Looking the wrong way – part 1

Let’s begin.

Last year I was asked if I believed that the moon landings really happened.

This is an interesting question, not from the perspective of whether or not NASA and the US government have perpetrated a massive hoax on the entire world, but rather from a concern with ‘belief’.

Here’s what I believe: a lot of people have bought into the view that the moon landings did not happen.

That’s a bold statement. Let’s dissect it. What do I mean by ‘a lot of people’? Well, some surveys put this number as high as 25% of the adult population in countries such as the USA, Great Britain and Russia. I’m not sure of how secure those numbers are, but it’s probably safe to say the actual number is big enough to make a variety of books and TV documentaries commercially viable.

And what do I mean by ‘bought into the view’? Well, for a small minority, that could mean they believe it with every fibre of their being. For the rest, it’s probably a passing curiosity, something to file away in the folder marked ‘Stuff They Don’t Want Us To Know About But, Hey, Whatcha Gonna Do?’.

Part of me hopes that this assessment is accurate; that, in the main, this belief isn’t held in the deeply mystical or religious sense, but rather a minor factoid that people employ to tell them how the world works – ‘They lied to us about going to the moon…what next?’ – before moving on to the next bit of celebrity gossip and beer nuts. Then again, there’s another part of me that suspects some people take this very seriously indeed.

Why does this matter? If several thousand people are mistaken about this what harm does it do? They’re entitled to their views.

Well, of course they are. The problem is that such spurious ideas (and moon-hoax stuff is spurious – I’m going to point you towards more sound thinking before we’re done) are numerous and get in the way of what matters. It’s a question of signal to noise and one of the real problems we have when it comes to living in an information-rich environment is how to dial out the noise and focus on the signal – on what really matters.

SG Collins puts it so much more eloquently in this excellent piece about why the evidence for a moon hoax is flawed:

In other words, bad stuff happens when we’re looking the wrong way.

Should we be concerned? Are people distracted by the noise? Do their beliefs, left unchallenged, get in the way of focussing on what matters? And do governments and corporations use this to their advantage?

Gee, I’d really love to answer those questions, but The Lottery’s just come on the telly….

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