The events of 9/11 are very well documented, you really do not need me to rehash the details because there are many other highly reliable sources. The basic facts are spelled out on this Wikipedia page titled “September 11 attacks“. It describes the background, the actual attacks, the aftermath, the effects, and also lists the various investigations. As with many dramatic events, there is also a thriving narrative of 9/11 conspiracy theories. Again, this also is all well documented. The Wikipedia page for that is “9/11 conspiracy theories“.
The most popular conspiracy idea is that the twin towers and WTC7 were brought down by a controlled demolition, and that the two fully fuelled commercial aircraft impacting the buildings and setting off raging fires simply does not explain it. Associated with that is the claim that the Pentagon was struck by a missile launched by dark nefarious insider forces.
Is there any truth to these claims?
As is highlighted by the Wikipedia page …
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the technology magazine Popular Mechanics have investigated and rejected the claims made by 9/11 conspiracy theorists. The 9/11 Commission and most of the civil engineering community accept that the impacts of jet aircraft at high speeds in combination with subsequent fires, not controlled demolition, led to the collapse of the Twin Towers, but some groups disagree with the arguments made by NIST and Popular Mechanics, including Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth.
If you are a believer then that’s the cue for playing the card marked “Popular Mechanics is only a magazine, and the NIST study was seriously flawed“. Don’t forget that you need to also disparage the entire 9/11 commission which should be easy, and most of the civil engineering community which is not so easy.
The 9/11 truther players
Dylan Avery and Jason Bermas, the creators of the low-budget documentary film Loose Change, did much to give the 9/11 Truth movement significant momentum in 2005 and in following years. The film, which has undergone several revisions, has been shown on many television stations but is primarily an Internet and DVD phenomenon. Its basic claims are that Flight 77 could not have accounted for the damage at the Pentagon, that the Twin Tower fires were insufficient to cause their collapse, and that cell phone calls from the hijacked airplanes would have been impossible at the time (Avery 2009).
David Ray Griffin is a theologian whose voluminous writings on 9/11 are frequently cited by other 9/11 theorists. NASA scientist Ryan Mackey has written a very thorough critique of Griffin’s claims (Mackey 2008).
Once known as Fleischmann and Pons’s competitor for “cold fusion” research in Utah, Steven Jones has written several 9/11 Truth articles. His work with others (including chemist Niels Harrit of Denmark) on detecting nanothermite in WTC dust is frequently cited as “peer-reviewed research” that proves “inside job” claims.
Physics teacher David Chandler has produced several papers and Internet videos contending that high school physics easily shows that the tower collapses could not have happened from gravity alone. He claims this proves that explosives must have been used.
In the past few years, architect Richard Gage’s group, Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911 Truth), has provided “Truthers” with the ability to claim that thousands of engineering and architecture professionals demand a new investigation into the cause of the attacks. Gage travels the world giving presentations, and his group puts on news conferences and mock debates several times a year …
9/11 Arguments and Rebuttals
If you engage, then what you will discover is not truth, but instead much hand-waving, and a tedious gish gallop that is designed to simply wear the skeptic down.
The truth is this – the 9/11 Truther movement has failed to establish its claim.
Each and every argument presented as “evidence” has a solid wholly reasonable rebuttal. If you tune in to just one side of the conversation, or simply watch a movie on YouTube, then it is easy to be fooled, or at least confused. Widen your scope and you quickly discover that the arguments presented rapidly fall apart.
- The Skeptical Inquirer article I referred to earlier, “The 9/11 Truth Movement: The Top Conspiracy Theory, A Decade Later” examines the leading claims – the supposed free-fall collapse, the supposed presence of nano-thermite and molten steel, the supposedly mysterious WTC7 collapse – and explains why none of those claims withstand any critical examination.
- RationalWiki also takes you on a rebuttal tour of many of the claims.
- You will find a Popular Mechanics magazine article here.
If you really want to get into it all, then you will find a far longer list at the end of this posting.
Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth
This is Richard Gage’s group. They claim considerable support amongst various professionals, but, as explained and referenced on the wikipedia page that specifically covers them, they don’t actually have that …
To make it really easy for you to check those references, here they are …
6 Bažant, Zdeněk P.; Mathieu Verdure (March 2007). “Mechanics of Progressive Collapse: Learning from World Trade Center and Building Demolitions” (PDF). Journal of Engineering Mechanics. 133 (3): 308–319. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9399(2007)133:3(308). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 9, 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
As generally accepted by the community of specialists in structural mechanics and structural engineering (though not by a few outsiders claiming a conspiracy with planted explosives), the failure scenario was as follows […]
Gravois, John (June 23, 2006). “Professors of Paranoia? Academics give a scholarly stamp to 9/11 conspiracy theories”. Chronicle of Higher Education. 52 (42): A10. Archived from the original on December 24, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
Thomas W. Eagar is one scientist who has paid some attention to the demolition hypothesis — albeit grudgingly. A materials engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Eagar wrote one of the early papers on the buildings’ collapses, which later became the basis for a documentary on PBS. That marked him for scrutiny and attack from conspiracy theorists. For a time, he says, he was receiving one or two angry e-mail messages each week, many accusing him of being a government shill. When Mr. Jones’s paper came out, the nasty messages increased to one or two per day.
