Joe Rogan, me (and Penn), and the Moon Hoax: Take III

By Phil Plait | February 26, 2007 10:42 pm

Update (Feb. 27): a couple of more blogs have mentioned the debate, so I added ’em at the end.

So you know I debunk people who think that NASA faked the Apollo Moon landings. That’s right there on my left sidebar.

And if you read this blog, you know I was on Penn Jillette’s radio show a few weeks ago debating Joe Rogan (yeah, the "Fear Factor" guy) about the Moon hoax. If you don’t know this, then please read Part I of this saga, and then of course Part II.

So here’s Part III.

You can download the podcast of this from Penn’s Radio Free FM website (or you can get a direct download of the mp3, or go to a web page where it is embedded).

Give it a listen. But here’s my take.

After spanking Joe in the first session :-), we decided to do another one to move on to other ideas about the conspiracy theory. Basically, in the first show Joe started off with his big claims that the landings may have been faked. So this time we started with me saying why I thought it was real. I talked about the rocks brought back, and Joe stopped me with a story about Werner von Braun going to Antarctica, supposedly to collect lunar meteorites to pass off as Moon rocks.

Things basically ran off the rails right then. I wasn’t familiar with the story (I had heard von Braun went, but not any details). I was able to debunk this story quickly enough– it doesn’t make any sense to send von Braun to Antarctica to collect rocks. Why send your chief rocket scientist to collect rocks?

But Joe started going off about von Braun being a Nazi (which is not necessarily true– he worked for the Nazis, but we don’t know he was a Nazi himself). I was trying to remain rational, and I called Joe on his logical fallacy — poisoning the well — but he’s very aggressive, and was rattling stuff off quickly enough that he was able to throw me off a bit.

The rest of the show is like that; Joe made some claims, I generally had answers but my timing was thrown off by his manner, which was very different than in the first show. I shouldn’t have let that get to me, but I did.

I’ve received a lot of email from folks who have listened to the podcast and most people were supportive of my performance, though there have been a couple of people who have taken me to task for not being better prepared. I was thinking the same thing after the interview itself, but now, listening to it again, I don’t feel so badly anymore. I think I did pretty well. I do have an advantage over Joe — I’m right, after all! — but he has a lot more rhetorical practice, of course. He’s a standup comic, and an actor, and a TV show host and is a lot more aggressive than I am. On radio, that makes up pretty well for being wrong!

A lot of the email I’ve received have had bad things to say about the way Joe acted on the radio. I can see where they’re coming from. He was a lot more aggressive than in the first show, interrupted me a lot more, and he was bringing up stuff too quickly for me to be able to answer, and when I did try to answer he stepped on what I was saying. That’s aggravating, but that’s radio. Which brings up a point.

As a debate, I think I was able to handle most of what he was dishing out — not all, but most. But this wasn’t a debate, it was a radio show, and so his aggressive manner and rapid-fire attack makes it sound like he has more going for him than he really does. When you really look at the evidence he brought up, it’s all circumstantial at best. It sounds good on radio, but it’s really mostly empty air. As I’ve said for years, it’s easy to bring up a lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense, but it takes time to show why it’s wrong. On a radio, there simply isn’t that kind of time. That’s the reason I prefer not to debate stuff like this on the radio or on TV. You can be right, but still look like the other guy owned you. It’s not an argument that will be won or lost on the evidence. If it were, the Hoax folks would lose before they step foot in the studio.

I could go on and on about the details of the show. But you can listen for yourself. Listening to it again, I can see where I could have made a better point, or taken the discussion in a different direction, or nailed Joe due to his fallacious reasoning and moving of the goalposts. Maybe next time I will — one thing that irritates me about these conspiracy theories is the tendency to get bogged down in details. But it generally pays to take a step back and look at the overview, see what the logical conclusion is to any given claim. If we do a Part III– and honestly, I hope we do (Penn, you reading this?) — maybe I’ll be able to do that.

If you’re curious about what others have to say about this, there are several discussions of the "debate" on the web:

  1. James Randi’s bulletin board
  2. There’s a thoughtful discussion going on at the Bad Astronomy/Universe Today bulletin board
  3. New!

  4. George Hrab, a very totally cool d00d, gives me my props.
  5. New!

  6. The bulletin board has a short thread.
  7. Joe Rogan’s bulletin board WARNING: really really REALLY NSFW
  8. The Straight Dope Message Board
  9. Church of the Everlasting Groove
  10. Forward Thoughts
  11. Walsfeo

Comments (89)

  1. He was a lot more aggressive than in the first show, interrupted me a lot more, and he was bringing up stuff too quickly for me to be able to answer, and when I did try to answer he stepped on what I was saying.

    I now refer to this tactic as the “Tsunami of Ignorance” (a phrase I coined my own little self). Creationists are rather adept at using it, and have adapted it for use on a blog. It’s one of their favorite ploys lately.

    On a blog, they’ll often up the ante by using a double-team approach, to increase the effect. Just rapid fire comment after comment, devoid of meaning or loaded with fallacies, age old debunked assertions, and repeats of arguments already addressed.

    It relies on the premise that “If you sling enough crap in their eyes, nobody will see you slinging crap.”

  2. Jarno

    That’s the “shotgun” tactic that I’ve often seen when debating creationists. Accuracy or quality isn’t the point, just shoot out as many arguments as you can in rapid fire mode, so that while your opponent may be able to thoroughly debunk any one of the arguments, he simply doesn’t have time to thoroghly address but a few, or alternatively struggle to answer them all, which ends up with unsatisfactory, weak rebuttals.

    What I do is call their game – I tell them exactly what they are doing, and why I’m not going along with it, and ask them to instead, pick their very best argument, the one they find most convincing, and I’ll answer that – when that issue is thoroughly dealt with, we’ll move on to the next one.

