atheist, I must never have been a “real” Christian in the first place. So much for sincerely believing and following the prescribed protocol! Shucky darns, I guess nobody is a “real” Christian, then!

Christians, if you want to understand why I and many other former Christians lost our faith in God and the Bible, just try, for once, to take your own beliefs seriously!

Non-Providencial Poetry

I received the following in my corporate e-mail today:

“Anyway”

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered
   Forgive them anyway
If you are kind, people accuse you of selfish ulterior motives
   Be Kind anyway
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies
   Succeed anyway
If you find serenity and happiness, there may be jealousy
   Be Happy anyway
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow
   Do Good anyway
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough
   Give the World the best you’ve got anyway


You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God
It was never between You and Them anyway.

This wasn’t random spam. It was sent, to the entire company, by a Senior VP. It’s a beautiful poem, but whoever wrote the final lines, doesn’t have a solid grasp on the first line. They’ve completely ruined great sentiments by adding the concept of a God and an appeal to eventual, cosmic rewards for good deeds.

In the final sentence, replace the word ‘God’ with; Zeus, Jehova, ‘Whatever higher power you believe in, if any’, Magical Sky Pixies or Flying Spaghetti Monster and you’ll begin to see how absurd this really is.

If I had sent out this poem (to the entire company) with the last two lines replaced with; “Do good for its own sake — and not because you want a ‘gold star’ from some deity”, I would probably be writing my resume now, instead of a blog post.

If, instead, it had ended with “Do good for its own sake — do it because it makes you happy. Happiness is its own reward.” The poem would have been motivational, true and apart from a little sappy, who could really object?

Why is it so hard for people to see that appeals to a diety only serve to diminish the value of everything?

A flower can be appreciated for its own, natural beauty. To marvel at how wonderful ‘God’ is to have created a beautiful flower is completely backward. An omnipotent God could create beauty we could scarcely imagine; a flower so beautiful that gazing upon it sent one into euphoric fits. Flowers are beautiful, but they’re not miraculous.

If there’s an afterlife, isn’t this life just a place to wipe your feet until you get to the “real” life? Doesn’t the absence of a deity make this life infinitely more valuable? If there’s no cosmic justice, doesn’t that only encourage us to treat each other well, right now?

Let’s celebrate life. Let’s celebrate variety, diversity, knowledge, compassion, cooperation, good works, exploration, achievement and discovery.

No gods required.

Texas Mess

Texas State Senator Dan Patrick, author of the Christian bestseller, The Second Most Important Book You Will Ever Read, has published a press release announcing that the Texas State Senate unanimously approved the “Patrick Resolution” (SR 141). This bill requires the State Preservation Society to permanently affix the phrase, “In God We Trust” above the Lt. Governors podium.

The Atheist Community of Austin has published their own press release, admonishing the senate and the 80th Texas legislature for their authorship and support of this bill.

There are a few points about this situation that absolutely astonished me. First, I was surprised to learn that the Texas House of Representatives passed a similar resolution last week, by a vote of 142-3. (The Representatives voting against this resolution were; Donna Howard, Lon Burnman and Garnet Coleman.) Second, I was amazed that while all of this information was available online, it took a bit of digging to get to it. The press release regarding the Senate resolution didn’t come from the Senate, it came from the office of Senator Patrick. If Senator Patrick hadn’t mentioned the house resolution in his press release, many of us might not have known about it.

But the biggest surprise was the the Senate vote was unanimous. It’s a bit disheartening to learn that every one of our State Senators thinks that divisive statements of faith, as official actions of the legislature, are a good idea. Someone out there is thinking, “You live in Texas! What did you expect?!” That’s a sentiment I generally understand – but living in Austin has made me a bit more optimistic about Texas. A single ‘no’ vote, as a sign that there’s some hope, would have been nice.

