Friday, June 12, 2009

Debunking 9/11 conspiracy theory

In light of a white nationalist who believed in an anti-Semitic variant of 9/11 Truth conspiracy (among other conspiracies) shooting up the Holocaust Museum in D.C., I thought it might be a good idea to link to eSkeptic's debunking of it. I recommend the entire article, but I'll quote from the conclusion, as it seems particularly relevant.

The great writer Thomas Pynchon memorably expressed this point in his novel Gravity’s Rainbow: “If there is something comforting — religious, if you want — about paranoia, there is still also anti-paranoia, where nothing is connected to anything, a condition not many of us can bear for long.”42 The promiscuity of conspiracy theories toward evidence thus becomes part of their appeal — they can link virtually any ideas of interest to the theorist into a meaningful whole. This point was illustrated nicely during the Q & A session following the conference screening of Rick Siegel’s Eyewitness: Hoboken. An attendee wanted to know what role the Freemasons played in the plot, and seemed very concerned that Siegel’s account had neglected them. After waffling on the answer for a few moments without appeasing his questioner, Siegel finally relented and said, “Sure, they’re involved.” And why not? With the standards of evidence used by conspiracy theorists, there is no reason why the Freemasons, the Bavarian Illuminati, or the Elders of Zion cannot also be involved in the 9/11 plot — it just depends on what you find the most solace in believing. As it turns out, some conspiracy theorists do throw one or more of these other parties into the mix, as a popular and bogus rumor that 4,000 Jews mysteriously failed to come to work on 9/11 shows.43

Solace is something all of us needed after the horrible events of 9/11, and each of us is entitled to a certain degree of freedom in its pursuit. However, there is no moral right to seek solace at the expense of truth, especially if the truth is precisely what we most need to avoid the mistakes of the past. Truth matters for its own sake, but it also matters because it is our only defense against the evils of those who cynically exploit truth claims to serve their own agendas. It is concern for the truth that leads us to criticize our own government when necessary, and to insist that others who claim to do so follow the same rigorous standards of evidence and argument. 9/11 was a powerful reminder of how precious and fragile human life and liberty are — the greatest possible rebuke to those who would live in service to delusions.


Unknown said...

I'm glad that you posted this article. Many people have gotten to the point where they will accept a conspiracy theory as truth without any true evidence. However, don't you think that this article is only accurate assuming that none of the evidence provided by conspiracy theorists have much content? I don't happen to believe that 9/11 was any sort of conspiracy (at least not by the American government, etc), but some of the evidence that these conspiracy theorists have brought forward have a lot of substance. For example, the authors of, among others, bring up an important point: "There's no airliner debris at the Pentagon, and the deep and focused damage to the building could not be from an airliner crash" (par. 13). This evidence can't easily be disputed. I'm sure there is a simple explanation, but nonetheless this is good evidence. I don't think that this article is a very good example because it doesn't address this important assumption that it has made.

tanabear said...

Phil Mole's attempt at debunking the 9/11 Truth Movement was pretty poor, almost sad. I corrected some of his delusions in the response I wrote to it.

Phil Mole: “Best engineering estimates tell us that steel loses 50% of its strength at 650° F, and can lose as much as 90% of its strength at temperatures of 1,800° F.5 Even if we assume temperatures of no higher than 1,000° F during the fire, we would still have more than enough reasons to expect damage severe enough to result in eventual collapse.

Here Phil seems to be confusing the temperature of the steel with the temperature of the fires. It is the former that matters.

What evidence is there that any of the steel reached these temperatures? What percentage of the steel would have to reach these temperatures before we should expect the towers to “collapse”?

NIST found that only 2% of the steel tested on the perimeter columns got over 250C(482F) and none of the core columns. They also found, “Microstructure tests showed no steel reached critical (half-strength) values (600 C, 1112 F).”

Besides, if fire temperatures of only 1,000° F can cause an entire building to be destroyed, then why hasn’t this happened before? So Phil’s previous assertions are baseless.

John said...

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” -- Arthur Schopenhauer

"1,000 Architects & Engineers Call for New 9/11 Investigation "

More than 1,000 worldwide architects and engineers now support the call for a new investigation into the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7 at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. After careful examination of the official explanation, along with the forensic data omitted from official reports, these professionals have concluded that a new independent investigation into these mysterious collapses is needed.