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Mar. 5 2010 - 12:38 pm | 1,204 views | 2 recommendations | 34 comments

What’s the Harm? Answer: Pentagon Gunman was a 9/11 Truther

What’s the harm in believing nonsense? I get asked this all the time: “Oh come on Shermer, let people have their delusions, what’s the harm?”

I have a laundry list of retorts to this challenge, from the value of living in a rational world that is based in reality to tales of people who have died from discredited medical practices, such as “Attachment Therapy”—in April, 2000, 10-year old Candace Newmaker was smothered to death in blankets by therapists who were helping “rebirth” her so that she could properly attach to her adopted parents. Death by theory. (I wrote about this in Scientific American.)

What’s the harm? Ask the victims of the anti-Government nutter Joseph Stack, who flew his plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas. It is one thing to be skeptical of excessive government intervention into private lives and businesses, it is quite another to take matters into your own hands, especially if those hands hold a gun.

John Patrick Bedell, Pentagon Gunman

John Patrick Bedell, Pentagon Gunman

Witness one John Patrick Bedell, the gunman who attacked guards at the entrance of the Pentagon yesterday (March 4), who now appears to have been a right wing extremist and 9/11 “truther,” who in an internet posting under the user name JpatrickBedell said that he intended to expose the truth behind the 9/11 “demolitions.” Apparently the delusional Bedell intended to shoot his way into the Pentagon to find out what really happened on 9/11.

Death by conspiracy.

More specifically, Bedell picked up the conspiracy theory about the alleged “murder” in 1991 of Marine Col. James Sabow, who was found dead in his California home in 1991. The police ruled it a suicide, but right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists have suggested that he was murdered and that the case is a coverup by the federal government. Bedell posted that exposing the truth behind the Sabow case would be “a step toward establishing the truth of events such as the September 11 demolition.”

9/11 Truthers believe the WTC buildings were "demolished" by explosive devices. What's that thing on the left about to hit the building?

9/11 Truthers believe the WTC buildings were "demolished" by explosive devices. What's that thing on the left about to hit the building?

Who is John Patrick Bedell? He was a 36-year old computer programmer from Hollister, California, a graduate of U.C. Santa Cruz (physics) who also attended San Jose State University (biochemistry). So he was a smart guy. As I’ve said before: intelligence is no prophylactic against magical thinking. If anything, smart people believe weird things because they are better at rationalizing beliefs that they’ve arrived at for nonsmart reasons.

Somewhere along the line—perhaps after his arrest for cultivating cannabis and resisting a police officer—Bedell decided that he wanted to expose “the truth of events such as the 9/11 demolitions and institutions such as the coup regime of 1963 that maintains itself in power through the global drug trade, financial corruption, and murder, among other crimes.”

The “coup regime of 1963”? Yes, you know, the coup d’état that overthrew the U.S. government and replaced it with another government. You missed that one? Watch Oliver Stone’s film JFK. Lyndon Johnson and his cronies (Castro, the Russians, the CIA, the FBI, the mafia, et al.) had Kennedy assassinated.

Oliver Stone's fiction became fact for conspiracy theorists

Oliver Stone's fiction became fact for conspiracy theorists

Bedell continued in an Internet rant from 2006 associated with him:

“The sheer size of the United States economy … makes the United States government a tempting prize for any organisation or collection of bandits ruthless and clever enough to seize it. A criminal organisation able to conduct its activities from within the centre of power of the United States government would have powerful advantages over other criminal groups … This organisation … would see the sacrifice of thousands of its citizens, in an event such as the September 11 attacks, as a small cost in order to perpetuate its barbaric control. This collection of gangsters would find it in their interest to foment conflict and initiate wars throughout the world, in order to divert attention from their misconduct and criminality… This seizure of the United States government by an international criminal conspiracy is a long-established reality.”

What's the Harm? Beliefs drive behaviors.

What's the Harm? Beliefs drive behaviors.

Whose reality is this? Right wing militias. Back in the 1990s there was a surge in militias and extremists groups, which waned in the final years of the decade, but are now apparently making a comeback. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, who tracks such groups, there were 42 paramilitary militias in 2008 and 127 in 2009. So-called “Patriot” groups also increased, from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009. According to an April 2009 report by the Department of Homeland Security, the current anti-government climate “parallels” what federal officials saw in the 1990s: “Rightwing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda, but they have not yet turned to attack planning.”

Not yet is the key phrase here.

What’s the harm? Now you know the answer.


