Wednesday, February 10, 2010

9/11 Conspiracy Theories: Just Another Baseless Religion

Are 9/11 conspiracy theories just another religion, full of unprovable beliefs, with nothing but faith to sustain them? Why do these theories persist even in the face of convincing evidence that they are simply wrong or even impossible?

And don't these questions sound exactly like the same questions that atheists ask about religion?

There are literally millions of people who don't believe that 9/11 was carried out by a handful of terrorists. They believe something more sinister (as if it's not sinister already) must have happened. I'd guess that many or most Americans harbor at least some suspicion that the official story is a cover-up. Many Americans actually believe that 3,000 Americans were killed by their own government!

I saw a wonderful program on The Discovery Channel this week that completely debunked all of these 9/11 conspiracy theories. We're not talking about one good theory versus another, we're talking about annihilation. These 9/11 conspiracy theories are obviously, grossly, completely wrong.

Yet ... people believe them.

During the Discovery Channel's program, I had one of those "aha!" moments when I realized that 9/11 conspiracy theories are remarkably parallel to religion. It was when one of the investigators compared 9/11 to the JFK assassination. People just can't believe JFK was killed for no real reason. They don't want to believe that a single angry man could bring an entire country of 250 million people to its knees in grief and mourning. It's just too much, that one person could have so much power over our entire society.

Instead, it's much easier to believe that some vast, hidden, super powerful group arranged for JFK's assassination. It's easier to believe that history was changed, the dreams of millions were dashed, by a powerful, malevolent group of evil leaders, rather than a single deranged individual.

Those of us who study cultural evolution, the way that ideas (memes) form, evolve, and compete in a "survival of the fittest" contest, know that ideas spread not because they're true, but because people want to believe them. So with JFK, we have two competing memes: The lone-assassin meme, versus the hidden-evil-government meme. Which meme will be believed? Which meme will be told, retold, and spread through society? It's the one people want to believe, not the one that's true.

Here is the problem in a nutshell:
Truth only matters when the average person can tell the difference.
Conspiracy theories, whether they're about 9/11, JFK, the Masons, or the FDA, all thrive when the science behind the topic is too complex for the average person.

I am struck by the parallel between monotheism and conspiracy theories: People are far more likely to believe that there is a single person or small group "up there" who are in control. The parallels to God are striking.

Nobody wants to believe that when a tree falls on a family's car, or a hurricane smashes New Orleans, or an earthquake flattens Haiti, that it was just a random, meaningless event. They need to believe there was some meaning, some purpose, to the event. It's just too much to think that such devastation and grief have utterly no point to them. If God is in control, even if we don't understand His purpose, at least it's not random. It makes us feel better.

Conspiracy theories are the same. It's terrible to think that JFK died for no real reason, or that 9/11 killed 3,000 people and altered our country forever, just because a handful of men got angry. It's much better if we have a real enemy to fight, a powerful, malevolent, secret group that we can some day root out and eliminate. When bad things happen, we want bad people to be responsible.

And the truth isn't relevant, because the science and sociology behind the events of 9/11, or JFK's assassination, are just too complex for the average person.


  1. Craig, you once told me that in every evolutionary system, parasitic relationships will occur. In a niche as large as the JFK assassination theories, it is only logical that a parasite (conspiracy theory) will occur.

  2. May I ask, what was the name of this Discovery Channel Documentary that you viewed? It is strange that you don't give the name which would make it possible for someone who knows something about 9/11(not you) to verify its claims.

    Nevertheless, how does this documentary explain the free-fall descent of WTC7 for 2.25 seconds or 8 floors?

    How do they explain the destruction of the Twin Towers since NIST, the official body tasked with investigating it, stops at the point of collapse initiation?

    Why did the NORAD commanders give multiple explanations for how they responded to the 9/11 attacks?

    Why hasn't Osama bin Laden been indicted for the crimes of 9/11 if the evidence is so overwhelming?

  3. To continue with tanabear's comment.

    Why does the Osama Bin Laden video appear staged, and Bin Laden actually appears like a stunt double with fuller cheeks, slightly different nose, he also appears wearing a gold ring which is forbidden in islam?

    Why are 9 of the 19 dead hijackers still alive?

    Why was the head of Pakistani Intelligence who wired Mohammed Atta $100,000 meeting with white house officials on the morning of 9/11? and then why did the 9/11 committee regard it as 'not of significance'

    Why did the only 5 frames of the pentagon explosion show no clear sign of a plane? and why was all footage even from private properties nearby confiscated by the FBI illegally, and hidden from public eye even after repeated FOIA by the press? If there's nothing to hide, then why hide it.

