Okay, now for the longer and probably less interesting entry.
Occasionally there are topics that float around in my consciousness for awhile until it seems I should just go ahead and type them up, and this time it's 9-11 conspiracy theories. I argued about WTC 7's collapse with the friend of Danielle's coworker who did the Hunger Walk with us. At appetizers last week Sophy and Patrick were talking about the Pentagon and Flight 93 (the one that crashed in Pennsylvania), respectively. Meaux's dad buys into all sorts of...interesting theories about things, including how 9-11 was executed by our government to cover up all the incriminating documents that were in the buildings. Tonight Sophy's roommate Luke began spouting general conspiracy theories about the whole thing (he touched on WTC 7, the Pentagon, the first tower that got hit, and a few other bits). I didn't really engage my friends last Wednesday, because they're my friends and arguing with close friends tends to be unpleasant, and I didn't get into it with Meaux's dad because he will apparently get rather angry at people who disagree. But I did argue a bit with Dave at the Hunger Walk, because he seemed a reasonable sort of fellow who probably could change his position given enough evidence against it. And I argued tonight with Luke, because he seems to like to argue anyway (though it wasn't exactly a fair argument, seeing as he was about halfway through a bottle of (62% abv) absinthe at the time...) and I figured I wasn't going to alienate him by disagreeing.
But anyway, because of that it seemed to be a good time to get some of my thoughts down here.
The conclusion I will get to if you read this whole thing is that 9-11 conspiracy theorists, just like Holocaust deniers and massive JFK conspiracy theorists and Moon landing deniers and evolution deniers, fail at basic scientific thinking. They like to poke "holes" in the "official story", most of which aren't even holes to begin with, without positing any real alternative explanation themselves. And until someone posits an alternative explanation that has less gaping holes than they claim the official one does, I'm going to go with the official one, every time. As long as it continues being the best (and in most cases only real) explanation, I'll continue believing it.
No, I'm not trying to create emotional bias by lumping 9-11 conspiracy theorists in with young-Earth creationists and Holocaust deniers. I will readily admit that denying the Holocaust marks one as more morally reprehensible than thinking our government orchestrated 9-11. But *intellectually*? I think all three fall into most of the same traps as Moon landing deniers and people who think JFK must have been killed by a massive international government conspiracy.
The vast majority of people who believe any of these "theories" have gaping holes in their knowledge of the "official story".
It's very easy to poke "holes" in evolution if you've never taken the time to see what evolutionary biologists have to say on the matter. It's even easier if you have these holes specifically pointed out to you by someone whose own information is woefully out-of-date (the lack of a "missing link" comes up in evolution denial all the time, despite the fact that the "gap" was never that big and that it has been completely closed for decades) or, worse and probably more common, someone who is deliberately cherry picking the facts, or lying outright, to make it look like the anomaly is bigger than it really is. In the 9-11 example, this is like only showing the last 7 seconds of the 11-or-so-second collapse of WTC 7 and then claiming this quick demolition must therefore have been deliberate. Or only showing the back side of that same building and claiming it was only burning "slightly", when in fact the entirety of the opposite face was obscured by smoke from the massive unfought fires that had been consuming the building for several hours. Or denying that any plane wreckage was at the Pentagon until conspirators shipped some in, when in fact one of the coordinators of that emergency response has said
I saw the marks of the plane wing on the face of the building. I picked up parts of the plane with the airline markings on them. I held in my hand the tail section of the plane, and I found the black box. I held parts of uniforms from crew members in my hands, including body parts. Okay?
I have never met an evolution denier who didn't have gaping holes in their understanding of evolution, and I have never met a 9-11 conspiracy theorist who didn't have holes at least as large in their understanding of what the "official" explanation actually has to say about each of the alleged anomalies. I will grant that 9-11 conspiracy theorists are far more (intellectually) forgivable in this matter than creationists, because at the 9-11 conspiracy debunkings have "only" been around for 5-7 years, unlike the decades most of the refutations of alleged anomalies in evolution have been around. So it's completely plausible that people who think there was a government conspiracy or cover-up surrounding 9-11 simply haven't yet been exposed to the arguments against any remote plausibility such a grand conspiracy theory has.
But the fact remains that I have never heard a single reasonable explanation of how a conspiracy requiring literally thousands of people to keep quiet for 7 years is even remotely plausible. And I also have never heard any way it could have been pulled off by a much smaller group of people. If someone gives me either kind of explanation, I might actually be interested in hearing what they have to say about the actual events of that day. But however many holes you think you found in the official explanation for why WTC 7 fell or what really hit the Pentagon, if your own "theory" requires thousands of people to have kept quiet since, in many cases, months before 9-11, I will call it absurd on its face. Though I imagine that in most of those cases, the alternative "theory" has plenty of huge holes in it (far more than the official story) besides "merely" requiring a conspiracy of monumental proportions from a government that can't even keep secret some little incidents of torture in a prison halfway around the world.
So, again, if your own explanation has more holes in it than the official one, it is a worse explanation and should be thrown out in favor of one that works better. This is basic science.
You think evolution isn't sufficient to explain the eye (even though that explanation has actually been given repeatedly), but ID isn't sufficient to explain genetic evidence, or vestigial structures, or embryonic development, or radiometric dating, or, perhaps most importantly, how the "intelligence" that "designed" everything came about itself. You think the hole in the Pentagon can't be explained by the theory that a 757 crashed into that building, but your missile theory doesn't explain why there was damage that clearly corresponds to at least one of the wings hitting the building. Your theory doesn't explain how parts clearly identifiable as belonging to a 757 came to be at the scene, without resorting to another impossible conspiracy of people shipping in wreckage and arranging it meticulously in a way consistent with a plane crash, all magically before anyone not "in on it" arrived at the scene.
And even if we grant that a perfectly-organized and orchestrated conspiracy could have pulled all that off, you're at about the same place, in terms of scientific and intellectual honesty, as a creationist who admits that the world *looks* pretty old, but only because God meticulously planted all the fossils and radioactive elements and volcanic ash and vestigial organs and junk DNA and everything else.
And at least it *is* plausible that an omnipotent being, assuming one exists in the first place, could do such a thing. But unless this same god helped cover up 9-11 or the Moon landing hoax or the JFK assassination or the Holocaust conspiracy, in which case we should stop prodding because God's obviously on their side, human beings in large groups are simply not capable, according to the entirety of history, of pulling off something so massive, so flawlessly.
( If I haven't bored you away already, here are some links to other 9-11 debunking sites.Collapse )