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RE: [cdn-nucl-l] A double standard and appropriateness of sources
Murray Love wrote:
From: Murray Love
To: 'cdn-nucl-l (E-mail) '
Sent: 9/1/2002 3:55 PM
Subject: RE: [cdn-nucl-l] A double standard and appropriateness of sources
Without wanting to comment on the specifics of the debate over WTC
fireproofing, I'd like to challenge Jim Dukelow on the appropriateness
his ad hominem attacks on what he terms conservative propagandists.
Consider: most of the people on this list deal with ignorant
propaganda on a regular basis. Most of this propaganda comes from
the (nominal) Left, with the notable exception of Energy Probe. But
people here deal with these arguments, they usually deal with them on
merits, and without attempting to gild the lily by sideswiping their
opponents as "socialist propagandists". (To, uh, mix a metaphor.)
I suspect that Dukelow is attempting some rhetorical sleight of hand by
bringing in the political views of the people he disagrees with. And
is he saying? That conservatives are so inherently dishonest or
untrustworthy that we can effectively dismiss their arguments out of
So what if someone belongs to a conservative association of physicians?
imagine a lot of people (perhaps including Mr. Dukelow) would get rather
upset if a conservative dismissed the AMA out of hand because it was
ostensibly a liberal association of physicians (as some no doubt do).
a sneaky tactic to avoid dealing with the actual argument.
My point? I don't care if Satan himself wants to make an argument
the quality of fireproofing in the WTC towers--his argument stands and
on its own merits, regardless of his other qualities. It certainly
be aware of someone's political leanings when considering their
but this kind of labelling exercise is no substitute for substantive
Dukelow has since buttressed his argument with supporting data and
references, and good for him. But he still seems unwilling to discard
original tactic of dismissing opponents on the basis of their political
beliefs. It does his argument no credit.
Sigh! My problem with Andrew Schlafly is not that he is a lawyer for a
conservative association of physicians; it takes all kinds of people to make
a world. My problem is that he is a lawyer writing about engineering issues
and writing nonsense about them. My further problem is that smart people
seem willing to accept what he says at face value.
In my initial response to Jerry Cutler's description of Andrew Schlafly's
talk, I wrote: "The bit about asbestos removal having an impact on the
collapse of the WTC buildings is a right-wing fairy tale, offered first and
most distastefully by Steve Milloy, in a piece for FoxNews.com a few days
after the attack." I then asserted that, contrary to what Jerry reported
Andrew said, no part of the WTC towers' structural steel was left
uninsulated. I finally wrote "If you want scientific information, rather
than right-wing anti-regulatory propaganda, read the report of the expert
panel that studied the building failures and survivals, available on the
FEMA web site, <www.fema.org>." I commented on the report's tentative
conclusion that the initial impact knocked much of the spray-on insulation
off of the structural steel, particularly in the impact zone. The obvious
corollary, which I left to the reader to draw, was that the material
composition (asbestos or not) didn't matter at all, if the insulation was
shivered off the steel.
Jerry responded, writing: "This seems to be a very controversial topic."
I replied, rather testily, that it was only controversial if you give "equal
weight to an official study of the conditions of failure of the WTC
buildings by qualified engineers and architects and the blathering of a
lawyer for a conservative association of doctors (not the AMA -- too liberal
for the AAPS) speaking at a gathering of conservative propagandists of
various stripes." Schlafly is a lawyer. AAPS is conservative, although
they might prefer to be called libertarian. The DDP meeting was pretty
one-sided, including several speakers on various aspects of what might
reasonably be described as a conserative agenda. Soon and Baliunas on
climate issues, Cooper and Wood on SDI, and Lehr and Robinson on regulation.
What I wrote was both pretty tame and a succint, accurate summary of the
What I didn't write is something that readers of this list should carefully
consider. What is the difference between Jerry saying that Schlafly on the
one side and Dukelow on the other side makes the issue of asbestos in the
WTC buildings "very controversial" and a journalist counterposing the
arguments of a qualified nuclear engineer to those of an unqualified
anti-nuke who will say anything he or she thinks will be effective against
nuclear power? Is the journalist justified in describing nuclear power as
"very controversial"? Is the nuclear engineer legitimately irritated to be
equated in this argument with the know-nothing? Should we simply accept the
assertions of someone with whom we are ideologically comfortable, or is that
the time we need to be the most sceptical?
I continued my response to Jerry by making three specific technical points
where Schlafly's speech, as reported by Jerry, was wrong. I have not asked
readers to take my word, but have encouraged them to read the report of the
official inquiry. In addition, they could, as I did, go to the engineering
literature and learn something about fire protection in high rise buildings.
I have not dismissed (or accepted) anyone's arguments out of hand and I
don't think anyone else should either.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
These comments are mine and have not been reviewed and/or approved by my
management or by the U.S. Department of Energy.