Exposing PseudoAstronomy

July 26, 2012

Do Skeptics Hate the People They Debunk?


I recently produced my first podcast/blog-related movie, and it was debunking a claim that Richard C. Hoagland made on a radio show a few nights ago that there is a pyramid on the Moon.

Since that time, Richard’s response has been indirect, speaking via e-mail with some of his supporters stating:

Working to finish the Eclipse Paper (which will blow everyone’s minds), so this “ziggurat herfuffle” comes as a bit of a distraction in the middle of that; however, it seemed appropriate to remind everyone — on the 43rd Apollo 11 Anniversary — how MUCH NASA has been hiding, all these years ….

And, you can quote me (until I can get back to Facebook and explain things more fully myself … )

I find it fascinating the amount of vitriol my posting this simple image on “Coast” seems to have caused.

“Hit a nerve,” perhaps ….?

Let’s ignore the obvious argument from persecution. Meanwhile, Mike Bara, who I only briefly mentioned in the video because he was claiming that he sent the photo to Richard, has gone all out. He wrote a blog post about it and has brought it up several times on his Facebook page. In all writings, he has referred to those of us who have pointed out why it is likely fake as “morons,” “faggots” (an insult in Bara’s mind), and the term used most of all is, “haters.”

Ignoring the obvious ad hominem fallacy with which most people are likely aware (and if not: post 1, post 2), I’m writing this post to briefly address the charge that skeptics are “haters.”

To be fair, I can only speak for myself 100%, but I can speak for several other skeptics (since I know many) indirectly, and I can speak for Expat, at whom most of Bara’s ire has been directed. We don’t “hate” purveyors of woo. Personally, I find interesting many of the claims because it makes me see where people who don’t really know what they’re doing go wrong in their analysis (yes, I realize this sounds condescending, but I’m working on a lack of sleep here — for a good example, see either my first post or my second post on Alex Tsakiris.).

I also see it as a very interesting psychology study. For example, in one of the many posts that Mike made to Facebook regarding this, people responded with things such as, “People are afraid of information that is not given to them by a governmental institution;” “RCH and Mike Bara arent making anything up. Its the idiots & morons who dont know a rats ass about the ancient man-made artifacts spread throughout the solar system;” “Attacking Hoag also. F__K them Mike.;” and “GREAT article Mike! Also just pre-ordered Ancient Aliens On The Moon! Can’t wait for October!”

These people (unless they’re there with false platitudes) follow Mike and/or Richard almost like a cult leader, believing whatever they present uncritically and unquestioningly. A “Thanks for clearing it up Mike, well done!” was posted to Facebook in response to Mike’s blog.

Meanwhile, I have seen no one actually point out any scientific nor logical flaws in my video (except for a brief mention of scattered light in shadowed regions, which I fixed in the updated version).

Anyway, the question returns to, “Do I hate Mike and Richard and that’s why I made the video?” Again, no. I made the blog post because I had already spent 30 minutes in a scavenger hunt in the initial image. I made the video because I thought it would be a good “first” video for my podcast/blog because it was a purely visual argument, and I also wanted to capitalize on Phil Plait’s tweet regarding my post on Hoagland.

Never have I said that I “hate” Richard nor Mike. I did state that in my opinion, based on my analysis, Hoagland was either incompetent in his image analysis or he was lying that he did any analysis on the image. That’s not the same thing. That is pointing out a flaw in a skill set (or lying about performing the task). That’s not hatred.

In speaking with Expat (in e-mail, Skype, and the interview I did with him last year for the podcast), it’s the same general thought process. He doesn’t explicitly “hate” Bara nor Hoagland. Expat finds it annoying and unconscionable that, after being shown wrong time and again, Bara and Hoagland would continue to spread disinformation, wrong science, and continue to fall for the same pareidolia, but that’s annoyance and dismay. Hatred directed at the person is not what’s going on. In fact, I ran this paragraph by Expat before posting, and he wanted me to add: “I don’t hate them. I’ve never met them. For all I know they’re great guys.”

