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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Tanabear,
I recently had a run in with Totovader and agree that he and most of the members of JREF are best described as pseudoskeptics. The essence of real skepticism is critical thinking, which I think can reasonably be defined as questioning one's assumptions and the assumptions of others, gathering evidence, and creating hypotheses with the evidence using reason. Critical thinking involves the constant cycling of thought on one's own prejudices and requires an openess to new ideas in order to see reality in increasing objectivity. Therefore, the Randi Foundation unofficial motto, "Be open-minded, but not so open-minded that you brains fall out", is a pseudo-skeptical proverb. I have before me an article called "Zen and the Art of Debunkery", , and am so amazed at how accurately it describes Totovader's brand of "skepticism", that its almost as if he read and took it to heart not realizing it was satire. What follows are tips on pathological debunkery followed by a quote from Totovader in brackets (the notes after his comments are mine).

1) Since the public tends to be unclear about the distinction
between evidence and proof, do your best to help maintain this
murkiness. If absolute proof is lacking, state categorically that
there is no evidence.
[If we cannot know what the exact yield strength is- then how can you say what MUST happen to it in any given scenario? It could be much stronger or even much weaker than your estimations.]
Note: What Totovader ignores is that it is impossible to know the exact yield strength before the final flight, though it is a safe assumption that it is approximately the same as the mean yield strength of the alloy used in creating the disk, which have extremely low variation among yield strengths, and which also are checked for strength pre-flight, repaired if too weak to withstand the extreme inflight stresses, and if all these fail-safes aren't enough, the component is replaced with a brand new component right out of the factory.
What Totovader is arguing against is induction, a prerequisite of science. Particularly funny, is that when I clarified that in science "must means beyond a reasonable doubt", he took that as a concession of error because he presumed that "must" was used in the logical (as in absolutely no other possiblities)sense. Even though this is clearly not what was meant because science doesn't deal with absolutes, Totovader claims that this proves "I debunked myself".

2)Always refer to unorthodox statements as "claims," which
are "touted," and to your own assertions as "facts," which are
[It's such a stupid claim.[...]Here you demonstrate a gross misunderstanding of the ground effect. Ground effect does not make it impossible for a plane to fly that low at 500mph- if that were true, aircraft carriers wouldn't exist. Furthermore, your claim about the global hawk design is a complete fabrication.]
Note:This strawman is particularly humorous because it shows how as easily Totovader contadicts himself without realizing it. My "claim" was that a Global Hawk is capable of flying extremely fast at near-ground level, but a 757 isn't. He unintentionally agrees with me by making a straman that "no plane can fly at ground level that fast" which he knocks down with the example of an aircraft carrier. What he fails to recognize is that a Global Hawk is a military plane which is capable of landing on aircraft carriers, unlike the 757.

3)Avoid examining the actual evidence. This allows you to say
with impunity, "I have seen absolutely no evidence to support such ridiculous claims!"
[In no way would the engine have retained its shape or properties. Such a statement is incredibly ridiculous.]
Note:Totovader wrote this as a response to my post which said no signifigant damage to the turbine disk would occur from the stress of the impact, and that this is exactly what we see from the only observed turbine disk. The forces acting on the disk would have been *much* less than its yield stress, so it wouldn't have signifigantly bent or twisted, and would be in one piece. Even after pointing out that this is what happened to the only disk found, he continued to say I was wrong with no supporting evidence to refute me. This is a technique called gas-lighting or repatedly denying a fact, and was used by the likes of George Bush, for instance, when he said "Iraq definitely has nuclear weapons".

4)Characterize your opponents as "uncritical believers." Summarily dismiss the notion that debunkery itself betrays uncritical belief, albeit in the status quo.
[YOUR POSITION IS ENTIRELY FAITH-BASED. (...)The FBI did nothing to impede any sort of scientific investigation.]
Note:I argued that since the ASCE report used data supplied soley by the FBI and not taken themselves, which could not be verified, the ASCE report was unscientific. Totovader thinks it is ok to take the FBI's word that the data is correct and sees no problem with not being able to verify its authenticity, and at the same time calls my position "faith-based". Clearly Totovader is biased towards the status quo, which is made even more odd because we know the government lied about certain aspects of 9/11 such as there not being a military aircraft around the Pentagon during 9/11 (there was an E-48) and the FAA's original statement to the 9/11 commision that they had tracked flight 77 throughout the morning, when a few years later it was reported that the plane went missing. And now of course, we're realizing that the CIA lied to the 9/11 commision and that the witheld tapes (that are now mysteriously destroyed).