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  1. collapse expand

    Joe Stack, if his writings are indicative, was extremely upset with the concentration of corporate power and military expansion. He also quoted Marx. And played bass guitar in a band. He was pro-pot. He probably had a soul patch for all we know.

    Can we STOP using him as an example of the “right” or “left”. It’s getting very tiresome.

    He was clearly a guy that was mad at everything and hated his life. Not a good example of clear ideological fury from either side.

  2. collapse expand

    What about the 435 hamburger flippers in congress….they aren’t dangerous kooks……?

    I don’t see congress cleaning up its act because tax cheat rangel is being investigated..

    Who is to decide what is nonsense, a President who hides his birth certificate?

  3. collapse expand

    So Bedell was a 9-11 Truther? I guess that makes you a 9-11 Liar. Thermite was found in the WTC dust. That fact by itself warrants a new investigation.

    I am beginning to wonder if writers such as yourself actually believe the 9-11 Commission – despite the Commission’s own claims that their report was false – or if you are just planted disinfo writers.

    If the former scenario is the case, then I pity you. If it is the latter, then know that the truth about 9-11 will come out despite your efforts. You will be powerless to stop it.

    • collapse expand


      Thermites are found in computer printer ink.

      If there WAS any 9/11 conspiracy, the Truthers are the best cover for it. Any legitimate questions about the events of 9/11, or the results of the 9/11 Commission are tainted with a kind of craziness-by-association. So, you too, Ryan, do the bidding of our Sinister Overlords.

      (Me, I’m not a sheeple- the Bilderbergers PAID me to write this.)

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        So qabal- I can see that you’re ONE OF US. But soft!- there are Cowans in the Lodge! Forefinger to the Lips! IT RAINS!

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          No seriously, it’s so unsurprising to see all this conspiracy theory detritus get stirred up in the Obama era seeing as there is a link between feelings of powerlessness and credulity:


          With a near economic collapse, Snowpacalypses, high unemployment, “socialism” fears, reactionary realization that white people will be a minority in the country by 2050, on and on. People are looking for patterns in the chaos, and conspiracy theories are a nice soft landing for the intellect.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            White people a minority by 2050?

            Do you not consider Hispanics to be white? Not pure enough for you? Why stop at 1860 perceptions of race, lets go all the way and say only the Noble English (not Irish scum), North Germans, Swedes and Norwegians count as white. Italians, Spanish, Slavs… they are all a bunch of negroid untermenschen.

            The racism of people like you astounds me sometimes. Thankfully, you’re the first I’ve heard of actual “worry” about this “problem.” I have seen a bunch of hype and hoopla in the media about the non-event of Hispanic Americans displacing German/English Americans. But even amongst the nutty conservatives I know, haven’t heard anyone worrying about this supposedly epic watershed. I have heard worries about illegal immigration, but I also hear that from black friends (one of em runs a roofing company and feels he’s being displaced by low wage illegals).

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            … to be clear. I personally don’t believe immigrants (legal or not) push down wages all that much. I’m somewhat conservative in my economic outlook. I don’t believe that there is a set “pie of work,” and that more immigrants just means more mouths to feed from that same fixed pie. IMO, FDR was wrong in cutting immigration to zero during the depression, it didn’t create jobs and keeping at least a reasonable level of immigration would have allowed a lot of refugees from the USSR and Germany a safe place (and we would have gained a lot of skilled smart people who were being chased out of their countries).

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            Dude, what the hell are you smoking? My comments have nothing to do with my own personal views. Did you even read what I wrote? I simply am pointing out why conspiracy theories are in vogue right now. And lest you think I’m making this up, here’s a link from one of the most popular crazy right-wing sites:


            There you have it, in the actual text, a fear that the country is being lost with immigrants being a major reason. See how that might cause feelings of powerlessness among its readers?

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            Buchanan is a dried up has-been. I’m convinced MSNBC keeps him around because he makes conservatives look like clueless nuts (which to be fair, they mostly are). I’m not surprised that he’d engage in such an silly emotional argument. That is the first time I’ve heard anyone outside of the media worry about “whites being the minority.” Though Buchanan really is part of the media at this point, part of the media which has hyped this story beyond all proportion.


            Oh! Minorities in America are also anti-immigrant. They are equally or more anti-immigrant then white people. This despite the opinions of Buchanan… or perhaps because of? Is Buchanan the inspiration for these anti immigrant feelings amongst minorities?


            Uh oh… a quick five minute search reveals a plethora of anecdotal and quantitative data which questions the assertion about this being a “right wing” problem.

