The 9/11 series here has proved interesting in a number of ways. The scientific contributions have been thought-provoking, as has the BTL discussion, the level of which remains(with a few exceptions), consistently high. One thing it has made even more clear than it was before is the chasm between real skepticism and pseudoskepticism.
Real skepticism is solidly sourced in analysis, probabilities and data. Pseudoskepticism is sourced in prejudice, a priori claims of certitude and arguments from authority.
Real skepticism embraces debate, is concerned with ongoing research and avoids certitude. Pseudoskepticism has no interest in debate, eschews research, and wears certitude like a badge of office.
Real skepticism has no need of ad hom. Pseudoskepticism uses ad hom as its one and only weapon.
It’s easy to mistake one for the other, particularly in areas of specialty where we, as laypeople, have limited knowledge. If a scientist claims he has found thermite residue in the WTC dust, how easily do non-scientists evaluate that claim? And if websites emerge full of voices mocking the claim it’s easy to assume these are science-voices mocking immoveable ignorance or stupidity. And if their mockery is echoed in a thousand media outlets, it’s tempting – particularly for those who aspire to be well-informed – to join in on the assumption it must be based on some sort of obvious condition of fact we are not aware of.
In a society that claims to value rational thinking the consolation and kudos of being part of a seemingly rational consensus is incredibly seductive. And it seduces most of us at some time or another. Discovering somewhere down the line you have been lulled into pseudoskepticism can be a rude awakening.
One of our readers – he’s known as
Jeff Jerome Fryer here, but we’ll call him “boggis the cat” because that’s what he calls himself in the discussion featured below – is an indefatigable believer in the infallibility of the NIST fire-collapse theory. To his credit he has been trying really very hard to find sources to back up his beliefs. He isn’t a scientist, but he took the time to find NIST’s reports and to read and quote them extensively. As a methodology this certainly beats the “haha you suck” approach we’ve seen used by others here. He even went to the International Skeptics Forum, a place he evidently respects, to invite people to come here and debunk the criticisms of the NIST report we’ve been publishing.
And this is where the story becomes a little fable about the difference between real skepticism and the fake kind.
BTC clearly and genuinely believed the ISF were skeptical scientists, or scientifically literate laymen, whose mockery of “twoofers” was based on the unassailable physical rationality of their position. He clearly anticipated they would respond to his request with a detailed and impeccable scientific rebuttal he could re-post here.
Let’s take a look at how that worked out for him.
With what may have been misapplied faith BTC opens the thread he started (titled “Off-Guardian’ running a “9/11” series filled with ‘truther’ woo”), by asking if anyone at the ISF was “interested in having a look at what has been posted up already” on OffGuardian, and “possibly cobbling something together” as a scientific rebuttal:
Did these “skeptics” throw the requested rebuttal together, explaining why Newtonian physics upholds NIST’s claims? No, they didn’t. They just evaded and sniggered and sniggered some more. So, after a while, and clearly feeling ever so slighty dismayed, BTC very politely says ‘ha yes, OffG are really stupid, but about the science…?’
This time at least, a poster calling himself “LSSB” did respond to the question and pointed BTC to another person in another place who he thinks might be able to answer the questions LSSBB apparently couldn’t. But this is not at all what BTC was expecting. So, yet again, this time with a hint of edge, he asks “thanks”, but “…Am I understanding the NIST model validation process correctly?”
“LSSBB” is, once again, the only one to respond, but his answer probably didn’t do much to restore BTC’s dwindling faith. “Don’t understand regarding NIST,”, says this worthy and wel-informed international skeptic, “they had a whole set of websites dedicated to their investigations of the WTC collapses at NIST.gov. Worth reading, however they can get pretty technical….”
Shhh…Listen….that thunking sound you hear is BTC’s heart dropping into his boots at the ghastly realisation these people he looked up to as uber-cool, uber-informed scientifically-trained skeptics know less about the NIST report than he does. One of them read it one time and found it “pretty technical” (no kidding, LSSBB). The rest are apparently so focused on how dumb the “twoofers” are they’ve never had time to look at any of the physical evidence at all.
But who needs evidence when you have grade-school mockery, right? Who needs real skepticism when pseudoskepticism is cheaper, easier and endorsed by your TV?
Poor boggis the cat. A rude awakening indeed.
Despite being diagnosed as “twoofers” by those who claim to know, we’re hoping our 9/11 series might be able to transcend labels and even be a small voice in support of real skepticism – viz the emphasis of data and observation over prejudice and faith-based belief-systems. And we agree with BTC in one thing – if anyone out there knows of good, solid research that supports the NIST fire-collapse hypothesis and rebuts the Harrit et al thermite finding, or any other aspect of the “truther scientist” research, we really want to see it.
You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org