5)Portray science not as an open-ended process of discovery
but as a holy war against unruly hordes of quackery-worshipping
[We cannot possibly advance as human beings as long as we ignore the pseudo-science, faith, conspiracy theories, mysticism, and other nonsense and subsequently allow it to infect us unchallenged. The antidote is reason- it’s science and logic.]
Note:Totovader even calls the section on his website this quote was taken from "The War". What I want to make clear from this post is that the methods James Randi and Totovader are using are not science. What Totovader is advancing is scientism. But if we look through history at all the horrors caused by science, we must ask "why has science failed its promise of Utopia"? James Randi and Totovader fail to realize that they are part of the system which contributed to historical evil- the "official culture". Laura Knight-Jadczyk writes:
Why is it so that scientists - most particularly physicists and mathematicians of a good and honest disposition - seem to be the ones who most actively resist the very idea that their profession MAY have been taken over and "vectored" by conspirators who do not have humanity's best interests at heart?

"Why do scientists - those to whom the power elite MUST look for solutions to their "power problems" - think for one instant that their profession is exempt from conspiratorial manipulation and management?
That just isn't logical, is it?
In the physical sciences, very often machines and instruments are utilized to "take measurements." In order to achieve accuracy with even the most accurately tooled device, certain tests are undertaken to establish the "reading error" of the gadget. What we would like to suggest is that the "official culture" that establishes what may or may not be taken "seriously" is a planned and deliberate "reading error" built into the "machine" of science - our very thinking - the suggestions of the "hypnotist.""

I should also point out that this official culture-influenced "science", is more accurately called scientism.

6)If examining the evidence becomes unavoidable, report back
that "there is nothing new here!" If confronted by a watertight body
of evidence that has survived the most rigorous tests, simply
dismiss it as being "too pat."
[EVERY SINGLE CLAIM in that link has been debunked for ages.]
Note: The link Totovader is talking about is . He gave several general links to "prove" that the claims in that article had been debunked, which proves that he did not read what the specific points in the article actualy were. Furthermore, an exhautive analysis of the sites provided (,, show not a mention of the specific points in the article. Unlike Totovader, I encourage you to verify this and not merely take my word for it.

7)Put on the right face. Cultivate a condescending air that
suggests that your personal opinions are backed by the full faith and credit of God. Employ vague, subjective, dismissive terms such as "ridiculous" or "trivial" in a manner that suggests they have the full force of scientific authority.
[Future reference for all conspiracists: anyone who tells you that the wealth of scientific knowledge is wrong- that the most respected scientists in the field are complete idiots- that you need to accept a ridiculous and mind-bogglingly stupid idea on faith- and then turns around says "no calculations are necessary" is a fraud.]
Note: This is also a straman I never said you need to take anything on faith. Totovader, as we have seen, will take anything on faith as long as its supports the status quo (i.e. the FBI supplied data which can't be independently verified and implicitly much of the witness testimony that was reported in mainstream newspaper which "the pentacon" has shown to be false.]

8)Fabricate entire research projects. Declare that "these
claims have been thoroughly discredited by the top experts in the
field!" Do this whether or not such experts have ever actually
studied the claims, or, for that matter, even exist.
[Future reference for all conspiracists: anyone who tells you that the wealth of scientific knowledge is wrong- that the most respected scientists in the field are complete idiots- that you need to accept a ridiculous and mind-bogglingly stupid idea on faith- and then turns around says "no calculations are necessary" is a fraud.]
Note: That the "wealth of scientific knowledge" supports the official story is a complete fabrication, as are the unnamed "top respected scientists in their feilds" who support the official story. In fact, there are no "highly respected" scientists working on 9/11, and only a few less respected scientists. Most see the topic as either irrelevant, uninteresting, or (mistakenly) already answered, probably due to the lies of people like Totovader who claim the questions already been answered.

9)Keep your arguments as abstract and theoretical as possible.
This will "send the message" that accepted theory overrides any
actual evidence that might challenge it--and that therefore no such
evidence is worth examining.
[If you come across a car accident and the driver of the vehicle is decapitated and the car is engulfed in flames- do you first consider that the car was actually an elephant, and the driver does not exist?]

10)Practice debunkery-by-association.
[Your position is the exact same thing a Douglas Reed? Do you know who Douglas Reed is?]
Note: This was in response to a quote of Doglas Reed, which I said was my position (on The Protocols of Zion). Later Totovader wrote:
"It's not that particular out of context statement that troubles me- it's his denial of the Nazi's persecution of the Jews that seems to be a bigger issue". So in other words, Totovader accused me of being anti-semitic for agreeing with a quote of a person he labeled an anti-semite, even though he admitted the quote wasn't anti-semitic. Makes no sense to us, but to pseudoskeptics its completely logical.

11)Remember that you can easily appear to refute anyone's
claims by building "straw men" to demolish. One way to do this is to
misquote them while preserving that convincing grain of truth; for example, by acting as if they have intended the extreme of any
position they've taken.
[YOU BELIEVE that the "intrinsic truth" of the Protocols was that the Jews are trying to take over the world. THIS HAS BEEN YOUR POSITION ALL ALONG. (...)Science- in no way- could ever tell you "this MUST happen". (...)The engine did not return to its original shape- it is severely damaged, in pieces, and NOT the only one found.]
Note:These three are the main strawmen Totovader continually used against me- even after I corrected him. Notice how he has no scruples with stating what I believe, let alone that I believe such an extreme positon as the "Jews are trying to take over the world". This is a complete lie, and after correcting him, Totovader continued to use this slanderous accusation. Does it sound like something someone who "questions their assumptions and the assumptions of others" would say? They other two strawmen are about confusing the logical sense of "must" with the scientific sense (i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt) and confusing the entire engine with the engine disk. By the way, these three are by no means the only strawmen Totovader used, they littered throughout our discussion on youtube.

