200,000 year old lunar baloney is still baloney

By Phil Plait | May 8, 2009 8:00 am

Now, maybe this is just me, but when I hear that a geologist has claimed to have found a 200,000 year old statue of an angel buried in a Moon rock, my first thought is [name of Penn & Teller’s Showtime program].

My second thought is, who reported this? And when I find out it’s the Weekly World News, well then, duh.

And then my third thought is, no one with a brain even barely sophisticated enough to keep them alive would believe this, right? Right?

Sigh.

Anyway, here’s a tip: when I hear some news story like this (except one that just might have some tiny sliver of plausibility), one thing I do immediately is Google the scientist’s name. In this case, all the links are to this lunar angel story.

Yeah. We’re done.

Incredibly, some of the Google links are from social networks where people are actually taking the claim seriously enough to wonder about it. To them I say: come over to my house. Let’s play poker.

Tip o’ the tin foil beanie to BABloggee Alex Young.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Debunking, Humor, Skepticism

Comments (86)

  1. Craig Edgar

    Hey Phil,

    guess people just need to believe in something. Maybe it breaks up the mundane 9-5 days, I personally think thats its ok to believe in reasonably possible things such as other life in the universe but am totally against these kind of claims.

    I often wonder where you lie on this, where does it stop being ok to have a certain amount of belief in something based on scientific research and start becoming incorrect or flawed even (In the case of Antivaxxers) unethical?

    Cheers

    Craig (Ireland)

  2. rob

    invite me to the poker party. i want to watch them go all-in on 2-7 unsuited.

  3. Bruce Almighty

    A guy approached me with this news at the pub last night.
    I tried to let him down gently, but…y’know…
    This is the same dude that thinks Richard Hoagland is a leading scientist,
    and David Icke is a major political theorist.
    I think you get the idea.

  4. Chris

    Don’t be so quick to dismiss this Phil – Perhaps there are more of these angels on the moon and they are what propels the moons orbit. I mean, there has to be some logical explanation for this phenomenon….Right Mr. Astronomer?!?!?

  5. QUASAR

    Yup! Still baloney!

  6. Samsam

    No, Chris, this is clearly the sort of imprint a Noodly Appendage leaves behind.
    It’s the occasional wet slap that keeps the Moon from falling down.

  7. I don’t give it any credit, can I still come play poker? Pot limit Omaha!

  8. SF Reader

    In addition to everything else, the author of the article was given as Erik Van Datiken…

    Baloney!

  9. How do you carbon date an angel statue anyway? What was it made of that made dating so precise? Enquiring minds want to know.

  10. That’s why, when pushing obvious claptrap under the pretense of science, it’s important to have your name legally changed to that of an established, though not prominent scientist in a related field.

    Jeeze, doesn’t this guy know anything?

  11. dhtroy

    So, wait … I’m trying to catch up here … what you’re all saying is that this Lunar Angel eats Baloney? Or is it a Baloney Scientist that eats Lunar Angels?

    OH, I get it now. It’ s a 200,000 year old Baloney Eating Lunar Scientist Angel.

    Man, this science stuff is tricky.

  12. Chris

    Samsam – Even though the FSM has been rumored to vacation in Branson, to think he would waste His time or His energy interfering with the workings of our puny and insignificant solar system is pure drivel.

  13. Now I’m hungry for bologna.

  14. Doc

    William James (psychologist and philosopher) had three rules to determine the acceptability of a belief:

    1. The belief must not be easily disproved.
    2. The belief must not bring harm to anyone.
    3. The belief must bring pleasure to the believer.

  15. Big Al

    Don’t be so hard on the gullibles. We need them to do the hard, mind-numbingly boring jobs that keep the rest of us in comfort. If everyone was smart, who’d pick the lettuce or clean out the sewer lines for us?

  16. Maybe we should get Bill Kaysing to debunk this story. Obviously, if we never went to the Moon, we couldn’t’ve brought back the angel rock, right? I’m thinking Conspiracy Theorist Grudge Match: Bill Kaysing vs Morris Charles.

