Comments on Hoffman and Green
James H. Fetzer, Ph.D.
[NOTE: The subject essays are at http://www.911research.wtc7.net/essays.
This response has been submitted to 9-11 Research at email@example.com but
thus far has yet to be posted there. That this site should publish these
attacks but not my replies raises troubling questions about its integrity
and modus operandi. www.911research.com et al. should not
be mistaken for www.911review.org.]
Having no pretensions to infallibility, I, like every other serious scholar I know, welcome serious criticism. None of us, however, should tolerate shoddy, ad hominem, or sloppy research, of which the subjects of this commentary are sterling instances. I shall first discuss Hoffman's piece in some detail and then turn to Green's discussion, the deficiencies of which are more apparent.
(A) Jim Hoffman, "A Critical Review of 'Thinking about "Conspiracy Theories": 9/11 and JFK" (version 1.0, 6 February 2006).
Hoffman claims that I am "less careful" than Jones or Griffin and therefore yield up a treasure trove of "red herrings" that benefit proponents of the "official theory". These are alleged to include "serving up" of straw men as exaggerated versions of more defensible positions, which are accordingly more vulnerable to defensive attacks. For reasons I shall now explain, this is not his best work.
(1) His first example is that, while I explain that heat from the fires could not have caused the steel to melt, the NIST and FEMA accounts only blame the fires for weakening, not melting the steel. The temperature of the fires were not even sufficient to weaken the steel, which had been certified by UL up to 2,000°F for six hours, as I explained in my study but which Hoffman overlooks.
The UL observed that the fires probably only reached temperatures about 500°F, including combustible office materials, far too low for melting or weakening. Moreover, weakening would bring about asymmetrical sagging and would be most unlikely to have overloaded the carrying-capacity of the lower floors. Even uniformly distributed sagging, for which there is no remotely plausible cause, would not have rendered these buildings unable to support their ordinary mass.
The carrying capacity of the supporting structure, of course, would have been unaffected by events occurring above. The conversion of mass into energy by fire would have even led to a reduction in the supported weight, once they had compensated for the mass of the planes themselves, which posed no challenged to their sophisticated load-redistribution capabilities, as Frank DeMartini, whom I quote, observed. The idea that melting steel caused the collapse is ludicrous.
None of us should be overly surprised that the NIST did not provide simulation models to illustrate the collapse of the buildings for the "weakening" scenario. And similar consideration apply to the melting scenario. Unless the affected floors had melted everywhere at once, their collapse would have had to have been asymmetrical and nonuniform, very different than the collapse observed.
(2) Hoffman claims that I exaggerate the time in which the buildings fell, which he estimates at 15-17 seconds. Without denying that the start and stop points can be somewhat subjective to judge, even THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT conceded that WTC2 fell in ten seconds: "At 9:58:59, the South Tower collapsed in ten seconds" (p. 305), so I don't quite understand where he's coming from. I would have thought that the official account's conclusion here is the one to adopt.
We know that WTC7 came down in 6.6 seconds and that free-fall time would have been about 6 seconds. A graduate student has submitted a study to SPINE that calculates that it would have been impossible for the towers to have collapsed in the absence of explosives. And Nila Sagadevan has calculated that, for 109 4-inch thick slabs that were floating in air and spaced 12 feet apart to then collapse one upon another, 1300 to 12 feet in the air, would take 14.68 seconds.
That figure approximates Hoffman's figure of 15-17 seconds, but of course the floors were not suspended in air but supported by 47 massive core columns and 240 additional columns around the perimeter. I find it difficult to make any sense of Hoffman's position, unless he wants to give the official account more leeway to wiggle and squirm. Either way, that story is physically impossible, and there appear to be no good reasons to adopt his figures rather than mine.
(3) About the seismological events, a recording is now posted on the "Resources" page of our web site, ST911.org, where the initial events recorded (of .9 for 12 seconds and of .7 for 6 seconds on the Richter scale) surely were not caused by aircraft impacts on the 96th or the 80th floors of these enormous buildings but almost certainly by massive explosions in their subbasements that brought about the destruction of the support base for the 47 central columns. If I have not made that clear in my paper, then I will probably add an additional paragraph.
The subsequent recordings of 2.1 for 10 seconds and 2.3 for 8 seconds suggest the approximate duration of each of the buildings' collapse, which of course supports the official estimate of 10 seconds for WTC2, not the 15-17 seconds that Hoffman proposes. What I find most intriguing about these numbers is the suggestion that the amount of detonation required to bring them down was not the same for both towers, which is an issue that I believe deserves further study.
(4) He doesn't like "Loose Change", while I do. Recommending a source is not the same thing as endorsing everything it suggests and I have yet to discover any studies of these complex events that is flawless. Certainly, Hoffman's own work does not rise to that standard, as I have demonstrated here. So should we accuse him of creating "red herrings" or "straw men" to benefit the opposition? It is easy to find something to complain about and exaggerate its significance.
(5) I make no apologies for my analysis of the Pentagon attack. The hit point was far too small to accommodate a Boeing 757, and his measurements relative to photographs taken later raise very serious questions about his methodology and the integrity of his analysis. A Boeing 757 that flew low enough to enter at the ground floor as he pretends would have plowed up the ground in front of the building! Which means that his account is impaled upon the horns of a dilemma.
