Investigators eventually recovered 98 percent of the wreckage from the ocean floor and painstakingly rebuilt a large part of the airliner.Why do people find it "more acceptable" to believe that something was done intentionally than to see it as just a mistake? It's painful to think that human beings can be so evil, but maybe we like to have an image of punishing someone for the things that go very wrong.
"We studied if it had been a missile, what would it have done to the fuselage? We had scientists in the desert shooting rockets into old fuselages," [said Robert Francis, the former vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.] "We didn't find a single piece of wreckage that would have pointed to that kind of explosion. So I say to the missile theorists, 'Show me something."' ...
In the end, he said the definitive answer to the mystery was the center fuel tank.
Why did so many people have doubts?
"It's more acceptable to the public if somebody did this, rather than blame it on maintenance or design," said Pete Field, a retired Marine Corps pilot from Missouri who now works as an aviation crash consultant.
He said witnesses who claimed to have seen streaks of light heading toward the doomed jetliner were actually seeing the plane breaking up after the catastrophe -- the official theory offered by the NTSB.
"You see trails [of light] and it's easy to get your mind confused," he said. "I do accident investigations all the time and I find that the mind traps an image, even if it's not there. Even some aviation experts will tell you they saw something that just could not have happened."
But it's larger than that. We like to think there's meaning, that behind what has happened there is an intelligence, thinking and planning. We reveal this need when we believe in God and when we say "Everything happens for a reason." So if bad things happen, we even want there to be evil people who did it.
If the weather is bad, instead of it being just more meaningless weather, we think God has sent it, perhaps to punish us for our sins, or we can leave God out of the explanation and say it is just our bad behavior -- greedily burning fossil fuels -- that is the cause. I'm not saying the theory that human beings are causing global warming isn't true, just that thinking it is true is one of the things that satisfies our need to find someone responsible.
You see trails of light and it's easy to get your mind confused.