Unfortunately, I doubt that Mike Bara’s tone will change; if he has never acknowledged he doesn’t know what an annular eclipse is nor how to measure an ellipse, then he’s not going to change his diction that gets his fans fired up. But, as with many of my posts, I’m attempting to speak to the “fence sitters,” those that really don’t come in with a dog on either side but want to know more about the situation.

To them, I say: Examine the language used on both sides. See who has substance to what they say. Examine the claims made. Examine who is attacking the messenger, and who is attacking the claims. See if there is ever a rebuttal to the specific claims made on either side. Then decide who seems to be “hating” who, but more importantly, who makes a more convincing argument.

7 Comments »

  1. To me it’s just obvious that the hatred is coming in the other direction. “moron”… “faggot”… “douchebag”… I rest my case.

    Comment by Expat — July 26, 2012 @ 1:20 pm | Reply

  2. Just to be crystal clear, I’ve written 174 blog posts on ‘The Emoluments of Mars’, all but a tiny handful critical of either hoagland or bara or both, and I’ve never, ever, used epithets like that. The closest I’ve come to ad hominem attack is mildly mocking Bara’s lifestyle — but that’s just irresistible.

    Comment by Expat — July 26, 2012 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

  3. I always used to feel guilty when people would call me a hater. I guess I used to fear they might be onto something. So I’m always amused and reassured when I see them do to people who are so obviously not haters. Maybe you should make a genuinely vitriolic and hateful video debunking their stupid ziggurat, just so they’ve got a comparison!

    Comment by Yakaru — July 26, 2012 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

  4. You have addressed an issue I have often wondered about. It seems that the responses you are reading are typically directed by this lot against their detractors. They stem from frustration due to being unable – or unwilling – to explain or logically defend their position. “You hate me and so I’ll call you some names, too . . .” is an apt – and not unexpected – response from them. I can see no reason for this reaction. Either the thing is there or it isn’t. Not hard at all to see where the requirement for convincing evidence lies.

    BTW, I thoroughly enjoyed your video presentation. Quite pleasant to hear that familiar theme lead off on YouTube. You did it extremely well. Hopefully the process will become less labor intensive for you and we can look forward to more.

    Comment by JayB — July 26, 2012 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback on the video. I didn’t get this from your overall comment, but just in case, I want to also make clear that I don’t really feel bad when people like this respond the way they do with personal attacks. For example, when Michael Horn put up a hate page about me (just search for my name on his site), I considered it a badge of honor.

      FYI, if you have ideas on SHORT future videos I could do, let me know! And I agree — I hope I can somehow speed up the process in the future.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 26, 2012 @ 9:04 pm | Reply

      • Yes, I read Mr. Horn’s diatribe on ‘Stuart (The Coward) Robbins’ a while back. I still chuckle whenever I think about it. Made me wonder if he had actually read anything you’ve written. But that’s just vintage Michael Horn.

        Comment by JayB — August 1, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

  5. I too am glad you addressed this Stuart. Does Bara even understand that whatever point he is trying to make is weakened by his ad hominem attacks. Never mind that he has a weak argument to begin with. And of course he and his followers are the first to bring up any perceived attack on them. One commenter responding to an Amazon one star review (I think by Expat) of a Bara book seemed to take the negative review as an attack. They remind me of creationists who perceive ANY questioning of their religion as an personal insult. Then, the original question is obscured by a new debate about persecution. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Bara wrote back to say “oops, my bad. I did get that wrong. Silly me!’ The chances of that happening are up there with the the chances of finding a tank on the moon of course and wouldn’t sell his books.
    I am but a humble musician and not an expert in Astronomy or image processing but have an interest in both. Your posts and podcasts come across as eloquent, knowledgeable and respectful. Bara’s are the complete opposite!!

    Comment by bbigmusic — August 9, 2012 @ 7:17 am | Reply


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