Thursday, September 14, 2006


Some months back I happened upon this site, which is devoted to debunking the pronouncements of a collection of (largely academic) eccentrics devoted to propagating the notion that the World Trade Center and portions of the Pentagon were destroyed as a consequence of a government conspiracy (whose means and methods are a matter of dispute among members of this collection). The principal of this collection is a philosophy professor at the University of Minnesota whose previous avocation was research on the Kennedy assassination. The more sober and seasoned among that particular subculture have found his work therein something of an embarrassment to the guild; he appears to be maintaining his usual standards.

This Prof. Fetzer from Minnesota has had occasion to extol the scholarly heft of his crew, but as it happens they include among them just three people with much in the way of scientific or technical expertise. One is a physicist who specializes in an odd department of electrochemical research, another a mechanical engineer whose beat is research in the service of the optimal design of dentures, and a third an aerospace engineer formerly of the U.S. Air Force. The first of these teaches at Brigham Young University, the second at Clemson University, and the third has been retired for some time.

I must admit upon examining Robert M. Bowman's advertisments for himself, I suspected him a fantasist whose biography was composed of much fabrication. He claimed to have received a doctoral degree from Caltech, to have directed the Air Force's missile defense research before such programs were made public, to have held teaching or administrative posts at five different colleges, to have chaired eight international conferences, and to have spoken before the House of Lords (while having seen combat in VietNam as well).

A search of Dissertation Absracts International reveals that the California Institute of Technology did in fact award a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering to a Robert Marcus Bowman, in 1966. Unless the man is a far more talented forger than he is a webmaster, he is approximately who he says he is, albeit laden with some trumpery. During 22 years in the military, was an instructor at the Air Force Institute of Technology (if no other place he cares to specify), did a brief tour in VietNam, and was stationed in England for six or seven years while assigned to a research and development corps within the Air Force known as the Air Force Systems Command (which agency he curiously refers to as the "Air Force Space Division"). Subsequent to his retirement from the military was employed by commercial corporations for a time, among them General Dyanamics and the Space Communications Company, which last was a joint venture of Western Union and Fairchild Industries (among others). As can be seen, he was a participant in a number of technical and professional conferences as well.

In July 1982, his employment with the Space Communications Company ceased and Dr. Bowman departed the world of vocational achievement he had occupied for the previous thirty years. Subsequent to that he founded the "Institute for Space and Security Studies", which has been variously located in Potomac, Maryland and around about Melbourne, Florida (but one suspects always atop the desk in his den). The Institute issues a newsletter, Space & Security News, which Dr. Bowman describes thus: "Fiercely independent, S&SN has angered many liberals by defending the Cassini space probe with its plutonium heat source. It has alienated conservatives by its opposition to the B-2, nuclear testing, and weapons in space." There are two (2) libraries in the English-speaking world which advertise that they have a scatter of issues in and amongst their dead inventory, angering and alienating whomever. He is also "Vice President" of the "Millennium III Corporation", of which what you see is about what you get. He appears to have had something of a road show ca. 1985, and gone on tour again several times in the last seven years. Did I mention he is a bishop?

The executive or engineer who loses his job well into middle age and is thereafter foresaken by employers is a commonplace (and there were many such displaced bourgeois in 1982). Well, if no one is hiring, your technical skills are a wasting, and your military pension provides an adequate income, one might as well construct an alternate reality for oneself. Perhaps that assumes too much, but the contrast between one period and another may allow one to surmise that a crisis of some sort presented itself in his 49th year, the resolution of which you see before you. At least his wife stuck by him.

All the gifts we have we hold contingently.