Ramblings about what I encounter within the realm of the geosciences, as well as the occasional rant about nonsense.

10 December 2009

EEdiocy Part 1

Son of a bitch. Why does crappy science get into newspapers? I was pretty disappointed by the coverage I found on the 150th Anniversary of "Origin of Species", but this... this takes the absolute cake.

I follow occasionally read PvP, an online comic strip. Yesterday they released a clip of Neil Adams inking Santa's demise for the strip. This got me to wondering, what has Neil been doing with himself since last year. I found this lurid post on his website [comment and link added by me]:
Jeff Ogrisseg a feature reporter for the Japan Times newspaper decided Neal’s views on tectonics were worth a major story...

...He worked on the story for 6 months and presented a fair and balanced overview of the Growing Earth Theory.

Little did he know what a fracas it would cause apparently there are some Geologists out there that are P.O.’ed that a (Eyuch) "comic book creator" should read 100 science books and agree with a long over looked theory that disagreed with THEM, ... That the reason a whale sized Sauropod could walk around upright 90 million years ago, was that the Earth was smaller then and gravity less [Neal, you are an EEdiot]. Is that the whole discussion? Oh no, that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Is he working on a Graphic Novel on this besides the video? You bet ! Neal just has to [sic] much fun.
The Japan Times, from a country that kinda depends on a decent understanding of Earth processes, came out with a series of articles.... on Expanding Earth (EE)! The quality of the research (and the writing) is appalling. Since the newspaper ran a 3 article series, I might as well break it up into 3 posts. Let's hit some of the highlights of the first article:

First up is Jeff Ogrisseg's article "Our Growing Earth". It is a basic summation of the buffoonery that is EE. It starts with this wonderful attention grabber:
Put aside that stuff about continental drift and tectonic plates explaining the world as it is, and consider a globe that may be getting bigger all round like a pumpkin on a vine
I like the logical fallacy of stacking the deck. I also like the idea of putting aside reason. Reason tends to get in the way of EE advocacy. However, let's get to the meat of the article proper:
Plate Tectonics Theory assumes the Earth has been about the same size since it was created some 4.5 billion years ago out of material thrown across space in the so-called Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.
This is a dishonest tactic some creationists use, so it comes as no shock when it is appropriated by others who oppose reality. The Big Bang has nothing to do with plate tectonics. The creation of the Earth has nothing to do with plate tectonics. The age of the Earth has nothing to do with plate tectonics. The only thing this statement gets correct is that plate tectonics makes the assumption that the conservation of matter/energy is valid. [sarcasm] I know, those free-wheeling geologists making rational assumptions, harshing the EEdiots buzz (pun definitely intended).[/sarcasm]

Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that provides a unifying framework for all of geology. It provides a mechanism that explains many of the features we see on Earth today. For instance, it explains why mountains are where they are, why volcanoes are where they are, why earthquakes occur where they do (and at what depths they will likely occur), why we have ridges in the middle of oceans, why landmasses currently separated by oceans have the same paleo-flora and paleo-fauna, why we have oceanic trenches, why trenches are associated with deeper earthquakes, why we have an unexpected horizon in the mantle where material appears to be colder, etc.

Moving on. Jeff makes a beautiful argument on antiquity. An argument of antiquity basically asserts that people formerly accepting something as factual is evidence that it is factual. It is a fantastic logical fallacy. Following this line of reasoning, we better all grab the nearest goat, because I am certain that the myriad of deities people worshiped are getting mighty tired of no sacrifices [comments added].
That assumption [conservation of matter/energy] has gained further traction due to a lack of evidence that our planet may have been smaller or may be growing [I know, if it was smaller that implies it's growing, this is a redundant 'either-or' statement] according to the 18th-century Kant-Laplace nebular hypothesis about the formation of our solar system in an ever-expanding universe.
Yes, there is an astounding lack of evidence of nonsensical ideas. Scientists don't have to go around proving 'what is not', there is far more of 'what is not' than 'what is'. Unfortunately, the facts don't stack up well for EE. If planetary bodies in our solar system were growing, we would have detected eccentricities in the orbits of their respective satellites. Keep in mind Astronomy has an ~2600 year history (~400 years with telescopes tracking satellites orbiting other planets). No curious wobbles of this variety have been recorded.
The problem with Growing Earth Theory, mainstream scientists say, is that it would require the creation of brand new matter — a mechanism for which they claim has not been confirmed and therefore is not accepted as happening.
I would like to add that a testable mechanism has not even been proposed, let alone confirmed, it is very difficult (read "impossible") to rigorously test something that hasn't been stated. Near as I can tell, EE advocates could be invoking the power of pixies.
However, it probably doesn't help that it also leads to a reassessment of the planet's very evolutionary nature and, with it, humankind's rise to dominance.
... So... plate tectonics is now being conflated with paleoanthropology and evolutionary biology... wow... Jeff's grasp of science makes me weep for his former teachers. He continues:
All that aside, Growing Earth Theory, summarized in detail from here, is really quite simple and even explains a number of paleontological mysteries.
Technically he is correct. Zero is a number.