    It is indeed true that it takes so much longer to thoroughly refute a silly claim than to make it, which is why the shotgun tactic is the “friend” of all brands of nuts.

  3. BC

    I thought it was interesting how Joe Rogan was using the “von Braun” thing to basically make it look like you don’t know what you were talking about. He was sort of exploiting the fact that he knew more about von Braun to make it look like he knew so much more about the Moon landings than you. The “evil nazi” thing was way overplayed as well. His whole thing about the evil Nazi running the US space program was wrong for several reasons – first, Nazis were far ahead in rocketry at the end of WW2 (they made V2s, the first jet aircraft, etc) – a LOT of the US rocketry technology came from former German scientists, second, Rogan is definitely playing up the “evil nazi” thing to make von Braun look completely untrustworthy. And his claim that the US use of Von Braun was “a huge point” towards proving that the US was involved in a “massive deception” is crazy talk. Anyway, the whole segment about Von Braun is pretty tangental from the standpoint of “did the Moon landings happen” anyway. I also thought it was interesting that Von Braun was arrested by the Nazis in 1944 for saying that the war was going poorly (although he was released a few weeks later).

  4. BC

    I’ve never heard of the “Tsunami of Ignorance” or “shotgun tactic”, but I’ve definitely heard of the “Gish Gallop”.

  5. BC

    Oh, and speaking of debates, while listening, I was reminded of the number of people in the late 1800s who were going around claiming that the world was flat. They would even organize debates, and there were quite a few cases where the flat earthers were winning debates against the spherical earthers. It would’ve been pretty interesting to see/hear some of those debates.

    George Bernard Shaw described a public forum in which a flat-earther laid waste to the spherical opposition.34 Rowbotham was widely known as a tiger on the platform, and he was seldom bested. (The good citizens of Leeds, England, once ran him out of town, being unable to make a more effective reply to his flat-earth arguments.)35 In Brockport, N.Y., in March 1887, two scientific gentlemen defended the sphericity of the earth against flat-earther M.C. Flanders on three consecutive nights. When the great debate was over, five townsmen chosen to judge the matter issued a unanimous verdict. Their report, published in the Brockport Democrat, stated clearly and emphatically their opinion that the balance of the evidence pointed to a flat-earth.

  6. Grand Lunar

    Listening to the program, I was getting angry at Joe.
    He spent far too much time with Von Braun being a Nazi. I was thinking “So what? Does that make his work invalid?”
    And he also kept referring to Von Braun as a war criminal. Obviously, he has that mentality that Nazi=Evil! He must not know of people like Oskar Schindler.

    He get’s Gus Grissom’s story wrong (with his machine gun pace, I can understand how you missed it); Gus did not hang a lemon on the LM, but on the simulator of the CM, angry that it wasn’t keeping up with the design changes of the real thing.

    IIRC, less than a hundred pounds of lunar meteorite were found world wide. They are quite rare, too much so to account for the 800 lbs of moon rocks returned by Apollo.

    I wonder what sort of “witch hunt tactics” that Joe will use next time.

  7. Kaptain K

    Take the high ground from the start. Explain to Joe (before the show) that it is not civilized people to interrupt and that you have not interrupted him, no matter how wrong he was. Then, the first time he pulls this [stuff] on air, slam a large hard cover book on the table or desk and say “No, you’ve had your turn. Show me the same courtesy”. Repeat as necessary!

  8. Kaptain K

    Dang! I wish I could edit my post. an extra word snuck in there. :(

  9. Kaptain K

    Dang! I wish I could edit my post. an extra word snuck in there. :(

    Take two!

    Take the high ground from the start. Explain to Joe (before the show) that it is not civilized to interrupt and that you have not interrupted him, no matter how wrong he was. Then, the first time he pulls this [stuff] on the air, slam a large hard cover book on the table or desk and say “No, you’ve had your turn. Show me the same courtesy”. Repeat as necessary!

  10. Melusine

    Werner von Braun going to Antarctica, supposedly to collect lunar meteorites to pass off as Moon rocks.

    It’s “Wernher” btw. That does seem a silly idea – he wouldn’t be the best person to do that even if such a thing were true. Rockets, not rocks, were his specialty.

    We had a thread on BAUT about this and Von Braun. The thing is, no matter what he did or who he was, no matter what selfish motives the US had in using him, all those peripheral details…rocket went up. Jay Utah has had some posts on BAUT recently that have moved a bit away from the hard science details (which his web site covers in full) to the bigger picture. They are very good, as usual, but of course on radio you have to get the other guy to shut up for two seconds. :-)

  11. Eric Briggs

    About one in a thousand meteorites turns out to be from the Moon, and a good proportion of them are returned from Antarctica, and von Braun did visit Antarctica in January 1967. Now, since 1976 the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) has been funded by the National Science Foundation.

    But it was impossible to identify lunar meteorites on Earth until we had identified lunar rocks in situ on the Moon and brought them back.

    Was there even an understanding, in 1967, that Antarctica was a good place to collect meteorites? I don’t know, and I’m wondering about evidence of that.

    Never mind that pristine lunar rocks look much different from lunar rocks that have been heated up to become meteorites.

  12. It’s like this whenever I fight with my mom about evolution/homosexuality/HPV vaccinations/anything else she’s against. I always think of the perfect thing to say… about 18 hours too late.

  13. Melusine

    Eric Briggs: About one in a thousand meteorites turns out to be from the Moon, and a good proportion of them are returned from Antarctica, and von Braun did visit Antarctica in January 1967.

    Ahh, good to know. Why did he go? Wouldn’t a geologist have been better, or did he just feel like visiting? Must go google….