Asquith, Christina (September 7, 2006). “Conspiracies continue to abound surrounding 9/11: on the eve of the fifth anniversary, a group of professors say the attacks were an “inside job.““. Diverse Issues in Higher Education: 12. Archived from the original on July 9, 2012. Retrieved October 9, 2008.
What is the Truth?
It is all in so many ways akin to a religious belief. We can make these observations …
- Those who believe do so sincerely
- The degree of acceptance amongst the community varies considerably.
- The diversity of claims is also very wide, there is no prevailing consensus amongst those that believe.
- It is supposedly fact-based, but as you debunk, you will find the debunked claims rapidly replaced by another and another. Keep going and you will end up with claims that are untestable and unverifiable.
Deep down, under to facade of “facts” is the observation that it meets an emotional need. The belief imparts meaning and also importance to those that believe, and so a rebuttal of facts will not in any way change minds.
The Information Deficit Model summary – The flaw with this form of engagement is the idea that there is just a bit of information missing or a misunderstanding, and so it is easy to assume that by filling that gap all will be sorted. This is not what is going on.
Why do conspiracy beliefs take root and flourish within human minds?
University of Miami political scientists Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent have a 2014 book on the topic titled “American Conspiracy Theories“. The basis for the book is the empirical data they gathered looking for patterns …
Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent draw on three sources of original data: 120,000 letters to the editor of the New York Times and Chicago Tribune from between 1890 and 2010; a two-wave survey from before and after the 2012 presidential election; and discussions of conspiracy theories culled from online news sources, blogs, and other Web sites, also from before and after the election. Through these sources, they are able to address crucial questions, such as similarities and differences in the nature of conspiracy theories over time, the role of the Internet and communications technologies in spreading modern conspiracy theories, and whether politics, economics, media, war, or other factors are most important in popularizing conspiratorial beliefs
Of immediate interest is this (from Page 11) …
“inducing anxiety or loss of control triggers respondents to see nonexistent patterns and evoke conspiratorial explanations”
… and also this …
“there is evidence that disasters (e.g., earthquakes) and other high-stress situations (e.g., job uncertainty) prompt people to concoct, embrace, and repeat conspiracy theories.”
This is perhaps the cue for somebody to jump in with a long gish-gallop (“hi Steve”, waves), to explain that I am wrong about this, completely deluded, in denial of “the truth”, etc…
As happens every time, rebuttal of facts results in the usual game of whack-a-mole until I simply grow tired of it, roll my eyes, and move on.
Friendly tip: If you wish to drop a comment they feel free to so so, but try to pick one compelling piece of evidence that actually convinces you, is verifiable via an actual credible reference (hint – links to truther sites don’t persuade), and has no rebuttal.
More Resources To explore
If you truly believe, then it is not simply me you need to persuade. Your task is to address rather a lot of rebuttals.
- The Encyclopedia of 9/11, New York Magazine
- StoryCorps September 11th Initiative
- 911 Myths. They’re working on a wiki as well
- Screw Loose Change blog
- NIST reports
- Debunking the 9/11 Myths: Special Report, Popular Mechanics’ well-regarded and very thorough article from March 2005 debunking conspiracy theorists’ claims. (This was later expanded into a book called Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can’t Stand Up to the Facts.)
- Published Scientific Research on the Physics of the World Trade Center Airplane Impacts
- 9/11 Science and Conspiracy, National Geographic special
- Skeptic’s Dictionary on 9/11 conspiracy theories
- Was 9/11 an Inside Job?, Cracked
- September 11th Conspiracies – What Do We Know?
- First-Responder Eyewitness Accounts of the Planes That Hit the WTC
- The Onion Predicted al-Qaeda’s Frustration with Ridiculous Truthers
- Thomas W. Eagar and Christopher Musso. Why Did the World Trade Center Collapse? Science, Engineering, and Speculation. JOM, 53 (12) (2001), pp. 8-11.
- S.W. Banovic et al. The Role of Metallurgy in the NIST Investigation of the World Trade Center Towers Collapse. JOM, Vol. 59, No.11 (2002), p. 22-30
- You Can’t Handle the Truthiness: A Night Out with the 9/11 Truth Community, Skeptical Inquirer