Saturday, January 15, 2005

I've prepared some itemized tips to help pseudoskeptics "debunk" the Face on Mars; I couldn't help but notice that this has become quite the fashion lately and, as always, I'm here to help.

1.) Always use the word "conspiracy" when referring to the Face, as if it's axiomatic that those interested in the feature's origin are drooling paranoids convinced of some kind of NASA cover-up.

2.) Never refer to any scientific, peer-reviewed studies suggesting that the Face might be something other than a natural formation. Tabloid newspapers and goofy New Age websites, however, are fair game. If space permits, quote them at length.

3.) Be sure to construct your argument so that there's no room for healthy suspension of premature conclusions. Write as if anyone interested in artifacts on Mars is a "true believer." No exceptions.

4.) Relentlessly brandish Richard Hoagland's most idiotic claims, taking pains to foster the notion that Hoagland somehow speaks on behalf of everyone interested in planetary SETI.

5.) Include unspecific, utterly irrelevant references to spoon-bending, crop circles, alien abduction, poltergeists, cattle mutilations, you-name-it. This helps to "set the tone."

6.) Be careful to make it seem as if the argument for artificiality on Mars hinges solely on the Face. If you must refer to related surface anomalies, be as unspecific as possible.

7.) If you use pictures, keep them small and difficult to decipher. Or follow the "Skeptical Inquirer's" lead and subject images to arbitrary Photoshop filtering. You know, for "effect." If at all possible, use outdated, incorrectly enhanced imagery.

8.) Tell your audience that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Don't elaborate. Don't discuss what, exactly, this maxim might entail when examined epistemologically.

9.) Employ mantric references to the "Man in the Moon," eggplants that resemble human heads, nachos graced with religious icons, the "Old Man in the Mountain," etc.

10.) Don't forget to include an obligatory quote by someone affiliated with NASA saying how cool it would be if the Face et al were indisputably artificial and how he/she is heart-broken that, regrettably, they're just rocks.

11.) Ignore the rather obvious point that candidate extraterrestrial archaeological ruins (thought by some to date back hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of years) will inevitably exhibit severe erosion, making snap judgment based on remote sensing effectively impossible.

12.) Quip that satellite imagery has yet to reveal such things as "suburbs," "strip-malls" and "lawn furniture." This serves as surprisingly heavy ammunition.

13.) Make at least one reference to the defunct "X-Files" television series.

That's just to get you started. Send no money; I'm providing these as a public service.

Keep up the good fight and, most importantly, have fun!

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