The Conspiracy Theories of 9/11


SOME PEOPLE think the U.S. government destroyed the World Trade Centers deliberately. You can find lots of information about this that "proves" it's true. For example, here is a short clip proving that the towers came down because of demolition charges. Supposedly the crashing sound is explosives rather than one floor after another crashing down on the one below it.

A young man was talking to me about it the other day and I said, "It seems very unlikely." He said he had just seen a movie about it that would convince any rational person.

"They explained how the Towers couldn't have come down," he said, "and how the buildings came down like a demolition, so it must have been done with explosives."

I said, "I saw a good program on PBS that interviewed some building engineers and architects, some of them involved in the construction of the Towers, and they explained very clearly what happened and why it happened."

"But it was impossible," he said very certainly.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"The film explained it. They said it was impossible."

"Do you think the filmmakers know more about building structures than architects and building engineers?"

"You don't have an open mind," he retorted. "Those architects were probably paid by the government to explain it away. Why do you think it's unlikely, anyway? Don't you know the government does stuff like this all the time?"

"Does it?"

"Yes! Of course it does! What about Kennedy's assassination?"

"You think JFK was assassinated by the government?" I asked, trying to avoid sounding sarcastic.

"Everybody knows that!" he said enthusiastically.

"So you know for a fact that Kennedy was assassinated by the government?"

"Well, not for a fact, but..."
Unfortunately this is not an unusual point of view, especially for young people. I've been thinking about it. It kind of scares me. There is a craziness and a gullibility and a lack of rationality that seems to be increasing, and it really scares me.

What's missing is the tools to think with. You can probably prove anything in a film, especially when the audience doesn't know much about the subject, or doesn't have the tools to think with.

He loaned me his DVD and I watched it. The "undeniable conclusions" were ridiculous. The proof was absurd. But it was presented in a way that made it seem plausible, if the viewer doesn't have good tools to think with.

The best book I've ever read that gives you the tools to think sanely about things like this is How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life.
What tools am I talking about? Probably the most important is knowing how the mind fools itself, and in what specific ways reality can be deceiving. It is important to realize what you are being presented with is missing something, and realizing what is missing makes you more skeptical about what seems like an undeniable conclusion.

A healthy skepticism is vital to an open mind. Gullibility is a way to be close-minded because of ignorance rather than by a deliberate decision.

If you come across people who are convinced there is "no terrorist threat," as Michael Moore says, don't waste your time arguing about that particular issue, but instead sell them on the idea that they should read the book, How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life. Read the book yourself and understand the principles well, and your lucidity can be an oasis of sanity in a world of conspiracy theories.

All the time and effort put into conspiracy theories is diverting attention away from a very real and very serious issue: The increasing encroachment of jihadis into the free world. Let's help limit the diversion when we can by promoting good tools to think with.



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