Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Games People Play

What are the best arguments against the claims made by members of the 9/11 Truth Movement? Well, if you actually try to debate with "debunkers" you will find that few actually discuss the evidence or provide proof for their assertions. They will often use straw-man arguments and avoid debate by appealing to certain philosophical principles, namely Ockham's razor. Ockham's razor, also known as the principle of economy, can been described several ways, "Entities should not to be multiplied beyond necessity... Plurality should not be posited without necessity... All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best" etc. The appeal to Ockham's razor is frequently made by defenders of the official story. It is usually made when someone has no evidence to support their assertion.

I had a discussion with Totovader, someone who is skeptical of the claims made by the 9/11 Truth Movement. Totovader posted on his website a column entitled, "Why should the 'Truth' be divided." He stated that members of the Truth Movement do not base their explanations on evidence, therefore, different people will come to radically different conclusions regarding the events of that day. An example would be the debate over how the towers collapsed. Was it a space beam, or explosive charges? Totovader wrote, "They don’t seem to understand that each of these theories contradict each other and any act to resolve those contradictions will lead to the conclusion they must avoid: that they’re all horribly, horribly wrong." Actually, we do understand that these claims contradict each other, that is why Steven Jones left Scholars for 9/11 Truth and founded his own group. The space beam hypothesis has been thoroughly discredited(assuming it had credit) by physicist Gregory Jenkins. It should be expected that the 9/11 Truth Movement will have disagreements. We aren't claiming that we know they entire truth, we want to know the truth. When individuals are trying to understand a complex event it is natural that alternative explanations will arise. A social, political or scientific movement that has no internal disagreements is a cult. This describes people who believe the official 9/11 story.

So what about contradictory explanations made by the defenders of the official story? I provided a specific example to Totovader, the hole in the C-Ring of the Pentagon. What was the cause? People defending the official story have provided several explanations, the nose of the plane; one of the engine's; a shockwave from the impact; a ball of energy, the plane's landing gear, the plane becoming like an artillery shell or tank round. Which one is true? Totovader didn't know. He responded, "I reserve the right to change my position- and in fact often do- based on the available evidence. That’s what science is." So then I asked him what pieces of evidence caused one explanation to be accepted and another to be discarded. He had no answer. If the explanation is changing based on evidence this should be easy to do. So by what criteria are defenders of the official story changing their explanations? The explanations change based on the principle of the least absurd. There might be many explanations one could posit to explain a given phenomenon, so the goal is to come up with the least absurd that is compatible with the government's story. Once it is shown that this explanation is to implausible, the goal is to try to find another less absurd explanation.

The original explanation was that the nose cone made the hole in the C-ring. After all the hole is round and the nose of the aircraft is round so that sounds plausible. However, the nose is quite fragile and it is unlikely that it could have punched a hole completely through the C-Ring. The Pentagon Building Performance Report(PBPR) states, "These data suggest that the front of the aircraft disintegrated essentially upon impact..." After this explanation became to ridiculous to maintain others scenarios were given. The most famous one was by Popular Mechanics. They stated as fact that the hole was caused by the landing gear of the plane. However, the PBPR report does not tell us what caused this hole, they only mention its existence. They do state that the landing gear was found 300 ft. into the structure, but that the hole in the C-Ring was 310 ft. from the impact point. This explanation now seems to have been dropped as well. In the History Channel Documentary, "9/11 Conspiracies, Fact or Fiction", a new explanation is given. Allyn Kilsheimer states, "The plane became almost like an artillery shell or tank round." I wonder how long this new theory will last?

I asked Totovader if a Rapid Wall Breaching Kit(RWBK) could have created this hole. His response was predictable, "It is irrational and entirely contradictory to claim that the hole in the wall has some other cause. If nothing else, Occam’s razor should tell you that." Why should Occam's razor tell me that? If a theory can't do justice to all the available evidence then it is entirely appropriate to try to find other explanations. He goes on, "Therefore, it is not incumbent on the “government” to explain this hole-" Why not? If it is not incumbent on the government to explain this and other events of that day, then who is responsible? According to Penn Jillette, "A real skeptic demands to be convinced with evidence." Does Totovader sound like someone who is demanding to be convinced?

The other issue this topic brings up is where does the burden of proof lie? Does the burden lie with the government or with the Truth Movement? What about the claims by the Bush Administration that Iraq was producing WMD? I asked Totovader, "Did the burden lie with the Bush Administration officials to prove its claims, or for Scott Ritter to prove that Iraq did not have WMD? After all, the fact that Saddam was producing WMD was the widely accepted version of events." Naturally, he did not answer the question.

The "debunkers" survive by avoiding honest debate, not answering questions and by engaging in irrelevant philosophical meanderings.

"Galileo wrote to Kepler wishing they could have a good laugh together at the stupidity of 'the mob.'; the rest of his letter makes it plain that 'the mob' consisted of professors of philosophy, who tried to conjure away Jupiter's moons, using 'logic-chopping arguments as though they were magical incantations'" Bertrand Russell

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Skeptics: The 9/11 Truth Movement in Perspective.

At the end of the column by Michael Shermer he has a link to an article written by Phil Mole for the Skeptic magazine. It was published for the fifth anniversary of the attacks. The majority of the people who attempt to write about the 9/11 Truth Movement do not know the first thing about it or the events of that day. They start off with the premise that our ideas are absurd and there is no reason to take our claims seriously. Any claims made by the 9/11 Truth Movement is instantly discarded and any claim made by a "debunker" is accepted as legitimate. There is no skepticism applied to the claims made by those defending the government. This is also the case with Phil Mole which I will demonstrate.