            … MY MAIN POINT IS THIS:

            What really irks me is that you, and so many others on the left, go around hyping this notion that only Germans, British, French, Irish and a few others really count as white. Note, you didn’t say “reactionary belief that white people will be the minority” – you said “the reactionary REALIZATION that white people will be the minority.” I don’t know if it’s through ignorance, or if you’re intentionally trying to stir up strife and fear… but this crap has to stop.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            You are making so many completely erroneous assumptions that you look like an utter tool. I’m not a leftist, I’m a moderate, and I don’t give a flying frack how people divide up “white people”. What matters is what the perception is, and I just gave you a link on an influential right wing site that, whether you agree with or not, was undoubtedly read by people who believe that Pat Buchanan has important things to say, who undoubtedly plays into fears of a white racial minority, CLEARLY DEMONSTRATING THIS PERCEPTION EXISTS. Again, it has NOTHING to do with my personal opinion on the subject, which you seem to be incapable of understanding.

            In short, you called me a racist with absolutely zero provocation, except that you have some kind of hobby horse that you like to get on and ride around, but the only thing you’ve convinced anyone reading this is that you yourself are the jackass.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            … re reading your post I do realize I mis-read it and over-reacted.

            I’m just tired of reading that kind of “Hispanic panic” tripe, whether expressed by so called respected media members, academics or politicians. Sadly, I hear it a hell of a lot more from the left (ostensibly in the guise of just reporting whats going on, but I think it’s just part of a long “tradition” of such “reporting”). If you look back at old newspapers there were many articles of “German Americans displacing English as the majority” or “Flood of Irish catholics over-taking white Americans in cities across America.” It’s just bunk.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            All right, I’ve cooled off a little. I’m not used to being called a racist, and I was a little pissed. I apologize for any offense given with my last response.

            I think, in general, T/S is a quite a bit different than the average forum, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy coming here so much. The discussion is heavily moderated, less anonymous than usual, you get to interact with the authors themselves, with above average quality of commenting, and trolls are pretty quickly removed (see Mr. Levinson up above complaining in his bio about how Mr. Ungar has it out for him). As a result, personal attacks are much more rare than the usual comment section you’d find on, say, the Daily Beast or Politico, where actually glimpsing a rational discussion is like spotting a Bengal tiger in the wild.

            All that to say, you might want to consider dialing back the personally charged rhetoric.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            “I don’t give a flying frack how people divide up “white people””

            Then you’re a fool, and I know at least a few Hispanics who’d agree (my gf for one). We need less division of people, not more. And you again miss my point, Buchanan might be saying it’s a watershed change.. but so is MSNBC and a whole heap of people on the left and the mainstream media. It’s no wonder people respond to their foam-in-the-mouth reporting.

            Personally, I see it as a good thing that we no longer consider Irish and Italians strange groups that are “changing the face of the country”. I don’t think them so distinct and different that their precise numbers and disposition ought to generate a huge public interest. I think we ought to look to American history for our model of where to go, not Yugoslavia. Maybe you really don’t care. Or perhaps you see my point, but are simply not going to admit it because I slighted you earlier after mis-reading your original post (fair enough).

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            Ok, now I regret calling you a fool in the last comment. :-)

            Agreed about T/S. I’m more emotional then I should be, just have personally dealt with some of my (liberal) friends talking BS, as if I were to have kids with my GF that they’d be Hispanic or something and they think such statements are perfectly acceptable… yet no American in their right mind talks that the kids of a pure blooded English and Irish couple being Irish (which is in fact how such offspring was treated around the turn of the century). We still have a ways to go, on all sides of the political isle.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    There’s these people — let’s call them, oh, I don’t know, “Nuts.” Many are more than bright, and some of them suffer more for it. They’re used to understanding things and when they can’t, they get a little Nuttier, and maybe with time and frustration a lot Nuttier.

    Like all of us Nuts want to know the world because like us Nuts need to know the world. It’s hard for everyone, and so hard for some Nuts that they glom onto anything that claims to hold even a little light, just a glimmer of certainty. (Hey, if I can sort out a centuries-old multinational conspiracy I can manage the voices in my head, right?)

    Many Nuts are 9/11 “truthers” or among those who think the 16th Amendment was never properly ratified. Some Nuts can’t get their heads around God or angels but eagerly await the advent of ufonaut overlords. Once in a while one of these Nuts does something that shocks the consciences and blows the minds of Non-Nuts everywhere.

