The question of negative proof and 9/11
by Elias Davidsson
2 June 2008
It has been shown elsewhere that there exists not a shred of evidence that 19 Muslims boarded the four flights of 9/11. When saying “no shred of evidence”, what is meant is that such evidence does not exist in the public domain. Theoretically, such evidence may exist that would prove that 19 Muslims did actually board these flights. But if such evidence does exist, it has not been yet produced.
According to these circumstances, an agnostic position has been taken by some observers, namely that to state that we cannot, at this point, establish whether 19 Muslims boarded or did not board the four flights of 9/11, because while there is no evidence that they did, there is no evidence that they went elsewhere. This position is based on the formal axiom that one cannot prove a negative.
The formal axiom stating the impossibility of proving a negative must, however, be qualified by life’s realities. In pure science, such axiom must be respected. When applied to life’s situations, few people apply this axiom in a dogmatic manner. At times, a dogmatic application of this principle might even be dangerous to human life. Furthermore, criminal law does not apply this axiom dogmatically.
Let us take examples of daily life. I come home and do not find my wife there. She did not leave a message where she is. But due to experience, I would guess where she is and thus find her. In order to find her, I did not use the tool of formal logic, but my intuition, based on experience.
In criminal law, the police would arrest people suspected of having committed a crime. In many cases, the police would not possess sufficient evidence to make definite conclusions about the guilt of the person, but some indicators pointing to possible guilt. After arrest, the suspect would be interviewed, investigated and perhaps charged or released. The arrest of the suspect and the possibility of subpoening documents and items, would permit to either prove the suspicion or disprove it and release the suspect from suspicion. Here, again, experience, circumstancial evidence and a good intuition, are the tools that lead the police, not formal logic.
In the case of 9/11, an agnostic position towards the question whether there were or were not Muslims aboard the four flights, is untenable for the following reasons:
There are material consequences resulting from the position taken on that matter. This is no an academic exercise that can await a scientific proof. The US Government has used and continues to use its unsubstantiated allegations (regarding the 19 Muslims) as a base for criminal policies against other nations and systematic human rights violations. Taking the stand that the Government may – for unexplained reasons – simply keep hidden the evidence it possesses, amounts to allowing the Government to maintain its criminal and oppressive policies by continuously justifying such policies on its account of 9/11. Can we accept such risk to life and freedom in order to stick dogmatically to a principle of formal logic?
In criminal law, guilt is not determined solely on the basis of positive evidence. In some cases, the absence of evidence – where such evidence should exist – is a sufficient ground to infer guilt. In the case of 9/11, the US Government has a moral and political duty to produce the evidence on which it bases its accusations against 19 named individuals for mass murder. The fact that it did not fulfil this duty is a sufficient reason not to take an agnostic position towards the lack of evidence, but make a reasonable and plausible inference from the lack of evidence. This inference must be that the US Government is unable to produce this evidence, either because it does not exist, or because it varies substantially from what the Government has claimed.
An agnostic position towards this question is scientifically correct, but politically irresponsible in view of the stakes involved.