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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It points to the Vatican

Flight 93 blogburst logo: It points to Mecca!Lizard link: Push it!

Dr. Daniel Griffith ("anything can point to Mecca, because the earth is round") is still trying to convince the press that the Flight 93 crescent does not point to Mecca. In an email to the Park Service and the press this week, he tried to make it sound as if I am calculating the orientation of the crescent by using techniques that can be manipulated to achieve any desired result:
Based on Alec’s arguments, one could claim that the memorial is oriented toward the Vatican.
The Flight 93 crescent can indeed be seen as pointing to the Vatican, for the simple reason that the Vatican sits on the great circle line between the crash site and Mecca.

This is what Griffith represents as some concocted method for calculating the orientation of the crescent: the great circle method!

This "shortest distance" or "straight line" direction to Mecca (curving only in the over the horizon direction) is the relevant direction because this is the way that Muslims calculate the direction to Mecca. (There was a debate about it in the 1980's and 90's, largely settled by this nondescript looking analysis.)

Here is the great circle line from the Flight 93 crash-site to Mecca:

Crash-site to Kaaba30%
(Click-pic for larger image. Great circle calculator here.)

Here is the great circle line from the crash-site to the Vatican:

Crash-site to Vatican35%
This calculator rounds to the nearest degree, so Mecca and the Vatican both are presented as lying on the great circle line that, from the crash site, proceeds 55° clockwise from north.

Of course a person who faces Mecca is also facing everything else that happens to lie in the direction of Mecca. When Griffith acknowledges that the crescent points to the Vatican, he is not debunking of the Mecca-orientation of the Flight 93 crescent, but confirming it.

Reductio ad Hitlerum

Griffith pulled the same trick last July, telling reporter Kirk Swauger of the Johnstown Tribune Democrat that the crescent can be seen as pointing to a Nazi concentration camp if you want:
Griffith said Rawls suggested memorial organizers would be outraged if the crescent pointed to a Nazi concentration camp instead, the professor said it actually could be done.
Of course I never suggested that anyone should care if the crescent points at a concentration camp. Is there a worldwide religion of facing Nazi concentration camps for prayer? Was Flight 93 hijacked by people who face Nazi concentration camps for prayer?

An unpublished report that Griffith wrote for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review in 2006 clarifies his concentration camp reference. It notes that there was a Nazi concentration camp (Drancy) located just outside of Paris, which as you can see on the maps above is also (like the Vatican) on the great circle line between the Flight 93 crash-site and Mecca. In his 2006 report, Griffith acknowledges that the crescent points to the Drancy camp, yet is still unwilling to acknowledge that it points to Mecca. Somehow, the crescent points to everything on the line to Mecca except Mecca.

When Griffith told Swauger that you can see the crescent as pointing to a Nazi concentration camp if you want, he was clearly trying to mislead Swauger into thinking that you can see the crescent as pointing wherever you want. This dishonest intention was made clear by another statement that Griffith made to Swauger (not reported by Swauger, but related by Swauger to me at the time). Griffith told Swauger that: "You can face anywhere to face Mecca."

He is doing the same thing when he tells the Park Service now that the crescent can be seen as pointing to the Vatican, without being clear that this is because the Vatican sits on great circle line to Mecca.


In his email, Griffith complains that I have been trying to bully him into changing his analysis. Nobody is trying to bully Griffith into changing anything. We are trying to expose him as a fraud.

Griffith is practically in tears about being called a Pecksniff (a character from Martin Chuzzlewit "who lies and cants whether he is drunk or sober"). It is the perfect epithet. Look in the dictionary under Pecksniff and you will see Daniel Griffith's picture.

Not that anyone should bother to read Griffith's email, but if anyone wants to, it puts front and center another astounding example of Griffith's free-form dishonesty.

Griffith quotes my January 2006 report to the Memorial Project as saying that:
...the orientation to Mecca “take[s] a short cut over the North Pole … even though Mecca is south of Shanksville.”
From this supposed quote, Griffith goes on to construct an elaborate fantasy about how, since the great circle line between the crash-site and Mecca does not actually go over the North Pole, it was really me, not him, who started this idea that you can face different directions to face Mecca.

But my report to the Memorial Project did not say that a person facing the north pole from the crash site is facing Mecca. Rather, it includes an aside explaining why the shortest-distance line to Mecca “points in a northeasterly direction” (not due north), even though Mecca is south of Shanksville. The reason is because both are in the northern hemisphere. To illustrate, the report includes the simplest possible example: “The shortest distance between points on the opposite sides of the northern hemisphere will take a short cut over the North Pole.”

Griffith quotes only the second half of this sentence, omitting the part about connecting points "on the opposite sides of the northern hemisphere.” That allows him to pretend that the points referred to are the crash-site and Mecca. Of course Shanksville and Mecca are not on opposite sides of the hemisphere. Mecca is about 2/3rds of the way around the hemisphere from the crash-site.