  14. wwitzke

    Rogan also, as Penn pointed out once or twice, has this really disingenuous “humble little guy” approach to his “debating”. He claims over and over that he’s “just asking questions” and doesn’t believe one way or another, but that he sees things that “don’t make sense.” He appeals to reason with statements like “lots of conspiracy theories are ridiculous” to make it seem like he’s making rational arguments, and then he throws out obscure arguments that have only the most superficial face validity precisely because the arguments *are* obscure (and therefore unfamiliar and difficult to argue against), while at the same time exaggerating the weight of these arguments. And then, to top it off, Joe doesn’t give his opponent (you, Phil) a reasonable chance to answer the arguments!

    That kind of debate is the stuff of NIGHTMARES, for me at least. How do you tell someone who is “just asking questions,” even though they obviously aren’t just asking questions, to shut up so you can get a word in edgewise? Where do you go with your arguments when your opponent is throwing extremely minor points that, on the face, add up to something, but which you’ve never considered because they are really very minor points? I mean, after all, if you haven’t heard the arguments before, then it is going to be difficult to have an off-the-cuff answer for them. Ugh.

    And, still, Phil, you managed to answer almost all (or maybe even just ALL) of his points with reason. My hat’s off to you. I don’t think I could have had the patience for that kind of a debate.

  15. Joshua C.

    Phil, no one can debate the undebatable. So I suppose Joe’s strategy was to throw random “facts” at you that you can’t disprove given that they are so obscure and irrelevant.

    I really enjoy and respect Joe Rogan, but he isn’t portraying the “listening” and “logical” side of him that he boasts about. All I see is a bunch of high-school debating tactics on his end.

    You did a great job, Phil.

  16. “Don’t say that he’s hypocritical
    Say rather that he’s apolitical
    ‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down
    That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun.” (Tom Lehrer)

    (Someone had to quote it.)

    So yeah, highly unlikely that von Braun would have gone rock collecting in Antarctica.

  17. Brett

    I’ve listened to the first half of the 2nd show. I really wish Joe Rogan would give you a chance to finish a sentence occasionally.

  18. pianomanzero

    Phil, you did a great job, even if you weren’t on your A-game.

    Explain to Joe (before the show) that it is not civilized to interrupt and that you have not interrupted him, no matter how wrong he was. Then, the first time he pulls this [stuff] on the air, slam a large hard cover book on the table or desk and say “No, you’ve had your turn. Show me the same courtesy”. Repeat as necessary!

    YES! I love it!

  19. RAF

    The Bad Astronomer wrote: If we do a Part III– and honestly, I hope we do…

    Without some form of structure, (someone telling rogan to shut up), I believe further participating will do more harm than good…

    Just my opinion…

  20. Gary Ansorge

    One of the debating tactics used by Bhuddists is the double hand clap, a loud sound to disrupt the oppositions angry flow of verbiage and discharge tension. It’s oft referred to as “chasing away demons”, which in discussions with creationists, moon hoaxers, etc, is a term I find to be particularly appropriate,,,

    Rational discussion with non rational people is REALLY,REALLY hard.
    Besides, Joe does this for entertainment and as in good fiction, there must be conflict to keep the ball rolling. Resolution of conflict spells the end of the story,,,and thus no more MONEY,,,

    You do an amazingly good job in these discussions Phil. How you keep your cool I don’t know. I’d probably just punch his lights out,,,I can do that ’cause I’m BIG,,,(and occasionally smell bad).

    GAry 7

  21. Brett

    Has anyone tried this one on a HB? Let’s say we did fake the landings. Why has no other person or country been there since? With the tech today anyone should be able to fake the landing. Back during the Apollo days wouldn’t benefit the USSR to have set up a “moon base” to over shadow our landings? If you think we could bribe anyone not to fake a landing maybe you need to see what is going on in the world today. Working in a planetrium you get these folks from time to time and this seems to make them question the hoax.

  22. Just finished listening, and it sounded like Joe’s strongest evidence amounted to, “But wouldn’t that be possible?” Alas, much of what he stated would be possible, but that’s not where one needs to go to find an answer.

    It’s “possible” that I am a robot, but the burden of proof is on the person claiming I am a robot, not me, as there is no convincing way I can “prove” I am not.

    Allowing him to switch the burden of proof on you places you in a position of not being able to succeed (next time, YOU should tell HIM that just because he thinks something appears “odd” that that is “not good enough.”

    Entertaining listen, and please let us know when the next match-up occurs. Thanks for invoking the voice of reason in this nonsense.

  23. Rich

    This really illustrates what’s wrong with using a debate to decide an issue. Instead of a “search for the truth” it turns into a “battle of personalities”. It’s interesting that we all confuse this approach and assume that it leads to the best answer. You only have to look at politics and right-wing talk radio to see how often people get wrong. Phil, you might want to mention next time that, although there is debate in science, issues are not decided based on sound-bites; and *that* process works great.

  24. Pro Libertate

    Ack. I was very unimpressed with Joe Rogan’s “arguments”. Penn, surprisingly, gave him a lot more slack than he deserved (esp. knowing that Penn is firmly on BA’s side). Joe sounded much more wacko this time around, too.

    Ultimately, dogmatism and extreme skepticism are impossible to defeat in a debate. Once you reach the axioms of the dogmatist–everything is under the control of some evil busybody, for instance–you can go no further. And, of course, extreme skepticism eventually ends up being solipsism, which means that you’d have to send Joe to the Moon for it to actually happen in his mind :)

  25. John Phillips

    To be honest BA, I have to agree with RAF and think you are wasting your time on these debates with Rogan as well as probably doing harm to the argument. At least under this largely unmoderated format where the bully is always going to win. For the only ones I have talked to who think you did OK are those who are already in the choir, so to speak. While those I know who are on the fence and listened to them, feel that you lost badly, even after I tried to explain the irrelevance of most of Rogan’s ‘questions’ and tactics. Thus, unless you like being beaten up on radio, I really don’t see what you hope to achieve with them as it only serves to reinforce each sides perception of the other side with little if any hope of bringing the odd fence sitter over to the side of truth. I say the above with a sense of sadness , as I have a great deal of respect for you and your work and your site is one of the few I visit every day without fail.

