Alex Jones vs Jamie Bartlett of Demos: 9/11, Global Warming, Consensus & Peer-review

The other night, Alex Jones debated Jamie Bartlett of Demos on Infowars Nightly News. While the debate in general was pretty crap, one moment I found interesting was when Mr Bartlett attempted to discredit Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. See the clip below.

Bartlett claimed that the overwhelming "scientific consensus" of the architectural, engineering and demolition communities is that the towers collapsed due to fire and that there were no explosives involved, and dismissed AE911Truth as just "a rabble of a few" - saying they will be taken seriously only when they publish real peer-reviewed research.

First of all, AE911Truth now has over 1600 members and their growth is accelerating. So they're a bit more than just "a rabble of the few". It is true that, worldwide, the vast majority of architects and engineers believe the official story, but why is that? Because that's what they've been told! It's not as if every architect and engineer in the world has looked the all the evidence and concluded that the official story is true. Most aren't aware there even is another side to the debate. They've simply been spoon-fed the official story and have never questioned it.

Of all the people who have looked at the case for demolition, the overwhelming majority end up siding with AE911Truth. Richard Gage has travelled the world giving talks and setting up booths at AIA conventions etc. And most of the professionals he talks to end up agreeing with him. Videos of Gage talking to architects and engineers and their reactions to seeing the explosive evidence for the first time can be found here, here and here.

Secondly, the claim that there are no peer-reviewed papers supporting AE911Truth is false. 9/11 truth scientists have published peer-reviewed papers - and not just in "truther journals" (The Journal of 9/11 Studies), but also in more established journals aswell - including Environmental anomalies at the World Trade Center: evidence for energetic materials in The Environmentalist and two papers in Bentham open access journals: Fourteen Points of Agreement with Official Government Reports on the World Trade Center Destruction in the Open Civil Engineering Journal and Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe in The Open Chemical Physics Journal.

The official NIST reports, by the way, were not peer-reviewed and their computer models haven't ever been made available for public scrutiny. When independent researchers attempted to obtain their model input data via the freedom of information act, NIST denied their request, claiming releasing the data might "jeopardize public safety"!

Alex is right to draw parallels to the global warming debate. Terms like "consensus" and "peer-review" are thrown around alot in that debate too. The problem with appealing to "consensus" is it's basically a circular argument. The mainstream, establishment views of 9/11 and climate change are only the "scientific consensus" because they are the mainstream, establishment views! Most climate scientists believe the theory of man-made global warming for the same reason most architects and engineers believe the official story of 9/11: because that's what they've been taught and they've never really questioned it, and most aren't aware there even is another side to the debate. It's interesting how, in both cases, most of the scientists who actually look at the other side end up siding with the dissenting view.

The "peer-review" argument is equally circular. I've written a number of posts on this blog (see here, here and here) and even devoted a 16 minute video to exposing the myth of "peer-review" in climate science.

The problem with peer-review in its current form is it is inherently biased towards the establishment view. Peer-review works fine if the issue isn't really controversial in a political or ideological sense, but when the issue is controversial, "peer-review" becomes little more than an echo chamber for intellectual circle-jerking. Scientists are only human and therefore are, along with the editors and publishers of journals, just as prone to group think, confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance and peer-pressure as anyone. Arguably more so, since their careers are at stake. Also they're smart. And, as skeptic Michael Shemer observes, smart people are better at rationalizing beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons!

Alex mentioned how the Climategate scientists went after journals that dared to gave a voice to the climate skeptics. This is true. In an email dated April 24, 2003, Tom Wigley suggested a strategy for dealing with one such journal:
One approach is to go direct to the publishers and point out the fact that their journal is perceived as being a medium for disseminating misinformation under the guise of refereed work. I use the word 'perceived' here, since whether it is true or not is not what the publishers care about -- it is how the journal is seen by the community that counts.
Peer-review? More like peer-pressure! This is such a damning quote because it illustrates how the scientific community is plagued by group think, and how the warmists know this and exploit this.

When you consider how journals and institutions are ranked by "prestige", common sense tells you that what the editors and publishers of journals care about more than anything is their reputation. The more "prestigious" and "reputable" a journal is, the more resistant it's going to be to publishing anything controversial. That's why you don't see 9/11 truth papers or AGW-skeptic papers in journals like Nature or Science. It's not that these groups do bad science, although the establishment defenders will claim otherwise, it's simply because the views are controversial and the journals are resistant to giving them a platform.

This is why there shouldn't be a "scientific establishment". The idea of an "establishment" is inherently anti-science. 9/11 truthers and global warming skeptics are anti-establishment, and their critics dismiss them for not playing by the rules of the very establishment they're challenging! It's all very circular.

When the nanothermite paper was published, the first thing the 9/11 debunkers did was question its peer-review. They dismissed the journal as a "vanity publication" and said the paper isn't worth taking seriously. There are also a number of similar stories in the global warming debate. Papers by Christopher Monckton, Richard Lindzen and Roy Spencer have been the subjects of editorial and peer-review controversies which the warmists have exploited to discredit them. They always seem to go after the review procedures rather than the actual content of the papers themselves.

The best scientific counter argument the 9/11 debunkers can come up with is their assertion that what the 9/11 truth scientists believe to be "active, unreacted thermitic material, incorporating nanotechnology, [and a] highly energetic pyrotechnic or explosive material" is actually just primer paint! Because apparently it's an easy amateur mistake or something to confuse paint with aluminothermic nanotechnology! I don't know how many times I made that mistake in chemistry class! It's not as if they're fundamentally very different in both appearance and chemical behavior ... Oh wait, they are!

The debunkers know that when it comes to the actual claims made in the paper, they've got no leg to stand on. They can't refute it so they have to dismiss it. So they make up a load of crap about its peer-review and say it's not worth taking seriously.

The nanothermite paper may not have been published in a top journal like Nature, but its findings have remained unchallenged for over two and a half years, and have been independently corroborated by chemical engineer Mark Basile. In a recent BBC documentary, the lead author, Neils Harrit, who has published over 60 papers in his career, said the nanothermite paper is without a doubt the best peer-reviewed paper he's ever published.

It's interesting how Jamie Bartlett didn't feel comfortable passing judgement on the 9/11 demolition hypothesis and global warming. The man who supposedly aims to encourage children to think critically and think for themselves apparently doesn't like thinking for himself!

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