We All Fall Down | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

August 19, 2009 News » Cover Story

We All Fall Down 

After 9/11, BYU prof. Steven Jones’ teaching career imploded just like the twin towers, but he still insists planes were not to blame.

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The Death Star Theory
“Steve is, by far, the most influential member [of the alternative 9/11 research community],” says James Fetzer, the man who, along with Jones, formed in 2005 the first academic 9/11 group, the Scholars for 9/11 Truth. “But, while he likes to think what he practices is science and not politics—its not. And what it is … is completely destructive!”

Fetzer’s beef with Jones arose when he felt Jones was being dismissive of other theories. “I have a Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science,” Fetzer says. “I know well that scientific inquiry is handicapped if you don’t consider the full range of alternative explanations.”

How broad is this range? For Fetzer, Jones’ controlled-demolition theory unfairly cuts out other ideas, such as the possibility that a directed energy beam, possibly from outer space, hit the towers.

Since Jones’ theory was more “palatable” than others, Fetzer says Jones won over contributors from the original group into a new group, the Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice. Fetzer also claims Jones sabotaged a 2007 9/11 conference he organized by convincing presenter Frank Greening, a Canadian physicist, not to attend.

While Jones is ordinarily mild-mannered, he quickly grows frustrated hearing Fetzer’s allegations. His good humor disappears, and Jones asks if any theory Fetzer supports can be backed up with an experiment.

Greening sides with Jones. He says he didn’t attend Fetzer’s conference because, at the last minute, Fetzer reneged on covering Greening’s travel expenses—and not because of anything Jones did. But Greening acknowledges that Jones is more politically savvy than he lets on beneath his goodnatured, absent-minded-professor fa%uFFFDade.

“He comes across as very meek and mild,” Greening says. “I’ve seen another side of him.” Greening says that, while Jones calls for scientific scrutiny of his theories, when actually challenged he becomes defensive and dismissive of scientific criticism.

Greening, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry and 20-plus years’ research experience in radio-analytical chemistry at Ontario Power Generation, says Jones has never seriously considered his arguments.

For one, Greening cites aluminum experts whose research shows that molten aluminum (such as what could have resulted from the melting heat of jet fuel) falling from extreme heights could have a reaction that would be similar to what Jones attributes to nano-thermite. Greening balks at the experiments Jones uses to refute this claim.

“Jones just gently poured molten aluminum on some rusty girders, and said, ‘I hereby discredit Greening,’” Greening says, pointing out that the experiment called for the aluminum to be dropped from greater than 6 feet. He also notes how Jones quickly leapt to the conclusion that the presence of sulphur in building rubble is evidence of nano-thermite before even considering other sources, such as diesel fuel from the building’s generators. This pattern of jumping to the conspiratorial conclusion is what disturbs Greening about Jones’ methods.

“If history proves him correct, people will say he’s a hero, and he stuck to his guns in the face of ridicule and pressure from everyone to drop it,” Greening says. “And I think he sees himself that way, like he’s a prophet of some top secret he’s revealed. The other side of the coin is that his work is sometimes sloppy. He’s stubborn in admitting error and he jumps to conclusions.”

We All Fall Down
Science can be violent. Trying to carve out the truth from conflicting accounts means some theories get cut down, and at times, even the scientist espousing the theory can be silenced.

Cut off from his university hardly means that Jones is done seeking the truth. And while a man of science, his drive to continue his search is as informed by his faith as it ever was. “The truth cuts its way, and it is getting out,” Jones says, noting his colleague James Farrer is currently giving presentations on the nano-thermite research in Europe.

Yet, even as he pursues truth, he has serious doubts about whether Americans will ever accept his account, and even if they did, if they would ever hold anyone accountable.

“I believe in God, so I know there will be justice someday,” Jones says. “People that allow their leaders to get away with, well, murder—the whole country becomes due for justice. You see this in the Book of Mormon, you see it in the Roman Empire … all these empires get to the point where the tyrant is doing stuff and the citizens do nothing and pretty soon …” Jones says, as he wiped his hands apart, “the empire crumbles.”

For links to Jones' research, articles criticizing his theories, and more, read the related story, Cuts Both Ways.

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