Monday, December 03, 2007

The Science of Bad Predictions

As I have repeatedly stated (plagiarizing my micro professor) the difference between a scientific theory and a conspiracy theory is that a scientific theory allows you to make good predictions. A conspiracy theory on the other hand, because of its lack of consistency and falsifiability, does not allow for predictions any more accurate than just a random guess. A fellow debunker pointed me to this example from Loose Change: the Final Insult.

In this case, the truthers have long insisted that reports of molten metal at Ground Zero are proof of controlled demolition. For example, David Ray Griffin, who not coincidentally was the "fact-checker" of the latest Loose Change travesty, once stated:

And it was still in a molten state when people were… crane operators were pulling out the beams and said it was dripping molten steel at the end, which is just what you would expect if it was explosives that had sliced the steel.

Now I completely disagree with his statement that this is exactly what you would expect, but for the sake of argument we will accept his argument for now. Well, to follow the scientific method, how could we go about checking this hypothesis? Well, one could blow up a building, and then check to see if there is any molten steel in the debris. That certainly would show you something, but let's go for something simpler. Let's see if this allows us to make any predictions about what was observed on 9/11.

If molten steel (or more generally metal) being observed in the debris is indicative of the use of demolitions (and I am not saying it is) then we should be able to predict that these observations would be found in the buildings the conspiracy theorists claim were demolished. OK, well I don't agree with their interpretations of the events, but I will accept that there were people who said they saw "molten metal" in the wreckage of buildings 1,2 and 7.

At the same time though, this should also mean that molten metal should not be observed in buildings which were not brought down with explosives. After all, their argument is that fire cannot melt steel, therefore the only thing which could cause this would be explosives. If molten metal is present in buildings that were not demolished by the use of explosives, than this argument is meaningless. Thus, we should be able to predict that no molten metal would be found in these buildings.

Well, enter Loose Change: The Final Cut, at the hour and 13 minute mark, quoting Ken Holden:

Underground it was still so hot that molten metal dripped down the sides of a wall from Building 6.

Wait a minute. If molten metal is indicative of controlled demolition, then why are they citing its presence in a building that was not blown up (building 6 was later "pulled" down with cables) as proof that explosives were used?

Once again, conspiracy theories make for bad predictions.

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