Frank Moher reviews Jonathan Kay’s Among The Truthers (which looks to be a tabloid version of Voodoo Histories)…
Kay never addresses the arguments of his interlocutors, because, he tells us late in the book, a New York City editor warned him that “Debunking books don’t sell.” Instead, he refers the reader to various of those books, and sites. This is defensible on editorial grounds; were he to get into his own reasons for rejecting 9/11 Truth theories, the book would be even weightier than it is. But it is also a convenience; it means Kay never has to address what he calls the “anomalies” in the official story of that day. We never learn why his interviewees are so head-shakingly wrong — they just are.
Here’s a radical idea: if you can’t understand somebody’s evidence you have no right to deride their case. I’m not sure one has to be entirely agnostic – we have to draw vague standards of plausibility or we’d never have beliefs. (Some hardcore agnostics might claim that’s damn good thing but it isn’t possible if you want to get through life – choosing what to eat, what medicine to take and so on.)
I used to take the piss out of “9/11 truthers”, for example, for the same reason as Mr Kay – their case seemed implausible. This was wrong and I regret it. First as many of the points that “truthers” make about the day and its investigation are compelling. This is an ignored but uncontested and relatively mainstream conclusion. Second, and more subtly, as you can’t dismiss let alone deride evidence because it seems implausible. If you’re feeling lucky you choose to ignore it – take a gamble on your intuitions – but you can’t argue your a priori prejudices actually refute fact claims. Occam’s razor is not a murder weapon.
Even disregarding Kay’s shonky premise, by the way, I’m not sure his insights are particularly valid. Here he is, bitchin’ about the “truthers”…
…it’s a cult. And you can’t disabuse a cult member of their beliefs, because it’s central to their identity. Hardcore conspiracy theorists are attached to their conspiracy theories with the same force of conviction that religious adherents are attached to their religions. You can’t rationally convince someone not to be a Christian or a Scientologist. That’s their identity, that’s who they are.
You can’t convince someone to stop being a Christian? Wow. All those new atheists must be feeling pretty silly now.