Playing Devil's Advocate with Michael Shermer

A couple of months ago I emailed Michael Shermer. To my surprise, he responded.
I wrote him as a "concerned citizen and parent" ( I'm not a parent, btw,) wondering what he would say to someone genuinely questioning the official 9/11 narrative.

Mr. Shermer,

A colleague referred me to this video clip of Dr. Niels Harrit, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen. In this video he refers to a substance called "nanothermite."

"Conspiracy Theories" do not interest me. However, scientific evidence of an extremely high tech explosive in the lower Manhattan dust bothers me greatly.

Is there any validity to this claim?


No, Richard, no validity to the "microthermite" story whatsoever. None. No one found thermite or microthermite or superthermite or any other type of thermite at ground zero. And even if they did, thermite cannot do what they claim it can. This was all tested years ago.


Mr. Shermer,

Thank you for your reply. That eases my mind a great deal.
Would you mind telling me what Harritt is talking about? He seems adamant that "nanothermite" is a smoking gun regarding 9/11. I've researched Google Scholar and found numerous academic papers he has authored, which causes me to wonder why he is speaking out like he is. There appears to be no good reason other than him believing he has rock solid proof.
Can you direct me to a scientific study which proves his claim to be unfounded?
I would like to get to the bottom of this. Now my daughter is talking about 9/11 being an "inside job" like she's absolutely positive of it. I would love to have a scientific study to show her, proving that this whole thing is bunk.


This is the National Geographic documentary on 9/11 that includes the tests on thermite, superthermite, nanothermite, secret thermite, invisible thermite, mighty thermite, and all other thermites.


Mr.Shermer, Shermer

I carefully viewed the National Geographic documentary, and find it lacking as a source of credible information about 9/11.
I remain troubled by Niels Harrit's study. Is there credible research disproving his findings?
I do not want to ignore such troubling evidence if it is indeed legitimate.

Thank you for your help in this matter.



It's a moving target: the truthers claim thermite brought down the towers. When it is proven that thermite can't even burn through a thin facsimile of a WTC girder, they claim that it was super secret super nanothermite, etc. Truthers have no interest in truth. They are a political/fringe/conspiratorial movement pure and simple.

In any case, ask yourself what else would have to be true if the thermite/controlled demolition story was true? Well, for starters, hundreds of demolition experts would have needs hundreds of hours inside the WTC towers to set all those explosives, and somehow they had to do this without anyone noticing, and this inside one of the most secure buildings in NY City, given the fact that terrorists tried to blow it up in 1993 with a truck bomb in the basement parking garage. And, no, they could not have pulled this off while pretending to be working on the elevators, because that would not have given them the necessary access. And, how do you explain that the buildings began their collapse at the exact floors where the planes hit? This would mean that the demolition experts would have had to have known in advance about the plane strikes as well as the exact angle the wings would have hit the floors, which floors on which side, etcetera. Ridiculous squared.

And that's just the beginning of the Truther absurdity. They think a missile struck the Pentagon. Okay, then where is the American Airline plane and where are all the passengers?

When you ask Truthers these questions, they of course have no answers at all, with the exception of the kid who made Loose Change, who suggests that the Pentagon plane actually landed in Chicago, whereupon the passengers where exited and gassed to death. Right.

Please tell me you don't actually believe any of this, do you?



Again, thank you for your reply.

I don't "believe" anything until I have checked arguments for, arguments against, and my own perceptions, always keeping in mind that my own perceptions are not correct 100% of the time .

I've been reading the James Randi forum nanothermite thread carefully. Plenty of arguments against nanothermite existing or if it even does exist having the ability to inflict high-order damage the way Haritt et. al. claim it did.

You're saying that "Truthers have no interest in truth. They are a political/fringe/conspiratorial movement pure and simple."

Agreed that the Pentagon missile claims, whatever happened to flight 93 in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon plane's crew and passengers being unloaded and gassed in Chicago . . . sounds like serious bullshit to me. But there are still a few things that I am skeptical of: number one being how some workers knew that Building 7 was going to come down. ". . .back, up . . . back up . . . this building's about to come down. . .", and ". . .get back. . .the building's about to blow up . . ."
If uncontrolled fires caused it, workers around the building would have no idea when it would collapse. It would be wait and see.

You're also saying that it would have taken hundreds of demolition experts to load the explosives into the buildings, and that they couldn't have passed the high security, and they would not have had enough access to the columns.
I'm going to play Devil's advocate here: what if a very small number of those in charge of the World Trade Center security were somehow connected with the operation? Is that even remotely possible? I think it is at least remotely possible.
What if nano engineered incendiaries and explosives exist and can be applied by workers believing it was regular paint (maybe mixed in paint and sprayed on) without having to demolish walls? Is it possible to engineer such substances to the point that they detonate or burn powerfully, but not like high explosives? Given video evidence of what is arguably molten iron spilling out of one of the WTC towers,this possibility cannot be dismissed.