Having Misrepresented me as saying, not just that a person facing into the giant crescent is facing Mecca, but also that a person facing due north from the crash site is facing Mecca, Griffith then writes:
I fail to be convinced that only 2, rather than the infinity of possible, arcs are acceptable to Muslims.
Bwahahahaha! Griffith just finished saying how wrong it is to think that a person facing north from Shanksville is facing Mecca. Then he turns around and uses this face-north-to-face-Mecca claim (misattributed to me) as justification for saying that a person facing any direction is facing Mecca. Just how much peck has this idiot been sniffing?


Where is the lizard army? (push it)

A plea from Tom Burnett Sr. (push it)

The fraudulent Park Service investigation of the Flight 93 memorial (push it)

"Anything can point to Mecca, because the earth is round".

It seems to me this argument belongs in one of those lists of logical fallacies, such as presented here:


If you draw a straight line between Shanksville and Mecca (the curvature of the earth is understood), that line is the one and only direction from Shanksville to Mecca. Yes, anything can point to Mecca, but here is the fallacy: anything can point to Mecca, but each location on earth has only one direction toward Mecca (assuming the curvature of the earth and the shortest distance). Can somebody with training in logic tell me what this particular fallacy is called?

Max Kuenkel
Here is my interpretation and decription of the difference between Mr Rawls' position and Dr Griffith's position. First Mr Rawls' position:

Premise #1: The Crescent of Embrace is oriented toward Mecca.
Premise #2: The Mecca orientation of a structure by itself does not constitute Islamic iconography.
Premise #3: In order for a structure to be said to contain Islamic iconography, it is required that more than one such element be present. Multiple elements may then confirm each other.
Premise #4: The Crescent of Embrace contains several elements of Islamic iconography, such as the crescent moon and star, and the Islamic prayer-time sundial, and these several Islamic elements do confirm each other.
Conclusion: Therefore, the Mecca orientation of the Crescent, in conjunction with the other Islamic elements present in the memorial, does constitute Islamic iconography.

Now, Dr Griffith's position:

Premise #1: Mr Rawls says that the Crescent of Embrace is oriented toward Mecca.
Premise #2: Mr Rawls says that this Mecca-orientation is a problem, because, in conjunction with other Islamic elements present in the memorial, it constitutes Islamic iconography, which, as everyone agrees, must be avoided.
Premise #3: The Crescent of Embrace is indeed oriented towards Mecca.
Premise #4: Anything can point to Mecca, because the Earth is round.
Conclusion: The fact that the Crescent of Embrace points towards Mecca does not constitute Islamic iconography, because anything can point to Mecca, because the earth is round. Also, there are no additional Islamic elements in the design, which could serve to confirm each other as Islamic iconography.

(The above is my interpretation of the opposing positions. I believe that Dr Griffith's conclusion contains a logical error or fallacy. I am attempting to figure out exactly what that fallacy is. Max Kuenkel)

The fallacy is that when Griffith says that "anything can point to Mecca because the earth is round," he is telling the most obvious lie. At least, I thought it was obvious. But you are right. It must SOUND to a lot of people as if it could make sense, because a lot of people seem to accept it, or at least seem to not know for certain that it is wrong.

Just think about. Is there really no such thing as the direction from home to work? Or from San Francisco to LA? Or from the crash site to Mecca? Does the fact that the world is round really mean that there is no such thing as a direction on planet earth?

Think "as the crow flies." That is the great circle direction, which is the direction that MUSLIMS use as the direction to Mecca.
Hi Alec, of course you are right, there is such a thing as a direction from home to work, or from Shanksville to Mecca. “Anything” can point to Mecca if “anything” is, say, a revolving gun turret on a tank. But as far as architectural structures, either they point to Mecca (approximately), or they don’t. For Dr Griffith to say that “anything can point to Mecca” is not a logical fallacy that needs correction: it is rather, as I now believe, the authentic expression of an obstructionist mindset. What a mess this whole thing is! One the one hand, it could be argued that the terrorist-glorifying features of Murdoch's memorial are easy to see and to verify (with an Internet connection and some basic reading comprehension). On the other hand, what makes all this so maddening is when human arrogance enters into it: almost everybody involved wants to feel important or relevant, and/or protect their existing beliefs, whether by uncovering truth or by obstructing it.

After reading more on Dr Griffith's correspondence with you on this matter (following some of the links above), I have come to the conclusion that his personal arrogance (in this case) finds its (for him) most irresistible and dominant expression in truth obstruction (rather than truth investigation) . Perhaps he is a committed multi-culturalist or pacifist or John-Lennon-style idealist whose deeply held beliefs do not allow him to consider (for even a moment) the monstrosity of Murdoch's terrorist memorial (because it would conflict with what he believes, and everybody needs to feel that their beliefs are consistent). There are probably a number of reasons why even well-educated people may feel compelled to obstruct the truth at times, it’s not that unusual. Being a recognized authority in their field perhaps only adds to the temptation.

Max Kuenkel
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