As I pointed out in the ACA press release, the author of this bill has made it clear that it serves no secular purpose and is, as far as I can tell, a violation of the Constitutions of both Texas and The United States. While most people consider this bill a ‘good thing’ or, at worst, ‘no big deal’, I think it’s time that we challenge legislation like this – and a direct appeal to reverse the mistakes of the McCarthy error and restore the original national motto, is long overdue as well.

In the past, I’ve wavered on whether or not challenging “Under God” in the pledge or “In God We Trust” on our money was really a good idea. I was certain that they both needed to be changed, but I wasn’t certain that these were necessarily the best fights to pick. I’m now convinced that these are exactly the right fights.

The Texas State Constitution has the following statement in its Bill of Rights:

No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.”

We know that this is a violation of the U.S Constitution; a uninamous decision by the Supreme Court in Torcaso v. Watkins established that quite firmly. So why does it still appear in the Texas Constitution? Because no one has bothered to push for its removal – we recognize the passage is irrelevant, so it’s just not worth the bother.

Unfortunately, everyone isn’t up to speed on the finer points of law. Which means that this unconstitutional piece of nonsense still serves a purpose – it’s trotted out to support various myths about the religious nature of our government. It is a way of reenforcing a bias to those who won’t bother to investigate.

It’s right there, in black and white and it’s time we changed that.

Chocolate is the reason for the season!

Okay, I know everyone is still looking for that final TAM report. I am working on it (amazing how, when you return from a vacation, life just…slams you back into a routine). But this, I felt, was too good to pass up.

If there’s one thing I dearly, dearly love, it’s getting the “Action Alert” newsletters from Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association. I even love the name alone. “Action Alert”! One imagines a fundagelical prayer warrior, sitting at home minding his own business, when suddenly, a red light starts blinking (with accompanying staccato buzzing noise) on his computer! He leaps up, tearing off his shirt to reveal an AFA superhero costume underneath, and, grabbing his Bible — whoosh! — he’s out the door as his wife and kids wave to him, calling out, “Come home safe, Daddy!”

In reality, the Action Alerts are not nearly so Action-Packed. It’s mostly the usual round of homophobia and we’re-so-persecuted stuff, along with calls to boycott this or that other business that isn’t sufficiently genuflecting to their Christian superiority.

Most recently, the AFA wants to extend the shelf-life of the War on Christmas by turning it into a War on Easter. As has been reported many times, the War on Christmas was created by Christian activist groups for the purposes of fundraising. It’s a cash cow, with groups like the AFA stirring up persecution fears in their flock in order to sell zillions of dollars in buttons, decals, and the like. The fact of Christian Right groups being dishonest and sleazy is not, I know, earth-shattering news. But it’s sad that so many are still so easily suckered by it.

Not the least bit concerned that their motives are nakedly obvious to the rest of humanity, the AFA is sounding the “save Easter by sending us money” klaxon loud and clear. Their latest cash cow (cash calf?) is this button/magnet series to let the filthy unsaved know goddamn good and well that Easter is not about bunnies and chocolate. Nor is it, as them evil librul professors will tell you, a ritual originating in pagan cultures related to the vernal equinox in which they honored their goddess Cybele/Eostre/Astarte. Nope, it’s all about their god-man coming back to life at the end of that Mel Gibson movie…and nothing else! And what better way to remind those unsaved heathen about that fact than by sending Donald Wildmon a lot of money for some of these:

There! That’ll show ’em.

This is your invitation to sponsor you [sic] church’s participation in Silent Witness Week, to be observed during Holy Week April 1-8. Imagine this: Thousands of Christians wearing a very attractive lapel button which reads: Easter. He Lives! …This extremely attractive button is a silent but effective witness to Jesus and the Resurrection story. Wear it while shopping, at work, at school, etc. Silently let others know that Easter is about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, not a bunny or eggs.

Now, as Bugs Bunny often would say, “You realize of course that this means WAH!” I’ll put up with a lot from fundagelicals. But when they diss the Bunny and His Magic Eggs, they’ve gone too fucking far!

So in the spirit of the season — especially the “making money!” part — I’ve decided to respond with a button/magnet of my very own! Bask!

