July General Meeting Report
Speaker Dr Steve Roberts, ASV Secretary and member of the Australian Skeptics.
His subject: The Moon Landing (and other astronomical hoaxes)

It is in the nature of all of us to want to understand items of concern to us. Making sense of what we see is probably part of our survival instinct. We have a need to believe in a knowable universe and a benign environment; yet at the same time we need to have this belief constantly confirmed by trying to understand a basically hostile world. Deep down we are true descendants of Thomas, we expect to see the pierced hand. The skepticism doctrine, that absolute knowledge is unattainable, is a double edged sword. While the philosophy demands rigorous formal proof towards a particular object, the use of scepsis applies equally well to any limits we may impose on the intricacies of nature as it does to human capabilities and the capacity of the human mind to grow in understanding. Michael Shermer, Editor of SCEPTIC (www.sceptic.com) in his Opus 100, I Want To Believe in July 2009 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, said it succinctly: “...it is the height of arrogance for us to think we now know enough to know what we cannot know.” The history of science over the last 2000 years surely has taught us that.

July 2009 is the 40th anniversary of humanity’s first setting foot on another celestial object, our Moon. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” were Neil Armstrong’s memorable words spoken as he stepped from the Lunar Lander onto the dusty surface of the Moon. Did it really happen? Could the whole moon-landing episodes have been faked? Staged in a studio like the ill-fated “Capricorn One” in the movie of that name? Steve showed us a lot of slides, shots supposedly taken on the Moon, pictures that showed confusing shadows, weird perspectives, footprints that do not explain a dry, dusty environment. He ran a short video segment where Armstrong, in full space-suit, practices coming down the Lunar Lander ladder and just at the point of the scratchy “...mankind” in Armstrong’s statement the scaffolding supporting the lights illuminating the scene collapses on Armstrong. Coincidence? Yes, they could be fakes; but for every assertion of the “Truthers” a scientific explanation is available. Could the Americans in fact have done a deception at the time? No! The consequences of being found out would have dealt a heavy, un-survivable blow to their prestige, which they just could not risk..

Steve had a lot more pictures of things and events that have been the subject of controversy. Such as the face on Mars, which turned out to be just an oval rock. The air-bubble inside a drop of water (beautiful and yes its possible in a weightless environment), the annual August Mars hoax, the face of Jesus in the leafy shadows of a tree and many more. It was an entertaining evening with everyone having fun. The vote of thanks and the presentation of the traditional ASV Red was made by the President Perry Vlahos, while Dr Steve Roberts (true to his calling) was checking the label on the bottle.