the official site of Michael Shermer

top navigation:

Fahrenheit 2777

June 2005
9/11 has generated the mother of all conspiracy theories
magazine cover

Noted French left-wing activist Thierry Meyssan’s 9/11 conspiracy book, L’Effroyable Imposture, became a best-seller in 2002. 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 is 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.

In fact, if you type “World Trade Center conspiracy” into Google, you’ll get more than 693,000 hits. From these sites, you will discover that 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). 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. (continue reading…)

read or write comments (1)
topics in this post: , ,

What I Believe But Cannot Prove

June 2005

I believe, but cannot prove, that reality exists independent of its human and social constructions. Science as a method, and naturalism as a philosophy, together create the best tool we have for understanding that reality. Because science is cumulative, building on itself in progressive fashion, we can achieve an ever-greater understanding of reality. Our knowledge of nature remains provisional because we can never know if we have final Truth. (continue reading…)

read or write comments (17)
topics in this post: , , , ,

Turn Me On, Dead Man

May 2005
What do the Beatles, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, Patricia Arquette and Michael Keaton all have in common?
magazine cover

In September 1969, as I began ninth grade, a rumor circulated that the Beatles’ Paul McCartney was dead, killed in a 1966 automobile accident and replaced by a look-alike. The clues were there in the albums, if you knew where to look.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’s “A Day in the Life,” for one, recounts the accident: He blew his mind out in a car / He didn’t notice that the lights had changed / A crowd of people stood and stared / They’d seen his face before / Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords. The cover of the Abbey Road album shows the Fab Four walking across a street in what looks like a funeral procession, with John in white as the preacher, Ringo in black as the pallbearer, a barefoot and out-of-step Paul as the corpse, and George in work clothes as the gravedigger. In the background is a Volkswagen Beetle (!) whose license plate reads “28IF” — Paul’s supposed age “if” he had not died. (continue reading…)

Comments Off
topics in this post: , ,

Dwarfs, T-Rex & Global Warming

April 2005

Michael Shermer joins Larry Mantle to discuss the latest science stories, including dwarf hominids in Indonesia, extra-solar system plants, T-Rex soft tissue, and global warming.

download streaming audio

Comments Off
topics in this post: , , ,

The Feynman-Tufte Principle

April 2005
A visual display of data should be simple enough to fit on the side of a van
magazine cover

I had long wanted to meet Edward R. Tufte — the man the New York Times called “the da Vinci of data” because of his concisely written and artfully illustrated books on the visual display of data — and invite him to speak at the Skeptics Society science lecture series that I host at the California Institute of Technology. Tufte is one of the world’s leading experts on a core tool of skepticism: how to see through information obfuscation.

But how could we afford someone of his stature? “My honorarium,” he told me, “is to see Feynman’s van.”

Richard Feynman, the late Caltech physicist, is famous for working on the atomic bomb, winning a Nobel Prize in Physics, cracking safes, playing drums and driving a 1975 Dodge Maxivan adorned with squiggly lines on the side panels. Most people who saw it gazed in puzzlement, but once in a while someone would ask the driver why he had Feynman diagrams all over his van, only to be told, “Because I’m Richard Feynman!” (continue reading…)

Comments Off
topics in this post: , , , ,
« previous pagenext page »