12)At every opportunity reinforce the notion that what is familiar is necessarily rational. The unfamiliar is therefore irrational, and consequently inadmissible as evidence.
[That political ponerology stuff is just one man stroking his own pseudo-intellectual nonsense. It is not anything that has any ties to rationality or is supported by any great minds.]
Note: Totovader has not read the book question (Political Ponerology) yet still claims it is irrational. Once again we see questioning of one's assumptions absent in Totovader and also an illogical creation of hypotheses (i.e. the book is irrational) without evidence.

13)Reinforce the popular misconception that certain subjects are inherently unscientific. In other words, deliberately confuse the *process* of science with the *content* of science.
[That political ponerology stuff is just one man stroking his own pseudo-intellectual nonsense. It is not anything that has any ties to rationality or is supported by any great minds. This is one guy selling books to ignorant people who want to justify their hatred.
This is a book, not a science.]
Note: Once again Totovader has no qualms with claiming something he hasn't read is unscientific. Can his pseudoskepticism be any more clear?

14)Ridicule, ridicule, ridicule. It is far and away the single
most chillingly effective weapon in the war against discovery and
innovation. Ridicule has the unique power to make people of virtually any persuasion go completely unconscious in a twinkling. It fails to sway only those few who are of sufficiently independent mind not to buy into the kind of emotional consensus that ridicule provides.
[You're an idiot (...) Fox is not talking about the Pentagon Crash there- idiot (...) Its such a stupid claim (...)As is the case with many of these claims (including yours) the anti-Semitism is rampant and clear. (...)All you've done is defend something that you have admitted was fake, and then tried to pretend that you're not anti-Semetic when your statements and even your POSITION come from anti-Semetic individuals (...)Much like the "work" of your cult leader (...)I am not going to read the book by your beloved cult leader.]
Note: This is just a small sample of Totovader's unjustified and completely irrational insults. Totovader seems to think I am mental handicapped, my arguments are "stupid", I hate Jews, and am a member of a cult that is apperently lead by Andrezj Lobacezewski, the author of the aforementioned book. This last insult is particularly puzzling as I have never met nor communicated with Lobacezewski nor do I belong to any group which he "leads". I mystified at how Totovader could just create a massive lie out of thin air in order to discredit the person he's arguing with, yet, as we shall see, this seemms to be the modus operandi of the JREF crew.

Another pseudoskeptical tacticsTotovader employed is calling the Socratic Method "nonsequitor nonsense". Those familiar with the Socratic method will know that the questions asked initially seem totoaly unrealted to the topic at hand, yet apparently Totovader doesn't inquire on what the questioner may mean and simply assumes its "nonsense". Once again, Totovader lacks even the most basic critical thinking skills.
But perhaps the most egregious of Totovaders manipulations is never admitting fault. For instance, when using a Fox News article (,2933,34412,00.html) as a reference for the speed of Flight 77, Totovader gloated:
"Oh- and this one is rich... you have AGAIN confused the Shanksville crash with the Pentagon crash. In your infinite wisdom and research skills, you didn't even bother to notice that your source is talking about Flight 93..." when the article actually said:
"Meanwhile, investigators tell Fox News they are getting "good, solid readings" from American Airlines Flight 77's data recorder. That plane crashed into the Pentagon, killing a total of 188 people in Washington — a combination of military and civilian employees on the ground and the passengers in the plane.
According to data on the recorder, the plane was going 345 miles per hour when it crashed at about 9:30 Tuesday morning. Investigators also say the recorder has speed an altitude information for the plane's entire flight.
The plane's voice recorder was also recovered, but National Transportation Safety Board officials say it was too damaged in the fire to obtain any information from it."
When confronted with this evidence Totovaders actual answer was:
"Now all of the sudden you're actually curious about the ACTUAL data?
How about you send an email to Fox and find out? "
Thats right folks, Fox News just happened to report the actual state of Flight 93's data recorders and after mentioning the Pentagon misreported them as being in the exact same state as Flight 77's data recorders (that is too damaged to obtain info). Plus they accidently misreported flight 93 crashing at the exact same time as Flight 77 (9:30). The denial here brings to mind images of Jerry Falwell and John Hagee, but then again the pseudoskeptical gospel of James Randi is defended with equal vigor. For instance, see this aritcle ( in which JREF moderators completely lie about a correspondence between the Foundation and a challenger.

I noticed you participate on Jref, Tanabear, but if you would like to discuss these topics with real skeptics, I suggest you visit: - The most objective news source on the net

and - Whose forum has an amazing collection of data on the Pentagon attack.