During a recent bout of insomnia, I turned on the TV and browsed through my Netflix account to find that the Fox special about moon landing conspiracy theories was available for streaming. I remembered watching it in eighth grade and I figured it would be an amusing little flashback.
It was not that amusing. It was honestly kind of scary.
See, I believe that we landed on the moon. I've always believed that we landed on the moon. But the way the documentary was framed was so vividly reminiscent of the critic-versus-apologist format I've become so familiar with that it kind of felt like watching a televised summary of the CES Letter interspersed with snippets from FAIR's rebuttal. And in that sense, I was on the side of the apologists. I was the one stubbornly clinging to a long-held belief in the face of mounting evidence against it. And the whole time I was watching Bill Kaysing explain why NASA must have faked the moon landing, I was thinking...is this how crazy we look to Mormons?
I'd been spectacularly mistaken about my long-held religious beliefs. If I was wrong once, why should I assume I was right when it came to the moon landing?
Of course, there are a few logical reasons why this show elicited these reactions from me. For starters, it was about the conspiracy theories, so much of the time was devoted to explaining the reasons why it may have been a hoax. NASA representatives were interviewed, but in most cases their explanations simply boiled down to "That's just absurd!" And some of the explanations for these apparent clues would have required some technical scientific background that a 45-minute show would not have had time to include.
Additionally, I'm not well-versed in physics and astronomy. I don't know much about radiation belts and launch craters and how things behave in a vacuum. So while I instinctively scoffed at almost every argument made by conspiracy theorists, I couldn't directly refute them. I just knew that they, for one reason or another, felt wrong. And how could I be sure that the reason they felt wrong wasn't merely because I really wanted them to be wrong?
I'm far more knowledgeable about Mormonism. Though I can't tear every single apologist's rebuttals to pieces, I've studied a lot of the issues in depth for myself to the point where I feel pretty confident that my dismissal of most apologetics is founded in solid reasoning. And I'm continuously discovering more issues that would require some truly earth-shattering context to be fairly interpreted in any other way.
Rest assured, I did some Googling after the show ended and I decided that the NASA apologists had responses that, to my lesser scientific mind, seemed plausible enough and exhaustive enough to support my lifelong belief that an American flag has flown from the moon since 1969. So I'm still firmly in the it's-not-a-hoax camp, at least when it comes to NASA. When it comes to Mormonism, I'm still decidedly of the are-you-kidding-of-course-it-was-a-hoax school of thought. I guess one man's crackpot is another man's crusader. And I'm still not sure what would have been more troubling—discovering that the moon landing really was a hoax or discovering that I didn't have the intellectual honesty to consider and research a compelling idea that threatened my worldview.
Luckily, the truthfulness of NASA is not essential to my salvation.