    Are Nuts the way they are because of what they read or see or think about in the wake of those encounters, or are they Nuts first and foremost who then find affinities with other things just made to order for (and often by other) Nuts?

    I opt for the second explanation by virtue of the principle of parsimony. The first explanation is needlessly complex, at its worst coming too near in form the stuff that I hear from Nuts.

    Seeing every Clint Eastwood western ever made hasn’t made me a gunfighter, junk didn’t make Charlie Parker a great musician, and junk science doesn’t make someone storm the Pentagon. Only a Nut would storm the Pentagon. (Or fly a plane into it, yeah, I said it and I’m not sorry.)

    I suspect, at this early point, a spectacular version of “suicide by cop.”

    But I’m also going to be sure to send a check again this month to The Southern Poverty Law Center.

  5. collapse expand

    I’m personally disturbed by the immediate declaration of these people as being “right wing.”

    The southern poverty law center does some good work, but they and seemingly much of the media is far too quick to declare anything anti-government as being “right wing.” I’m no fan of the right in this country – far from it. But tarring everyone on the political right by implying association with these “right wing” terrorists, who they really have have almost nothing in common with is a cheap shot.

    It’s just as bad as the Republicans pundits saying – or implying – the left and Islamic terrorists TOGETHER pose a dangerous threat. The commonalities are stunning, after all. Both the left and Jihadis oppose the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that opposition is a major part of what defines them. You disagree? Why? That’s just as major an ideological plank as being opposed to taxes is.

    If you’re going to place every anti-government attack on the right, at least have the honesty to always refer to these militias as “far right” militias. That way it doesn’t look quite so much like you see these atrocious attacks as a political opportunity to attack our opponents on the right. To be honest, I think the whole tactic is extremely counter productive anyway. It didn’t work for Palin when she associated Obama with Ayres, I don’t see why it’ll work for us. We didn’t win in 08 because we convinced swing voters that Republicans are terrorists, we won because of ideas.

    • collapse expand

      I support The Southern Poverty Law Center because I want to do my bit (and it’s a little bit) for them to be able to track things and report. That does not by any means obligate me to accept every single report as some sort of gospel beyond dispute, whether we’re talking particulars or possible impact.

      I don’t care if the members of some militia think of themselves as on the right, or on the left, or as the noble last defenders of our God-given right to fruit-filled pies. If there’s a group meeting regularly for small arms training, I’d like to know about it. I’ll make up my own mind as to what to think about it once I know of it, and letting me know is the only thing I expect from The Southern Poverty Law Center.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  6. collapse expand

    Seriously, there are some true nuts out there. This comment page seems to attract them. I keep thinking it’s getting worse because Obama won. Maybe because he’s black? (half-white)….. what could prompt a person to act so paranoid and think there’s a cover up going on? I cannot stand the Repug Party but I never in my wildest dreams could imagine that they were responsible for 9/11. People are getting crazier. Maybe it’s all the bad meat and water we’re ingesting. Just a thought………

  7. collapse expand

    OK people, help me out. I don’t like labels, but for the sake of argument, call me a 9/11 truther. I’m not a scientist, nor am I an expert on foreign policy. I am also definitely NOT a right wing extremist. I am a war protester, a liberal, a Texan (try being a liberal in Texas) and I am extremely interested in conspiracy theories. I am willing to listen to all sides of an argument.

    On 9/11 – Richard Gage of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 truth has been very persuasive in my belief that the government explanation for the collapse of the twin towers is questionable.

    Pentagon – I really don’t know why there isn’t video released of a plane flying into the Pentagon. We’ve seen the twin towers videos a million times. The footage they released of the Pentagon shows nothing. Weren’t there plenty of cameras in that area that could have caught this incident more clearly?

    JFK – Since I live in Dallas, I personally went to Dealey Plaza and spoke with Robert Groden, the key consultant on the JFK movie, and he seemed quite confident. His evidence is really compelling. Besides the fact that the Zapruder clearly shows JFK being shot in the face, there is plenty of physical evidence to support a conspiracy theory (the dirty word).

    Bohemian Grove – I’ve seen the videos. What the hell is that about? Maybe it’s just a summer camp for the rich, but it’s pretty sick. I don’t think the right would be happy with their representatives engaging in such activity.

    Skull and Bones – John Kerry and Bush in 2004. Really? Just a coincidence?

    That’s just the tip of the iceberg. But, if anyone would like to tell me why I shouldn’t be worried about these things, please let me know.


