[Taxacom] mass extinction how science works

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Sat Aug 11 13:27:33 CDT 2018


Not if you were too close :)

On Sat, Aug 11, 2018 at 2:05 PM, JF Mate <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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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> > Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 31 Some Years, 1987-2018.
> >
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> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 31 Some Years, 1987-2018.
>


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