Friday, April 23, 2010

I think that I do have a fundamental difference of opinion with some about how to approach this.

Its not that *any* crack will bring down the whole logical (or skeptical or speculative) edifice. If I truly believed that, then virtually any of the thousands of objections raised by the "truthers" would puncture the official story. What I believe is that there are real limits to what we can know about something. I also believe the specific structure of the argument is important. Gage has done the best job in the 911 "truther" movement that I have encountered at creating a well structured argument. Not every piece of evidence in an argument is equivalent. Its not as if an argument is just one massive "or" function or one massive "and" function. Its much more complicated - and so the structure of the argument is important. The "truthers" behave as if its a massive "or" so that the mass of objections by their sheer number and weight brings down the official story. The "skeptics" behave as if its a massive "and" function so that if one piece of a "truther" argument is incorrect, the entire critique is invalidated. And they treat their opponents as if their response is the opposite.

If we're going to get anywhere with this, we have to identify the structure of the argument. What is required for a conclusion, *really*?

I focused on the scientific and the physical rather than the culture and subjective because it was a part of the story I could get my hands around, and it is also the most compelling argument. Gage's presentation is powerful and though provoking. It demands a sufficiently thoughtful consideration. I am only just *barely* convinced the impacts and fires brought down the towers. To me, the most convincing piece of evidence is the video showing the dimpling of the curtain wall. Without that, the floor-sag theory is damaged by what we all know about the NIST tests. This is another reason why my personal scale is just *barely* to the conventional side on this. The provenance of that video is very important and I really can't establish it right now.

My point in critiquing engineers is that Gage is representing ae911truth. Structural engineers are indeed entitled to an opinion - *if* they have made a deep study of those kinds of structures and those kinds of failures. Otherwise we really don't have a right to an opinion - we just think we do. And I made my point about architects, I think. My engineering background makes me qualified to be intriqued by the arguments and to consider the arguments - but I'm not an expert. Just because I buy or don't buy a technical argument, doesn't mean crap. I'm *not* qualified to have an opinion. I haven't spent several decades studying structural failures. I am only qualified to attempt to understand the arguments presented and any conclusion I make is still ripe for negation when someone more qualified comes along and points out the flaws in my understanding.

The "pointing out" bit is very important. Its why I'm strongly in favor of open investigation and discussion. I haven't seen anything that overwhelmingly convinces me that we know how the collapse happened. I just know what I think based on the crap (pro and con) that is available for consideration. I'd like to not make my judgment based on *crap*.

I disagree that the criminal court has any superiority at reaching the truth. Courtroom argument is a social exercise - it is about trial by verbal combat. A courtroom conviction has no necessary relationship to the truth, as the numerous overturned death penalty convictions demonstrate. A courtroom argument is a way to make a cultural and communal decision about blame and consequences - but it isn't a way to seek the truth. Did OJ do it? If the highest, best, most qualified courtroom in the land found that the towers collapsed just as the official account says they did, or that they did not, would you believe them? I don't think so.

Finally, one detail among many, I don't contend that the collapse took slightly longer than free-fall. I am saying that we are not discussing any evidence that indicates how long it took at all. A difference between 10 seconds and 15 seconds is highly significant. Its the difference between a "pancake" theory or "pseudo-pancake" theory and the claim of demolition. If we are going to claim the collapse took 10 seconds - which is one of *the* essential claims, not just any old crack in the argument - we have to be able to establish that with great certainty. I don't see that we can do that given the evidence that I've seen, including Richard Gage's excellent presentation.

To me, the strength of Gage's presentation is that it establishes that this isn't a slam-dunk. We need a careful and have a public conversation on this. Its why I use the "truther" label but always in quotes. The labels that get thrown around in identifying the sides in this argument are pejorative. There's a serious discussion to be had here. It is not crazy to think the conventional account is incomplete and inaccurate. I do think its irrational to conclude the WTC was The American Reichstaag as so many have. We might have reason to suspect it. We might have reason to doubt the official story. But that's all we have *reason* for.

Suspicion is not conclusion. Speculation is not proof. In either direction. We are free to suspect and speculate. We must not get confused about what we are doing. An expression of speculation is not a defensible claim of proof. A "truther" or a "skeptic" makes this mistake constantly. I speculate that there is more to the WTC story than meets the eye. I can defend that speculation. I can defend it better than I can defend the claim that the official story is the gospel truth. But I cannot defend the claim that there is evidence that the collapse was an inside job, orchestrated by coordinated elements of the US government in high positions of authority. I've looked at the arguments and I don't think that argument can be made. We might speculate about its possibility or plausibility - but that is a different argument.

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