Be Reasonable?

This April I was excited to finally be contacted by a mainstream skeptic podcast inviting me to be on their show. I had contacted just about every such podcast and radio show I could find. The rest either ignored me or claimed that they weren’t interested. Quite understandable since I wanted to discuss how the official story of the 9/11, 2001 disaster which they all faithfully believed in without question, was a thoroughly unscientific conspiracy theory.

The show that contacted me is called “Be Reasonable”. It’s a podcast from The Merseyside Skeptics Society and is produced and presented by Michael Marshall:

Be Reasonable is the monthly interview show that talks to people who believe ideas contrary to the mainstream scientific and skeptical worldview. Be Reasonable is about approaching subjects with respect and an open mind, engaging with people of differing viewpoints in an environment where debate is polite and good-natured, yet robust and intellectually rigorous.

Sounds great! A mainstream skeptic show that actually allows a rational, respectful, even-handed discussion of non-mainstream topics? Unbelievable! Or is it? As far as I know the host Michael Marshal is a decent sort and I was treated pretty much just as described in the interview. The listeners however, or at least the ones that comment online[1] and on social media[2][3] are the typical science and logic illiterate, mean-spirited dogmatists that we all know and hate.

If only these sort of bottom dwelling inhabitants squirming in the muck of intelligentsia regularly listen to the show, it must simply be a vehicle to find people with views that they religiously believe are false so that they can ridicule them or pontificate on their delusional rational superiority to them.

C’est la vie. Now let’s see how the discussion fared. First of all, Marshall’s main problem in the discussion was the continual attempt to move away from science and engage in conjecture. Presumably this because the official story is supported only by conjecture with only a smattering of extremely weak facts. My hope was to talk only about science and how it applied to this event. So a lot of time was wasted by his attempted diversion into getting me to engage in conjecture instead of dealing with the important points I wanted to make.

In terms of the science, the big problem was Marshall’s insisted reference to the plane impact and fire as evidence for how the buildings came down. Of course these two observations are evidence but only evidence that the building sustained some structural damage not that this damage in any way contributed to the falls. So he’s relying on an unsophisticated audience not being able to distinguish between the different events. I would say about almost half the interview was squandered on this silly diversion.

Even bringing up the fact that this line of argument constitutes the post hoc ergo propter hoc (false cause) fallacy failed to phase him. Like Stephen Novella[4], Marshall seemed to believe that because this fallacy is informal, it is not necessarily invalid. Again, the confusion here seems to lie in the fact that an argument is an attempt to support a conclusion. So in an informal fallacy, the conclusion may very well be correct but if you are using invalid reasoning to try to support that conclusion, it’s your argument that is wrong. So informal fallacies are alway invalid arguments that may or may not have a valid conclusion.

A very good illustration of the false cause fallacy occurred in an episode of the Simpsons. In the show we see a closeup of the top of a building. A bird lands on it and the building falls down. The camera zooms out and we see a wrecking crew congratulating each other. To people like Marshall and Novella, the bird landing on the building is evidence that the bird’s landing caused the building to fall down. To reasonable people, it’s simply an event that happened and because it has never happened before and until we obtain evidence to the contrary, we should assume a more prosaic explanation.

My mistake then was not knowing how to nip that diversion in the bud. In hindsight I should have simply humored him and agreed for the sake of argument that it was low grade evidence to support his belief; but, that’s all official story believers have. On the other hand we have a great deal of evidence to support controlled demolition. Which explanation would a reasonable person support, a wholly unscientific conjecture with little to no evidence that ignores evidence it can’t account for or a scientific explanation with supporting evidence that can account for every observation available? Marshall and his followers faithfully subscribe to the former.

Even better, I could have saved time by jumping right to the heart of the matter sooner. When I realized I was getting nowhere, I proffered that we assume that NIST is correct and that the plane and fire damage did cause an upper block of each building to come crashing down on the building below. There is absolutely no evidence that the falling blocks resulted in destruction of the buildings. When I did this Marshall did not have a good response to this. He merely found it interesting that I would accept a valid computer model as evidence to support the official story.

In closing and in fact throughout the interview, Marshall, as well as Novella remember, tried to paint the issue as one of conspiracy theorising. It was good fortune that I was able to conclude by pointing out the fact that the official story of 9/11 is a conspiracy theory and that there is no evidence that controlled demolition of the buildings required a conspiracy of any kind.

Now, onto the comments from the show’s followers. This is pretty bad, usually you get at least a few intelligent comments. Not so here, only faith based pronouncements. Again, they believe that they are entitled to make claims but feel they don’t have to support them. Particularly humorous is the comment from “Chris” on the show’s comment section[1]. “Chris” is supposedly a “former structural engineer” who claimed that I know nothing about science and lack the engineering expertise to allow me to faithfully believe in the official story. Yet all he does is pontificate on his supposed qualifications but not actually what he believed I got wrong. I guess you can’t explain something that doesn’t exist.

I was particularly shocked at how they ridiculed my preoccupation with evidence. In science after all, evidence is paramount and simple conjecture is reviled. Apparently these “skeptics” believe supporting an evidence-based reality is something to laugh at rather than revere.

As usual, we see that those who proclaim themselves to be skeptics are in reality faith-based believers in a false reality created for them. All it takes is a consensus of authorities, real or imagined, and they will believe anything, even that science and logic is something to ignore and even ridicule. When you question their reality all they can do is redirect discussion, fabricate straw men and attack you instead of your argument.

Notes

1. http://www.merseysideskeptics.org.uk/2018/05/be-reasonable-episode-052-michael-fullerton/

2. https://twitter.com/merseyskeptics/status/1001462961817440256

3. https://www.facebook.com/bereasonablepodcast/posts/1636359763139950

4. http://skeptopathy.com/wp/?p=330

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