If Hoffman is right about the impact--that a Boeing 757 entered the building at the ground floor on a virtually horizontal trajectory--then he is wrong about the lawn--which would have been massively plowed up by the engines and even the fuselage; and if he is wrong about the lawn--which was not massively plowed by the engines or even by the fuselage--then he is wrong about the impact--which cannot have entered at the ground floor on a virtually horizontal trajectory!
He employs the technique of "divide and conquer" here, talking about the impact point in one place and the lawn in another, when they are causally related. I reiterate my position, which is that the amount of damage is not consistent with what would have occurred had the building been hit by a plane with the mass and the dimensions of a Boeing 757. And anyone who has actually read it knows that Dewdney and Longspaugh's meticulous analysis supports my position and not his.
He claims that "punctures in the Pentagon's facade could have easily admitted all but the lightest portions of a 757", asserting that, "planes break up on impact". According to the Purdue engineers, the support columns had the effect of shredding the plane when it entered the building. Neither account, however, can explain the exit hole in the C-ring, which was virtually symmetrical. The idea that this was caused by the rest of the fuselage, as Hoffman suggests, is not only extremely implausible on its own but even contradicts his own account.
(6) A component of an JT8D engine was found, not the massive engines that would have powered a Boeing 757. That and other considerations support the conjecture that an A-3 Sky Warrior may have been painted to resemble an American Airlines plane and used in the attack. The damage is far more consistent with its use than a Boeing 757, for the reasons that my paper explained. He even mentions that I cite a piece by Carlson as though I endorse it rather than criticize it.
(7) As if all that has gone before were not sufficient to cast doubt upon his methods, Hoffman concludes his critique by subtly discrediting the report of the air traffic controllers--"its speed, maneuverability, the way that it turned", which led them to conclude it was a military plane--by contending the plane's observed maneuvers were "well within the performance capabilities of a 757, however atypical it was of the normal operation of a jetline"! Fascinating!
Here Hoffman gives himself away, by attempting to stretch the possible and turn it into the actual. He even admits that going from the possible to the probable won't work, since this performance was "atypical" of the normal operation of a jetliner! But, since it was "possible", we should discount the conclusion drawn by a group of professional air traffic controllers who actually observed these maneuvers and substitute some mere possibility instead! That is his position.
Not to belabor the point, but in his closing paragraphs, Hoffman states that I have "failed to acknowledge that it [the notion that whatever hit the Pentagon not a 757] is considered a distraction or hoax by some of the most respected researchers in the community of 9/11 skeptics". If that's true, it shows that even 9/11 skeptics can be wrong, insofar as the available relevant evidence in its totality establishes that, on this specific point, they seem to be mistaken.
(B) Michael B. Green, Ph.D., "The Company We Keep" (version 1.1, 8 February 2006).
The author was once an assistant professor of philosophy who became a clinical psychologist, according to his own description. Certainly, his remarks about philosophy and the philosophy of science are extremely uninformed and juvenile, which does not instill confidence in his other observations, some of which are merely ad hominem attacks that are supposed to discredit my conclusions, not by rebutting my arguments, but by assailing my personality, character or whatever.
(1) He says I am "inflating [my] own bona fides . . . by offering an essentially unintelligible technical discussion of epistemology . . . grounded in addressing obscure Cartesian assumptions . . .". What I think he is trying to say is that I explain that the results of scientific inquiries are tentative and fallible, which means that the results of their pursuit are not guaranteed to be true and may have to be revised on the basis of new evidence or new alternative theories.
Precisely what is supposed to be "Cartesian" is obscure to me, but he has given a highly subjective impression here that bears faint resemblance to what I have written. Anyone who wants to cut through this nonsense should simply read the first few pages of my study, which is intended to explain why conspiracies are actually commonplace and that the term "theory" is ambiguous, insofas as some theories, including those about JFK and 9/11, are in fact empirically testable.
(2) He says that, while I am "lead to adopt what he calls 'abductivism' as the solution to a problem that few layreaders can grasp", it has "no bearing" at all on what I will say about 9/11. He apparently does not know that "abductivism" is not my term but perfectly standard terminology for the position I adopt, as several sources that I cite explain. There is nothing here that is intended as "self-promotion". I reference works where these matters are formally explained.
The basic principle of abductivism, inference to the best explanation, states that one hypothesis is preferable to another when the first provides "a better explanation" than the second, where likelihoods are used to measure the degree of explanatory power of an alternative. If the likelihood of hi on evidence e is greater than the likelihood of hj on e, then hi is a better explanation of e than is hj and, when sufficient evidence becomes available, is also acceptable.
Green may be intellectually challenged to understand such elementary principles, but most undergraduates do not have trouble grasping them. In order to explain why the official account of the collapse of the WTC1 and WTC2 cannot compare in explanatory power with the controlled demolition alternative, I explain exactly how those comparisons are drawn. Otherwise, my readers would be in a position, not unlike those who read Green, of not knowing how to judge it for themselves.