  17. MarkH

    What nobody seems to realize is that this “finding” blows the YEC’s right out of the water…. If this “angel” is 200,000 years old, how can the earth and heavens be only 6,00 years old???

  18. “William James (psychologist and philosopher) had three rules to determine the acceptability of a belief:”

    William James was a gullible twat. Just saying.

    http://drvitelli.typepad.com/providentia/2008/01/the-professor-a.html

  19. This story is obviously crazy, BTW. Everyone know the moon landings were a hoax. Duh!

  20. I think it’s very telling that the supposed-intelligent life chose to make itself known with an angel. How very welcoming and all-encompassing of it/them. No implications of a One World Master Faith here, certainly not. A little less obvious next time, okay, Mr. Noted Scientist?

  21. Gary Ansorge

    SO, where’d he get a moon rock? Did he go to the moon and steal one from our international park?(Armstrongs Landing Site, declared an International Park in 2045)

    “Dad gum kids! Put those rocks back,,,”

    Gary 7

  22. when I hear that a geologist has claimed to have found a 200,000 year old statue of an angel buried in a Moon rock, my first thought is how many beers that would have been

  23. @ Big Al:

    If everyone was smart, who’d pick the lettuce or clean out the sewer lines for us?

    Having just had the old sewer pipe at my house replaced with a way cool inflated polycarbonate epoxy pipe — minimal digging, the new pipe blows up like a balloon inside the old one, the whole job complete in a couple of hours — I’d modify the above just a wee bit.

    Maybe “pick the lettuce or string the cable TV lines.” Yeah, that’s it. If those dumb b____s from Comcast tromp all over my amaryllis one more time….

  24. Pineyman

    Ummm…WWN also reported two weeks ago about finding holy water on Mars. My brain exploded when I read the headline in the checkout line at the supermarket. Luckily, my kids scooped up all my grey matter and shoved it back in through my ears.

    Gotta remember to never look past US & Cosmo.

  25. p

    Maybe it was carved by the guy who grew a tree in his lung.

  26. Nick

    @ Big Al:

    If everyone was smart, who’d pick the lettuce or clean out the sewer lines for us?

    Robots.

  27. Electro

    No matter how thin you slice it…it’s still baloney

  28. I read this yesterday and almost snorted mt Coke through my nose… (Cola)

    I never noticed the authors’ name! Erik Van Datiken! That’s hilarious! For more hilarity, click on his name and read more silly stories. (Just incase you are worried your doctor is an alien… you’re correct!)

  29. Chris

    @ Pineyman –

    Don’t dismiss the WWN so quickly, their ground-breaking expose on “6 signs your Doctor is an Alien.” has saved my life on multiple occasions.

    1. Beware of doctors who have trouble identifying body parts. If you complain of pain in an elbow and he examines your wrist or forearm, you might very well be in the clutches of an extraterrestrial.
    2. Human physicians often run late, but extraterrestrials are always right on time.
    3. A doctor’s handwriting is usually quite sloppy. But aliens labor over their handwriting and the result is easy-to-read printing.
    4. Most doctors draw blood for testing but need very little to get the job done. Physicians who ask for a quart or more of your blood have a hidden agenda – and may be extraterrestrials.
    5. The vast majority of doctors dispense drugs through prescriptions and pharmacist. Alien doctors prefer to pass out “sample” pills and preparations that usually have nothing to do with the patient’s illness.
    6. Aliens often recommend surgery for patients who feel great and have no symptoms of disease.

    You stick with Cosmo and read up on “The Top 10 Things He Doesn’t Want to Hear About Your Ex.” I prefer the real world advice that WWN provides.

  30. Pineyman

    Jeez Chris, thanks for telling me that now! I could’ve used #5 a while ago, when a doc I THOUGHT I went to HS with gave me some samples…now who knows what to experiments I am being subjected.

  31. Pineyman

    Maybe how to mangle English?

  32. Rowan Bulpit

    The Weekly World News stories are meant to be ridiculous, and comedic. I think they are similar in a way to The Onion…I think you are a victim of Poe’s Law again Phil :P

  33. Timothy from Boulder

    Wow! Those stories by Van Datiken really are hilariously ludicrous! Especially:

    “EDGAR MITCHELL BELIEVES IN ALIEN LIFE
    Posted on Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
    By Erik Van Datiken

    GAITHERSBURG, MD – Former astronaut Edgar Mitchell stated at a UFO conference
    that extraterrestrial life exists and the government is actively covering it up….”