And you can order this lovely item right here!

Imagine thousands of atheists spreading the good news of chocolate and colored eggs to all of humanity! And all via the effective “silent witnessing” tool of a simple, elegant button or magnet! There has never been a better time to be a Silent Witness for the Bunny. Join Silent Witness Week, won’t you?

Poor, Tragic Yahweh

Christians often have the impression that atheists somehow hate Yahweh, the God of the Bible. We don’t, and we can’t, because we do not believe there are any gods to hate, even if we wanted to hate them.

Actually, in a sympathetic way, I find the character of Yahweh quite likable. Like most of the ancient gods, he’s an exaggeration of humanity, with both his good side and his foibles written larger than life. He’s just mucking along, trying to get his relationship with humanity to work out, but is met with failure after failure: he fails to keep Adam and Eve in the dark about good vs. evil; he’s so upset by his sons interbreeding with human women to create the hybrid god-man race know as Nephilim, that he decides to eradicate everyone but Noah and his family; he frees the Israelites from Egypt, but when their scouts are intimidated by the forces of Canaan, he pouts and has them remain nomads for forty years until most of the responsible adults are presumed dead; he establishes the reign of kings, starting with Saul, but that idea turns out to be a mixed bag; etc., etc., etc.; at long last, he inseminates Mary to become his own son, and sacrifices himself to himself to take advantage of a loophole in his own law of sin and death–but even this convoluted gesture failed to resolve his problems with mankind; he promised to come again and set everything straight within the lifetime of the apostles, but that didn’t happen either; two millennia later, it still hasn’t happened; those to whom he speaks, once respected as prophets, are regarded as lunatics today. What a compellingly tragic figure is Yahweh.

Welcome, Pharyngulites!

Due to another link from PZ to my latest TAM 5 posting, yesterday was this blog’s best day ever. Today is already about twice what we usually get in daily uniques, and it’s only 9:15 in the morning! Hope all of you fellow godless heathens stopping by from Pharyngula like what you see, and see fit to do the bookmarking thing. Next TAM 5 update coming later today!

Facing 10 years as Bubba’s Bitch, Hovind loses mind

This is just too funny. Hovind’s latest too-good-to-pass-up offer for the government: let me go and I’ll stop suing you. Oooo! Got ’em on the ropes there, Kent baby.

This editorial lays the smackdown on this cretin.

“You dishonor your fellow Americans” by dodging a fair share of taxes, [Judge Casey] Rodgers said.

She sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Even then he resisted reality.

“I sure would like to go home,” he told Rodgers.

Oooh man. I almost feel sorry for the guy.

Wait! — what the hell am I saying? No I don’t!

TAM 5: Saturday coverage, part 1 (before lunch)

As mentioned before, Saturday was a much improved day over Friday, not only because the tech troubles had mostly been solved, but in that the presenters were much more entertaining, though no less substantive than Friday’s. Later on I heard a story I couldn’t prove, to the effect that the possible reason for Friday’s nonstop laptop horrors (it got so bad that the only way Richard Wiseman could get anyone to hear his audio was to hold his mic right up to his laptop itself, which didn’t sound at all good and didn’t make him a very happy man) had to do with Lori Lipman Brown bringing her own sound guy for some reason, and this person is suspected of being responsible for the damaged connector found by JREF’s A/V guy at the end of the day. As I said, no hard evidence here, but it could have been a factor.

Regrettably, I missed much of the first speaker, NPR’s Peter Sagal. But I caught the tail end of his talk and all of his Q&A. Like most of Saturday’s speakers — up until Christopher Hitchens, anyway — Sagal set a lighthearted and humorous tone that would be followed for most of the day. One interesting thing he brought up was that, despite NPR’s reputation for being this leftist bastion, NPR really does go out of its way to avoid offending listeners — with the inevitable result that they reliably end up being offensive to lots of people. Sagal mentioned he thought NPR was actually too cautious about trying not to be inflammatory.