  26. Tom

    I’m listening a bit. If Penn were more interested in a valid debate, he’d have controlled Joe more.

    I think we’re getting more insight into why most scientists turn down opportunities to debate conspiracy theorists.

    Penn’s occasional praise for Joe’s “holding his own” is problematic as well.

    You did OK, though some who listened would give the debate to Joe.

    I recommend more stringent rules for any further discussions.

  27. Tom

    Just finished listening. Ground my teeth down to nubs by the end.

    Not meeting again would be perceived as weakness.

    Proposal: for the next meeting, ask each to give their “top ten” reasons for/against their belief. Top tens will be exchanged sometime before the show so the other can prepare a response to each item.

    Opening statement from each side, then alternating periods going through each of the top tens. Rebuttal allowed on each statement. Summary at the end.

    Probably makes for lousy entertaining radio, but it’s the only way to keep his personality for overwhelming what should be a straigtforward argument.

  28. Joe certainly comes across as a bit of a doughnut.

  29. Sorry but Joe does have a point

    Von Braun was a Nazi war criminal who should have been hung for his crimes not given a cushy job, even if it did mean the soviet domination of space.

    Where was Justice?

  30. Tom

    The lack of justice for Von Braun is a separate debate. It has nothing to do with whether or not we landed on the moon.

  31. wwitzke

    Tom said:
    >The lack of justice for Von Braun is a separate debate. It has nothing to do with whether or not we landed on the moon.

    I agree.

    Sticks said:
    >Von Braun was a Nazi war criminal who should have been hung for his crimes not given a cushy job, even if it did mean the soviet domination of space.

    Even if I didn’t agree with Tom, this statement assumes facts not in evidence, and jumps to a verdict without due process. This is actually the antithesis of “Justice.”

  32. RAF

    Sticks…even if what you say is true, how is it relevant to the “did men land on the Moon” question??

  33. IIRC His culpabilities were documented in operation Paper Clip, which was hidden from the American public. In the documentary Space Race on the BBC, they mentioned how he selected people for the slave labour at Pinemunde.

    It was the point that he was never held to account for his war crimes that Joe had, rather than the moon landings I was referring too

    Sorry for any confusion there.

  34. Will. M

    I like the idea of book-smacking; you should just smack his head instead of the table.

  35. As I was listening from the comfort of my car–not being verbally assailed by a wacko–I was thinking:

    1. It was well known at the time that von Braun was the father of the V2, and it was also well known that the US recruited German scientists that had worked for the Nazis–Dr. Strangelove was a fictional archetype. There was no conspiracy to hide this, but it wasn’t trumpeted, either. Would anyone expect it to be?

    2. If the moon landing was a charade, why would we need von Braun and the associated Nazi baggage? Wouldn’t we have just put forward an all-American Jack Armstrong type as our “lead scientist?”

    Also, Rogan’s debate style seems to go like this

    JR: What about ____? That just doesn’t make sense!

    BA: Well, I haven’t looked into in detail, but your explanation of ____ doesn’t make sense, either.

    JR: That’s my point! Nothing makes sense!

    It’s reminiscent of the Chewbacca defense , which was pretty successful.

  36. Jumper

    Were not thousands of amateur radio enthusiasts not to mention foreign and hostile governments rigging up their own parabolic dishes, pointing at the moon, to receive direct radio feeds? There is too much non-authoritarian independently verified consensus reality to dispute this.

    This at least indicates that NASA managed to send SOMETHING up there. Broadcasting.

    And are the scoffers suggesting that NASA eschewed an actual manned landing to SAVE FUEL AND EXPENSES? This is the military-industrial complex, for crying out loud. They don’t DO frugality.

  37. How about this tactic: Take along the big hardcover book as mentioned previously, as well as an air horn. Once you’ve made your show with the book, explain the air horn thusly: “This is an air horn; it’s designed to make a loud noise as such” (blow it) “Whenever you ask a question, I will attempt to answer it. If you attempt to interrupt my answer, I will blow this horn until you let me finish my answer. The more you do it, the closer to your ear the horn will get.”

  38. Kaptain K

    I must strongly disagree. In WWII Germany there were two types of Germans – NAZI and dead! In the 60s, we had a housekeeper who lied through the war in Germany. She told us stories that would curl your hair, such as standing at an assembly line with (menstrual) blood running down her legs, because it was irrelevant to the “cause”! Yes, she was a “member”. It was a requirement for employment. It is easy, sixty some years later, to get on your high horse and say she should have let her children starve on “principle”.

    We all make mistakes. Could YOU stand before God on Judgement Day and justify everything you have done in life?

  39. WB

    I love Penn’s radio show, I listen to the podcast faithfully. But I just wanted to turn it off. Joe Rogan is an aggressive nutbar on this topic. It was painful to listen to.

    I have 2 friends who had been friends for 35 years, and they stopped talking to each other last summer when one of them got onto the “911 conspiracy” debate sounding just like Rogan. The other friend didn’t want to debate it, but the Rogan-like one ONLY wanted to talk about the “evidence.” Finally they had a screaming match at a nice restaurant and broke off contact.

    Rogan is a nutbar, I won’t listen to another Penn show featuring this “debate.”

    I thought we won the space race because we had “the best Nazis.” I’ve heard that for 30 years. No cover-up. There was a frikkin TV movie all about Nazi rocket scientists and Peenemunde (spelling?). Anybody shocked that von Braun worked for/was a Nazi didn’t live through the 60’s or wasn’t paying any attention to the space race.

    Rogan’s argument was that “they” set Apollo 1 on fire because Gus Grissom was a cranky guy? Which practically ended the Space Race right then and there. And these were the same “they” who assassinated Kennedy. We have veered irretrieveably into the woo.