    Oh, wait ….

  34. L Ron Hubbub

    The angel looks shopped. I can tell from some of the pixels and from seeing quite a few shops in my time…

  35. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    where does it stop being ok to have a certain amount of belief in something based on scientific research and start becoming incorrect or flawed even (In the case of Antivaxxers) unethical?

    I don’t think there is any fast and hard procedure to establish this, any more than one can determine what is science (except by doing it). If you try to formalize it you will perhaps, as in so many cases where you have both positive and negative feedback AFAIU, end up with an NP-complete decision problem.

    However, you can certainly narrow down the fuzzy region.

    From within I would say that the safe zone is scientific knowledge. It is predictive and tend to be universal (by testing).

    Around that you can still learn from your environment as we do daily, but that learning is contingent on a stable environment. It may be flawed as universal knowledge (by contingency) albeit correct within the bounds of learned data. And as soon as you collect more data, extrapolate or have the environment change it may be found to be incorrect. It still doesn’t make it an unfounded belief, it is merely not (robust) knowledge.

    From without I would say that people may believe anything as long as they don’t harm others, as we have freedom for/of religion for example. It doesn’t make it respectable or even ok, just tolerable, but we can’t stop it just because it is annoying with a large woo-rld out there.

  36. Daniel J. Andrews

    Wasn’t this an episode in the Simpsons? Special guest appearance by some obscure guy named Stephen something or other. ;) *

    Love the author’s name in the article. Close enough to sound like Eric von Daniken, author of the “Chariots of the Gods?” books.

    I don’t think anyone takes the World Weekly News seriously, do they? Most stories are obvious satire. See for example, the link below where a chessplayer’s head explodes due to Hyper-Cerebral Electrosis (HCE), a genetic condition some people may have. Doctors advise people to take it easy and not think too hard for long periods of time (anyone who takes the story seriously certainly isn’t in any danger of death due to HCE).

    http://aca-vnt.mcc.ac.uk/ScrapBook/explodinghead.htm

    *I know his name, have read all his books, including his evolution tome.

  37. You’re being so unfair:

    “This rules out the possibility that it was dropped by a race of aliens from another planet.”

    See? They don’t believe those wacky theories, no siree.

  38. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    “6 signs your Doctor is an Alien.” has saved my life on multiple occasions.

    Let me see:

    “Beware of doctors who have trouble identifying body parts.”

    No, that is not correct. You have to start worrying already with doctors who are too interested in your body parts.

    Prudence tells you to count your parts before leaving a medical facility. But personally I play it safe and draw the line at doctors who tries to date my parts.

    “extraterrestrials are always right on time.”

    Also incomplete, supernaturals are out of time. And those are the dangerous ones, no mere probing here and there but changing your medicine to wine. (See the dating advice above.)

    “aliens labor over their handwriting”

    That is probably a good one – Stargate taught us that aliens write in hieroglyphs.

    “Physicians who ask for a quart or more of your blood have a hidden agenda”

    See, I told you so above – physicians are out for your body.

    “Alien doctors prefer to pass out “sample” pills”

    Yes, yes, date rape pills; move on already.

    “Aliens often recommend surgery”

    If I could give my left hand for every time I’ve heard that one… Alas.

  39. Rodney

    Careful,

    Some of us could, and would, easily fake being that stupid just to play poker at your house.

    rod

    Yeah, I have a “special” guardian angel that proves we were on the moon 200K years ago. His name is…Hyper-dimensional, yeah…

  40. Mmmmmm, baloney.

  41. p

    @ Michael L.

    We all know you don’t mean Coca-Cola.

  42. Bill Roberts

    Torbjorn, you’ve been hanging out with Jenny McCarthy, haven’t you?

  43. David L

    How can the statue be so old, Since we know the earth is only 6000 years old? Thank Zeus for the creationists who provide the baseline for evaluating these things scientifically.