Many of the participants in the Randi discussion forums appear to be less interested in getting to the cause of these building's collapses, and very interested in insulting those who are skeptical of government agency claims,like the the NIST computer model of Building 7's collapse that does not match what we all can see on video.

I dismiss many ridiculous claims of the "truthers,"but I am not in the least convinced by official explanations of how 7 dropped for 2+ seconds (or eight floors) at free fall speed. Their report is as much BS as some of the truther claims.

From what I can see, 7 was demolished on purpose. There is no other explanation I've read that accounts for what we see. I don't know much about the other stuff like foreknowledge of the hijackings, the military exercises going on that day, or how in god's name a passenger plane or anything else could have crashed into the Pentagon more than an hour after it was known that three planes had been hijacked and one had hit the North Tower? That is absurd.

Do you believe that our national air and ground defense was incapable of defending the Pentagon more than an hour after learning that hijackers were using planes as flying bombs?

If you can offer a better explanation for World Trade Center 7 dropping for 2+ seconds at fee fall ( according the NIST) I will eagerly and happily consider it.

Michael Shermer never replied to the final letter.

michael_shermer2.jpg129.34 KB

We know the building was

We know the building was demolished because it fell too fast to have been a natural collapse. When dealing with people like this I think this is the best thing to focus on, not the exotic materials that may have been used. That gives them a "debunking" move. Don't give them the upper hand, remember this is chess

Shermer wrote a book called

Shermer wrote a book called Denying History about holocaust deniers. I organized a secular student group at UCLA when I was a student there and we had him appear at a forum called 'Veritas'. He signed a copy of his book that I had received in a free promotion. He wrote "stay skeptical". I'm bitter to know that this guy profits off of an industry of "debunking and mocking the fringe", but that's what has happened. The truth is he is a hypocrite for attacking those of us who are reasonable enough to be skeptical about the official story of 911.


Relying on calculations is effective and satisfactory for those well versed in science.

But the "exotic" materials (i.e.: nano-thermite) have been thoroughly scrutinized and as such, provide substantial clues as to their origin and those who may have utilized them. And their "smoking gun" implications are understood by the layperson and expert alike.

This evidence has not been debunked in 3 years.


It's not even a matter of debate. It can't be debunked. So its authors better remain CREDIBLE because accepting certain premises in the paper involves TRUST.


Please elaborate on this:

" . . .accepting certain premises in the paper involves TRUST."

Shermer's thermite claim..

This would have been an excellent time to point him to Jonathan Cole;s excellent video "The Great Thermate Debate." I would love to see his response to it. If you send it now do you think he'd respond to it? All of his videos can be found at 9/ I might venture Shermer has seen your post. I would bet Shermer monitors this site. Might be worth a shot. Here is the video in case you've never seen it.



I don't think that we have to convince

people like Shermer, who are no way rational and totally closed minded for arguments. Instead we can analyse his denial and call him on that.

There are several points all of the so called debunkers cling to everytime, and they all can be proven false.

- we are conspiracy theorists, fixing the facts around our policy - false because every one in for truth once believed the official narrative and awoken to the facts
-conspiracy theorists are closed minded, not to convince by facts- it depends which conspiracy theory you mean, I think the official narrative supporters never admit even the possibility of beeing wrong with one fact. They are really closed minded.
-conspiracy theories do deliver a simple world view - this may be true for evildoers conspiracy allegations, but not for 9/11 truth. In fact the idea that states or rogue elements of states do kill people for their own benefits scares people to death. The fear about that indeed helps to keep the official narrative, so we have to reverse the point everytime they play it on us...
-There was no possibilty to place explosives, how do they know, it's called circumstantial denial, not by change you can explain that nanothermite traces were found by denying there can be placed. And nanothermite does work as a explosive, there were enough statements from experts on it, how they worked 1000 better even than common explosives, last time I read about in german magazine "Welt der Wunder" (World of Miracles)
"The science of blowing things up. " edition 4/2011, page 57
"But the next stage of detonation evolution is announced. Admixed nanoparticles of aluminum and iron oxide to enhance this explosion 'you would run 1,000 times faster, 'says the explosives expert. 'That would be our masterpiece'.. " interview with David E. Chavez, Los Alamos National Laboratory

And so on...

May still be valuable

Maybe the point wasn't so much to try to convince him, but to draw him out more than he is when he's contacted by the press for comments and they toss him these softball questions. Even if he doesn't change his mind, an exercise like this could still be helpful in getting a better idea of which arguments this celebrated antagonist of ours has a harder time with.


Shermer has never in my experience shown any willingness to be convinced by evidence contrary to what he already believes. This guy is one of the most closed-minded "skeptics" I've ever heard. I very purposefully asked him for a credible study which refutes the nano-thermite evidence. He side-stepped it consistently, denying that the substance even exists. He can be nailed on this point.

Thank you for getting him on the record

as stating that nanothermite doesn't even exist.

I guess he is too busy to read Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's materials on nanothermite.

Mr. Shermer has zero credibility with me or any thinking person.

Thanks again for engaging him in a civil manner.

The truth shall set us free. Love is the only way forward.