The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, the publishing arm of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has joined the conspiracy-mongers and published a book suggesting the September 11 attacks were engineered by the U.S. government and speculates that hidden explosives, not jetliners, brought down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
Blindly ignoring that Popular Mechanics consulted more than 300 experts and organizations in an investigation into 9/11 conspiracy theories. In its March, 2005 issue, the magazine published "9/11: Debunking The Myths," refuting the most persistent conspiracy theories of September 11, including the explosives espoused in "Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action" published by the Presbyterians.
According to a review available at Amazon.com, and noted by Hugh Hewitt, the Presbyterian published book claims that multiple bomb explosions occurred throughout both towers both before and after the buildings were struck by flying objects demonstrating that the two towers as well as WTC 7 were brought down by controlled demolition.
Popular Mechanics scientifically debunked this now tired myth. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) investigation revealed that plane debris sliced through the utility shafts at the North Tower's core, creating a conduit for burning jet fuel--and fiery destruction throughout the building."
Burning fuel traveling down the elevator shafts would have disrupted the elevator systems and caused extensive damage to the lobbies. NIST heard first-person testimony that "some elevators slammed right down" to the ground floor. "The doors cracked open on the lobby floor and flames came out and people died," says James Quintiere, an engineering professor at the University of Maryland and a NIST adviser.
Some conspiracy-mongerers assert jet fuel doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel. Jet fuel burns at 800° to 1500°F, steel melts at 2750°F. The magazine reports "experts agree that for the towers to collapse, their steel frames didn't need to melt, they just had to lose some of their structural strength--and that required exposure to much less heat:
"Steel loses about 50 percent of its strength at 1100°F," notes senior engineer Farid Alfawak-hiri of the American Institute of Steel Construction."
[. . .]
But jet fuel wasn't the only thing burning, notes Forman Williams, a professor of engineering at the University of California, San Diego, and one of seven structural engineers and fire experts that PM consulted. He says that while the jet fuel was the catalyst for the WTC fires, the resulting inferno was intensified by the combustible material inside the buildings, including rugs, curtains, furniture and paper. NIST reports that pockets of fire hit 1832°F.
"The jet fuel was the ignition source," Williams tells PM. "It burned for maybe 10 minutes, and [the towers] were still standing in 10 minutes. It was the rest of the stuff burning afterward that was responsible for the heat transfer that eventually brought them down."
The conspiracy-mongers also claim that puffs of dust and debris ejected from the sides of the buildings are not possible from a mere collapse, but are evidence of explosions."
The magazine's expert also easily debunk the puffs of dust myth:
Once each tower began to collapse, the weight of all the floors above the collapsed zone bore down with pulverizing force on the highest intact floor. Unable to absorb the massive energy, that floor would fail, transmitting the forces to the floor below, allowing the collapse to progress downward through the building in a chain reaction:"
Like all office buildings, the WTC towers contained a huge volume of air. As they pancaked, all that air--along with the concrete and other debris pulverized by the force of the collapse--was ejected with enormous energy. "When you have a significant portion of a floor collapsing, it's going to shoot air and concrete dust out the window," NIST lead investigator Shyam Sunder tells PM. Those clouds of dust may create the impression of a controlled demolition, Sunder adds, "but it is the floor pancaking that leads to that perception."
Conspiracy-mongers further allege the collapse of the 47-story WTC 7, seven hours after the two towers fell was a controlled demolition. Again the experts debunk the mythology:
NIST investigators believe a combination of intense fire and severe structural damage contributed to the collapse, though assigning the exact proportion requires more research. But NIST's analysis suggests the fall of WTC 7 was an example of "progressive collapse," a process in which the failure of parts of a structure ultimately creates strains that cause the entire building to come down. Videos of the fall of WTC 7 show cracks, or "kinks," in the building's facade just before the two penthouses disappeared into the structure, one after the other. The entire building fell in on itself, with the slumping east side of the structure pulling down the west side in a diagonal collapse.
According to NIST, there was one primary reason for the building's failure: In an unusual design, the columns near the visible kinks were carrying exceptionally large loads, roughly 2000 sq. ft. of floor area for each floor. "What our preliminary analysis has shown is that if you take out just one column on one of the lower floors," Sunder notes, "it could cause a vertical progression of collapse so that the entire section comes down."
There are two other possible contributing factors still under investigation: First, trusses on the fifth and seventh floors were designed to transfer loads from one set of columns to another. With columns on the south face apparently damaged, high stresses would likely have been communicated to columns on the building's other faces, thereby exceeding their load-bearing capacities.
Second, a fifth-floor fire burned for up to 7 hours. "There was no firefighting in WTC 7," Sunder says. Investigators believe the fire was fed by tanks of diesel fuel that many tenants used to run emergency generators. Most tanks throughout the building were fairly small, but a generator on the fifth floor was connected to a large tank in the basement via a pressurized line. Says Sunder: "Our current working hypothesis is that this pressurized line was supplying fuel [to the fire] for a long period of time."
WTC 7 might have withstood the physical damage it received, or the fire that burned for hours, but those combined factors--along with the building's unusual construction--were enough to set off the chain-reaction collapse.
According to the Washington Times, the book, which is in its second printing after having sold 5,000 copies in its first month, has attracted volumes of criticism, boycott threats and attempted clarifications by various church officials:
Certain critics question how the Presbyterians, one of the most staid denominations, became entangled in such theories. Although the publishing house is editorially independent from the denomination, its board is elected at the church's quadrennial conventions.
"This is as legitimate as pet rocks," said John H. Adams, editor of the Lenoir, N.C.-based Presbyterian Layman. "We are wondering why our denominational press is picking up on something like this. This was written by a process theologian, which is quite alien to reform theology, which Presbyterians believe in. Before the publisher gives the book the Westminster John Knox imprimatur, they should determine the validity of these accusations."
"The views expressed in the book are Griffin's alone," says Presbyterian Publishing Corp. (PPC) Board Chairman Kenneth Godshall, referring to the author, David Ray Griffin, 67, a retired professor at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, Calif.
"PPC provides a variety of viewpoints in the books we publish. A few of them from time to time are controversial. This particular book is the work of an independent author and in no way represents the views of the denomination or PPC itself."
Yet when you go the the Presbyterian Publisher's website, you first encounter a huge add for the site's "featured book" - Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action.
So much for the ninth commandment.