The rise of anti-scientific thinking and conspiracy is a concerning trend.
- Fifty years later after one of the greatest achievements of mankind, there's a growing number of moon landing deniers. They are part of a larger trend of anti-scientific thinking.
- Climate change, anti-vaccination and other assorted conspiratorial mindsets are a detriment and show a tangible impediment to fostering real progress or societal change.
- All of these separate anti-scientific beliefs share a troubling root of intellectual dishonesty and ignorance.
Moon landing conspiracy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA4NTE0Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTAyMjQyNH0.yYtb2IdKfaDmUVwHebeG8rAqNsKJRRdvIJV1VMB22i4/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C458%2C0%2C459&height=700" id="6bd63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="eb32f32ba91e8c70d31fbba964d9aa93" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Flag on the moon" />Apollo 11 moon landing
Image by NASA<p>Landing on the moon was a triumphant paean to the greatness of our human spirit and ingenuity. Between 1969 and 1971 <a href="https://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/main.html" target="_blank">we landed on the moon six times.</a> Each landing carried down two astronauts, while one waited for them in lunar orbit. We brought down moon rocks, left behind many lunar modules (that can be pinged with lasers from the earth's surface) and we learned a great deal about the moon from these pioneering missions. </p><p>In recent years, talk about the moon landing being a hoax have begun to circulate and pickup more ignorant adherents. The fact that most of these deniers are not scientists or astronauts — nor have have advanced knowledge of engineering, rocketry, physics and so forth — should be telling enough. Even without going into the nitty gritty of the science, there's enough places online to find simple <a href="https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/07/apollo-11-hoax-photos--8-moon-landing-myths-busted/" target="_blank">arguments debunking the moon landing hoax</a>. </p><p>Mathematician David Robert Grimes approached the idea of debunking the moon landing hoax and other associated conspiracies in a novel way<a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0147905" target="_blank"> through a mathematical model.</a> The formula accounts for the amount of people involved in a supposed conspiracy and how long it would take to go on keeping the details hidden from the public.</p><p>He states: <em>"Even if there was a concerted effort, the sheer number of people required for the sheer scale of hypothetical scientific deceptions would inextricably undermine these nascent conspiracies."</em></p><p>Grimes understands that even with such a compelling and logic based understanding of the phenomenon of conspiracy, those with these beliefs will likely never shake their convictions. </p><blockquote>"The grim reality is that there appears to be a cohort so ideologically invested in a belief that for whom no reasoning will shift, their convictions impervious to the intrusions of reality. In these cases, it is highly unlikely that a simple mathematical demonstration of the untenability of their belief will change their viewpoint. However, for the less invested, such an intervention might indeed prove useful."</blockquote><p>Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt echoed this sentiment when he said: </p><blockquote>"If people decide they're going to deny the facts of history and the facts of science and technology, there's not much you can do with them. For most of them, I just feel sorry that we failed in their education."</blockquote>
Flat earth theory<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="xW7kNCru" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="75ffea4c75929656c7b76280ee67cec9"> <div id="botr_xW7kNCru_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/xW7kNCru-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/xW7kNCru-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/xW7kNCru-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Transport yourself back to a backwoods epistemological viewpoint that was mostly considered ignorant just a few centuries ago — the earth is flat. No one in their right mind should hold this belief. Yet it still persists. In an interview with Big Think, Nasa astronomer Michelle Thaller expertly lays out a <a href="https://bigthink.com/videos/michelle-thaller-how-to-disprove-flat-earth-theory" target="_self">few ways to disprove the flat-Earth theory.</a></p><p>She states: <em>"That's a hard thing for me to even start talking about because there are so many proofs that the Earth is round, it's difficult to know where to start. And it's not okay to think that the Earth is flat. This is not a viable argument."</em></p><p>One example she gives is of the Greek scientist named Eratosthenes, who figured out that the difference of the sun's angle hitting a town called Syene and the far-off city of Alexandria on the same day didn't strike down the same way. Eventually his experiments would lead him to accurately measure the circumference of the Earth some 2,000 years ago. </p><p>Although old Eratosthenes and countless others led us out of this swamp many years ago, the idea won't die. Educational researcher Harry Dyer<a href="https://qz.com/1268605/what-its-like-to-attend-a-flat-earth-convention/" target="_blank"> finds this troubling </a>as he recently visited a flat-Earth convention and reported his experiences to Quartz. <br><br><em>"The idea of trusting your gut or trusting your feelings came up a lot at the conference. I think it is indicative of [a form of] populism where people want to move away from statistics and create an environment that engages more in emotions," </em>he said.</p>While this remains on the fringes for now, there's no telling <a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/do-people-really-think-earth-might-be-flat/" target="_blank">how much this poisonous idea may continue to grow.</a>