  44. Charles Boyer

    @Gary Ansorge “SO, where’d he get a moon rock? Did he go to the moon and steal one from our international park?(Armstrongs Landing Site, declared an International Park in 2045)”

    I am in favor of an international treaty to make that declaration now.

    This has some urgency considering companies like Astrobiotics plan to perform ” a pinpoint landing just over a mile from the Apollo 11 site, where Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Astrobotic’s “Red Rover” would then beam back high-definition images of the dusty footprints left by Armstrong and fellow Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, all while taking care not to disturb the historical site.” (space.com)

    Assuming that Astrobiotic can get to the moon, I have doubts about them landing so close to such an obvious historic site for humankind. I think a n0-go zone should be drawn well away from the area on Mare Tranquilis that would prevent any disturbance at or near the Apollo landing site.

    For that matter, ANY of the key landing sites, Apollo, or the robotic sites of any nation prior to the end of the previous century. Once they are disturbed there is no chance of restoration and we should take these steps now, not in hindsight wishing we had done so earlier.

  45. BJN

    Phil, are you going to rebut “news” from “The Onion” too? “The Weekly World News” has always been over-the-top satire and Photochoppery. It’s the home of Batboy, for cr***ake! The author of the article in question is “Erik Van Datiken”, an obvious satire on our old friend Erich von Däniken.

    There’s no hope for the clueless folks who don’t get the joke, and WWN loves to stick it to the gullible. I suppose we could ban satire because some dimbulb will believe it.

  46. Matt

    Oh, look. Homo Sapiens is only 30,000 yrs old. “…200,000 years old which means it was made 170,000 years before the human species appeared on Earth.” I love it!

  47. Well, right off the bat, we know the story can’t be true. How can it be 200,000 years old, when the Universe is only 6,000 years old? :-)

  48. BJN:

    Phil, are you going to rebut “news” from “The Onion” too? “The Weekly World News” has always been over-the-top satire and Photochoppery.

    You may know that. Phil may know that. I may know that. Unfortunately, many people think TWWN is a serious newspaper.

  49. Nick K

    Ah. WWN. I always loved that i could scare my younger sister back in the day with pictures of their “Bat Boy”.

  50. p

    There is no universe, just a big looky-box in the sky thingy.

  51. Fred

    Dr. Phil said: To them I say: come over to my house. Let’s play poker
    I’m Sorry they can’t come to your house until they look at the real-estate deal I’ve got for them it’s the nicest bridge you’ve ever seen.

  52. TychoF

    Torbjörn Larsson, OM:

    If you try to formalize it you will perhaps, as in so many cases where you have both positive and negative feedback
    AFAIU, end up with an NP-complete decision problem.

    I first read this as ‘an NP-complete delusion problem’. Somehow entirely appropriate.

  53. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Bill, possibly. I forgot to ask her name.

    But I can tell you this much, afterwards I had the urge to smoke. (But needed a hand of course.)

  54. Robert DeCaire

    The Weekly World News? That’s like the supermarket version of the Onion, but with more bigfoot. Is there seriously anyone over the age of six who doesn’t understand that the WWN is intended to be comedy? Have they successfully trolled America’s grocery-buying population?

    If so, I really have to say that I’m awfully impressed with the amount of good science and sensible thinking that happens in America despite the obstacles that must result from giving the vote to people who believe everything they read.

  55. ccpetersen

    Yes, this IS the Weekly World News, a fine bastion of psycho-ceramic studies.

    an anecdote about these kinds of rags, FWIW… back when I worked at a newspaper, we’d get all these stories across the wire that the copy desk would spike for use “later” when we had a news hole we needed to fill. One of these stories came across the Health editor’s desk — about a woman who’d been on a severe weight-loss diet (she was a model). She apparently fell off the wagon and went on an eating binge, which caused her stomach to rupture. She survived, but barely. I think we ran that story in the health section under a headline about eating disorders.

    Not so the Weekly World News. Their headline was “Model Explodes in London!!!!”

    So, take WWN and its ilk with a block of salt. Chances are the buried statue story had its genesis in some really mundane thing and the editors at WWN decided to spice it up and they may well have even been trying satire.