Phil Mole attended a Truth Conference in Chicago sponsored by 9/ He stated that the goal of the conference was for "attendees to consolidate their group identity..." What is this suppose to mean? He appears as though he is trying to give the impression that we are some kind of cult, maybe not that much different from the one headed by Jim Jones. Wasn't "The Amazing Meeting! 5.5" a way for "skeptics" to consolidate their group identity as well? He goes on to say, "As someone who does not share the views of the 9/11 Truth Movement, I have another objective. I want to listen to their arguments and view their evidence, and understand the reasons why so many likable and otherwise intelligent people are convinced that the United States government planned the murder of nearly 3,000 of its own citizens. "

His first topic is the destruction of World Trade Towers 1 & 2. He lists the evidence made by the conspiracy theorists that WTC1,2 were destroyed by a controlled demolition. This includes the fact that the collapse looks like a demolition, the speed of the collapse, the fact that jet-fuel fires do not melt steel, and the demolition squibs(i.e. mistimed explosions). He attempts to counter each one. His argument against the collapse resembling a controlled demolition is the fact that controlled demolitions begin at the bottom, not the top. This is a weak argument. A controlled demolition means that explosives are precisely timed. They can go off in any order. This is ultimately a straw man argument, as no one in the Truth Movement is saying that WTC1,2 were blown up from the bottom, or that they resembled an implosion. He goes on to state, "but what are the chances that those planning such a complicated demolition would be able to predict the exact location the planes would impact the towers, and prepare the towers to begin falling precisely there?" The planes were probably remotely piloted into the buildings. Therefore, there could be great precision on where they would impact the towers.

He next discusses whether or not the fires could have weakened the steel to lead to a collapse of the buildings. He states, "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. 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. " This is another bad argument. First, he is confusing the temperatures of the fire with the temperatures of the steel. Also he does not say what percentage of the steel would have to heat up to 1,000° F for structural collapse to ensue. 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?

His next discussion is whether or not there was molten steel found in the rubble pile of the collapsed buildings. He states, "However, the sources in question are informal observations of “steel” at Ground Zero, not laboratory results." This is not entirely true. In Appendix C: Limited Metallurgical Examination of the FEMA Report, they found, “Evidence of a severe high temperature corrosion attack on the steel, including oxidation and sulfidation with subsequent INTERGRANUAL MELTING, was readily visible in the near-surface microstructure.”

What about the "squibs"? He states, "these are plumes of smoke and debris ejected from the building due to the immense pressure associated with millions of tons of falling towers." This cannot be true, as many of the "squibs" were emerging from floors that had no smoke. If it was due to increased pressure, it would be uniform across the floor. It would not emerge from localized points.

His discussion of WTC7 is weak. A lot of the discussion has to do with what did Larry Silverstein really mean when he used the phrase, "pull it." It is incumbent on the government to prove how WTC7 collapsed. This they have not done. Shyam Sunder, the head of the NIST investigation said, "We are studying the horizontal movement east to west, internal to the structure, on the fifth to seventh floors.… But truthfully, I don’t really know. We’ve had trouble getting a handle on building No. 7." Maybe a similar level of humility would be good for the "debunkers" to exhibit every now and then, instead of pretending they have all the answers.

His next topic of discussion is the Pentagon. The government has yet to show conclusively what happened there. He devotes a lot of attention to the statement made by Jamie McIntyre. As in the case of WTC7, interpreting what someone actually meant is largely a waste of time. What the physical evidence shows is far more important. Why is there no tail damage to the facade? This issue is not even brought up by Phil Mole. Yet the problem is clearly mentioned in the Pentagon Building Performance Report(PBPR). It states, "The height of the damage to the facade of the building was much less than the height of the aircraft’s tail. At approximately 45 ft, the tail height was nearly as tall as the first four floors of the building. Obvious visible damage extended only over the lowest two floors, to approximately 25 ft above grade." Then it drops the issue as it is not important to explain. What about the hole in the C-Ring? The PBPR gives no explanation for it. All of these important anomalies are not even mentioned, but they are critical if we are to understand the events of that day.

His discussion of Flight 93 does not focus on the size of the debris field, only on where the engine was found. What about a second debris field at Indian Lake, and third one near New Baltimore over eight miles away? There is no mention of this. He also fails to mention that there was little evidence of a plane crash.

Konicki: "Na, there was nothing, nothing that you could distinguish that a plane had crashed there."

Wally Miller: "The smoking crater looked, he says, 'like someone took a scrap truck, dug a 10-foot ditch and dumped all this trash into it.'"

Reporter Jon Meyer: "There was no plane to be found."

Pat Madigan: "Where was the plane crash?"

Ernie Stull, mayor of Shanksville, "There was no plane."

Regarding the issue of a NORAD stand down, he does not mention the numerous contradictions within the government's own story, nor does he explain why NORAD generals apparently lied under oath. He also does not mention the testimony made to the 9/11 Commission by Norman Mineta while he was in the PEOC.

Phil Mole concludes, "This article has analyzed the arguments of the 9/11 Truth Movement and found them lacking." Maybe he found them lacking because his research was very poor and superficial. He goes on, "any theory needs evidence in its favor if it is to be taken seriously." This is true. The evidence that the 9/11 Truth Movement has accumulated against the government's story is overwhelming. Phil Mole did not set out to learn about the evidence. His goal was to write another hit piece against the 9/11 Truth Movement.