  40. I’m guessing that before the second debate, Joe Rogan came to your website, looked around for stuff that you didn’t write about and tried to beat you on stuff he figured you didn’t know about or wrote about on BA. I was personally upset by Penn Jillette just letting Rogan rant and rave without someone there to hold the debate together and stay on topic.

  41. wwitzke

    >Rogan is a nutbar, I won’t listen to another Penn show featuring this “debate.”

    Granted that there is plenty of evidence for Rogan being a nutbar, I’m looking forward eagerly to the next debate. I imagine that Phil will go out of his way to cover all his bases (even the obscure, pointless, and meaningless bases like the ones that Rogan was bringing up), and make *sure* that his voice is heard, even when Rogan’s nutbarery goes completely over the top (again). Heck, Phil could even appeal to the skeptic community for help doing research. I bet he’d get a deluge of information that he could then have at his finger tips. Or would that be cheating?

  42. I have to agree with WB’s comment above: my impulse was just to skip this podcast, even though I listen to Penn’s show daily. Rogan was just *annoying*; he would shoot in all directions and simply jump over Phil’s responses and not let him talk. For example, the explanation about the difference in design between equipment to be handled by robots or by humans was almost buried under his (Rogan’s) shouts, and that is an important point.

    In the end, it’s like OPhil said himself: a big problem is that the explanations usually depend on subtle points that need a good (and possibly long) exposition. Conspiracy theories can be shouted in short sentences using small words. It’s hard to compete (and Penn did not do enough to guarantee that both sides had an equal chance to talk).

  43. Sticks Says: “Von Braun was a Nazi war criminal who should have been hung for his crimes not given a cushy job.”

    Actually, no, he wasn’t. Von Braun was never a member of the Nazi party. In fact, his open defiance of their dictates towards the end landed him in jail with a potential death sentence. It was Walter Dornberger (the military head of Peenumunde) who convinced them that if they wanted the V2, they’d have to release Wernher.

    When escaping from the country in Feb/March ’45, he and the other scientists on the project made sure that the tons of documentation they had amassed was well hidden and could direct the US occupiers to it after the fall of Berlin.

    Yes, his story was overly sanitized when he became a public figure here. He has been documented as visiting Nordhousen (the V2 slave labor assembly location) but I don’t think he “selected” any of the personnel outside of a job description saying what skills were needed for which job. The workers were dying too quickly for him to have any direct involvement. More people were killed building the V2 than were killed by it in operation.

    Von Braun was no more a war criminal than the Manhattan Project scientists.

    – Jack

  44. Geroge

    Yesh, Joe! Nazi’s were hated more then than today. They were killing us with a passion just prior to getting the scientists out. There was a reason they were not, necessarily, so evil.

    Why would a monster conspiracy project bring in “Evil Nazi liars” anyway? How does that make it easier? We had Goddard and friends who might have been presuaded, and without the use of a death threat.

    Why kill Grissom along with the other two respected and famous astronauts?

    My little internet search shows Von Braun experiencing an expedition in a sever environment. Where are all his rocks and how long would it take to find and test them?

    Hamm operators use multi-element high gain antennas to track. One operator near Houston was once called upon by NASA to send a signal powerful enough to override a stuck relay on board a their satellite. NASA’s, at the time, was not strong enough! :)

    You chased quite a rabbit, BA. Joe’s forcefullness in style and his accusations against reputable people (NASA, Von Braun, Webb, etc.) is not an argumenative style to be respected.

    Why do think that if the government announced it was a hoax, that soon he would be arguing that we did go? There is certainly more evidence that we did, afterall.

    Nevertheless, the show was entertaining.

  45. BC

    > Von Braun was never a member of the Nazi party.

    According to wikipedia, Von Braun joined the Nazi party, but only because he had to. Von Braun was quoted as saying:

    I was officially demanded to join the National Socialist Party. At this time (1937) I was already technical director of the Army Rocket Center at Peenemünde … My refusal to join the party would have meant that I would have to abandon the work of my life. Therefore, I decided to join. My membership in the party did not involve any political activities … in Spring 1940, one SS-Standartenführer (SS Colonel) Müller … looked me up in my office at Peenemünde and told me that Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had sent him with the order to urge me to join the SS. I called immediately on my military superior … Major-General W. Dornberger. He informed me that … if I wanted to continue our mutual work, I had no alternative but to join.

    To what extent von Braun was downplaying his actual involvement, we don’t know. According to his statement, he did join the Nazi party though. Nevertheless, he was a competent rocket scientist, and his Nazi affiliation is just being used as fodder to discredit him.

  46. William Jennings

    I’ve heard from at least two acquaintances who were “on the fence” but now are firmly in the nut corner. They feel that Joe won hands down, and therefore that Phil’s points must not be strong.

    Penn should be ashamed. Instead of being an activist skeptic, he’s now doing active harm by letting moronic bullies like Rogan have the chance to simply shout down people they disagree with.

    My guess is that fact that Joe’s a friend is the reason. But if he doesn’t have the balls to take him down on the air, he shouldn’t have him on at all.

    I certainly hope Phil won’t bother going back. It will be better to be accused of having chickened out than to get shouted down and “defeated” again.

  47. Nathan Hinman

    Rogan sounds about as stable as Hoagland, and I too was disapointed with Penn.

  48. From all I could gather from the two “debates” Joe’s only argument for why we couldn’t have gone to the moon was because of the Van Allen belt radiation, which would, as he says, kill the astronauts. Where does he have that information from? Certainly not mainstream science, in other words his source for this “scientific evidence” is the hoax believers. Where do they have the information from? Why don’t scientists speak up? Ah yes, another conspiracy, spanning the whole globe.