    • collapse expand

      Hi. Yeah you’re right, I WAS a bit rude to Rabelais, above. Sorry. I’m probably not a better person for it, but so many Conspiracists have a certain rigidity of mind that invites ridicule. He’s certainly not going to listen to any of my points, much less honestly respond to them. Notice how he passed over my counter-point re thermites? I’m responding to you differently because your attitude is different. There’s a lesson in that.

      (For the record, I’ve seen those Alex Jones BoHo Grove vids too. I don’t think they’re sick- silly, yes, but “sick” how? If they were wearing Fezzes & driving go-karts, then I’d be worried. AJ also mis-identifies the Owl with Moloch. Moloch is a bull- clearly, “they” perform the real Dark Ceremonies on Wall Street. Also, you can see that BoHo Security is onto him from almost the beginning- if he was getting close to any real “secrets” some goon would have inserted two fingers into one of his nostrils, and politely dragged him to the door.)

      My real beef with Rabelais- and Gage- and Groeden- is that they’re ROTTEN DETECTIVES. Next time you talk to Groeden ask him about the peculiar ballistics of the 6.5 Carcano. If he doesn’t know that that round has the highest rotational velocity of any commercially loaded ammo- one turn in 6 inches of travel- maybe there’s a few other things he doesn’t know as well. (The shape of the 6.5 Carcano’s projectile, a round-nosed, full-jacket bullet, penetrates like mad- so much for the “magic bullet”- which, by the way, was not “pristine”, it was bent like a banana. The extremely high rotational velocity explains the explosive wound of entry in Frame 313.) The fact that Earl Warren was a bad detective, too, (the Warren Commission never established whether Oswald was a right or left-handed shooter, and that makes a big difference re the operating speed of a bolt-action rifle) might explain why people don’t trust the “offical” story, but it doesn’t excuse Groeden for being a bad detective himself (consultant to the Oliver Stone movie? If he thinks that there were 3 shooters that day, each with a spotter, then he’s out of his mind- the logistics are impossible, and, anyhow, JFK was clearly shot in the back of the head.) Yeah, I no longer believe in JFK conspiracies any more. Just as I don’t believe in 9/11 conspiracies- skeptics like Shermer have done a better job of convincing me than 9/11 “Doubters” have.

      You’ll noticed that I didn’t answer all of your points. I don’t have to- I’ve answered enough to satisfy myself.

      There were no demolition charges (how could “they” install these numerous, massive charges in total secrecy, and why would “they” in the first place, seeing as how “they” were already planning to wallop each building with a fully-fueled jetliner?). There were no Thermites (they don’t use them in building demolitions anyway). Those buildings did NOT fall at free-fall speeds (look at the videos- the debris coming off the buildings as they fell WAS falling at free-fall speeds- you can see that the collapse fronts were moving more slowly than that, 20 or 30 stories behind.)

      I guess, to answer your question, you shouldn’t worry about these things because they’re NOT REAL. Me, I’m worried about the coming puncture of the commercial real-estate bubble. Not that I can actually DO anything about it, anymore than I can divine the “secrets” of the Bilderbergers.

      It must be hard to be a Liberal in Dallas- I’d advise you to move to Austin, but you’ve probably already looked at that. If you do, try the gingerbread pancakes at the Magnolia Cafe- they’re one of those things that make life worth living, in spite of it’s terrors.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Thanks for your input ncfrommke. This is where it gets difficult for me, however.

        I don’t understand your argument about the “magic bullet”. None of the angles match up for the single bullet theory. In any case, it was originally reported that the weapon was a 7.65 Mauser, and they changed it to the Carcano. Could have just been mistaken the first time I guess. And I have never seen evidence that the bullet was bent like a banana. Can you direct me to such evidence?

        “Shot in the back of the head” says you. But all the doctors at Parkland and Press Sec. Malcolm Kilduff said the President was shot in the front and the exit wound was in the back.

        There are many more questions, but as you said, you are satisfied with the official story.

        I’m glad you’ve seen the Grove videos. I guess I’m reading more into them than you are. That’s fine. They just look like KKK freaks performing a mock human sacrifice with fire and a burning Owl. Whether or not his name is Moloch or not is really a side issue. And I know AJ gets carried away sometimes. But I give him props when he deserves them and don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.

        But in any case, it must be nice to believe that the government is all good. No crimes or sick rituals or cover-ups.


