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The Inconstant Moon, Four Decades Later -- and the NAACP and Prop. 8

Humankind got to the moon 40 years ago, and I’ll get to the moon in a moment.

But we spent half of our first hour today on the quandary facing some African-American civil rights organizations over same-sex marriage. The NAACP celebrates its centennial this year, and Alice Huffman is on that organization’s national board and is president of the state NAACP. The latter came out against Proposition 8, and now the national group will be figuring out what stance – if any – to take on same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage has been denounced from a lot of pulpits, and some African-Americans reject the equivalency argument that gay rights now and the black civil rights movement 40 and 50 years ago are about the same thing. The Reverend Eric Lee is the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater LA. The national group called him to account for his opposition to Proposition 8; both he and Huffman were here today making the argument that groups dedicated to civil rights can’t choose to defend one group’s rights and walk away from another’s. How this argument will play with the parent groups is something we'll keep tracking.

I’m lovin’ this moon anniversary stuff – like Charles Lowry, the engineering manager who designed the parachutes that brought the Mercury and Apollo astronauts to safe splashdowns. The rest of the planet was holding its breath watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon; Lowry was holding his breath as the capsule plummeted back to earth, until it made it all the way back. For you skydivers out there – imagine packing nearly seven tons of parachutes …

Conspiracy theorists have filled books, videos and now the blogosphere with their ‘’proof’’ that man never landed on the moon, a notion that first gained traction around the time of the Watergate political conspiracy.

I’m fascinated by the selective nature of conspiracy theories, that moving-target standard of proof that my guest, Ted Goergzel, at Rutgers University, spoke about today. The absurd theories, he said, are ultimately contradictory, but the fact that there are real conspiracies, like Watergate, fertilize the ground for the fantasy ones. The big difference, he thinks, is that real conspiracies come rather quickly to light. What undercuts the fantasy conspiracies is the fact of human nature, that scores or hundreds of thousands of people can’t possibly sit on a secret that big that long.

Tomorrow, the author of ‘’You Are Here,’’ a book about why humans aren’t remotely as good as ants or turtles or dogs or cats at finding their way around. And yes, there’s a reason men don’t ask for directions … and it doesn’t mean that they’re better at navigation.

That should get the phones ringing.

-- Patt Morrison