Sunday, December 07, 2008

Yet Moron The Resistance to Troof

Mark Vorobej, a philosophy professor and "former director of Peace Studies" at McMaster University (Canada) reflects on the difficulties (PDF file) he experienced trying to educate his philosophy students to da Troof, under the rubric of giving them a class on rational argumentation.

To indicate how difficult and disturbing the course was going to be, he dedicated the first session to that steaming pile, 9-11 Mysteries, which he describes as a "powerful and lengthy documentary" that "focuses in a serious and sustained manner on a variety of questions related to the destruction of the Twin Towers." Perhaps he is unaware that 9-11 Mysteries was inspired by a Holocaust Denier, and that the woman who created it markets the Ernst Zundel Story on her website?

They went on to read David Ray Grifter's New Pearl Harbor, and watch Zeitgeist. The student's criticism of the material presented focused around several factors:

1. One-sided presentation of the material. There was no significant attempt to present critiques of DRG's NPH, or of Zeitgeist. Apparently nobody watched Screw 9-11 Mysteries.

2. Government concealment of exculpatory facts for reasons of national security. Note that this assumes that Griffin has made a solid and rational case, but that he is not aware of evidence that would revise his conclusions because the government is hiding it.

3. Griffin fails to provide an alternative account. No kidding! But the professor claims that Griffin does provide a skeleton of an alternative account: the evil gubbermint did it. After that Vorobej does admit that the alternative account is poorly fleshed out, but that Griffin at least admits it. Obviously the class was not informed that Griffin has fleshed things out a little more, and that he seldom acknowledges weaknesses in his case. He concludes with the silly claim that Griffin's discussion of his own theory meets a high standard of rigor.

4. No overarching account of the story that fits all the known facts and yet is not the "official theory", and certain anomalous details appear to be very hard to reconcile with government complicity. The professor notes that there are loose ends in any case. He goes off onto a bizarre digression: Maybe the plotters responsible for the collapse of WTC-7 were not the same ones responsible for the rest of the events of 9-11. They heard about 9-11 and decided to take advantage of the situation for their own profit. Of course, we could point out again that the only person to "profit" from the collapse of WTC-7 was Larry Silverstein, and he certainly botched making a "profit" from the rest of the events of that day by under-insuring the rest of the WTC buildings.

5. Although these are supposed to be objections raised about Griffin, the professor digresses to talk about the "cumulative argument" theory. Vorobej compares Griffin's arguments to strands in a rope rather than links in a chain; if one strand breaks (i.e., is debunked) the rope does not necessarily fail, the way a chain would. Of course, this is begging the question of why one would make a rope with particularly weak strands. Ten strong arguments are a lot better than 115 weak ones. But of course Griffin presents 115 weak arguments because he doesn't have ten strong ones. The professor gives the standard response here; just because you've debunked 20 of Griffin's points doesn't invalidate the 95 others. And just because you've debunked 114 of them doesn't mean that sole remaining strand is weakened at all. Of course, in strictly logical sense this is true. But humans don't act that way. If somebody tells you ten things and you discover that they are lying about nine, you're hardly inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt about the tenth.

6. Inconsistencies in the arguments. One student noted that Griffin sometimes argues as if Flight 93 was shot down and other times as if it were not shot down (i.e., as if it landed somewhere else without crashing in Shanksville). The professor counters that Griffin is just pointing out that whether you believe one or the other, the official account cannot be true.

Comments: Vorobej notes that at the end of the class, all of his students (or rather all of them in the class that day, which he says was "not an insignificant number") felt the "official" story was untrue, although quite a few of them were unwilling to say they thought the US government was behind 9-11. Which of course says to me that the class was a miserable failure, considering that the objective was to teach students how to analyze arguments.