Saturday, October 09, 2010

A Lesson In Skepticism

Volume 12, No. 4, 2006 of the magazine Skeptic displays the following words in large letters in relation to its cover story for that issue: ‘9/11 – Was There a Conspiracy?’ Now, if I were skeptically inclined, which – to some degree – I am, I would wonder about the way in which the title for the cover story serves to frame subsequent inquiry.

For instance, what if the cover story headline was: ‘What Really Happened on 9/11?' This latter title uses the same number of words as the Skeptic title did, and, as well, it asks a question like the Skeptic cover title did and, yet, the second question frames the issue in an entirely different way.

Rather than starting off with the sort of debate that takes one away from the evidence concerning 9/11 as the aforementioned Skeptic headline does – since the discussion is all about whether or not a certain kind of conspiracy can be proven instead of being about the sort of evidential considerations which precede all such discussions -- my suggested headline invites the reader to work toward the evidence … toward that evidential point prior to the formation of any judgments concerning who is responsible for 9/11 or why they did what they did. So, without even opening the magazine to see what is inside, I have some questions about the nature of the motivations of the people who have put that particular issue of the Skeptic magazine together.

One of those questions I have in the foregoing regard is this: How interested are the editors of Skeptic magazine in the truth concerning 9/11 rather than straw dog issues concerning competing conspiracy theories with respect to the events of 9/11? After all, everyone knows that the official, government, conspiracy theory for 9/11 is that: under the direction of ‘Usama bin Laden, and with the guidance of Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, 19 Arabs conspired together to hijack four commercial airliners and crash them into: the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania (this part of the conspiracy was supposedly foiled), so since the question about a conspiracy has allegedly already been answered in relation to 9/11, why ask the question on the cover of their magazine?

Well, one possible reason for framing things in the foregoing way is this permits one to focus on specific theories of conspiracy and, then, go on to point out possible shortcomings with such theories and, then, Q.E.D., one can conclude that it is a complete myth to suppose that anything other than the official government theory concerning 9/11 is true. Oddly enough, however, one never sees Skeptic magazine Popular Mechanics, or Scientific American questioning the official government conspiracy theory…  only the competitors are critically examined and, therefore, by process of elimination, we are left with the “champ” – the official government conspiracy theory for 9/11.

The official government conspiracy theory is being propagated as the default position. It is presumed to be true rather than demonstrated to be true. It is the framework through which everything else is supposed to be analyzed, evaluated, and understood.

Since Skeptic magazine, Popular Mechanics, and Scientific American never critically examined the official government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 most people are induced to draw the conclusion that the theory must be true. Why else would those who are so dedicated to skeptical, critical, and scientific inquiry simply ignore and avoid the last standing conspiracy theory in the room?

Whatever may be true about the things that the aforementioned magazines have said in conjunction with this or that particular conspiracy theory involving 9/11 – and I am not necessarily conceding that much of anything those magazines have said on the matter of 9/11 is true -- I know that because those publications completely failed to critically examine the conspiracy theory held by the government, then this tends to indicate that the people behind those magazines’ coverage of 9/11 have biases which have problematically skewed their “research” … to whatever extent such a term is warranted in relation to what they have done in relation to the issue of 9/11.

Toward the beginning of his article: ‘9/11 Conspiracy Theories: The 9/11 Truth Movement in Perspective’ that appeared in the aforementioned 2006 edition of Skeptic magazine, Phil Molé describes a gathering at the Hyatt Recency O’Hare in Chicago which was to be the first of a series of lectures and discussions that were to take place in conjunction with a conference about 9/11. While he, along with approximately 400 (his figure) other people are waiting for the lecture hall to open, he refers in his article to someone in the crowd near him who tries to start a chant, saying: “9/11 was an inside Inside Job”. The author, Phil Molé, indicates that a few other nearby attendees begin to take up the chant before several other individuals sort of emphatically state to the chanters: “We already know.”  The author then goes on to state: “… most of the crowd believes that the United States government planned and orchestrated the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.”

The fact of the matter is that the last statement of the author is not necessarily warranted. The people who Molé describes represent, at best, no more than between one and two percent of the group waiting for the lecture, and there is no indication that the author actually talked to “most” of the people in the prospective audience, so he is not in any position to know what most of the crowd believes concerning 9/11.

How many people attending the event were skeptics like the author? How many people in the group were people who are researching an article like the one that Molé was intending to write? How many of the attendees were sitting on the fence, not knowing quite what to think about the 9/11 issue? How many people in the would-be audience were individuals who didn’t know a great deal about the issues surrounding 9/11 and were just curious? How many people in the prospective audience were from the local police force or Homeland Security and were seeking to keep tabs on what such groups were saying and doing? How many people in the gathering audience had ideas about 9/11 that were different from what Molé claimed their beliefs were?

Seemingly, Molé seeks to seal the deal concerning his evaluation of the mind-set of the audience by quoting another person who sat next to him once they finally were admitted into the lecture hall. According to the author, the person said: “We already know this stuff, we’re here to reconfirm what we already know”, and, therefore, aside from the presumptuousness of the person being quoted to assume that he knows why the rest of the people in the audience are there, Molé compounds the mistake and uses the quote as evidence for the state of mind of everybody in the audience – namely, that all of the people in the audience think and believe in, more or less, the same way -- even though Molé’s sample is extremely small and, therefore, one could question whether it accurately captures, or is representative of, what is going on in the minds and hearts of the people in the audience.

Molé indicates in his article that he has an objective that is different from the other people in the audience. He stipulates that: “… as someone who does not share the views of the 9/11 Truth Movement … I want to listen to their arguments and view their evidence, and understand the reasons why so many likeable and otherwise intelligent people are convinced that the United States government planned the murder of nearly 3,000 of its own citizens.”

In other words, the author already has formed his opinion concerning 9/11, automatically assumes that he is correct in the matter, and then wants to criticize the arguments and evidence of other people through the filters of his existing biases. Such thinking and reasoning invites the reader to be somewhat skeptical of the individual through whom such thinking and reasoning are given expression, and, yet, the editors of Skeptic magazine -- who share the biases of Phil Molé in relation to 9/11 -- never raise a question about the problematic character of the premise underlying Molé’s article … thereby giving some credence to the idea that all too many skeptics love to be skeptical about everything except themselves and their own ideas, methods, purposes, and behaviors.

The next section of Molé’s article is entitled: ‘The Collapse of World Trade Center Buildings 1 and 2’. Shortly thereafter, the author proceeds to state:” When most of us recall the events of 9/11, we think of the image of those two seemingly indestructible World Trade Center towers crumbling to the ground. Not surprisingly, their collapse is also a central issue for the 9/11 Truth Movement.”

Aside from Molé’s annoying tendency showing up again in which he seeks to try to say what most people think, he also has mentioned the idea of a “collapse” twice within a very short period of time. The fact of the matter is that if most people are anything like me (and, they might not be), then just experiencing the sheer horror of observing the demise of the Twin Towers doesn’t permit one to think about much of anything … one’s vision, hearing, emotion, and thoughts are almost entirely consumed by the physicality of what is transpiring and by the visceral understanding that there are thousands of human beings whose fates are inextricably caught up with what is happening to those buildings.

Only later, after having watched the destruction of those buildings a number of times, does one begin to think and realize – at least, this was the case for me -- that one is not watching the collapse of two buildings but, rather, one is watching the disintegration of two buildings. At one moment, the buildings are there, and, then, inexplicably, much of the upper stories somehow seem to have become converted into a giant cloud of exploding dust spreading out from what used to be the central structure of the building.

One is not witnessing the collapse of two buildings. One is witnessing something else … an exploding, disintegrating structure that is crumpling at free-fall like speeds.

If the theory of NIST (National Instituted of Standards and Technology) which eventually surfaced were true and, as a result, the two Twin Towers were falling due to a progressive collapse set in motion by failing floor panels near the points of plane impact that had been weakened by fires, then one should have seen the ‘stutter’ behavior of the floors as they crashed down on the floors below and were resisted by those underling floors until the latter were, themselves, forced to collapse. This stutter behavior gives expression to the physical principle of the conservation of momentum, and it was nowhere in evidence in the videos of the disappearance of the Twin Towers on 9/11, but, instead, one is seeing structures weighing hundreds of thousands of tons disintegrate and crumple at near free-fall velocities.

If the Twin Towers were collapsing as the result of – once initiated -- a gravity driven event, one would not have seen multi-ton steel beams being ‘thrown’ some 300 to 500 feet in a lateral direction. If the Twin Towers were collapsing as the result of – once initiated – a gravity driven event, one would not have seen much of the buildings being reduced to dust as they disappeared.

The foregoing statements are true because, there is not sufficient energy available in a gravitational collapse to simultaneously pulverize such structures and cast out multi-ton steel beams hundreds of feet, while also causing floors to pancake their way down the height of the building. The physics being propagated by the engineers and scientists at NIST in conjunction with the Twin Towers destruction is completely in error.

There is further evidence indicating the incorrect nature of the NIST characterization of the destruction of the Twin Towers. First, NIST had to fudge its final results by proposing scenarios that were complete distortions, if not fabrications, of the physical situation within the two Twin Towers on 9/11 and, in the process, made assumptions about conditions in the Twin Towers for which they had no, little, or only circumstantial empirical evidence. Secondly, NIST did not produce a final computer simulation that demonstrated how their model of events was precisely reflected in the actual observed conditions (whether through video or still photographs) concerning the destruction of the two towers.

Whatever happened to the Twin Towers on 9/11, NIST did not provide a plausible account of what transpired in relation to those events. Consequently, Molé’s use of the term “collapse” in relation to the Twin Towers is actually both misleading and unsupported by the available evidence.

Molé indicates that people in the 9/11 Truth Movement believe that the Twin Towers were brought down by controlled demolition. He, then, goes on to say that the reason why the people in the 9/11 Truth Movement think the foregoing is because the “collapse of the towers looks like the result of a controlled demolition.”

Once again, Molé seeks to homogenize the thinking of all people who reject the official conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 by claiming that they all share precisely the same opinion concerning the towers’ destruction and that the opinion which those individuals share is largely because the destruction of the Twin Towers “looks like the result of a controlled demolition.”

Actually, one of the biggest pieces of evidence that suggests that not all is well with the official, government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 is the free-fall-like character of the disappearing Twin Towers. Whatever theory someone comes up with in an attempt to try to explain the character of the destruction of the Twin Towers, one is going to have to be able to account for that free-fall-like quality, and the government pancake theory does not accomplish this.

Buildings that collapse through a process of floors that pancake on one another do not resemble buildings in free fall. The conservation of momentum that occurs in the former will result in a considerable set of delays in the collapse of the buildings as one floor crashes into the next in successive order – temporal delays that are nowhere in evidence in relation to the destruction of the Twin Towers.

In a related point, buildings that are brought down through the pancake effect of one floor impacting on the floor below, are not likely to come down in a symmetrical fashion as was observed on 9/11. For such an explanation to be plausible in conjunction with the pancake theory, one would have to explain how all of the structural features that support a standing building would come to fail at exactly the same time on each floor so that the “collapse” would have been smooth and symmetrical like that which is observed in the videos of the Twin Towers coming down.

The official, government conspiracy theory (as augmented by the various NIST reports) does not accomplish the foregoing. So, why does Molé assume that such a theory is correct?

According to Molé: “The parts of the towers below the impact point do not begin to fall until the higher floors have collapsed on them. This is not what we would expect if the towers collapsed from controlled demolition, but it is exactly what we would expect if the building collapse resulted from damage sustained by the impact of the planes and subsequent fire damage.” The author’s reason for saying the foregoing is that in controlled demolition: “… all parts of the building are simultaneously in motion, free-falling to the ground” but in the videos of the Twin Towers coming down one sees that, first, the upper floors of the towers above the impact points begin to fall, and, only then do the lower floors begin to fall.

To begin with, in the foregoing argument, Molé is working on the assumption that the reason why the Twin Towers came down was due to the combined effects of plane and fire damage. Molé ’s theory cannot be assumed to be true but must be shown to be true, and for many, many reasons, NIST was never able to plausibly demonstrate the truth of the claims inherent in the pancake theory, and, therefore, Mole’s position is rooted in a set of problematic experimental simulations, along with a variety of analytical errors involving the interpretation of such simulations.

Just as importantly, while one might be willing to stipulate that the portions of the buildings that are at, or above, the impact points begin to move first, one does not necessarily have to stipulate that the upper floors then began to collapse on, and impact, the lower floors. If one follows Molé’s advice in his article and closely examines the videos of the Twin Towers being destroyed, one sees that the portion of the buildings at, or above, the impact points, begin to disintegrate and explode.

How does a building which is just beginning to “collapse’ due to the combined effect of plane and fire damage’ suddenly explode with sufficient force to not only pulverize upper portions of those buildings but to rip apart and, then, hurl multi-ton beams hundreds of feet. Where does such energy come from? Certainly, this kind of energy could not be generated through the gravitational forces at work in an alleged pancake “collapse” that has been going on for less than a second, or so.

Moreover, if what the visual, video evidence seems to indicate is true – that is, the upper portion of the Twin Tower buildings are disintegrating and being pulverized in an explosively violent manner as they are crumpling – then, this raises a further question concerning the pancake theory. More specifically, how do we know there is sufficient mass left in the higher stories of the buildings following their rather explosively destructive beginnings to be able to bring about a progressive collapse in the portions of the buildings that are below the points where the planes supposedly impacted the respective towers?

Molé and NIST have made assumptions about what is going on in the upper stories of the Twin Towers when the buildings begin to fall apart. What and where is the evidence in support of those assumptions – especially given the explosively anomalous character of the visual evidence with respect to how each of the buildings begins to come down?

The author of the Skeptic article claims that he can account for the differential nature of the way in which each of the Twin Towers came down – which in the case of the North Tower was, more or less, straight down, and in the case of the South Tower, the descent began by the upper stories of the buildings above the impact points twisting toward the point of impact. Molé says that the foregoing differences are a function of the way in which each of the planes impacted the respective buildings, with the plane that hit the North Tower supposedly hitting head on, while the plane that struck the South Tower sliced through the building in a downward angle.

If one closely watches the video of the South Tower, one does see the higher stories above the impact point begin to twist as Molé indicates. However, one also notices something else – namely, the twisting stops at a certain point.

The twisting being referred to involves angular momentum. The question is why does that angular momentum suddenly come to an end since physics indicates that angular momentum is conserved and, therefore, will continue to move in the direction of the established trajectory giving expression to such a force unless acted upon by a some greater force … so, what is the source of the greater force that suddenly comes into the picture and alters the character of the angular momentum in relation to the disintegrating upper stories of the South Tower and brings it to a halt?

Molé does not address the foregoing problem. Neither does NIST.

Moreover, with respect to Molé’s alleged ability to explain some of the observed differences in the way the two towers came down, one should note that his account – as does that of NIST -- rests on a large set of assumptions. These assumptions involve such things as: the extent and nature of the destruction caused by the plane impacts; the length, intensity, and location of ensuing fires, as well as the condition of fire insulation which had been affixed to the steal beams throughout the buildings.

NIST has made assumptions about all of the foregoing and has virtually no evidence to lend support to any of those assumptions. They ran experiments in their labs that they claimed simulated conditions in the Twin Towers, but their experiments were rooted in little more than relatively arbitrary assumptions that are highly questionable.

When Molé claims to be able to explain the differential character of the way in which the two towers came down, what he really means is that he has a theory about what caused those differences. However, neither Molé’s theory nor NIST’s theory concerning the destruction of the Twin Towers can plausibly account for: the near free-fall character of the disintegrating buildings; nor why angular momentum was not conserved in the South Tower once it began to twist; nor why the general principle of the conservation of momentum was not reflected in the manner in which the buildings crumpled; nor why the destruction of the buildings had an explosive character to them such that most of the buildings’ structure and contents were pulverized, if not disintegrated; nor why multi-ton steam beams were thrown hundreds of feet in a lateral direction when, supposedly, only gravitational forces were at work; nor why there was a largely symmetrical character to the crumpling buildings; nor how – when experiments run by Underwriters Laboratories have proven otherwise – the floor panel structures allegedly failed and led to the progressive collapse of the buildings; nor why the debris piles for the two buildings were so small if they supposedly contained hundreds of thousands of tons of steel, concrete, and office supplies; nor why if the buildings contained hundreds of thousands of tons of material, virtually no damage was done to the so-called ‘bathtub’ structure – said to be relatively fragile -- that sits beneath the Twin Towers and keeps the Hudson from flooding into Manhattan; or why so little damage was done to many of the stores in the shopping complex below street level and beneath the Twin Towers; nor why so little damage was done to the subway tunnels running beneath the Twin Towers when, supposedly, hundreds of thousands of tons of material was raining down on the ground surface.

Not everyone who takes issue with the official, government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 necessarily believes that the Twin Towers were brought down by controlled demolition. Those people who have questions about the idea of controlled demolition being ‘the’ reason why the Twin Towers came down – and I count myself among such people -- do so not necessarily because they have a demonstrable theory ready to offer that explains how the buildings came down, but because they have a fairly good idea – based on considerable evidence – about how the buildings did not come down, and, therefore, the search for a plausible explanation for what caused the destruction of the Twin Towers remains an open problem.

What people know who reject the official, government, conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 but who do not necessarily claim that controlled demolition is what brought the Twin Towers down (although it may have played some subsidiary role) is that NIST does not have a remotely plausible account of what brought the Twin Towers down because there are an array of essential questions that NIST cannot satisfactorily answer in conjunction with the destruction of those buildings – problems that were outlined previously in this essay. Furthermore, there is reason to withhold assent in relation to the idea of controlled demolition as being ‘the’ reason for the destruction of the Twin Towers – although it might have had a partial role – because there are a whole set of problems that the controlled demolition hypothesis cannot satisfactorily address – such as, why were the debris piles for the Twin Towers so small (and there are photographs which show the height of those piles prior to the point when evidence in a criminal case began to be hauled away), and given that hundreds of thousands of tons of debris supposedly rained down on the ground of the World Trade Center, why was there not more extensive damage done to the stores, subway tunnels, and protective ‘bathtub’ structure beneath the Twin Towers, and how did controlled demolition cause the ‘dustification’ of materials that has been observed in conjunction with the World Trade Center buildings that were destroyed, and how did controlled demolition bring about the strange ‘toasting’ effects that were observed in relation to hundreds of cars in and around the World Trade Center – cars which had missing engines and door handles and, yet, showed no evidence of having been on fire, and why were there strange circular holes – some of them quite big --  in and around Ground Zero (including in some of the smaller buildings in the Center) -- especially given that those holes were not filled with any debris that might have caused such holes to appear.

By being unable to account for such empirical data, both the NIST perspective and the controlled demolition idea constitute either incorrect and/or incomplete theories concerning the destruction of buildings at the World Trade Center. Proper scientific procedure requires one to establish a framework that is capable of accounting for as much evidence as possible, and when some given theory shows inadequacies in this regard, then, one must go in search of more rigorous, comprehensive, and nuanced accounts for what might have transpired on 9/11.

Many people who are under the influence of the ideas of NIST or the ideas of controlled demolition have more research to do. Neither position is adequate as it stands.

In his article, Molé says: “The 9/11 Truth Movement often states or implies that steel would have needed to melt in order for the structure to collapse at the speed of a free fall. While there are varying assessments of the temperature of the fire at WTC, most agree that the temperature probably reached 1,000° Fahrenheit and possibly higher than 1,800° F.”

Quite frankly, I don’t know of anyone in the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement who “states or implies that steel would have needed to melt in order for the structure to collapse at the speed of free fall.” Free fall and the melting of steel are two entirely different issues.

In order for free fall to have occurred in relation to buildings not once, not twice, but three times on 9/11 (i.e., World Trade Center 1, World Trade Center 2, and World Trade Center 7), there would have had to have been some set of forces that permitted those buildings to do an end around the physical principle that should have governed the “collapse” of those building if the official, government conspiracy theory is to be considered plausible – namely, the conservation of momentum. What does the issue of whether, or not, steel melted have anything to do with the issue of free fall since, for the sake of argument, one could stipulate that steel melted and still ask the question: how did melted steel enable the process of free fall?

Secondly, while Molé is correct that there are “varying assessments of the temperature of the fire at WTC”, he is quite wrong to claim that “most agree that the temperature probably reached 1,000° Fahrenheit and possibly higher than 1,800° F.”

Who are the “most people” to whom Molé is alluding? They are the people who accept the official government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 – that is, they are people who are inclined to go in search of data – and not necessarily evidence – that supports their conspiracy theory.

The reason why there are “varying assessments of the temperature of the fire at WTC” is because there is a lot of guessing and speculation going on concerning the character of the fire. Nobody in the Twin Towers on 9/11 was conducting precise measurements with respect to: where the fires were; how long they lasted; how intense they were; how effective the fire insulation and sprinkler systems were; how hot any of the external or core steel beams became; how hot the floor assemblies became, or what damage was done by any of this.

After the fact, and based on a few, limited samples from the Twin Towers, NIST made some conjectures concerning the possible temperatures of the fires and coupled this with some experiments which purported to simulate the fires in the Twin Towers. Those conjectures and experiments rested on a variety of assumptions … assumptions for which there was little direct or indirect evidence to justify making them.

Extrapolations and interpolations of data were made and projected onto the events in the World Trade Towers. However, in point of fact, the people at NIST do not know precisely where the fires burned, or for how long, or how intensely, or with what effect.

The authors of the NIST reports did say that if the insulation in the buildings held and served the purpose it was intended to, then, few, if any of the beams would have been able to have been heated sufficiently even for substantial weakening of the steel to have occurred. As a result, NIST ran some experiments concerning the extent to which insulation on the steel beams might have been likely to be able to withstand impact by the planes, and, yet, the experiments they ran in this regard are pure conjecture as far as trying to claim that such experiments simulated actual conditions in the Twin Towers.

Nonetheless, on the basis of their so-called simulation insulation studies, the NIST engineers and scientists claimed that the impact of the planes would have stripped insulation from many of the steel beams and, as a result, left them vulnerable to the effects of fire. Molé adopts this same perspective when he argues in his article that: “The impact and explosion of the airplane crashes probably knocked off most of the insulating material intended to fireproof the steel beams”, but he fails to explain why his belief in this regard is “probable” … although there is an allusion to an a priori sort of rhetorical question which says something like: “Doesn’t it just make sense that all of the insulation would have been knocked off the steel beams when the two planes collided with the two buildings? But, the fact of the matter is, that the rhetorical question is a prior in character and for anything of a definitive nature to be determined reliable empirical data must be established.

In any case even if one were, for the sake of argument, willing to concede that the NIST simulation experiments involving the staying power of insulation were accurately reflective of what took place within the Twin Towers, -- and I do not concede this -- one also has to assume that the existing fires burned long enough and hot enough in precisely the right places to be able to weaken enough steel beams to initiate the sort of progressive collapse which supposedly occurred in relation to the Twin Towers.

NIST did run some experiments involving the spread of fires that it claimed simulated what took place in the Twin Towers. However, all of their experiments in this respect, together with their analysis of those simulated fires, are largely rooted in a variety of assumptions, speculation, and conjecture … with precious little, if any, hard proof.

Physical evidence indicating that intense, long-lasting, properly located fires (that is, in close proximity to steel beams stripped of their insulation) were actually occurring in the Twin Towers is largely non-existent. The fact of the matter is that aside from the first ten or fifteen seconds following the alleged impact of planes and the ensuing rapid burning of jet fuel, all visual and physical indications in relation to the Twin Towers is that the fires were largely oxygen starved – and, possibly, fuel starved as well -- and, therefore, not capable of reaching and maintaining the sort of sustained temperatures in any one place that would have been necessary to lead to an appreciable degree of vicoplastic deformation in any of the steel beams in a way that would be consistent with – but not necessarily, thereby, prove -- the official, government, conspiracy theory concerning the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings.

Some of the conversations between the command structure of the New York Fire Department and firefighters inside the South Tower  -- the first building to “fall” even though it was the second building to be hit – were recorded. Those conversations indicate there were few fires in the building and those fires were small, not intense, and could be easily knocked down.

Another factor to consider is that the Twin Tower steel structures were huge heat sinks. In other words, if one were to begin to heat a steel beam, there would be a tendency for such heat to be radiated out, or transferred along, the steel beam being heated as well as to other connecting beams, and therefore, in order to be able to heat the point of original contact to any appreciable degree, one would have to be able to sustain the heat for a fairly long period of time.

Temporarily reaching a certain temperature is not enough to be able to weaken steel. The requisite temperatures must be sustained for a period of time.

There really is virtually no evidence to indicate that the existence of such massive heat sink properties in the Twin Tower structures would have been able to be overcome by the fires that were observed to have existed in the two buildings. This statement remains true even if one were to concede that all insulation had been stripped from key steel beams – a concession which I do not make and for which there really is no evidence to warrant such a concession.

Molé goes on to claim: “Best engineering estimates tell us that steel loses 50% of its strength at 650° C. (1200°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 still would have more than enough reasons to expect damage severe enough to result in eventual collapse.” The foregoing claim is extremely problematic.

The author of the Skeptic article provides absolutely no information about how long a piece of steel would have to be heated at a temperature of 650° C. to lead to a loss of 50% of its strength. Similarly, Molé offers no information about how long a piece of steel would have to be heated at a temperature of 1,800° to lose 90% of its strength.

Moreover, Molé says nothing about the extent to which insulation might add to the amount of time that would be needed to weaken steel to either 50% or 90% of its original strength. As well, Molé says nothing how the sink properties of a piece of steel might affect the amount of time needed to heat an area of steel to the requisite temperature. And, finally, Molé offers absolutely no evidence to demonstrate how just the ‘right’ pieces of steel in the Twin Towers would have been raised to the necessary temperatures for the appropriate length of time to have been able to lead to significant weakening in such key pieces of steel that would have led to a progressive collapse of the buildings.

Even if one were to grant Molé every one of his points concerning the weakening of steel beams – and, again, I do not concede those points but believe them to be problematic in the context of the Twin Towers – nonetheless, none of this would necessarily prove that the weakening of steel beams would have led to a progressive collapse of the buildings. The fact of the matter is NIST is playing some games of semantics with respect to its account of the destruction of the Twin Towers.

NIST never actually explains the “collapse” of the Twin Towers and states as much in its various communications to the public. The focus of their reports was to account for what may have initiated the set of steps that, eventually, led to a progressive “collapse” of the Twin Towers. So, to be precise, NIST is concerned with issues surrounding the initiating of such a set of steps rather than the actual nature of the progressive collapse.

However, even the theory of initiation is on shaky grounds. NIST presupposes that the floor assemblies in certain critical floors in the Twin Towers failed under the stresses created by a combination of airplane damage and fires. This combination of factors tended to pull perimeter columns toward the center of the buildings and, this, in conjunction with some fire-weakened and sliced core beams, led to the collapse of the buildings. Unfortunately, for NIST’s theory, Underwriters Laboratories experimentally demonstrated that the floor assemblies in the Twin Towers would not have failed – even if the conditions in the Twin Towers were more severe with greater stresses than actual evidence indicated was the case, and, therefore, a central component in NIST’s theory has proven to be untenable.

Furthermore, even if, for purposes of argument, one were to grant NIST its entire thesis – despite the considerable evidence which serves to bring that thesis into serious question -- one still has difficulty understanding how such a set of initiating conditions would have led to what is clearly observable on video with respect to the demise of the Twin Towers. In other words, how does one go from: the NIST hypothesis concerning the initiating sequence, to: a free-falling building that exhibits no properties of pancaking and which is able to contravene principles of physics such as the conservation of momentum and the conservation of angular momentum and which is exploding and disintegrating in ways that a supposedly gravity-driven event cannot explain?

In the Molé quote given earlier, he stated: “Even if we assume temperatures of no higher than 1,000° F during the fire, we still would have more than enough reasons to expect damage severe enough to result in eventual collapse.” Actually, Molé has no justified reason for assuming that there were sustained temperatures of even 1,000° F. in the right places within the Twin Towers that were able to weaken certain steel beams in a way that would have led to the collapse of the buildings.

More importantly, even if one were to grant this point to Molé – which I don’t – this is not enough of a reason “to expect damage severe enough to result in eventual collapse.” In fact, Molé cannot reasonably and plausibly demonstrate that even if such damage had occurred in the Twin Towers that this would have led to a progressive collapse of the two buildings. And still more importantly, if such damage had led to a progressive collapse, he cannot provide an explanation for why the observed character of the destruction of the two buildings at the World Trade Center is so different from what his theory of progressive collapse would have predicted with respect to issues such as: the near free-fall velocity of the buildings; the explosive character of certain aspects of the fall; the way in which much of the structure of the building just disintegrates, and so on.

Molé goes on to argue that: “The expansion and warping of the steel would have been particularly significant due to temperature differences within the burning structure. Thus the trusses went limp much like a slackened laundry line, providing little or no resistance to the weight of the floors overhead.” I believe that it is quite symbolic for Molé to cite the source he does in relation to his claim in the first sentence of the quote above because the paper source which he references was written by two guys at MIT – namely Professor Thomas E. Eager and a graduate student, Christopher Musso – who dashed off a quick paper about what caused the collapse of the Twin Towers within a few weeks of 9/11 and did so with almost no empirical evidence to back up their claims … Molé seems to have caught the disease in relation to much of what he has to say about 9/11.

Beyond the foregoing point, one might also indicate that Molé’s belief that the “trusses went limp much like a slackened laundry line, providing little or no resistance to the weight of the floors overhead” is not only contraindicated by the experiments run by Underwriters Laboratories concerning the viability of such trusses, but even if one were to concede Molé’s point in relation to a few of the floors of the Twin Towers, this offers absolutely no explanation for why at least 80 to 85 of the floors below the points of impact in the buildings would have gone “limp much like a slackened laundry line” when most, if not all, of those lower floors did not have any fires on them.

Next, Molé proceeds to the issue of Building 7 and intends to dispatch conspiracy theories concerning that structure just as he intended to do in relation to the Twin Towers, Since Molé wasn’t in the least successful in realizing his intention with respect to the Twin Towers, let us see if he fares any better in the matter of Building 7.

Molé wishes to argue that people from the 9/11 Truth Movement claim: “that any damage from falling debris from WTC 1 and WTC 2 would have needed to be symmetrical to trigger the pancaking collapse of WTC 7.” There are a number of problems in such a claim.

First, I know of no prominent, or non-prominent, person in the 9/11 Truth Movement who claims that falling debris from WTC 1 and 2 would have had to be symmetrical to trigger a pancaking collapse of WTC 7. Molé is confusing issues.

There are many people within the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement who point out that the demise of Building 7 is highly symmetrical in character and they wonder how this came about since no conventional theory of progressive collapse – such as the pancake theory – can plausibly account for such observed symmetry. In addition, there are few, if any, opponents of the official, government conspiracy theory who subscribe to the idea that WTC 7 was destroyed through a pancake collapse and, therefore, it really makes absolutely no sense to try to claim – as Molé does in the foregoing quote – that ‘Truthers’ require debris falling from WTC 1 and 2 to land symmetrically on Building 7 in order to be able to trigger a “pancake collapse” to which few, if any, of them subscribe.

Molé continues with: “First, the fires burning in WTC 7 were extremely extensive, as Figure 3 shows.” Unfortunately, the figure that Molé displays in his article does not support his contention that the fires in WTC 7 were “extremely extensive. 

In the photograph accompanying the article, fire can be seen to be emanating from some of the windows on one floor, and there may be smoke coming from the windows of several other stories above the foregoing floor (in the photograph it is hard to determine what is going on in the floors above the one where the fire is flicking through the window), but this is not evidence of “extremely extensive” fires. In fact, all of the windows on the right side of the building in the photo are intact and not broken as one might expect if there were “extremely extensive” fires on the floors where there are, indeed, some fires … just not “extremely extensive” ones.

Molé next quotes Richard Binaciski, a firefighter, as saying: “We were told to go to Greenwich and Vesey and see what’s going on. So, we go there and on the north and east side of 7 it didn’t look like there was any damage at all, but then you looked on the south side of 7 there had to be hole 20 stories tall in the building with fire on several floors.”

One might begin by noting that not even Molé’s source – namely Richard Binaciski – substantiates Molé’s version of things concerning the idea that fires were “extremely extensive” in Building 7. Mr. Binaciski speaks only in terms of fires being “on several floors” which hardly demonstrates that the fires were “extremely extensive”. In fact, Mr. Binaciski actually supports the position of many ‘Truthers” who Molé claims – and with whom he wishes to take issue -- have argued that while there were fires in Building 7, those fires were “isolated in small parts of the building.”

In addition to the foregoing point, there is also the issue of the 20-storey hole in the side of Building 7 that is mentioned by Mr. Binaciski. What caused that hole?

Molé alludes to falling debris from WTC 1 and 2 in relation to Building 7, as if the Twin Towers were right next to Building 7. The fact of the matter is, Building 7 is hundreds of feet away from the Twin Towers.

So, what caused a mass (or several masses) to have sufficient velocity to be thrown hundreds of feet from either of the Twin Towers and, then, cause the sort of damage to which the firefighter is referring with respect to the side of Building 7? If the demise of the Twin Towers is a gravity-driven event, where did the energy come from to hurl massive objects several hundred feet to do such extensive damage.

Better yet, can one necessarily assume that such damage was done by debris from WTC 1 and 2? Was the 20-storey gap filled with visible debris, and, if not, then, why automatically assume that the hole was created by debris from WTC 1 and 2?

Maybe the massive hole was created in some other way. Maybe, the existence of the hole constitutes an unsolved mystery. Maybe, Molé is just assuming his way to questionable connections that serve his biases.

Molé maintains that: “Video footage shows that when collapse occurred, the south wall of the building gave in first, which is exactly what we would expect based on the location of the most extensive damage.”  Actually, video footage doesn’t really show anything of the kind since the first indication that Building 7 was coming down was a kink in the central portion of the roof structure.

Moreover, if what Molé claims is true – that is, the south wall of the building supposedly gave in first – then, why is the fall of the building so symmetrical in character? Indeed, there is no observed, asymmetrical skewing of the falling building as one might expect if the building were simply beginning to crumble at its most weakened part on the south side.

In addition, one would like to know why, for at least several seconds, the building is in free fall? This point was acknowledged by NIST when a high school physics teacher, David Chandler, forced NIST to revise its report concerning Building 7 to reflect this condition of free fall.

Molé speaks about the 20-storey gash in one side of Building 7 in very limited terms. He doesn’t say how deep the gash goes, and he doesn’t say what damage has been done to the interior of the building – especially, the core steel support beams that run up the center of the building.

Consequently, anything he says about the condition of the interior of the building is really just speculation. So, how do we know that the 20-storey gap appearing on one side of Building 7 did enough damage to create conditions conducive to a progressive complex as Molé attempts to suggest is the case in his article?

Molé does say that: “Emergency response workers at Ground Zero realized the extensive damage to the lower south section of WTC 7 would cause collapse as early as 3 PM on 9/11.” Aside from wishing to know the identities of such workers so that they can be questioned in a transparent fashion, one also would like to know the precise character of the structural information that led them to conclude that Building 7 was going to come down?

Molé doesn’t provide answers or corroborating information in relation to any of the foregoing matters. Consequently, why should either Molé or the workers to whom he is referring be believed with respect to these issues? Why isn’t Molé more critically skeptical about the sort of information that he is putting forth in his article to support his position?

What is rather ironic with respect to the foregoing “explanation” in relation to the destruction of Building 7 is that in his article Molé is really only mouthing a provisional, preliminary hypothesis of NIST concerning the demise of Building 7 – a hypothesis that was being floated by NIST at the time that Molé wrote his article in 2006. The reason this is ironic is that NIST no longer believes that the gash on the side of the Building 7 had anything to do with its collapse and has come up with, yet, another fire-based theory – a theory which is replete with its own problems -- concerning the fall of Building 7, so, I guess that Molé’s ideas about what he believed brought down Building 7 are not as ‘proven’ as he seemed to suppose at the time he wrote his article.

In addition, given that NIST, by its own admission, now claims that its original ideas about how Building 7 came down were incorrect, and given that NIST’s current theory about how Building 7 came down was arrived at after only many years of rigorous analysis and experimentation – and, there are many problems still inherent in their present theory – then, one would like to know how emergency response workers on 9/11 knew that Building 7 would likely come down around 3 PM in the afternoon after only a few hours of study and despite the “fact” that their structural investigation of Building 7 likely would have been interfered with by the “extremely extensive” fires that allegedly had been raging throughout the building on 9/11? Quite frankly, nothing about Molé’s account of what happened at, and to, Building 7 on 9/11 makes a great deal of sense, and one wonders why the editors of Skeptic magazine were not more, well, skeptical of his account?

Finally, Molé takes issue with the assertions of some of the people within the 9/11 Truth Movement who indicated that: “WTC fell straight down into a convenient pile” by claiming that, in actuality, the debris pile was 12 stories high and 150 meters across.” 

Even if one were to accept Molé’s contention that the debris pile for Building 7 was 12 stories high – which is, I believe, a questionable estimate – nevertheless, one would like to know what happened to the material from the other 35 stories. Molé claims that the debris pile was distributed across a length of 150 meters, but he doesn’t say how wide or deep that 450+ debris pile is, and, in any case, given the nature of the buildings crowded around Building 7, I am having some problems with figuring where over 450 feet of open space came from to accommodate the debris pile being described by Molé. The photographs that I have seen in relation to the debris pile for Building 7 do not correspond with Molé’s aforementioned claims.

Moreover, even if one were to concede the accuracy of Molé’s description with respect to the debris pile for Building 7 – which I don’t -- that pile did not display evidence suggesting that a process of pancaking had destroyed the building. Like WTC 1 and 2, the debris pile for Building 7 gave little evidence that the structure had collapsed in the way indicated by the official, government, conspiracy theory, and, among other things, this includes the fact that there were no pancaked floors to be found in the debris pile … a point which is totally inconsistent with Molé’s theory about what brought Building 7 down.

The attentive reader will have noticed that I did not advance any kind of conspiracy theory in the foregoing with respect to how Building 7 came down. It is enough that evidence and arguments have been put forward that overwhelmingly indicate that Molé’s account of what transpired on 9/11 is not capable of being evidentially or empirically verified, and, therefore, the problem of what happened to Building 7 – as well as WTC 1 and 2 – not only remains an unsolved problems, but, perhaps, more importantly, tends to point in a direction which indicates that the presence of crashing planes and ensuing fires are not sufficient to account for what brought down those three buildings in the way that is claimed – and required – by the official, government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11.

The next section of Molé’s article deals with the Pentagon. He begins by alluding to ideas which first appeared in the book, Pentagate, by a French journalist, Thierry Meyssan – a book which, according to Molé: “claims that the damage done to the Pentagon was too limited to have resulted from the crash of a Boeing 757.”

Actually, the argument put forth in Meyssan’s book is much more complex and nuanced than Molé suggests in the foregoing quote. In fact, Pentagate, includes a chapter by Pierre-Henri Brunel, an artillery officer and explosives expert who, among other things, served along side of Norman Schwartzkopf during the first Gulf war and wrote an analysis for Pentagate that examined two pieces of evidence.

In the article by Brunel, the former artillery officer does not state that: “the damage done to the Pentagon was too limited to have resulted from the crash of a Boeing 757.” Rather, he breaks down the five video frames of something allegedly hitting the Pentagon on 9/11 that were released anonymously to CNN and stipulates that: the nature of the ensuing fire-ball, its color, the presence of a vapor cloud, the speed and character of propagation of the ensuing shock wave, along with other features of that explosion could not have been caused by a commercial jet loaded with jet fuel and that the latter sort of event would have left an entirely different physical and visual signature than what was observed in the video.

Brunel distinguishes between a detonation and a deflagration. The former arises in conjunction with certain kinds of munitions, while the latter has to do with combustible materials such as the burning fuel of a jet plane engine.

According to Brunel, the 9/11 video of the Pentagon event gives evidence of a detonation and not a deflagration. More specifically, Brunel says that the evidence in the video, together with several other pieces of evidence, suggests that the form of munitions used in 9/11 Pentagon event may have been some sort of anti-concrete hollow charge.

One of the other pieces of evidence that led to the foregoing conclusion concerns the hole in the wall of Ring-C. Such evidence involved both the shape of, as well as the black smudge above, the hole in the wall.

Brunel discounts the idea – advanced by some -- that the radome nose of a plane – a very fragile part made of carbon and housing electronic equipment -- would have been able to create such a hole or even would have been able to survive its alleged journey through the two outer hardened rings of the Pentagon structure. Instead, Brunel suggests that the structural character of the hole is consistent with the way in which a hollow charge detonation device would project a mixture of gas and melted materials – known as a ‘jet’ -- at several thousand feet per second and at a temperature of several thousand degrees and, as a result, be capable of penetrating multiple walls of a reinforced concrete structure like that in the Pentagon.

Moreover, he states that the black smudge above the hole is a signature of the foregoing kind of munitions, and that form of black smudge is not what one would expect from a hydrocarbon fire. If the latter had been the case, the whole wall would have been smudged with residue left by burning hydrocarbon fuel instead of just the area above the roundish hole. On the other hand, the smudge marks are quite consistent with what happens if an anti-concrete hollow charge had been detonated within the Pentagon.

Brunel indicates that in the sort of denotation device he is talking about, the melted material in the jet tends to travel further than does the gaseous portion of the jet. When those melted materials penetrate to their farthest point, they begin to cool and since heat rises, one is likely to find smudge marks like those observed in Ring-C of the Pentagon – that is, just above the point where the melted materials are cooling.

According to Brunel, a hollow charge device is intended to detonate inside of a building rather than at the point of impact. This idea is consistent with the testimony of April Gallop, a person with top security clearance, who was in the offices where the Pentagon event took place.

She has testified in a sworn video affidavit that as she touched her computer to turn it on, the entire room around her exploded. When she was able to gather herself following the explosion, she picked up her young infant who was with her and helped lead a number of other Pentagon employees out of the hole that had been created in the exterior façade of the Pentagon by whatever actually occurred at the Pentagon on 9/11.

She reports that the explosion knocked her shoes off and when she finally was able to walk out of the Pentagon in her bare feet, nothing that she touched with either her hands or feet was hot and there were no fires in the area. Furthermore, she states that she saw no plane parts, luggage, or dead passengers.

April Gallop also testifies that when she was in the hospital recovering from the ordeal, a number of men in suits visited her on several occasions and kept insisting to her that a plane had hit the Pentagon. However one wishes to interpret these interludes, they tend to border on the surreal especially given that those people weren’t at Ground Zero in the Pentagon when whatever happened, happened -- while she, on the other hand, was present and has testified to what she experienced on 9/11.

Molé states: “… the contention that no remains of Flight 77 were found at the crash site is simply absurd. Many pictures taken of the area around the Pentagon crash site clearly show parts of an airplane in the wreckage.”

The many pictures taken of the area around the Pentagon do not show many parts of plane wreckage but, rather, keep showing the same few pieces. One would like to know where the rest of the plane is?

One can acknowledge that a few pieces of something are on the lawn outside the Pentagon, but with respect to those pieces that are sufficiently big enough to identify as possible airplane parts, those pieces don’t actually match the color scheme and design that is found on American Airlines commercial jets – and people have tried to match what was found in relation to the designs on the exterior of such planes and have come up empty. Furthermore, in relation to some of the mechanical plane parts that were found – such as between Ring-C and Ring -D, there are a number of airplane technicians who have indicated that such parts are not consistent with a Boeing 757.

In addition, the latter plane parts should have had identification numbers that would have been logged into a record of the parts that make up any given plane. To the best of my knowledge, I have not seen any evidence that the plane parts found in and around the Pentagon have been proven to belong to the commercial jet that is alleged to have crashed at the Pentagon.

Molé tells about a blast expert, Allyn E. Kilsheimer, who, supposedly, was one of the first structural engineers to arrive at the Pentagon following the 9/11-event. According to Kilsheimer: “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.”

The telemetry from the black box found by Kilsheimer has since been analyzed by a variety of independent pilots – both military and commercial – and they have come to the conclusion that the telemetry has been fudged and does not reflect the actual physical conditions through which the claimed flight path supposedly ran. So, whatever black box Kilsheimer may have discovered, there are some very important questions about its authenticity.

Furthermore, one could take Kilsheimer at his word when he says that he saw some kind of striation marks on the face of the Pentagon. However, whether his inference is correct that what he saw was from the impact of a 757 Boeing jet is another matter, altogether.

Kilsheimer is described in the Skeptic article as a blast expert. This does not make him an airplane crash expert, and, therefore, he is not necessarily qualified to say, with any degree of certainty, whether, or not, the striation marks he saw were from a Boeing 757.

Moreover, neither Molé nor Kilsheimer indicate the height of the striation marks that supposedly came from the commercial jet. Although the official, government conspiracy theory maintains that the jet plane struck the first floor of the Pentagon, nevertheless, there are just too many facts which run contrary to such a scenario, not the least of which is that there is no indication on the Pentagon lawn that engines scraped along the grass as they would have had to do in order for the plane to strike the Pentagon on the first floor.

So, at what height were the striation marks that Kilsheimer claimed to see? In addition, one wonders what the striation marks would look like that came from a Boeing 757 that, allegedly, was flying at more than 500 miles per hour near ground level – a feat, incidentally, that is aerodynamically improbable, because of such physical phenomena as the ground effect, wing-tip vortex, and the like.

In the foregoing quote, Kilsheimer claims to have “picked up parts of the plane with airline markings on them.” One would like to know what parts these were and what, precisely, the character of the markings were because anything small enough to be picked up by hand is not likely to contain enough information to be able to identify, with any degree of justification, such markings as being from American Airlines 77.

Later in his article, Molé quotes Kilsheimer as saying: “I held parts of uniforms from crew members in my hands, including body parts. Okay?” This statement gives rise to a few questions.

Given the extensive nature of the damage from the alleged plane impact and ensuing fires, one wonders how Kilsheimer was able to identify the uniforms as belonging to crew members from AA 77, or how he was able to identify the body parts as belonging to actual crew members of that flight? Of course, he might point to the autopsy results that, allegedly, identified all the crewmembers and passengers from Flight 77 … identifications that reportedly were based on DNA analysis.

The problem with the foregoing is that if one is going to accept the DNA, autopsy evidence as proof of the identity of the crew member body parts that supposedly were held by Kilsheimer, then, one is also going to have to accept the fact that under a Freedom of Information Act, a former naval medical officer also found that none of the DNA analysis showed any evidence indicating the presence of Arab genetic markers among the dead bodies … and, one might add to this, that none of the commercial flight manifests listing passengers that were released by the respective airlines – including American Airlines -- contained the names of any of the alleged hijackers.

One point that is not mentioned in Molé’s article – and, it couldn’t be since the evidence was unearthed several years after his article was written – involves some 20 witnesses – including two Pentagon police officers -- who have come forth with testimony indicating that the alleged flight path – recorded, supposedly, by the black box found by the aforementioned, Allyn Kilsheimer – that is being advanced through the official, government conspiracy theory concerning events at the Pentagon on 9/11 is incorrect. These witnesses all indicate – and have done so independently of one another – that the large jet which they saw head toward the Pentagon and disappear in a billowing, explosive cloud at the Pentagon approached the Pentagon on the north side of the Citgo station that, at the time, sat about a mile away from the south west side of the Pentagon.

The foregoing is significant because the flight path being propagated by the official, government conspiracy theory has the plane approaching the Pentagon from the south side of the Citgo station. Yet, the 20, or so, individuals who claim otherwise indicate that there was no other plane in the air at the time of the Pentagon event and that the plane which was in the air definitely approached the Pentagon along the north side of the Citgo station.

If the they plane those 20 individuals saw actually hit the Pentagon, there would have been an entirely different Pentagon Performance Report than the one which was officially published because the angle of impact would have been much different than the one which was described in such technical detail in the aforementioned report. However, since no other plane was visible in the sky near the Pentagon other that the one which approached the Pentagon on the north side of the Citgo station, then, how does one explain the character of the data in The Pentagon Performance Report which is based on the idea that whatever hit the Pentagon approached along the south side of the Citgo station?

Now, there may be evidence that is capable of showing that all of the foregoing questions might be answerable in a credible and plausible manner. However, such material is not in evidence in Molé’s article.

What is troubling about Molé’s allegedly skeptical approach to the issue of 9/11 is that it is so flagrantly biased and lacking in balance.  In other words, he raises all manner of questions in relation to the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement – some of which are legitimate and some of which are problematic – and not one (not one) question is raised in conjunction with the official, government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11.

I don’t see the foregoing, uneven, skewed treatment of data as an expression of skepticism. Rather, I see it as the actions of someone who already has made up his mind about what the truth of 9/11 is and, as a result, fails to do due diligence with respect to all of the evidence that exists … evidence which raises possibilities that, like Condoleezza Rice infamous statement at the 9/11 hearings, Molé has not even been able to conceive, let alone address.

Molé states that: “Much of [his] discussion has focused on explanations given by the 9/11 Truth Movement, but we should note that the explanations that they don’t give are just as problematic. I have not been able to locate any significant discussion of al-Qaeda, radical Islamic terrorists or the modern history of the Middle East in any of the 9/11 Truth Movement’s writings.”

All I can say is that Molé’s inability “to locate any significant discussion of al-Qaeda, radical Islamic terrorists, or the modern history of the Middle East in any of the writings of the 9/11 Truth Movement writings” may be symptomatic of his inability to do research in general – at least as far as 9/11 is concerned. Without even straining myself, I can think of three authors who do not accept the official, government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 but who have explored, to varying degrees, the topical areas to which Mole is referring.

These books were all written before Molé wrote his article for Skeptic magazine, and, therefore, they would have been available to Mole if he had made even a little effort with respect to following minimal standards for research. The works to which I am referring are: “The War on Freedom: How and Why America was Attacked September 11, 2001, as well as: The War On Truth: 9/11, Disinformation, and the Anatomy of Terrorism, both by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed – released in, respectively, 2002 and 2005; 9/11 Synthetic Terror by Webster Griffin Tarpley – originally released in 2005; and, finally, Drugs, Oil and War by Peter Dale Scott – published in 2003.

One can agree, or disagree, with the perspective of any, or all, of the foregoing books. This is not the issue.

The issue is this: Molé foregoing statement is simply wrong when he suggests that such writings do not exist. The only thing preventing him from locating such works is connected to his apparently considerable problems with knowing how to conduct research properly.

However, in another sense, Molé’s complaint against the 9/11 Truth Movement in relation to al-Qaeda, terrorism, and a modern history of the Middle East is something of a rather gargantuan red herring. More specifically, Molé is basing his foregoing quoted statement on his belief that it has been proven that al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11.

What is the nature of that proof? The FBI – both on its website and through its Director – have publically stated that it does not possess one piece of reliable evidence tying ‘Usama bin Laden to 9/11. The tortured confessions of Khalid Shakyh Mohammed and several other detainees concerning the alleged operational details of 9/11 are tainted, highly suspect, and cannot be independently verified. None of the passenger manifests for the allegedly hijacked airlines contained the names of any of the alleged hijackers. The autopsy of airline passengers supposedly killed at the Pentagon did not contain any genetic markers indicating the presence of Arab passengers. The so-called video confession of ‘Usama bin Laden concerning 9/11 have been proven to be a fraud, and, furthermore, twice bin-Laden has gone on public record in newspaper interviews indicating that he had nothing to do with 9/11. The alleged phone calls from various passengers/crew members on some of the hijacked planes that supposedly identified a number of the hijackers– at least as far as their seat numbers are concerned – is of questionable authenticity since in relation to the phone technology existing at the time of 9/11, such calls could not have been made via cell phones, and the model of Boeing which supposedly hit the Pentagon did not carry air-phones (In fact, in the court trial of Zacarias Moussaoui almost all of the alleged phone “messages” involving passengers on Flight 93, which supposedly crashed in Pennsylvania, were discarded because cell phone records indicated that no connection with ground phones had been made during those calls). The provenance of the charred passports of several alleged hijackers found, respectively, in the vicinity of the World Trade Center and near the so-called crash site in Pennsylvania is highly questionable. A number of flight instructors of the alleged hijacker pilots independently indicated that the latter individuals did not have sufficient skill to be able to fly the Boeing jets in the manner that would have been required on 9/11. There is absolutely no evidence demonstrating how the “hijackers” allegedly gained access to the four cockpits, or overpowered the pilots, or prevented the pilots from sending a standard transponder number code indicating that the planes were being hijacked. The testimony of three FBI agents or employees: Colleen Rowley, Sibel Edmonds, and Robert Wright, all indicated that something strange was going on within the FBI and that the Counter Terrorism Unit in Washington seemed to be interring in on-going investigations. Three FBI agents gave testimony to a prominent lawyer, David Schippers, which indicates that the: date, time, place, and means of attack on 9/11 were known by a relatively large number of people within the Bureau prior to September 11, 2001, but nothing has been publically said about how this information was obtained and who, precisely, it was that supposedly was going to carry out the attack or why, if such information was known, nothing was done about it before the planes took off. There is evidence that at least 5, and possibly as many as 7 or 8, of the alleged hijackers are alive and have been living in various parts of the Middle East.

So, what is the evidence that al-Qaeda is responsible for 9/11? This question can be raised without having to presuppose that al-Qaeda is unconnected to 9/11, but rather the question is this: What is the evidence that they carried out the attacks on 9/11?

Skeptics like Molé tend to want to remain in attack mode. In other words, they want to keep pointing out shortcomings in this or that theory concerning 9/11.

However, when asked to do so, they cannot plausibly defend the official, government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 because they really have almost no evidence to construct a rigorous, consistent, plausible account of the events of 9/11. In fact, the supporters of the official, government conspiracy theory can’t even come up with a plausible account of the physical evidence in conjunction with the destruction of the Twin Towers, Building 7, or the damage to the Pentagon.

People like Molé seem to want to follow the advice of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara which he gave in the documentary, The Fog of War -- namely, never answer the question that is asked of you, but, rather, always answer the question that you wished you had been asked. Those who support the official government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 – that is, people such as Molé -- always seem to proceed by assuming that any criticism about that “official” theory must, in reality, be a question requesting such supporters to point out what is wrong with other conspiracy theories. In reality, the real questions of 9/11 are not about advancing a conspiracy theory of any kind, but, rather, such questions are entirely about the inadequacies inherent in the official government conspiracy theory – inadequacies that are never addressed but are, instead, turned around and converted into an attack on all -- to quote George W. Bush -- “outrageous conspiracy theories” – whether, or not, one is advocating such a theory.

The al-Qaeda angle concerning 9/11 that is mentioned by Molé in his article is, to a large extent, a red herring because the physical evidence associated with the Twin Towers, Building 7, and the Pentagon all indicate that even if one accepted every aspect of the official, government conspiracy theory concerning the identity of the alleged hijackers – and the official government conspiracy theory has not credibly proven any of this – nonetheless, neither the events at the Twin Towers and Building 7, nor the events at the Pentagon, can be credibly accounted for by citing merely damage from crashing planes, falling debris, or ensuing fire. Therefore, ipso facto, there is more to 9/11 than the official government conspiracy story would have everyone believe.

More specifically, there are crucial aspects of 9/11 involving three buildings in New York and one near Washington, D.C., which transcend the ability of 19 Arab hijackers – even if they were part of things -- to have orchestrated and which cannot be explained by crashing planes, falling debris, and/or fires.  Consequently, before we move on to conspiracy theories involving al-Qaeda, radical Islamic terrorism, and the Middle East, why don’t we first explain what actually happened to the Twin Towers, Building 7, and at the Pentagon on 9/11 since the official, government conspiracy theory has not accomplished this in any rigorous, credible, plausible, or defensible fashion.

Molé started out his article by making a reference to a chant that some of the attendees at the weekend 9/11 conference being held in Chicago began to voice while waiting for the lecture hall to open. The phrase mentioned by Molé is: “9/11 was an inside job.”

The phrase is short, catchy, and easily lends itself to being chanted. I never cared much for the phrase because I felt it induced people to look away from the ‘what’ of 9/11 and become preoccupied with the ‘who’ of 9/11. In turn, the issue of ‘who’ often, all too easily, leads to the formation of many conspiracy theories – the very thing which so many supporters of the official, conspiracy theory love to pick apart in one way or another – and, thereby, this tended to place people who questioned the official government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 in a defensive posture where they were always required to defend this or that conspiracy theory rather than being able to concentrate on the inadequacies of the official, government position.

I believe this was a tactical and strategic mistake. Unfortunately, many of the people who did not accept the official, government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 fell into the same trap again and again, and, as a result, this has led to a great deal of lost time, resources, and traction with respect to reaching more and more people with respect to informing them about the inadequacies of the official, government conspiracy theory.

Consequently, in closing, I propose a new chant, if you will, in relation to 9/11. Instead of “9/11 was an inside job’, why not say: ‘T – Double S – Triple T’ stands for methodology … (T)ake (S)mall (S)teps (T)o (T)he (T)ruth – for this is the essence of any reliable methodology. Why not take the advice of George W. Bush – and I was never a fan or supporter of his – and stop promulgating outrageous conspiracy theories and stick to the facts … facts which demonstrate that the existing official, government conspiracy theory is not tenable, credible, or plausible? Once the true character of the events on 9/11 have been established in greater detail, then, we can take the next small step beyond that and, as a result, bring about a public investigation run by the people, rather than the government – an investigation that might be able to establish who actually was responsible for 9/11.

Evidence is not about: ideology, politics, religion, or philosophy. Evidence gives expression to the truth, and it is our task, both individually and collectively, to come to correctly understand the character of such data and, therefore, its significance in relation to developing increasingly accurate renderings of the truth in any given set of circumstances.

Skepticism can play an important role in the quest for truth. The problem is that for some people – such as Phil Molé and the editors of Skeptic magazine – they do not seem to be sufficiently skeptical about their own ideas concerning 9/11 and, apparently, feel they only have an obligation to critically examine the ideas of others in this regard. Physician, heal thyself.

Anab Whitehouse

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