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Scientific American's Smear
Against 9/11 Truth

A Critique of "Fahrenheit 2777: 9/11 has generated the mother of all conspiracy theories"

Version 1.0

Scientific American's Dishonest Attack on 911Research
Letters to Scientific American
Fahrenheit 2777: 9/11 has generated the mother of all conspiracy theories
By Michael Shermer
Science Image: Michael Shermer

Noted French left-wing activist Thierry Meyssan's 9/11 conspiracy book, L'Effroyable Imposture, became a best-seller in 2002.
Shermer starts by trotting out Thierry Meyssan, original publicist for the pentagon no-plane theory, a hoax probably invented as a distraction. The Pentagon No-Plane Hoax.
But I never imagined such an "appalling deception" would ever find a voice in America. At a recent public lecture I was buttonholed by a Michael Moore–wannabe filmmaker who breathlessly explained that 9/11 was orchestrated by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the Central Intelligence Agency as part of their plan for global domination and a New World Order. That goal was to be financed by G.O.D. (Gold, Oil, Drugs) and launched by a Pearl Harbor–like attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, thereby providing the justification for war. The evidence was there in the details, he explained, handing me a faux dollar bill (with "9-11" replacing the "1," a picture of Bush supplanting that of Washington) chockablock with Web sites.

The bill Shermer is referring to without naming is the Deception Dollar. See

In fact, if you type "World Trade Center" and "conspiracy" into Google, you'll get more than 250,000 hits.
Shermer copies this exercise directly from the Popular Mechanics hit piece.
From these sites, you will discover that some people think the Pentagon was hit by a missile; that U.S. Air Force jets were ordered to "stand down" and not intercept Flights 11 and 175, the ones that struck the twin towers; that the towers themselves were razed by demolition explosives timed to go off soon after the impact of the planes; that a mysterious white jet shot down Flight 93 over Pennsylvania; and that New York Jews were ordered to stay home that day (Zionists and other pro-Israeli factions, of course, were involved).
This passage illustrates a common disinformation technique I call bracketing, wherein valid points are surrounded by bogus claims in order to contextualize the former as nonsense. This is also true of the article as a whole. Shermer may not be very original, but he undersands the basic rules of writing disinformation.
Books also abound, including Inside Job, by Jim Marrs; The New Pearl Harbor, by David Ray Griffin; and 9/11: The Great Illusion, by George Humphrey. The single best debunking of this conspiratorial codswallop is in the March issue of Popular Mechanics, which provides an exhaustive point-by-point analysis of the most prevalent claims.

The mistaken belief that a handful of unexplained anomalies can undermine a well-established theory lies at the heart of all conspiratorial thinking (as well as creationism, Holocaust denial and the various crank theories of physics). All the "evidence" for a 9/11 conspiracy falls under the rubric of this fallacy. Such notions are easily refuted by noting that scientific theories are not built on single facts alone but on a convergence of evidence assembled from multiple lines of inquiry.
For a person who calls himself a skeptic and writes for Scientific American, Shermer is very fond of inherently unscientific generalizations.

No melted steel, no collapsed towers.

For example, according to, steel melts at a temperature of 2,777 degrees Fahrenheit, but jet fuel burns at only 1,517 degrees F. No melted steel, no collapsed towers.
This is a lie by implication. Nowhere does claim that the melting of steel was required for gravity collapses of the towers. What the site does document is that apologists for the official story claimed that the fires melted the steel. Here are some relevant pages from 911Research:
"The planes did not bring those towers down; bombs did," says Wrong. In an article in the Journal of the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society and in subsequent interviews, Thomas Eagar, an engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explains why: steel loses 50 percent of its strength at 1,200 degrees F; 90,000 liters of jet fuel
Shermer repeats the figure of 90,000 liters from the article without bothering to check it against the official reports: the FEMA report put the fuel on each jet at 37,000 liters.
ignited other combustible materials such as rugs, curtains, furniture and paper, which continued burning after the jet fuel was exhausted, raising temperatures above 1,400 degrees F and spreading the inferno throughout each building.
throughout each building?? The fires didn't even cover a single floor of the South Tower. See photographic evidence of the fires.
Temperature differentials of hundreds of degrees across single steel horizontal trusses caused them to sag--straining and then breaking the angle clips that held the beams to the vertical columns. Once one truss failed, others followed. When one floor collapsed onto the next floor below, that floor subsequently gave way, creating a pancaking effect that triggered each 500,000-ton structure to crumble. Conspiricists argue that the buildings should have fallen over on their sides, but with 95 percent of each building consisting of air, they could only have collapsed straight down.
Here Shermer parrots Professor Eagar's assertion that the Towers could only have collapse straight down, flying in the face of the scientific method, the basis of which is repeated experiment and observation. There is not a single experiment which demonstrates that top-down total progressive collapse -- the alleged means by which the Towers collapsed straight down -- is even possible, let alone the only possiblity.

All the 9/11 conspiracy claims are this easily refuted. On the Pentagon "missile strike," for example, I queried the would-be filmmaker about what happened to Flight 77, which disappeared at the same time. "The plane was destroyed, and the passengers were murdered by Bush operatives," he solemnly revealed. "Do you mean to tell me that not one of the thousands of conspirators needed to pull all this off," I retorted, "is a whistle-blower who would go on TV or write a tell-all book?"
This fallacious claim that thousands were required to execute the attack is debunked here.
My rejoinder was met with the same grim response I get from UFOlogists when I ask them for concrete evidence: Men in Black silence witnesses, and dead men tell no tales.

Michael Shermer is publisher of Skeptic ( His latest book is Science Friction.