Action & Reaction - December 1997

Escaping Moon Reaction

Each month we send out about 200 sample copies of Disclosure to addresses selected sequentially from the telephone book. Occasionally, the recipients like what they read and join Science Against Evolution. After sending out nearly 3,000 unsolicited copies, we got our first negative reaction last month.

We received a very angry phone call from someone demanding that he be taken off our mailing list. I told him that he was not on our regular mailing list, and that he would not get any more issues unless he paid for them. One free issue is all you get. His response was one free issue is one too many. He was a physicist/engineer and knew it was full of "hogwash." Then he hung up.

This is one of those situations where I was caught off-guard and didn't realize what I should have said until after he hung up. As soon as I realized that he was offended by our unsolicited mailing, my main concern was to apologize to him. We don't want to offend people. We don't want to harass people by flooding them with literature they find offensive. We simply give them a sample of our newsletter which they are free to read or put in the bottom of a bird cage.

I wish I had caught the name of our caller. I only know his last name must have begun with "H" because that's how far into the phone book we were that month. I would like to know, specifically, why he thought it was "hogwash." I'd like to call him back, but maybe it is better that I can't. He might consider a follow-up call to be some kind of harassment. Still, I really would like to know what upset him so much.

I can understand how people could miss the point of satirical pieces like the Santa Similarity and the Evolution of Television, which have appeared in previous issues. Reasonable people could disagree with the subjective analysis in the issues containing The Neanderthal Problem and Falling Off Mount Improbable. But last month's issue?

Last month's issue was the one containing the orbital mechanics of Our Escaping Moon. If there is an error in the mathematics or physics, it would be very easy to demonstrate the error. I checked the math very carefully, but it is possible that I made a mistake. I could have miscopied the mass of the Moon. I might have entered a wrong cell location in the spreadsheet that did the calculations. If so, and someone has found an error, then please bring it to my attention and I will print the correction.

To say that everything in last month's issue is hogwash is to say that the mass of the Moon isn't 7.34712 x 1022 kilograms, angular momentum isn't conserved, the Moon can do work without losing energy, and that Sputnik 1 didn't fall back to Earth after 57 days in orbit. Clearly he was exaggerating. I wish I knew what he was thinking.

Did he actually read the essay? Or were his prejudices so strong that he would not even look at the evidence? Maybe he did read it. Maybe he worked out the equations himself, came up with the same energy values, and could not find anything wrong. But, knowing that the equations must be wrong because evolution must be true, he thinks that we pulled some sneaky, subtle mathematical slight-of-hand. He may be frustrated because he thinks I am a scoundrel but can't prove it.

I think the reason this issue provoked such a violent reaction is because it is so rigorously logical and free of subjectivity. This isn't something that one can debate, like the recent discovery of a 2 cm jaw in southern Australia, which some scientists claim "would put placental mammal down under 110 million years earlier than believed, and would upend paleontologists' ideas about mammal evolution."1 Although we didn't show all the equations (that would have been too long and boring), we did give a table of calculated values and described the method used to obtain them in sufficient detail that any physicist or engineer can verify them.

We took a big risk last month. If our equations are wrong, they can be proved wrong and we have no way to wriggle out of it. Did we make a mistake? Someone thought we did.

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Footnote:

1 "Will Fossil From Down Under Upend Mammal Evolution?", Science, Vol. 278, 21 November 1997, page 1401 (Ev)