    And why haven’t the Russians spoken up? Surely they must have known about the radiation. Is he suggesting that the US and the USSR were in cahoots? Why would the Russians do that and let the US win the “space race”? Why haven’t they spoken up to this day?

    There is no point in “debating” Joe Rogan, just as there is no point in debating Creationists, because with the tactics they employ you cannot win in front of an “uneducated” audience. They’ll throw a million things at you, most of them distorted or wrong, and there’s no way you can answer even a fraction of them.

    Rogan’s a serious conspiracy not and a true believer. You were completely right when you said “I think we might be finished here” when he remarked that “They” shot Kennedy in public.

  49. Helena Constantine

    As to von Braun, he was, as pointed out a member of the Nazi party, as pointed out. His so-called defence quoted above means that he was perfectly willing to join a party known to be thugish, corrupt, and murderous (1937 is after the Night of breaking glass, and long after all the book burning and the mass firing of Jewish academics) in order to advance his career, that, is to arm the Nazis to the teeth with sophsiticated weapons. Plenty of scientists who did not want to be Nazis had left long before. As for war crimes, he supervised slave laborers at Peenemunde. I’m driven to work in my chosed field, but I would not prusue that work at the cost of becoming a Nazi and a slave master. His actions were quite indefensible.

    You can read about von Braun’s arrest in Speer’s Spandau Diaries–it was not becuase he was not an ardent nazi, but was part of Himmlers attempts to take Speer and the Armaments minsitry under his personal control. The offical charge was that von Braun was hampering the war effort by diverting time from V-2 production to theoretical research.

  50. Good show Phil! I wrote a blog about it (in Dutch, unfortunately). The whole Hoax-theory is a bunch of crap. Grz. from the Netherlands!

  51. Thorin

    “If we do a Part III– and honestly, I hope we do (Penn, you reading this?) — maybe I’ll be able to do that.”

    Hmmmm I thought that was Part III? The title says Part III? Do you mean “If we do a Part IV”?

  52. George

    Thorin, I believe there are three blogs but only two audio sessions.

  53. rvr

    Have you heard the lyrics of “Sleeping Satellite”? It’s a wonderful song. It says:

    “Did we fly to the moon too soon?
    Did we squander the chance?
    In the rush of the race
    The reason we chase is lost in romance
    And still we try
    To justify the waste
    For a taste of man’s greatest adventure”

    It’s a pity that (IMHO) the greatest human success was done by the wrong reasons (to go there before soviets). Sure, von Braun was a Nazi by any standard, but declared highly useful. Would be absolve them because of the greatness of the achievement? Maybe.

  54. Michael

    Von Braun was no more a war criminal than the Manhattan Project scientists.

    – Jack

    Now there’s one of the most idiotic statements of moral equivalance I’ve ever heard.

  55. Bob S.

    # Michael Says:
    February 28th, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    Von Braun was no more a war criminal than the Manhattan Project scientists.

    – Jack

    Now there’s one of the most idiotic statements of moral equivalance I’ve ever heard.

    Well, it’s not a remark that I would have made, but it’s not even remotely close to being as idiotic as a number of moral equivalents which I’ve heard flogged in the (sometimes recent) past.

  56. Rather than you or Joe, I am going to point my finger at someone else. I am a long time fan of Penn Jillette, but I thought he embarrassed himself and his program in stating that Joe Rogan held his own against you in the “debate.” As host of the show, it was he who let Joe get away with inane arguments and unsporting attitude.

    I really expected a lot better of Penn.

  57. Rob

    I’ve gotta say, I don’t think Joe is right, but I have to agree with Penn. Phil came off as dismissive when Joe was asking surprisingly serious questions. And I don’t think he was using debate tactics by playing the “I don’t know if it’s true or not” angle; I think he means it, and he’s really looking for answers that show he’s wrong. I know it gets tricky because you can’t prove he’s wrong, especially in a few sentences, but he has real questions and Phil came off as if he wasn’t taking them seriously. I think that’s why Joe came off stronger in some ways. He was listening to and understood every syllable Phil said, whereas I don’t think Phil was understanding everything Joe said. I think Joe really wants to find out that he’s wrong, and Phil wasn’t able to show him.

    Just my take, of course.

  58. ft77

    His approach was illogical and unscientific.
    He just anomaly hunted. When he found something apparently out of the ordinary he just claimed it as support for conspiracy theories.
    I agree you were unprepared, but you had no reason to be prepared for these types of arguments. I want your input on an issue like this because you have the relevant scientific knowledge. Joe does not. This is why he has to use this aggressive type of rhetoric. His interest is peaked enough to look into the subject a little. But as far as systematically learning the science behind his claims, well, that’s just too much effort.
    I wouldn’t bother going back for round three unless Penn assures you that he will not let Joe just shout you down. And that the discussion is kept to a scientific basis, not nonsense about politics and history.

  59. Thorin

    “Thorin, I believe there are three blogs but only two audio sessions.”

    Ahhh that makes more sense 😉

  60. Eric

    Joe is a conspiracy theorist. He’s decided up front that there are widespread conspiracies, and given that mindset, he’s seeing things. You can’t convince somebody like this.

    For a rematch, I have two suggestions:

    1) Joe needs to say what it would take for him to believe the landings are real. I think he’s already decided that they’re fake.

    2) What about the retroreflectors as evidence?

  61. Paul G.

    Eric, I completely agree. I think if Phil wants to do a rematch he should pound just a couple of points at Joe.

    1) Before going any further, Joe needs to define EXACTLY what it would take to prove it to him. He will just say, “I don’t know, your the scientist you tell me.” But just pound the phrase at him constantly.