    I can go on and on. Im sure the show you watched had very convincing evidence, it's very easy to bend the science behind the actual collapse of the twin towers or any other matter for example. Just look at climategate. But expand your horizons to the government/foreign countries and private corporations who stood to gain the most, and you suddenly have a whole new picture. Mostly of circumstantial evidence, but when you have a thousand different pieces of circumstantial evidence all pointing to the same thing, well then. The likelihood of it all being circumstantial is severely diminished.

    I like your website, you generally have a critical and open mind. However I believe you are wrong on this issue, and a wider view point to beyond just coldly looking at manipulatable facts on the actual events in NYC will reveal the truth.

  4. tanabear and Fourat – Forget the science, there's still absolutely no way your theories can be right. Remember Watergate? Only eight guys, and they couldn't keep their conspiracy a secret, it brought down the president.

    In order for your theories to be correct, you'd need somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 people, most of them ordinary citizens, know about and be actively involved in this conspiracy. And this isn't something trivial like Watergate, this would be the cold-blooded murder of 3,000 American citizens.

    Give it the benefit of the doubt, say 10,000 citizens. Do you honestly believe that not one single credible person has come forward with convincing evidence?

    Do you honestly believe that the men and women who run our military, all of whom are sworn to defend our Constitution, would keep silent if they knew their president had murdered 3,000 Americans?

    The Discovery Channel's program examined every single one of the major conspiracy claims. In each case, the conspiracy theory didn't stand up to scientific scrutiny, and they explained why very clearly. In each case, the "official" explanation did stand up to scientific scrutiny.

    But if you don't believe the science, then explain your sociology. How could our government murder 3,000 Americans in a plot that involved at least 10,000 ordinary citizens, and have not a single one of those people break secrecy?

    And if you don't believe it required 10,000 people, then how many were involved? We're talking about WTC maintenance workers, airline gate personnel and maintenance workers, air traffic controllers, bomb experts, structural engineers, materials scientists, ... the list of the people required to pull this off goes one and on. So count 'em up. How many? And how on earth did the government shut that many people up?

  5. Craig A James: "Forget the science, there's still absolutely no way your theories can be right."

    One should not assume, a priori, that a theory is false because at first glance it appears implausible. Watergate was not necessarily meant as a clandestine operation. However, the identity of Deep Throat was kept a secret until W. Mark Felt decided to reveal it.

    “Not one big success of the Mossad has ever been made public.”
    Ephraim Halevy, head of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002

    But I won't forget science. The idea that we should ignore science and base our arguments on personal incredulity seems rather strange coming from a scientist. How do you have any idea that it would require 10,000 to 100,000 people? This is idle speculation. Those truly in the know could have only been around 100 or so, maybe less.

    Craig A James: "Do you honestly believe that the men and women who run our military, all of whom are sworn to defend our Constitution, would keep silent if they knew their president had murdered 3,000 Americans?"

    Most members of our military like, the general population, were not privy to any sort of inside information. As well, our top commanders didn't speak out in large numbers while Bush, Cheney and others were lying us into a war in Iraq.

    Craig A James: "In each case, the "official" explanation did stand up to scientific scrutiny."

    I know this isn't true because NIST,(The National Institute of Standards and Technology) the agency tasked with investigating the collapses of WTC1,2 and 7, can't explain the collapses. In a response to a Request for Correction issued by members of the 9/11 Truth Movement, NIST responded, "we are unable to provide a full explanation of the total collapse." NIST stops their analysis at what they term "collapse initiation". The collapses of WTC1,2 are not analyzed in the report. In this sense, their report is merely a pre-collapse hypothesis. Since the official story can't explain the "collapses" a real investigation is required. Currently, there are over 1,000 architects and engineers who have signed the AE911Truth petition demanding an investigation into 9/11

    A criminal investigation into 9/11 could answer those questions you have.

  6. Most of all of the 9/11 conspiracy theory propositions have been refuted years and years ago. Just for example take the " 9 of the 19 dead hijackers are still alive" assertion, the BBC News began that rumor when it wrote an article on September 23,2001, titled " Hijack Suspects alive and Well"

    The BBC News retracted the article later in the link below

  7. Noam Chomsky explained it most articulately

  8. Its probably the same wacko's that believe the FunVax virus is real.

  9. "If God is in control, even if we don't understand His purpose, at least it's not random. It makes us feel better."
    so why do people like you try to take that from those who would believe in it? why not let them believe as they believe and do the same for your self? you are not a scientist, scientists do science. All you do is write articles and books about how terrible religion is and how stupid people are for believing in it, but then again, that's not just you, it's most people these days. Why does it seem to be an accepted fact these days that religious people are stupid? Galileo was Christian, Gregor Mendel was a monk. Yet they were (and still are) two of the most respected scientific minds in the world, they made some of the greatest breakthroughs of all time. But now, because of people like you, if someone comes up with a theory about life or evolution, and they're the slightest bit religious, they are basically laughed out or brushed off.


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