[Taxacom] mass extinction how science works

JF Mate aphodiinaemate at gmail.com
Sat Aug 11 13:05:33 CDT 2018

If only somebody had observed the impact live. Only way to be truly sure...

On Sat, 11 Aug 2018, 15:44 John Grehan, <calabar.john at gmail.com> wrote:

> For a little irony, biogeography is not the only field where opponents (as
> opposed to to the ideas which are fair game) are targeted. Below some quote
> from a recent article in
> https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/09/dinosaur-extinction-debate/565769/
> For the record, I have long wondered about the intensity and consequences
> of any asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous given the biogeographic
> evidence for the massive amount of correlation between modern distributions
> and Mesozoic tectonics. If an asteroid hit were responsible for the mass
> extinctions it was not massive enough to obliterate the biological
> structure of the ecosystems within which the extant groups existed,
> particularly right next to the Chicxulub crater.
> John Grehan
> When Keller examined the El Kef samples, she did not see a “bad weekend,”
> but a bad era: Three hundred thousand years before Alvarez’s asteroid
> struck, some foram populations had already started to decline. Keller found
> that they had become less and less robust until, very rapidly, about a
> third of them vanished. “My takeaway was that you could not have a single
> instantaneous event causing this pattern,” she told me. “That was my
> message at that meeting, and it caused an enormous turmoil.” Keller said
> she barely got through her introduction before members of the audience tore
> into her: “Stupid.” “You don’t know what you’re doing.” “Totally wrong.”
> “Nonsense.”
> Ad hominem attacks had by then long characterized the mass-extinction
> controversy, which came to be known as the “dinosaur wars.” Alvarez had set
> the tone. His numerous scientific exploits—winning the Nobel Prize in
> Physics, flying alongside the crew that bombed Hiroshima, “X-raying”
> Egypt’s pyramids in search of secret chambers—had earned him renown far
> beyond academia, and he had wielded his star power to mock, malign, and
> discredit opponents who dared to contradict him. In *The **New York Times*,
> Alvarez branded one skeptic “not a very good scientist,” chided dissenters
> for “publishing scientific nonsense,” suggested ignoring another
> scientist’s work because of his “general incompetence,” and wrote off the
> entire discipline of paleontology when specialists protested that the
> fossil record contradicted his theory. “I don’t like to say bad things
> about paleontologists, but they’re really not very good scientists,”
> Alvarez
> told *The**Times*
> <
> https://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/19/science/the-debate-over-dinosaur-extinctions-takes-an-unusually-rancorous-turn.html
> >.
> “They’re more like stamp collectors.”
> The greatest area of consensus between the volcanists and the impacters
> seems to be on what insults to sling. Both sides accuse the other of
> ignoring data. Keller says that her pro-impact colleagues “will not listen
> or discuss evidence that is contrary to what they believe”; Alan
> Hildebrand, a prominent impacter, says Keller “doesn’t look at all the
> evidence.” Each side dismisses the other as unscientific: “It’s not
> science. It sometimes seems to border on religious fervor, basically,” says
> Keller, whose work Smit calls “barely scientific.” Both sides contend that
> the other is so stubborn, the debate will be resolved only when the
> opposition croaks. “You don’t convince the old people about a new idea. You
> wait for them to die,” jokes Courtillot, the volcanism advocate,
> paraphrasing Max Planck. Smit agrees: “You just have to let them get
> extinct.”
> All the squabbling raises a question: How will the public know when
> scientists have determined which scenario is right? It is tempting, but
> unreliable, to trust what appears to be the majority opinion. Forty-one
> co-authors signed on to a 2010 *Science* paper asserting that Chicxulub
> was, after all the evidence had been evaluated, conclusively to blame for
> the dinosaurs’ death. Case closed, *again*. Although some might consider
> this proof of consensus, dozens of geologists, paleontologists, and
> biologists wrote in to the journal
> <http://science.sciencemag.org/content/328/5981/973.1> contesting the
> paper’s methods and conclusions
> <
> https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/Geoscientist/Archive/May-2010/KT-Controversies-the-Science-letters
> >.
> Science is not done by vote.
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