Falsifiability and the NIST WTC Report: A Study in Theoretical Adequacy

This paper has now been published at the Journal of 9/11 Studies.

There is a response given by those who support the official theory of the events of 9/11 which is hard to answer. It is "I am not a scientist and cannot understand the arguments". The intention of this paper is to appeal to people who are familiar with philosophical debate but not comfortable with science and the scientific method. The paper starts off with a rather wordy study of the way we interpret information and give it weight or reject it. I think this might gently lead some readers, normally resistant to concise scientific papers, to look at, and understand, the scientific analysis which follows.

It is probably also worth mentioning that the paper starts with a reference to Milgram, whose experiments showed how remarkably prone we are to obeying authority even when the act appears inhumane. This may remind us that there are answers to that other common difficult response: "They couldn't have done it!".

Please get this info out to any academics you know!

missing link!

Thanks John for posting that link to the paper, which I forgot to include. I have now edited the entry to include the link.

I note that the "contact us" tab on the home page at 911Blogger does not work. Does anyone know a reason for that?

I would also like to make the point that this paper has been written for a difficult audience, one that resists scientific evidence and debate - a very large proportion of the public. I suggest to readers of this blog that they keep this paper in mind for such people. I believe the other author of this paper is particularly gifted in his ability to produce a style which would get under the skin of those who reject the evidence at the outset of a discussion.

I'm disappointed in the scientific community

One minor correction regarding the test of Einstein's theory: the predicted deflection of light due to gravity is a feature of general relativity, not special relativity. The measurement was made to confirm Einstein's first steps in formulating his general theory. The full theory was still a long way from completion.

Here's a clickable link to the paper: http://journalof911studies.com/volume/2010/Falsifiability.pdf.

The paper does a very good job of showing the NIST report to be fallacious in its conclusions. I'm grateful to the authors for producing it. Let's hope that it will gain the attention of people who are credentialed in relevant fields so that they can support the 9/11 Truth effort using the power of their reputations.

What is disappointing to me is the scarcity of support, thus far, from the scientific community. As the paper demonstrates, there are some falsifiable assertions such as the claim that brightly glowing molten material flowing from WTC 2 can be attributed to molten aluminum. The parameters are such that definite conclusions can be reached by relying on known laws of nature. Once a scientist is faced with such evidence, he or she is obligated to acknowledge the implication of such an observation. Any human being who is presented with such clear evidence of fallacy in the explanation of one of the geopolitically most significant events in recent history is morally obligated to both seek legitimate explanations and to call attention to the problem.

"Man muß die Dinge so einfach wie möglich machen. Aber nicht einfacher" -- Albert Einstein

Scientists are subject to cognitive dissonance too

When it comes to something as emotionally charged as 9/11 the scientific community can be a difficult audience, one that resists scientific evidence and debate. Indeed 'experts' can be the most resistant to looking at evidence that contradicts their strongly held opinions. They are used to having their conclusions challenged by people who don't know what they are talking about. When their conclusions are the result of proper application of scientific method such dismissiveness can be in order.

Scientist often rely on the findings of other experts whose work has been vetted by qualified peers. When the consensus of experts is challenged by outsiders, it is usually prudent not to give too much consideration to ideas which contradict the collective wisdom of the expert community. Even when a challenge to the consensus of experts from outside their field, scientist - like the rest of us - tend to deffer to the "experts".

We typically believe that the range of legitimate opinion in a given field will be found in the professional journals dedicated to a given field. When experts in a field fail to see the consensus view challenged in the publications they rely on, they are wont to assume their peers do not hold dissenting opinions.

In the case of 9/11, I know for a fact that letters submitted to The Journal of Engineering Mechanics of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) were rejected because they mentioned the evidence for the controlled demolition of WTC 7.

Even when it comes to the mainstream media there is an assumption that all relevant views are presented, and that anything as big as 9/11 being an inside job would be headlines in every newspaper and every nightly news program in the country if there were even a chance of it being true. When the mainstream media presents the apparent consensus that 9/11 Truthers are "lunatic fringe", the vast majority of observers will accept that view.

In the case of scientists and engineers, it is likely they too will accept the promulgations of the mainstream media uncritically. But in their case, their natural tendency to dismiss non-expert opinion may be even stronger than that of the general population. The end result is that a natural and legitimate tendency - given a free and open society with an honest exchange of ideas - to avoid excessive effort on eccentric ideas becomes a barrier to discovering truth when the means of communication become compromised.

In addition, the facts and fiction of 9/11 have been presented in such a way as to circumvent critical thinking and appeal to deep seated emotion. Even though proper application of scientific method requires placing the dictates of reason and empirical evidence above emotion, scientists are human, and are therefore subject to emotional manipulation, just like the rest of society. In the case of scientists it may be even more difficult to get them to reexamine their conclusion. After all, they are experts who are always rejecting ideas which go against their well founded conclusions. The trick is to get them to examine the foundations of their conclusions.

"Man muß die Dinge so einfach wie möglich machen. Aber nicht einfacher" -- Albert Einstein

Additional peer review

Thanks for the comments Kerberos and for the correction. I look forward to other corrections from readers as a form of additional peer review, with a view to producing an updated version in due course.

Milgram kick-starts it

This is an excellent paper. Well written & conceived.
The Milgram quote provided a good psychological jump-start.

The paper breaks down NIST's core arguments, picks them apart--often using their own tests or analysis--to show that NIST essentially Began with a conclusion--and worked (painfully, illogically) back from there.

Not exactly the Scientific Method.

But then Science is executed not by robots (well, ok--sometimes) but by humans with many & often conflicting motivations. I tend to believe that most of the people at NIST are basically good, decent folks trying to do a good job, but they were instructed to explain a complex of events with their hands tied by politics. Perhaps told not to waste their funds pursuing 'outrageous' theories, but concentrate on explaining--best they could--how the towers fell because of damage &/or resulting fires.

So, with hands tied--they did the best they could. Miserably.

Really appreciate Frank Legge & his co-author's hard work.