(3) He faults me for citing several standard works on 9/11, presumably because they do not agree with one another on every detail, then describes two books by Thierry Meyssan as "purporting to prove no plane hit the Pentagon"! The point of Meyssan's books with regard to the Pentagon is to explain that the evidence is incompatible with it having been hit by a Boeing 757, about which he appears to be correct. Certainly, nothing Green says suggests that Meyssan is wrong.
Meyssan advances the possibility that a cruise missile may have been used in the strike, which could account for many features of the situation that cannot be accounted for by the Boeing 757 hypothesis: the tiny hit point, lack of debris, absence of aircraft parts within the building, even the symmetrical exit hole in the C-ring. All in all, Meyssan's alternative possesses more explanatory power than the Boeing 757 alternative, but you would not know it from reading Green.
(4) Next we get a replay of the "melted" versus "weakened" steel hypothesis, a matter I have discussed above. He says my discussion of the vast discrepancy between the melting point of steel and the burning point of jet fuel fires "is both irrelevant and confusing because no USG account contends that the buildings collapsed because their fires melted their steel". Either way, of course, the official account cannot possibly be correct, and I did not overlook softening.
As endnote 38 states, "Even if the temperatures of those fires had reached as high as 1,700-2,000° F, as FEMA suggests, there was not enough time for sufficient heat to have been produced to have caused the steel to melt (Hufschmid 2002, pp. 32-40). Underwriters Laboratories had in fact certified that the steel used in construction could withstand temperatures of 2,000° F several hours before even any significant softening would have occurred. (www.prisonplanet.com/articles/november2004/121104.easilywithstood.htm)"
One might have supposed that critics like Hoffman and Green would at least pay attention to technical points when they are making technical criticism. But in their enthusiasm for attacking me, they do not even acknowledge that at least some of the points they are offering in response were actually covered in the study they purport to address. Several terms come to mind that could apply to the quality of their research, including "sloppy", "shoddy", and "ad hominem".
(5) As though further confirmation were required, he offers into evidence some photographs that are actually relevant, then proceeds to claim that "Fetzer uses imaginary Bayesian prior probabilities to generate a 10,000,000,000 'proof' of his thesis". But none of his readers is going to have any idea what he thinks he is talking about, which he has wrong. My analysis is not "Bayesian" and I do not use "prior probabilities". This man has no idea what he is talking about.
As endnote 4 observed, "Some alternative models of science include Inductivism, Deductivism, Hypothetico-Deductivism, Bayesianism (which comes in many different variations), and Abductivism, whose alternative strengths and weaknesses are assessed in Fetzer (1981), (1993), and (2002). The most defensible appears to be Abductivism, which is adopted here." Although Green poses as though he were an authority in the philosophy of science, he is virtually a complete ignoramus.
Elsewhere, I explain that the collapse of the towers display features that are physically impossible and therefore have null probabilities, which are even lower than zero (because they cannot possibly occur). I offer the argument that, if we were to assume (contrary to what we know about this) that these features (rate of fall, order of fall, and so forth) had probabilities of one in ten (or actually occurred in 10% of the cases where buildings catch fire), which is preposterously high, even then these collapses would be improbable.
For one tower, ten features treated as independent with probabilities of 1 in 10 would have the probability of 1/10,000,000,000 of occurring in a single case. Of course, since there were two such events÷given TWC1 and TWC2÷the probability that they would both display these same ten features on the very same occasion is equal to the product of one in ten billion times one in ten billion, which is 1 over 1 followed by twenty zeros, or 1/100,000,000,000,000,000,000. This is a very small number. These calculations assume values that are far too high.43
This is a nice example of Green's methodology, where he takes points that can only be understood in context and deletes the context. Since it is doubtful that he understood them to begin with, given his meager understanding of even the most basic aspects of my analysis, including especially the principles of reasoning that underlie them, I suppose he really had no viable alternative, given that he had adopted the goal of trying to discredit me as his objective.
(6) Here and there I find some interesting points. I agree that not all of the beams came down in 30' pieces, which is something I shall correct. I find it fascinating that he differentiates between the pattern of collapse of WTC1 and WTC2 and WTC7, which is indeed correct and deserving of more investigation. 1 and 2 were parallel in construction, but 7 was different and required different demolition techniques. I agree with this point and intend to pursue it further.
(7) My arguments about the tension between a clean and unblemished lawn and the alleged trajectory the Boeing 757 are discussed more in the final paragraph of Section 9 of my paper and the endnotes that accompany it. I doubt that I could say more here that would shed more light, but there are other lines of attack on the Boeing hypothesis that deserve investigation, such as whether a Boeing 757 could even remain airborne at such low heights above the ground. But no matter.
Green tosses in some remarks about THE GREAT ZAPRUDER FILM HOAX that display he has either not read the book or is deliberately distorting it. That comes as no surprise, since the subtitle of the book, "Deceit and Deception in the Death of JFK", is being paralleled in literature like these papers by Hoffman and Green, which appear to qualify as among the first contributions to a new literary genre, "Deceit and Deception in the Study of 9/11". Which puts them into perspective.
McKnight University Professor
(c) 2006 James H. Fetzer