  56. Sundance

    The Weekly World News was The Onion before The Onion existed. Enough said.

  57. Big Al

    @ Nick:
    If you give all those jobs to robots, what will you do with the unwashed masses?

  58. Chris

    Isn’t Cosmo an astronomy magazine………. d’oh!!

  59. Ken B

    Your answer: The Guardian Of Forever. Or Q, he loves a good cosmic prank.

  60. Big Al

    The Outer Party, the Inner Party nor the Illuminati really care about them.

  61. Laurel

    I don’t mind if there aren’t really angel statues on the Moon, they’re easy enough to find here on Earth! :)

  62. Davidlpf

    My irony meter went off the other night when Hoagland on C2C said it was “a matter of belief not science” about the statue.

  63. Ad Hominid

    A confession: I was on the staff of WWN back in the 80s. At that time, we assumed that everyone knew the stories were a form of satire, specifically, that we were mocking the pretensions of so-called mainstream journalism. It was part of the joke that we didn’t spell this out, ever.
    Later, the publishers were forced to admit that they fabricated stories when an elderly woman brought suit over the use of her photo in a story about a pregnant centenarian.

    Standards of critical thinking have obviously declined in recent years, though. There is seemingly no level of satire or facetious intent that cannot be taken seriously by a fairly large number of people somewhere. It is almost an extinct art form. To avoid being taken seriously, it must be transparently obvious, which reduces it to grade school level and takes away any chance for subtlety or real humor.

  64. The sectioned angel is said to show Widmanstätten patterns. It may have been accompanied by a solid gold coin dated 197,951 BC – stamped deeply into the metal. The authenticity of the report is irrefutable. Those who criticize are thereby proven unfit to judge.

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3031/2713143298_475db9cf13.jpg?v=0
    http://info.babylon.com/cgi-bin/bis.fcgi?rt=GetFile&uri=!!MF75Z5ZNQX&type=0&index=88
    irrefutable

  65. Fruit Fly

    In one of Hoagland’s videos on Youtube, he actually uses a Weekly World News headline (with the title conveniently cropped from the picture) to prove one of his claims. I think it was the glass tunnel on mars with the ancient subway system underneath. Damned if I could find that video again and I have NO desire to sit through any Hoagland crap unless I’m drunk and it’s 3am.

  66. Zippy the Pinhead

    It was found next to the big black monolith.

  67. beagledad

    On the bright side, the Weekly World News is back! It was a sad day in the supermarket when WWN ceased publishing in 2007. It’s nice to see it online, crossing that bridge into the 21st Century. Still, I miss the print edition–it made great bathroom reading, and I don’t keep a computer in the loo.

  68. beagledad

    @Ad Hominid: I am sooo envious. I always thought working at the WWN would be one of the most fun jobs ever.

  69. I used to love the WWN. But it has been surpassed by The Onion. Same idea, but better writing. But the WWN still has a place in my heart as an early perfect example of Poe’s law.

  70. WWN has gone downhill a bit since they had to drop the print version and move entirely online, however I still have a warm spot for them in my heart. I used to buy copies when I was a kid because the stories were so funny. Some of the best creative writing I’ve seen was in WWN. When I got older and realised some people actually believed what was in WWN I started to understand just how gullible some people are so I guess it had an influence on my skepticism.

  71. Teetop

    I heard that scientists looked inside another Moon rock and found a tiny condo occupied by a family of little aliens–the rock was plucked from a prime craterside location–the aliens are pretty ticked off.

  72. BreadFred

    As pointed out above, the name of the author is funny – Erik Van Datiken – if that isn’t a play on Erich Von Daniken (look it up if you do not know about him… if you have some spare time to waste on pseudo science) I don’t know what is. It is dead give away!

  73. John Sherman

    Many years ago I worked at a department store. I was asked by HR to put together a monthly newsletter with jokes and employee birthdays and that sort of fluff. In one issue, I wrote that the huge table of sale ties in the Men’s Department had come to life and escaped into the ventilation systems. I add that if the evidence in the book department was anything to go by, the now-living mass of ties liked the novels of Danielle Steele.

