Professor Steven E. Jones is not a conspiracy theorist because, as Ryan McIlvain writes in Brigham Young University’s NewsNet, “he’s wearing a button-up shirt, dress slacks, matching socks. He’s soft-spoken, polite – the picture of the mild-mannered professor.” But how else could you describe what the Professor is peddling?

Jones published a paper on November 8, 2005 titled “Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Collapse?” He points to the building known as WTC 7, asking why it collapsed when it wasn’t hit by a plane as the twin towers were. He also states that no other steel buildings have been brought down by fire, before or after September 11th.

So what is his theory? Professor Jones believes the buildings were taken down by controlled explosions.

Jones points to small puffs of dark clouds on the sides of the three buildings and compares them to the controlled explosions or “squibs” that demolition experts use to bring down a building. He links to video images of the three buildings collapsing, and points out puffs that he calls squibs. Are these indeed visual evidence of a controlled demolition, or just the random effect that occurs when a building collapses and the compressed air inside it blows out any available opening? I favor the latter idea because it is simpler, and while I am certainly no demolition expert, I normally see more action than a few random puffs of smoke when a building is demolished. The controlled demolition of the Seattle Kingdome is a great example of what exposed squibs look like. Other video clips of controlled demolitions don’t have such visible squibs, but most other buildings were not constructed like the Kingdome. Still, in most of these clips one can see visible explosions, especially in external supporting walls. I would assume that a controlled demolition of the World Trade Center towers would require many more squibs than the visible puffs Professor Jones points out to support his theory.

But what do I know? I’m not an explosive demolition expert. Then again, neither is Professor Jones.

Jones’ specific field of expertise is in fusion and sub-atomic particles. One person debating the merits of Jones’ paper on a 9/11 site pointed out that all the professor’s published papers to date have been on particle physics and muons. Nevertheless, let’s assume for the moment that Jones knows what he’s talking about. Here is some of the “evidence” the professor points out to back up his thesis, as quoted in the NewsNet article:

Pressed about the implications of his hypothesis, Jones leans back in his chair and says, “Okay, let me back up.”

He mentions a few lesser-known details about the Sept. 11 attacks, appending little comments like “and that’s a fact” or “and that’s on tape” at several points along the way:

  • Larry Silverstein, WTC leaseholder, insured the buildings against terrorist attack for billions of dollars less than two months before Sept. 11, Jones says.
  • The towers were loaded with asbestos – “not anymore,” Jones adds, “but they were. There was discussion for a long time: ‘We’ve got to either get rid of the asbestos in these buildings or take them down and start over.’”
  • In the aftermath of the buildings’ collapse, Silverstein said of WTC 7, “We decided to pull it.” Jones says “pull” is a common demolition term. “To pull a building means you initiate the demolition.”
  • Much of the steel from the collapsed towers was shipped to Asia for recycling, Jones says. “This was done over the objections of serious scientists and engineers, saying, ‘Look, you’re destroying evidence. We want to know how fire and damage could have possibly caused these buildings to collapse.’”

“You didn’t know that, did you?” Jones says. He leans back farther in his chair. “We need an investigation,” he says again.

But where is the hard proof supporting Jones’ theory? David Hume famously said that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” so where is the smoking gun? Instead, Jones seems to believe an investigation is in order merely because his claim is so serious. Likewise, Democrats called for an investigation into the debunked memos reported on by Dan Rather of CBS. It wasn’t the nature of the evidence that was being put forth (and subsequently debunked), it was the seriousness of the charge that made the Left rush to believe in baseless claims. OK, that’s about as political as I’ll get with this.

It’s probably also worthwhile to point out that the people who are getting most excited about Jones’ paper (which has not yet been peer-reviewed, by the way) would normally not deign to give a BYU professor the time of day. But since his as-yet-unreviewed claims feed their hunger for a conspiracy, their desire for a potential whipping-boy who can take the lion’s share of the blame for 9/11, they rush to embrace his claims and laud him as the hero of the hour. Shared delusion makes for strange bedfellows.

So what are the possibilities? As I see it, there are two options:

A) Islamic nutjobs hijacked four planes with the goal of causing damage. Two of those planes struck the two main World Trade Center towers, causing them–and subsequently WTC 7–to collapse.

or

B) Islamic nutjobs hijacked four planes with the goal of causing damage. Two of those planes struck the two main World Trade Center towers. Shadowy personages with unknown agendas either knew that they were coming and meticulously wired up the three buildings with carefully-placed charges to cause the buildings to implode, or the buildings had been wired up previously to take advantage of an unexpected plane striking the building. After allowing the people to leave the towers, the masterminds behind the planted charges blew up the buildings. They were so cunning that they were even able to detonate charges in locations above where the planes hit, which had been on fire for an hour.

“It is quite plausible that explosives were pre-planted in all three buildings and set off after the two plane crashes – which were actually a diversion tactic,” Jones writes in his paper; apparently he believes option B is more plausible than option A. Such a conspiracy could not be small in scope–indeed, it would have to be appallingly large–but so far, not a single person has come forward to admit that he or she did the wiring or even saw the buildings being wired for explosives. Nearly all widespread conspiracies are brought to light in this way; no large conspiracies have been able to stay so universally close-mouthed for such a long period of time.

I believe Occam had something to say about choosing from two options.

Addendum (11/19/2005): Having done some admittedly limited searches on this story, I don’t find it has much by way of legs. The only large blog that has carried this story I have found appears to be Michelle Malkin from last week.

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