        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          There’s a certain amount of unresolvable ambiguity in any historical event – even the ones that occurred in front of crowds, on videotape, etc. I think the mistake a lot of conspiracy-inclined people (I won’t use the belittling “conspiracy theorist” to refer to you) make is that they think of history as a series of completely objective, unambiguous narratives about what happened, only there’s these occasional events where it doesn’t seem to be quite clear what happened.

          But it’s actually the reverse that is true – history is an incredibly ambiguous thing, even our own personal histories are clouded, and the “conspiracy” is the conspiracy we’re all a part of – the conspiracy to pretend like we actually know the real story of what happened for the vast majority of historical events.

          It’s far too easy to just say “conspiracies are impossible.” For one thing, that’s not true; there are plenty of real conspiracies, like the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, MK-ULTRA, and so on. The conspiracy that impeached Pres. Clinton. The conspiracy that drove us into Iraq. But frequently there’s enough natural ambiguity in events to support any number of conspiracies. Is there really thermite in the WTC debris? Or is there just aluminum and ferrous oxide, the results of burning iron and aluminum? You know, like buildings and airplanes are made out of? If you took a 200-story building the size of a city block, where thousands of people worked, and put it through a blender – god only knows what you might find.

          Some of this stuff we can never resolve, and so we as a society determine what the “official” narrative is going to be. It’s not a “cover-up”, it’s the means by which we as a society resolve the unacceptable ambiguities in our own history.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
  8. collapse expand

    I’m wondering if Dr. Shermer feels like he wasted his energy (http://trueslant.com/michaelshermer/2010/01/29/rebutting-again-the-911-truthers/). Truthers, you can question all you want. Generally what I’ve seen with the truthers is that once a conspiracy point has been solidly refuted, one or more go on to another claim – however ridiculous or non-relevant. It’s tiresome. Honestly, we’ll never have all of the answers to 9/11. To think it was a government conspiracy is absurd to me if for no other reason but this: Sure Bush and Co. had no problem giving up lives, but do you really think that they would willingly give up all of that money? Really?

    • collapse expand

      That many given to conspiratorial thinking seem to collect such explanations about a number of events even as they focus on one big one (maybe even because they focus on one big one) seems the case. I don’t think it’s ever a waste of time to say — again, and always — that such thinking is at best counter-productive and at worst loaded with negative consequence for the holder of such ideas and all too often those around that person. I think what the common thread of such thinking is something that maybe we all tend toward if we’re not careful.

      It’s a result, maybe, of counting hits and ignoring misses, and seeing only things that tend toward what at least passes for verification of that “Big Idea.” It’s as though for some it’s impossible to answer a question of the following form: What evidence would lead you to reconsider your position so sharply as to abandon it?

      Straight-forwardly — A theory that can’t be falsified, even conceptually, is hardly a theory at all. It’s a tenet of some sort, an element within some more encompassing dogma. It’s become a matter of faith, and not as in “having faith in a theory” but as in a theory grounded in faith.

      Personally I have no beef with religious folks who take that second path. My beef (to the degree I have one) is with those who are well-down that second path, yet insist they’re onto the “real science” of mastering whatever hobby horse they find themselves astride. Such folks let down both sides of the basic argument so often found when skeptics gather to sit upon the ground and talk of Nuts Everywhere, but especially Those Over There…

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  9. collapse expand

    It’s not a conspiracy to ask questions when the architect of the buildings in 1973 stated that they were designed to withstand a 4 engined Boeing airliner traveling at speeds of 600 mph without causing serious structural damage. Not only were the planes flying slower than that speed, they were both 2 engine planes. Also, why did a structure free fall onto itself within 11 secs? Dropping an object from the top of the building would take approximately the same amount of time to reach the ground. Not to mention not steel structure has ever collapsed before or after from fire. Than you look at the collapse of building 7 and tell me that was not a controlled demolition. Even the owner of the building admits they decided to “just pull it” after all that happened that day. When was that building set up for demolition and why was no one else aware that explosives were placed inside that building?

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    Dr. Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine and editor of Skeptic.com, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an Adjunct Professor at Claremont Graduate University. His latest book is The Mind of the Market, on evolutionary economics. His last book was Why Darwin Matters: Evolution and the Case Against Intelligent Design, and he is also the author of The Science of Good and Evil and of Why People Believe Weird Things. He received his B.A. in psychology from Pepperdine University, M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and his Ph.D. in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University (1991). He was a college professor for 20 years, and since his creation of Skeptic magazine he has appeared on such shows as The Colbert Report, 20/20, Dateline, Charlie Rose, and Larry King Live (but, proudly, never Jerry Springer!).

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    Contributor Since: November 2009