    A few days after this issued was published (i.e. xeroxed and stapled) I actually overhear two older employees wondering if it were true! These were two women well over 50 years who had presumably seen their share of life standing there thinking a mass of ties had come to life!

  74. I used to get a kick out of the print edition of the Weekly World News – which coincidentally ran a story about how the images of Howard Stern and Pamela Anderson appeared in billowing smoke from a volcano in the edition that was on the stands September 11, 2001. So the next week, when everyone was passing around pictures of the face of the Devil in the smoke coming from the World Trade Center, I was able to point to the WWW and explain to them that it was all nonsense.

    The WWW fell out of favor with me a few weeks ago when they had a bit of a dustup with cryptozoologist and debunker of cryptozoological nonsense Loren Coleman, right arount the time of the JRF/YouTube Incident. Seems that the WWW approached Coleman and suggested the formation of a partnership in which they would get reproduction rights to any of his online work on Cryptomundo. When he asked them what he would get in return, their response was “publicity.” Coleman realized he would be giving what credibility is associated with his name and work to what is essentially an online humor site, but would at the same time diminish that credibility by being associated with the WWW.

    Coleman said, essentially, thanks but no thanks, and then wrote up a blog post on Cryptomundo warning any other cryptozoologists who might be offered the same deal to think it over very carefully. He illustrated his post with articles from the WWW, including (if I recall correctly) at least one Bat Boy story and a “Sarah Palin Kills Bigfoot!” article. Which promtly resulted in a cease-and-desist order from the WWW, threatening legal action if he did not immediately remove the images and remove any references to the WWW itself. He complied, but the damage was done. WWW is no longer seen as a silly source of pseudoscientific nonsense, but is now an online thug. I wonder if you’ll be receiving any sternly-worded letters from them in the near future, Phil?

  75. …and that should have been “WWN” throughout, not “WWW.” Sorry.

  76. I have to admit (well, technically, no, but if I want to make my point…) that I have a large collection of old printed WWN’s… and I have to admit it was always fun to read. One thing that was interesting is that you could find an Elvis article in pretty much every issue.. with one being how he’s alive, then next issue (real article) about a farmer’s cows being serenaded by his ghost. [What song? not in article, but I figured it would be ‘Love Me Tender(loin)].

    Yes, I did a lot of takeoffs like that from articles.. e.g. vampires marry [kids have to go to night school]

    J/P=?

  77. Richard

    Phil, concerning this poker game consisting of credulous community members: will you be using the Rorschach deck?

  78. Steve Morrison

    @Gary Ansorge:

    Doubtless this is where they got the moon rocks!

    @Harold:

    Weekly World News, World Wide Web – what’s the big difference, really?

  79. Ad Hominid

    My favorite WWN story claimed that a flying saucer with a Confederate flag on the bottom had buzzed a bullfight in Mexico and played Dixie as it zoomed past. It was only a couple of paragraphs but there was enough material there for a complete conspiracy sub-culture. I did not write that one, but I really, really wish I had.

  80. MadScientist

    @Naked Bunny: I agree – you need to visit Bologna. :) You won’t find any moon rocks but there are plenty of statues of angels, but forget the angels, the food is far more interesting than the angels.

    I wonder if anyone tells those paleogeologists that 5M year old dinosaur poo is still a load of – well, poo. OK, OK, at 5M years they may be mineralized/fossilized, but what about younger poo, say 300 years old which seems to attract certain classes of sociologists and archaeologists? (Funny – but it seems to attract humans more than flies.)

  81. I would personally be very interested in 5 million year old dinosaur poo. Especially in who the dinosaur in question was who outlived his or her fellow dinosaurs by about 60 million years!

  82. OK, Great stuff to know but why get so over done about this you should be focusing on the real stuff our government is doing like Cap and Crap, or Imigration reform, as well as the next Trillion dollars the Feds print.

    Get going sheep !

  83. Aurora

    you mean the lunar angel in my garden isn’t real? hmmmmm… oh well.

  84. yo

    dude picks up random rock happens to have epic angel inside. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

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