    I found it odd that Joe seemed so surprised that Phil didn’t know the intricacies of actually tracking the ships with Ham radio. Does he think that any “Scientist person” knows everything about everything? Thats the problem with people like him, his knowledge of the subject is so shallow and thin, he CAN be a expert at it all. REAL scientists have to specialize because the real world is complicated. So no one person can sit across from these guys and come off as a expert of EVERYTHING. So…

    2) Challenge Joe to learn about ONE thing IN DEPTH, weather it be physics or ham radio, or solar flares and Van Allen belts, as long as it is science, not history. Challenge him to learn the math, learn to turn the knobs on the instruments, learn what REAL science is, what real Engineering is. He will obviously say he is a busy performer, he doesn’t have time. But he obviously has time to research the hoaxes. Tell him to pool those person with fame and fortune resources and LEARN. Tell him no more rematches until he can stand at a black board and tell you, in detail, why one of his theories is false. Harp on it. People desperately need to be reminded that the science that put men on the moon is NOT the domain of God like NASA scientists, it is available for all to learn, its in libraries, books, videos, and the minds of the people who did it. No one is born a rocket scientist, they learned it through hard work and determination. Joe seems to be completely ignorant to this fact.

    Sorry for the long post but I needed to get that out of my head. :) BTW, Phil I thought you did a excellent job. Being that Joe stands in front of people and talks for a living I think you dealt with his “Tsunami of Ignorance” the best anyone could. For Penn to say that he “held his own” is complete rubbish.

  62. Melusine

    Here’s a picture of von Braun in the Antarctic courtesy of a link provided by Tom K today through an old APOD. Great link with interesting info on von Braun – he apparently was into skin diving and played the banjo, too. This photo doesn’t prove anything about rocks, but he was there in 1967 with this expedition. That would be pretty stupid to publicize a photo of your main guy in Antarctica unless you wanted to “hide something in plain sight” but then you still have to come up with the evidence. Hard evidence. Sometimes answers to questions are rather simple and benevolent at the end of the day. The fact is a rocket shook the ground, so much so, that in Indialantic down the coast, they could feel the ground shake during its thundering roar.

    Rocket went up. Capsule came down. So, where does he think they went? To do what? Put the men in quarantine over and over, fake a botched mission (13) – there’s just so many details. And we’ve done other difficult things in that time frame and since to planets farther away. We have a large and complex machine, the shuttle, that goes up and down successfully (most of the time). We have rovers on friggin Mars!

    Why don’t we just build another Saturn V rocket and do it again. Let every amateur astronomer with all their new photo equipment take pictures from all over the world as they do with the ISS, craters, Mercury transiting, etc. Besides, I want to see a Saturn V rocket launch, darnit and feel the Earth move! :-)

  63. Melusine

    The link isn’t posting – **

    Or from:

  64. Naomi

    -Sigh- at first I thought, “what a cool show, debunking stuff on the radio, I hope they do that more often”, but then it really only was frustrating, because Joe would not let you get a word in edgewise, and just questioned EVERYTHING you said, which isn’t conducive to a discussion, it’s really just quite juvenile…

  65. Carlos

    As a fan of the BA and certainly a very true believer in apollo I think that losing time with these people interested only in making money believing anything is useless.

  66. Irishman

    Finally listened to the program.

    To the arguments about Von Braun, it doesn’t matter if he was a NAZI or not, whether he did what he was told or personally tortured every Jew at Peenamunde himself. All of that is irrelevant to whether Apollo sent men to the Moon. The reason why Joe thinks it is relevant is that he uses the character issue to attack the U.S. government’s motives and activities. Thus by making the Government’s actions murky, he can then say, “If they lied about this, they could lie about that. If they’re evil enough to use NAZI’s, then obviously they’re evil enough to murder astronauts.” Etc.

    The thing is, this sounds convincing to people on the fence. If you can’t address the engineering, then cast doubt on the motives and character. The simple answer is the U.S. took in as many German rocket scientists as they could get their hands on. They put them to work building rockets for the U.S., primarily as a military tool. The NASA rockets were built to show technological prowess – “if we can put a man on the moon and do it before the Soviets, then we can put a nuke anywhere we want and the Soviets can’t do a thing about it!” Faulty logic, but commonly thought. The thing is, it’s not enough to say “it’s possible” that the government would kill astronauts. You have to prove it’s likely they did. It’s possible the Canadians will invade tomorrow (or try). Now show it’s likely.

    As for why we don’t build another Saturn V and just refly old hardware, people just do not understand the complexity of building something from plans in a drawer. Can Ford just roll out another Model T tomorrow? How about an Edsel? Rockets are immensely more complex than that. Not only do you need all the plans (which presumably are on microfilm stored in archives), but you also have to deal with obsolete components. “Oh, it says use a Valadium v212 microprocessor chip here. Those were the size of a brick, and haven’t been made since 1978. They were all scrapped, and today can be replaced by a chip the size of a pinkie-nail.” So first you have to find those parts. Or else determine the best replacements, then reroute the wiring to accomodate the replaced parts. Okay, so we have plans and parts or replacements for the parts, now you have to rebuild all the tooling that is required in order to build the rocket. Jigs, fixtures, assembly plants, etc. All of that has to be built from scratch, or back-modified from its conversion to Shuttle work.

    Joe really got away with some stinkers. Wondering why nobody has gone back, why the Shuttle can’t go back, is stupid. S-T-U-P-I-D. It has nothing to do with technical capability, and everything to do with politics. People got tired of the Moon as a stunt, and wondered about things back here on Earth. NASA was redirected to work a long-term space development plan, in incremental stages. The plan was hobbled along the way with every political decision made, and drawn out over 3 decades from what was supposed to take 1. It is all poor decisions from changing Presidential administrations changing goals, Congress playing pork barrel games and budget string-pulling. I really wish you’d pushed harder on this point, that the issue was not capability but interest and political justification. Beating the Soviets to do it first was enough of a motivator to commit budget to the effort. Showing we can do it again because the public is tired of the Shuttle going in circles is a lot harder sell.

    Yes, Phil, you were overwhelmed by his aggressive approach. I think Penn was enjoying the entertaining radio – excited people talking over each other is more fun than each taking 2 minutes to trade responses back and forth. Radio is not a bb or a blog, where you can take the time to compose your answers and alternate back and forth. Knowing that, I think it good advice that you get prepared for that kind of style and come up with tools to address it. I like the book slamming or air horn to retake the stage. Be more aggressive yourself.

  67. The links to the podcast don’t seem to work anymore :(

  68. Kazushi Sakuraba

    Good job, Mr. Plait. This reminds me of when Christopher Hitchens was on Fox News whereby he schooled Sean Hannity. I think any attempt to debate with Joe Rogan is nonsensical; if given a forth stomach, Joe Rogan still would not have the intellect of a cow.

  69. Nate

    For anyone looking for the shows, the original links have gone dead, but you can find archives of all the shows here:

  70. p

    Where to Part 3 of the Plait – Rogan debate? Does anyone know?

    Which one is it in the archive page? I couldn’t find it!

    Anyone could provide one? I want to listen to it so bad.

  71. roland

    I listened to the show, and it left me quite angry. Joe simply wasn’t debating, he was just firing. Explicitly claiming that he didn’t have the truth but only questions, put him into the “better” position right away. He could shoot accusations, doubts and whatsoever (even contradicting ones) from any side, change positions whenever he liked. And he won’t listen at all.
    Phil did as best as possible, but even for him, it was hard to follow. How could an uninformed listener have?

  72. Dan

    Can anyone provide the dates for the 3 Penn Podcasts so that we can download them from the
    archive site?


  73. marko

    I got it stored as …

    (Joe Rogan vs. Phil Plait: Moon Landing Hoax)

    … and …

    (Phil vs Joe Part 2)

    Is there really a 3rd part?

  74. marko

    Answer to self:

    Part I was about Phil’s appearance on Bulls(*clap*)hit.
    Part II was about TAM5 when Phill visited Penn at the Slammer.
    Part III was when Rogan was at Penn’s, with Phil on the phone.

    By the way, I really liked reading those other forum threads, it was really overwhelmingly pro-BA and anti-Rogan. Penn… well, let’s repeat one post at PennFans:

    Penn said once or twice that the “debate” between Phil and Joe exemplified the “marketplace of ideas,” but he seems to have forgotten that show he did a while back on “mandatory false dichotomies,” and how stupid it is to give every possible contrary statement airtime. Why is that? Because there are always possible contrary statements but most of them are completely worthless. Like the ones coming out of Joe Rogan’s mouth.

    There’s the “marketplace of ideas” and then there’s encouraging inanity by giving voice to people who just want to drown out more reasoned opinions with loudmouthed, middle school level skepticism. “
    (posted by Karma on PennFans, 2007/02/28 19:17)

  75. emmarose

    i gotta say i thought joe had a lOT of compelling evidence and was simply good at presenting his side and phil had trouble keeping up. joe wasn’t spouting stuff that was so bizarre. he also wasn’t that aggressive at all. he just has a lot of FACTUAL information and is good at presenting it. there is nothing manipulative about joe and i found phil on his heels cause he simple could not refute a lot of what joe was saying which was true. now i’ll admit, i don’t believe we went to the moon and actually find bart sibrel not be a little annoying and kooky but on the money with his theories. he knows more than joe even and some stuff that he’s come up with……the amount of computer technology back then being of that of a calculator, stuff being run on car batteries and that’s supposed to keep things running ON THE MOON..a different dimension. no *&%$#@#$& way. we didn’t go. and russia and japan have always knows and have been blackmailing us forever. i love how japan in 2003?? sent camera up there and all FIVE camera simultaneously malfunctioned so no pictures of our “moonbuggies, flag..etc” could be photographed. now japan can make cameras and they all failed? bullsh*t. it’s a conspiracy and anyone with half a brain knows none of it adds up. we never went and we have no idea how to get there now. no idea.

  76. marko

    emmarose, I hope there’s some common ground on which reality on one side and your opinion on the other side can rest on. Do you agree that Alan Turing’s decipherig effort on the Enigma codes of the Nazis (Godwin’s law, I know), Sputnik, Mir and SkyLab was real?
    There are astronauts leaving ISS and the space shuttle in EVA suits, no? There currently are two unmanned Moon missions, Chang’e-1 and Kaguya, no? What makes you think mankind wasn’t able back then and isn’t able right now to visit Earth’s moon? After all, it’s all just a question of initiative and money, not technical complexity.
    The question I keep asking is: Apart from the emotional experience, is sending men and women to the Moon (and to Mars) really necessary for the advancement of science, is it worth the additional complications to expect, and is it worth the risk of human lives?

  77. aaron

    I am sorry to burst your bubble, but Joe was very on point. You wanted to argue everything he said, with a sort of stuborn arrogance of a “Know it all”. When you are wrong about a point, you should just move on, and don’t let lack of knowledge get under your skin, and make the rest of your argument seem reaching. You WERE underprepared, plain and simple.

  78. Ray

    Was there a third debate?

    There are vids on YouTube for MOON TALKS I and MOON TALKS II, but there’s nothing anywhere I can find on the net for a part III…

    The links on this page don’t work, there aren’t any links on Penn’s websites. The podcast was removed, because Penn’s radio show was canceled right after the Joe Rogan debate..


  79. Bob

    The link to the mp3 is broken. Really wanted to hear you “school” Rogan. Especially when I just heard Penn on his podcast talking about how Joe Rogan owned you.

  80. I just like women of all ages who love putting on brief skirts or attire, black tights and four stiletto heels. Magnificent. If only I could obtain any person like that.

  81. The mp3 links are broken but I found a backup here:

    Fascinating debate. Rogan kept hammering on the “conspiracy of the gaps” argument. Can’t explain something? Fill in the gap with conspiracy!


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