The next several paragraphs I will leave to the reader to beat their head against. Mostly, it is the supposition of a kook. Statements to the effect of 70% of the smaller Earth was covered with water, but somehow there was minimal topography (wouldn't all the Earth be under water then?). This, of course, implies that not only are rocks being made by magic, but so is water. The evidence for this? Enceladus (somewhere, I hear an Australian grad student screaming). Because Enceladus has water coming out of the 'tiger stripes' around the Southern Pole, EEdiots claim it is proof that water can be generated from nothing. It can't possibly be that the water was already there. No, that flirts dangerously close to parsimony and reason.

This is perhaps the greatest statement in the whole piece:
In terms of mountain building, too, it's interesting that none of the large, nonvolcanic mountain ranges on our planet, such as the Alps, Andes or Himalayas, are more than 100 million years old.
Apparently mentioning the Appalachians is taboo. Or the Urals. Or the Ancestral Rockies. Or any of a myriad of other ancient and eroded mountain ranges that we will never be able to identify. Also, by "nonvolcanic", I assume Jeff means 'presently nonvolcanic' as all these ranges had periods of volcanism in their pasts as oceanic crust was subducted under continental crust prior to a continent-continent orogenic event. And the Andes are ACTIVELY volcanic today(nice of it to line up near a trench, but then again the Andes are part of the global conspiracy known as reality).
This has the effect of flattening the Earth's curvature, but — because the Earth's granite crust is so thick — it tends to retain its curvature as it can't bend or stretch. Then as gravity tries to recurve it to the flattening surface of the growing planet, it cracks and breaks and throws up mountain-range-size ripples such as today's Himalayas.
I have never heard the Himalayas described as 'ripples'. True Jeff states Mountain-range-size ripples, but still 'ripples'. This portion of Jeff's tribute to the cretinism that is EE boggles the mind. Here is what I think he is saying. A smaller Earth has greater curvature. Thick crust won't flatten out easily. Therefore, it stays bent and you get mountains. This is dynamically unworkable within EE's own framework nonetheless. Any protuberance above the geoid will preferentially erode and subsequently be deposited in topographic lows. This results in smoothing out the surface, not the generation of mountain ranges. Additionally, this doesn't account for flat lying portions of continental crust (they should be bent into mountain ranges too).
For 160 million years until 65 million years ago, dinosaurs were the dominant species and roamed this planet unhindered by oceans, often migrating much as birds do today, Growing Earth Theory posits. Indeed, fossil evidence of like dinosaur species continue to be found on multiple continents now separated by oceans too vast to traverse.
I see Jeff ascribes to the Yoda school of sentence structure. Or as Jeff would write: I see the Yoda school of sentence structure, Jeff ascribes to. I gather that Jeff is making the claim that the dinosaurs didn't invade the marine realm because there was no marine realm. This must come as a shock to individuals who study Mesozoic Marine Reptiles. Those lizards could get fairly sizable.

If you are familiar with EEdiots, and their arguments, you should already know what bringing up dinosaurs has to do with anything [emphasis added]:
From the fossil record it has also been learned that the bones of dinosaurs had about the same density as animal bones do today, yet many dinosaurs were three or four times larger than any existing animals, yet were probably just as maneuverable. The reduced gravity on a smaller planet with less mass could well account for this, growing Earth theorists propose, as well as accounting for the significantly larger flora of that time.
It's the "Earth was smaller, gravity was less, things got big" argument. Too bad nobody's taken the time to disembowel this faulty view of gravity. Oh wait!!!!
So the "terrible lizards" simply did not adapt fast enough as the Earth grew, and that is what killed them off — not some CG-like impact from outer space. There it is. We are growing from the seams as new crust is added at the undersea volcanic ridges. No need for giant rocks from outer space, runaway continents or credulity-straining subduction zones to consume and recycle epic masses of material.
Again with this routine. The bolide-impact hypothesis is not plate tectonics. Extinction studies are not plate tectonics. Maybe Jeff should look up what Plate Tectonics is. The first sentence says it all: "Plate Tectonics is a theory which describes the large scale motions of the Earth's Lithosphere". Just in case that goes over his head, here is Plate Tectonics for kids. The 'bath-toy' analogy is particularly clever.

Additionally, I don't know what he thinks "CG-like impact(s)" are. The Earth, from time to time, does experience impacts from outer-space. Denying impacts is about as sensible as denying the existence of oceans. And I like 'credulity-straining' subduction zones, I find them less dubious than the magical generation of matter.
Few theories are without their flaws, but Growing Earth Theory certainly has a way of growing on you.
Clever. However, you might want to refrain from analogies about 'growing on you' to a group of scientists that are at a high risk for skin cancer. They are more likely to cut it off before it becomes malignant. Oh wait, that is what EE is. Very apt then.
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Edit: Steven Novella (of SGU, Neurologica, and Skepticblog fame) also ran across this story.

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Between Los Alamos,NM and White Rock, NM

Between Los Alamos,NM and White Rock, NM
The photo of the travertine spring was taken in the small opening in the center of the image.

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