Vaccinations and autism linked myth<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="bARtxDqZ" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="a6d3daed1119480be549a1410b39a973"> <div id="botr_bARtxDqZ_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/bARtxDqZ-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/bARtxDqZ-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/bARtxDqZ-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>A recent report points to some 160 people in New York state being diagnosed with measles. This comes just a few years after a large outbreak of measles at Disney World in 2015. Anti-vaccinators and their coterie of misinformed supporters just might take the blame for this entirely preventable disease.</p><p>There has been absolutely no link between vaccines and autism. The idea stems from a discredited paper written by disgraced British doctor named Andrew Wakefield who intentionally published a fraudulent paper linking the two. What could be the continuation of this discredited belief? <a href="https://bigthink.com/hysteresis-society-resistance-to-vaccines" target="_self">Hysteresis</a>.</p>The findings of a recent study suggess that vaccines and the previous public perception of them sometimes causes a phenomenon that's known as hysteresis, which creates a holdover negative perception of the process. Basically, because the public was originally exposed to this faulty information, their resolve against vaccination is strong even in the face of the overwhelming amount of evidence available. The full details of the study can be found <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2018.2406" target="_blank">from the Royal Society Publishing.</a>
Climate change denial<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="n1Jdn8jY" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c92c24fcdf3ec805af3ad60f606635d7"> <div id="botr_n1Jdn8jY_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/n1Jdn8jY-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/n1Jdn8jY-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/n1Jdn8jY-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Conspiracy theory and its associated cognitive dissonance, and other laundry list of cognitive defects, is most dangerous when applied to denying climate change. A <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886915005024" target="_blank">study written in 2015 </a>explored the consequences of being exposed to a popular conspiracy theory. They found that it can make you less socially-minded and less likely to accept already established scientific fact and laws. </p><p>In the experiment, subjects were sat down and instructed to watch a quick two-minute clip from a global-warming conspiracy movie. They were divided into three groups: conspiracy (who watched the clip), a group that watched a United Nations video talking about global warming and a neutral group. </p><p>The results showed that subjects exposed to the conspiracy video were significantly less likely to believe that there is a<a href="https://skepticalscience.com/97-percent-consensus-cook-et-al-2013.html" target="_blank"> 97 percent consensus agreement </a>between climate scientists about the phenomenon and far less likely to do anything about the problem. These varied anti-scientific ways of thinking can cause <a href="https://bigthink.com/think-tank/bill-nye-to-climate-change-deniers-you-cant-ignore-facts-forever" target="_self">a lot of real world damage</a>, from leaving children vulnerable to viruses to accelerating the effects of pollution. </p><p>Dr. Sander van der Linden calls this the conspiracy effect and warns people to be aware of it:</p><blockquote>My advice: Misinformation spreads quickly and can do much more harm than you think. The next time someone tries to convince you of a popular conspiracy theory, beware of the conspiracy effect.</blockquote>
We're finally here! We've been counting down the 10 most popular videos of 2018. This is #1...
- Hey flat Earthers, it's time to put your theory to bed once and for all! "There are so many proofs that the Earth is round, it's difficult to know where to start. And it's not okay to think that the Earth is flat; this is not a viable argument," says NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller.
- Thaller explains three observable proofs that instantly debunk flat-Earth theory with irrefutable evidence of the Earth's round, curvaceous, gloriously spherical shape.
- The ancient Greeks figured out we were living on a sphere over 2,000 years ago, and there are things you can do to prove that the Earth is indeed round—just go to a body of water and look at ships or boats on the horizon with binoculars. Watch the video for the details!
- You can follow Michelle Thaller on Twitter at @mlthaller.
The contestants would try to reach the end of the world, as they understand it.
- According to Flat-Earthers, our planet is flat and space travel doesn't happen.
- People are calling for a reality show about Flat-Earthers.
- Flat-Earthers say a 150-foot ice wall surrounds the world.
Why have some conspiracy theories been pushed back into the public? Because when you try to force them out of the mainstream, they'll find a wider audience on the fringes.
Liberal college students have taken to shouting down certain right-leaning speakers on campus that they don't agree with. Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic Magazine, thinks that is the worst thing you can do. He posits that all you do when you prevent someone from speaking is make certain people want to hear them more. This has led to the rise of the conspiracy theorists and why fringe ideas—from something as silly as flat-earth believers to something as morally reprehensible as Nazism and Holocaust deniers—have been pushed back into the mainstream. Michael's new book is Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia.
Is the world actually flat? Let's ask someone who has some actual perspective on the subject... from space.
To the average person, there appears to be a growing number of people who believe — somehow — that the world is actually flat and that we are all being "lied" to by world governments. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has actually been to space and has seen that the world is round, but is unphased by these so-called "flat-earthers." He flatly (pun intended) denies a global conspiracy, and says that perhaps the best way to deal with such willful ignorance is just to ignore it. After all, he posits, "if you wrestle with a pig, the best you can be is a pig wrestler." It's folky wisdom like that which puts Chris into another stratosphere of intelligence. Chris Hadfield is the author of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything