Jun 30 2014
This is the third of a four part written debate between myself and Michael Fullerton, who believes that the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11 was not due to the official story of damage from the impact of commercial jets, but rather the result of a controlled demolition. His initial post is here. My first response is here. Next week I will give my final rebuttal.
Part III: Rebuttal to Steven Novella
by Michael Fullerton
Dr. Novella’s response to my initial arguments consists mainly of the weak arguments I had already dispensed with in Part I. He claims an initial event is evidence for a following event (post hoc ergo propter hoc); he claims I provided no evidence for controlled demolition (CD); he claims CD requires explosions and he claims that I claimed that a scientific explanation requires precedence. It’s as if he completely ignored parts of my writing that conflicted with his beliefs. He keeps repeating these false arguments because he has nothing else of any significance to offer.
Novella states that he accepts “the consensus of expert opinion that the collapse of the towers was due to the structural damage and weakening of the steel supports caused by the impact of the jets, the burning of the jet fuel, and the subsequent fires that burned through the buildings.” In science, a consensus opinion means that the majority of people in the field agree with a particular explanation for a phenomena. How has Novella determined consensus? He provided no evidence of consensus just the NIST report and a statement from 25 ASCE civil engineers. No poll has been conducted to provide evidence to support this statement. The fact that 2200+ architects and engineers question the official 9/11 story seems to throw cold water on this “consensus”.
Note that Novella’s consensus argument is precariously close to committing two fallacies here: appeal to the masses (AKA appeal to consensus) and appeal to authority. The appeal to the masses fallacy occurs whenever a conclusion is deemed true because the majority of a particular group believe it is true. The appeal to authority occurs whenever a conclusion is deemed true simply because one or more experts believe it is true. Claiming therefore that something is true because a majority of experts in the field believe it is true is a false argument. In fact, even using a consensus argument to claim one explanation is more likely than another is baseless. We know this because countless times in the history of science, the consensus has often been very wrong. Since Novella is hinting that the explanation is more likely rather than that it is true, I’m not going to call it fallacious even though it could easily be argued as such.
Novella falsely claims that I dismiss the official story evidence for collapse initiation. I don’t dismiss it. I am merely saying it does not in any way constitute evidence for the rest of the collapse. Bizarrely, Novella actually claims that evidence for collapse initiation of the Twin Towers is evidence of how they fell. As I stated in Part I, arguing that a preceding event caused a following event involves the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. He does not deny that it is a logical fallacy or explain how a fallacy could in any way constitute evidence. Let me give an example. Suppose an airline pilot describes icing conditions on the wings and windshield. Shortly thereafter the plane crashes killing all on board. Without investigating further, experts proclaim that these icing conditions resulted in the crash. Later, eyewitnesses come forward reporting that they saw an explosion right before the plane came down. This evidence was rejected because it went against the expert consensus. After much pressure by the victim’s family members, the eyewitnesses and other concerned people, an investigation was finally conducted which found a missile strike actually caused the fall. As we see, evidence of a preceding event is not necessarily evidence for a following event. Novella would be one of those that believed the icing was evidence for the crash. So once again, no evidence whatsoever is provided for the actual falls of the towers. The only “evidence” he has for the official story is a logical fallacy, a false argument! The official story believers and CD denialists really need to wrap their heads around this.
Let’s look at this argument another way. Assume official story believers do have evidence to explain collapse initiation, i.e. that the plane and fire damage caused each upper block to fall. They absolutely do not have evidence that the falling upper block of each tower demolished the lower building. In spite of this lack of evidence they claim that it happened. They are saying “We have evidence that fire and plane damage caused the upper blocks to fall. We have no evidence that this first event caused the second event so the first event must have caused the second event”. This is an appeal to ignorance fallacy. They are drawing a conclusion based on lack of evidence without entertaining all possibilities. This is a bit similar to the god of the gaps argument where gaps in scientific knowledge are interpreted as proof of God’s existence. Instead of God though, official story believers are using the fire and plane caused damage as proof that the upper blocks destroyed the lower building. Either way, these believers have only the sophistry of logical fallacies to support their purely faith-based beliefs.
Novella claims that CD would require explosives and because no explosions were heard, this calls into question that any CD took place. Again, this is an argument dealt with in Part I. CD does not require explosives. But in fact there were extremely credible eyewitness reports of explosions in the Twin Towers before collapse. This evidence also supports the CD hypothesis.
Speaking of conspicuous lack of evidence, the Twin Tower collapses show no jolt when each upper portion hits the lower building. How will Novella counter a violation of the law of conservation of momentum? The surest way to expose a crackpot theory is to show how it violates the laws of physics.
I presented the argument for CD precedence for collapses like the Twin Towers as evidence for CD in Part I. In his rebuttal, Novella commits the hasty generalization fallacy by claiming that I believe precedence is always required for a scientific explanation. I was only presenting a precedence explanation for one example not for all explanations throughout human history! Again, this flawed argument was already dealt with in Part I. Note that a great deal of observational support for the theory of evolution comes from precedence, the patterns found in the fossil record. Since Novella claims that I have produced no real evidence despite producing this evidence of precedence, does Novella consider the patterns in the fossil record to not be real evidence as well?
His argument is also a straw man. He distorts my argument and then attacks it with a mass extinction due to asteroid counterexample. Note that in the asteroid hypothesis, they first looked at the available data. They found evidence of a mass extinction. They also found evidence of a massive asteroid impact. They then and only then put the two together to propose a possible explanation. The official Twin Tower collapse story has absolutely no supporting evidence to this day and certainly had none when it was first concocted on the day of the disaster. Again, fabricating an explanation without having evidence and ignoring evidence that calls into question that explanation is the hallmark of pseudo-science.
Novella tries to argue that my claim rests entirely on the fact that the Twin Towers look similar to other successful CDs. My actual claim is that the CD hypothesis for the Twin tower falls is the only scientific explanation because only it has supporting evidence. To keep things simple I have only presented one piece of evidence in Part I, the rapid and symmetrical nature of the falls, because all I need is one piece to best the official story which has zero evidence. Using the wiggle word “seems” Novella is attempting to deflect another accusation of the use of a straw man fallacy.
He then trots out the red herring that in order for evidence to be considered it must be operationally defined. An operational definition however, is used to distinguish an object from its background of empirical experience. Since no steel-framed building in the history of civilization has ever ever fallen as quickly and as symmetrically as the twin Towers without it being a CD, there is no relevant competing background empirical experience and thus no rigorous operational definition and no hard numbers are required. An adequate operational definition is already implied: any building that comes down as fast the slowest CD collapse and as symmetrically as the most asymmetrical straight-down CD is a CD. All Novella needs to refute this definition is any example of a total natural collapse that was as fast and as symmetrical as any known successful straight-down CD collapse.
By the way, where is Novella’s operational definition that a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy or appeal to ignorance fallacy can count as evidence? Where is his operational definition that an entirely unsupported hypothesis can count as evidence? Where is his operational definition that an explanation with no evidence whatsoever is more scientific than an explanation with evidence? Why is it that I must have rigorous operational definitions for my evidence but he doesn’t? The answer is special pleading. Novella demands the application of high standards to my evidence but his “evidence” is exempt.
Again, Novella claims that the South Tower was not symmetrical because it “collapsed on one side and the upper tower fell significantly to that side”. This is the same nirvana fallacy I dealt with in Part I. The fact that the initiating event was not symmetrical is irrelevant to the rest of the collapse which was extremely symmetrical. Whether a less symmetric event happens at collapse start or collapse end is irrelevant. All straight-down CDs have a similar degree of symmetry that natural collapses have never ever exhibited. Also, the upper portion looks more like it is involved in a roll at its initiation rather than a fall to one side. A fall to one side would have the upper portion falling off the building not rolling within the building’s footprint. Rolls are fairly common in CDs and very easy to do for those experienced in the trade. Such complex rolls have never ever been witnessed in natural collapses. This roll then would be further evidence of CD.
We’ll note that Novella states about this roll that:
“This, of course, initiated a full collapse – once one part of the structure gave way, the load that was being distributed to the rest of the structure greatly exceeded tolerance levels and collapse was inevitable.”
“Once the full collapse of the tower was under way, of course it is going to fall straight down. A structure of that size and nature would not have the strength to fall to the side (beyond what we see with the initial collapse). Once the structure failed there was nothing keeping the upper part of that building up. It would have to fall straight down, forcing the collapse of anything below it.”
No evidence whatsoever if given to support these claims. Unsupported pronouncements like these are called bare assertion fallacies. Such a claim is also what is referred to as the fallacy of retrospective determinism. He is saying that because the upper block fell, it was inevitable that the lower structure would be destroyed. No evidence is given, just bare assertions and the audience is expected to take this on faith. Again though, because such events have never ever happened before with natural collapses, he is making extraordinary claims without providing any evidence whatsoever.
Novella references the Bazant Zhou paper to support the claim that the towers could have achieved near freefall acceleration. He also uses this paper as evidence for how the falling upper blocks destroyed the lower buildings. This paper however is purely theoretical with zero evidence to support it! Novella is using an entirely unsupported explanation as evidence for another entirely unsupported explanation! The Bazant paper has also been soundly criticised. Note also that Novella claims that I said the Towers did not descend at free fall. I did not say this. What I said is that I did not say that they descended in free fall. Simply not stating something is not the same thing as stating the inverse!
Novella states that the evidence I provided to support the use of CD actually weakened the case for CD. He is I’m sure referring to the last demolition in the Vérinage video I referenced. He is implying that because this particular CD started near the top, the WTC Towers could have been natural examples of Vérinage. The devastatingly fatal problem with this argument is that Vérinage has only ever been used with buildings having load bearing walls, not steel-framed skyscrapers with thick central columns like the Towers were. Further, the lack of any observable deceleration when the upper blocks hit the lower buildings below proves conclusively that no Vérinage-like techniques were used on the Twin Towers.
Novella attempts to refute my statement that no computer model has ever been made which shows that the falling top portion of each building was able to completely demolish the building below. Incredibly, he does this by referencing the computer model used in the NIST Twin Tower report that only modelled the collapse initiation! Why would he interpret my obvious request for a model showing the upper blocks destroying the lower building for a model of collapse initiation? Was this a simple comprehension error or is he under the delusion that the start of an event is identical to the rest of the event?
Novella introduces an appeal to incredulity by implying that it would be impossible for a CD to initiate right where the planes impacted and not activate prematurely due to the fire. In fact it is entirely possible that wireless CD devices were positioned all over the building and controlled with a computer program that could be easily reconfigured in a very short time frame to start where the planes hit. Anyway, if a pilot could easily perform the insanely complex maneuver of hitting the Pentagon why couldn’t they also hit pre-determined positions of the Twin Towers? Also, explosives can be engineered to withstand extreme heat or encased in protective shields. Other technologies like energetic nanocomposites could also have been used for example. Even if some of these thermitic devices did ignite, their reactions would go largely unnoticed as such reactions produce only heat, white smoke and molten iron. The documented presence of such thick white smoke and molten metal the color of molten iron is further evidence of CD.
A big problem for me is that I am at a disadvantage in this debate. It is a disadvantage of social psychology though, not science generally. This event is taking place on my opponent’s blog with copious posting of puerile sophistry from his unwavering uncritically thinking followers. This creates an atmosphere thick with groupthink and driven by confirmation bias. Despite the fact that we agreed no fallacies would be used in this debate, Novella continues to rely heavily on the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy while creating straw men and spewing bare assertions, red herrings and other obscure fallacies. At any rate, like all other official story believers before him, Novella provides no evidence for the Twin Tower falls. He did help introduce and provide additional evidence for CD: eyewitness testimony of explosions, the missing jolts, the South Tower roll, copious thick white smoke and molten iron. Again, no evidence for the official story and growing evidence for CD. This shows that the controlled demolition explanation is currently the most and only scientific explanation available for explaining the Twin Tower collapses.
Every attempt to reject this undeniable fact involves what is known as special pleading. All the evidence favoring the CD explanation is ignored and their irrational belief in the official story is propped up with sophomoric logical fallacies, i.e. uncritical thinking. Because their circumstance is unique, it’s too difficult for them to believe controlled demolition could have happened. They believe the rules of science and logic apply to others but don’t apply to them.
I asked the readers in Part I if they were smarter than a fifth grade science student. Which explanation has more evidence? The official story with only logical fallacies to support it or the CD hypothesis that actually has real scientific evidence? Which explanation involved gathering data first before producing a hypothesis? The official story which was pronounced immediately and which never ever had any supporting evidence or the CD hypothesis which was promoted only after evidence was found that the official story could not explain? Which explanation can explain all available evidence with actual scientific support as opposed to entirely unsupported pronouncements and other logical fallacies? Which explanation does not ignore evidence it cannot account for? If you can honestly answer all these questions with the controlled demolition hypothesis you too can be as smart as a fifth grade science student.
6. Dr. Steven E. Jones, “Why Indeed Did the World Trade Center Buildings Completely Collapse?”, Journal of 9/11 Studies, Volume 3 – September 2006
http://www.journalof911studies.com/volume/200609/Why_Indeed_Did_the_WTC_Buildings_Completely_Collapse_Jones_Thermite_World_Trade_Center.pdf (section 9)
7. Gordon Ross, ME, “NIST and Dr. Bazant – Simultaneous Failure”, Journal of 9/11 Studies, Volume 11 – May 2007
8. Crockett Grabbe, “Discussion of ‘Why the Observed Motion History of World Trade Center Towers is Smooth’ by Jia-Liang Le and Z.P. Bazant,” Journal of Engineering Mechanics, October 2012. http://www.sealane.org/writings/Bazantrpy.html