Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Poking holes in true stories

David Gabois emailed me a response to my post on "Bible contradictions" and missing evidence:

David is an aerospace engineer and moderator at Green Baggins. With his permission, I'm posting his response:

I'm not a JFK buff, but I have burned more time over the years than I probably should have on moon landing conspiracy theories and 911 conspiracy theories regarding the collapse of the WTC towers, mostly because the technical and engineering issues interest me. 
I am always amazed at how conspiracy theorists find "contradictions" and "inconsistencies" in events as well-documented as these.  In fact, that more documentation there is, the more ammunition they have.  They often ignore or aren't cognizant of the more obvious explanations for various phenomena.  And when there are instances that involve elements that are genuinely perplexing on a prima facie take, they don't turn their powers of observation and creativity to constructing and investigating alternate theories that don't fit the cynical, conspiratorial narrative. 
There is also a lot of laziness involved.  In the age of the internet, oftentimes good answers are only a few minutes of Google searching away with some good faith effort.   
Technical ignorance often trips them up, sometimes this stems from a lack of basic scientific literacy, but other times there are elements in play of which only practicing scientists or engineers would (normally) already be acquainted.  Take the WTC towers- most people are not familiar with the havoc that structural deformation due to thermal expansion can inflict.  Beams can easily lose orders of magnitude of buckling strength.  Worse, joints come unseated. 
In any case, there are certainly parallels with critics of Scripture who allege "contradictions" and "inconsistencies" in the Bible.  Most of the secular critics of the Bible would, however, consider moon landing hoaxers and the like to be intellectually disrespectable. 
One of the lessons is that it is not hard to "poke holes" in nearly any story, even a true story and even in a well-documented one.  While, conversely, accounting for every last phenomenon and scrap of detail to create a complete picture and answer every question, indeed, can be very, very hard.  

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