Sagal was followed by a moment of pure hilarity in the form of The Onion editor Scott Dikkers. At first I thought, Hmm, he’s not really being all that funny for a guy who edits The Onion. And then, I of course realized he’s a master of the classic form of deadpan comedy, allowing screenshots of the O to speak for themselves while he delivered his own commentary — the overriding theme of which was that we should always believe everything we read in the media — in a calm, reserved tone. Dikkers’ presentation peaked with his demonstration that The Onion is so true that it’s actually predicted the future, showing articles (all of which appeared as Onion satires before actually occurring in real life) about Chris Farley’s death (whoops!), Gillette releasing a five-bladed razor (here’s the Onion bit, and here’s the real thing released the following year), and Bush’s 2000 win ushering in a brave and courageous end to world peace and domestic prosperity. With such remarkable proof of The Onion‘s precognitive talents on display, Dikkers had no hesitation in immediately demanding the JREF million dollar prize. Somehow, it wasn’t quite enough proof for Randi, who nevertheless told Dikkers he’d made his day. Damn those picky skeptics!

The last speaker in the pre-lunch bald-guy parade (hey, they said it, not me) was Bad Astronomy‘s awesome Phil Plait, who began his talk — in obvious physical pain, I must say — conceding his crushing defeat to Pharyngula‘s PZ Myers in a recent best-of-the-web poll, which PZ eventually won in a “suspicious” eleventh-hour rush of votes that put him over the top. First Phil acknowledged the greatness that is PZ…

…followed by the comforting reassurance that it was just as well PZ won, because if he’d lost, the deal evidently was that PZ would agree to appear in the 2007 Skepdude Calendar. And Phil just happened to have the photo.

Well, I feel luckier already.

Phil then went on, in the spirit of the conference’s media-related theme, to fisk an absurd “documentary” that appeared on (of course) Fox about five years ago that gave credence to that stellar gang of asshats, the moon landing deniers. If you ask me, these people are as big a bunch of reprobates as creationists, and Phil showed how they’re no less brazen in the lies they tell in order to promulgate their crazy conspiracy theories in the media. Plait pointed out just how slickly packaged the show was, and how it sleazily manipulated its audience, not by making any outright, actionable claims, but by what it craftily left out, thus prompting viewers to think, “Well, gee whiz, maybe it was all a big fake!” It was a prime example of how the art of editing can build innuendo, and commit egregious lies of omission in order to get people to take any asinine claim seriously.

What is amazing about the fact anyone takes moon-landing-hoax claims seriously is that the “evidence” these people point to is so pitiful that anyone with the slightest bit of understanding of the issues involved can refute them with no effort at all. There’s just no critical thinking going on at all among these conspiracy kooks. Several moon landing deniers, for instance, claim to be photography experts. And yet they appear unacquainted with such basic photographic issues as lens flare, perspective and horizon lines, and even ASA speeds and exposure times. Why don’t you see stars in any of the moon-surface photos? The deniers say it’s because it was all done on a sound stage in Area 51 (no shit, a guy in the doc actually said “Area 51”). People with brains who know how cameras work will tell you it’s because the astronauts were using slow film and adjusting their f-stops to show a clear lunar surface, not the sky. To expose the film for long enough to pick up a sky full of stars would have resulted in such a blazing white, glared-out lunar surface that the whole shot would have been a loss. As someone who works in the film business myself, allow me to give my expert assessment of Phil’s explanation: Duh! Now someone tell Fox and these shitheads who claim to be photographers.

In this photo, Phil uses his belt to show how a flag can appear to be “waving” in an airless environment.

In all, Phil’s talk was a spectacular and, though funny, deeply sobering demonstration of how easily the media can influence public opinion through deception. It’s one more reason the pro-science camp needs to learn to be more media savvy, in order to find ways to communicate facts to a confused public and show how the truth about science and the universe is far more wondrous and compelling than the bleak fear-mongering and go-nowhere ignorance they’re currently being given. Phil’s final shot was this wonderful autograph from Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean.

Says it all, I think.

Back later with the second half of Saturday.