The Collapse of the Twin Towers
Shortly after 9/11, President Bush advised people not to tolerate “outrageous conspiracy theories about the attacks of 11 September” (Bush, 2001). Philip Zelikow, who directed the work of the 9/11 Commission, has likewise warned against “outrageous conspiracy theories” (Hansen, 2005). What do these men mean by this expression? They cannot mean that we should reject all conspiracy theories about 9/11, because the government’s own account is a conspiracy theory, with the conspirators all being members of al-Qaeda. They mean only that we should reject outrageous theories.
But what distinguishes an outrageous theory from a non-outrageous one? This is one of the central questions in the philosophy of science. When confronted by rival theories---let’s say Neo-Darwinian Evolution and Intelligent Design---scientists and philosophers of science ask which theory is better and why. The mark of a good theory is that it can explain, in a coherent way, all or at least most of the relevant facts and is not contradicted by any of them. A bad theory is one that is contradicted by some of the relevant facts. An outrageous theory would be one that is contradicted by virtually all the relevant facts.
With this definition in mind, let us look at the official theory about the Twin Towers, which says that they collapsed because of the combined effect of the impact of the airplanes and the resulting fires. The report put out by FEMA said: “The structural damage sustained by each tower from the impact, combined with the ensuing fires, resulted in the total collapse of each building” (FEMA, 2002). This theory clearly belongs in the category of outrageous theories, because is it is contradicted by virtually all the relevant facts. Although this statement may seem extreme, I will explain why it is not.
No Prior Collapse Induced by Fire
The official theory is rendered implausible by two major problems. The first is the simple fact that fire has never---prior to or after 9/11---caused steel-frame high-rise buildings to collapse. Defenders of the official story seldom if ever mention this simple fact. Indeed, the supposedly definitive report put out by NIST---the National Institute for Standards and Technology (2005)---even implies that fire-induced collapses of large steel-frame buildings are normal events (Hoffman, 2005). Far from being normal, however, such collapses have never occurred, except for the alleged cases of 9/11.