Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mountains arise (!)

(Through a Head of Cloud)

Mountain.  The word defies definition, for the very good reason that it means different things to different people.  Professor Cloud's need to describe 'the crumpling that happens' ("when plates collide") places it well and truly in the domain of biblical belief.

Fig.1. India collides with Asia.  [Preston Cloud, 1988.  Oasis in Space, Fig.16.5, p.420 (adapted from Zhang, Liou and Coleman, 1984, Geol.Soc. Amer.Bull., v. 95, p.296, Fig.1).

This image from Preston Cloud's book illustrates the consensus view of mountain building in the type area of continental collision: "When continents collide, they pile up into mountains with deep roots, as in the complex multicollisional Himalaya." - p.207.

* (Fly-leaf) - Preston Cloud, professor emeritus of geology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, holds a doctorate from Yale University. He is the editor and co-author of Resources and Man and of Adventures in Earth History as well as the author of Cosmos., Earth and Man. Dr. Cloud is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1976 he was awarded the Penrose Medal of the Geological Society of America. For many years associated with the United States Geological Survey. (died 1991)

 .. Or compare with these :-

"When plates and the continents riding on them collide, the accumulated layers of rock crumple and fold like a tablecloth that is pushed across a table." (link)
"The pressure of the colliding plates could only be relieved by thrusting skyward. The folding, bending, and twisting of the collision zone formed the jagged Himalayan peaks. This string of towering peaks is still being thrust up as India, embedded in the Indo-Australian Plate, continues to crunch relentlessly into Tibet, on the southern edge of the Eurasian Plate.  (link). 
[Or this one, .. I really like this one.]

The quotes cited are typical of the current consensus as regards so-called 'Fold Mountains", .. mountains that are formed by the "buckling, crumpling, and upward thrusting of continental crust as plates collide" (or otherwise variably "move"), and are so named to distinguish them from volcanoes and 'erosional mountains'. The Himalayas are generally regarded as the type area. [20171109 or at least used to be (at the time of writing this page.  The wikipedia has changed it to the Zagros mountains to accommodate the change from "mountain building" to "mountain formation" (link)

What Professor Cloud's figure does (by showing the limits of Indian crumpling restricted to simply the Himalayan sector), is give voice to the consensus view how mountains are formed at the date of publication of his book (1988), by which time Plate Tectonics had become well entrenched.  Of course he knows full well that the mountain belt continues sideways out of the figure, ..extending eastwards to encircle the Pacific and westwards to the Carpathians and the Alps (and with the Atlantic closed the Appalachians as well).   And so does everyone else.  So what we are witnessing in this 'figurative voice' is a kind of struggling for words around a silent question, "How is this uniformity of circumglobal elevation to be explained by "independent plate movement?" -  India crumpling Asia, Africa crumpling Europe (but what is crumpling the Americas?) ..  and a certain tacit agreement not to try to answer it.

"So arose at different times the Atlas Mountains of northwestern Africa, the Pyrenees, the Alps, and their eastern European extensions and, with them, the distinctive flysch deposits of Alpine deformation. The orogenies responsible for that picture-book scenery then gave way to the vigorous erosion whose distinctive post-tectonic sedimentary product is the Alpine molasse."

"And so arose"... There reads to me a certain lyrical, almost creationist tone here, and Professor Cloud is deftly displacing the reader's attention by introducing erosion.  But notice he attributes to it, not to the formation of the jagged peaks everybody calls mountains, but the rubbish down the slope we all call 'dirt'.  With which I would agree (about dirt), .. but not the bit about arising.  It is an expert sleight-of-word from a professorial purveyor of meaning that does two things, 1. it avoids addressing the question how, exactly, this "arising" happened, and 2. with it, Professor Cloud gets to state his own probable view (as a geographer) about the 'arising' of mountains without actually having to state exactly how they do that, .. because (as a pre-Plate Tectonic, old-school geographer) it is almost certainly different from the view he is having to state and is tip-toeing around.

Really, what he should be doing is not promoting Plate Tectonics at all, but from the vantage of his geographical experience, questioning it.  And since he doesn't question it, I'll do it for him : "How in the face of all this convergence, collisional crumpling and the thrusting skyward of so-called "fold-mountains", does the surface from which the mountains are carved (Fig.2) manage to stay flat as a tack?" - (or perhaps I should say, it being a scale thing and all,
"smooth") - and as well, how does that flatness, in the face of all the professed collision and crumpling, manage to stay as flat as the flatness that was deposited on the sea-floor. How do we get all this flatness from way down there (beneath the sea) to way up there on the Roof of the World, .. mmmh?   

And no doubt Mr Cloud could answer it to my satisfaction very well (being, as he is, a pre-Plate Tectonic geographer - as could all geographers before the advent of Plate Tectonics).  But somehow, with the need to be part of the plate-colliding club, the significance of plateaus has come to be unlearned.  Of necessity too, if one is to conform to consensus.  Obeisance to consensus is no small thing in the academic world and has its metaphorical equivalent of nose-rings and belly studs in the crafting of language to signify being part of the herd, .. which, in his use of "docking" and "arising" (instead of 'crushing' and 'crumpling'), professor Cloud (him being old-school and all), is decidedly not.  

Fig.2  Mount Kailash, the Holy Mountain of Tibet.   The remnant flatness of the Mesozoic sea floor preserved in Mount Kailash is mirrored in the flatness (/smoothness) (it's a scale thing) of the Tibetan Plateau.  Flatness extends even to Mount Everest.  The white line is the Himalayan front.  India to the south. (Right click / new window for bigger figures.)

 So to properly understand Professor Clouds subterranean dichotomy (how to present his view without actually presenting it), we should have another read of his description of fold mountains (Fig.1) in conjunction with those just below his, but this time compare the careful wording chosen by Mr Cloud with the gung-ho flamboyance of the others.. Does he mention folding?  No.  Crumpling?  No.  Why?  Because the architectural relationship of the folding that does occur, to that of the erosional surface of the plateau, contradicts outright what Plate Tectonics is saying - as it does everywhere along the circumglobal belt of elevation where folding is exposed. =>

And Professor Cloud knows this very well because he is old-school, a palaeontologist /geographer, and also knows very well the erosional signifance of the plateau surfaces from which mountains are carved.  He's just not telling anybody since the rise and rise of Plate Tectonics, and the need (then) to fit in with it if he wanted to sell his book.  ("Preston Ercelle Cloud, Jr. (September 26, 1912 – January 16, 1991) was an American paleontologist, geographer, and professor - wikipedia.). 

And first-year geologists know this too.  But Plate Tectonics is a new song to be sung (and there are exams to pass).

It couldn't have been easy, trying to find words that would convey to the reader what the reader wanted to read, and the same time satisfy what Mr Cloud wanted to write.

"Wherever the current cycle of continental motion has caused plates to converge and collide, mountains have arisen."  Preston Cloud Oasis in Space, (p.417).

 Does Mr Cloud use the word crumpling?  No.  Folding?  No.  Contorting, crushing, crashing etc etc etc.?  No, .. just (obligingly) (if a word must be used) "arisen" - like Jesus on the third day.  No need for the histrionics of 'plates'.  No need for anything other than citing the litany according to Saint Tectonics or to clarify anything for the reader who is being given the message that he should put his trust in experts.

So mountains do not crumple by collision, they just "arise" and "pile up" (?)  What he does say is that India first "docked" then (according to seismic evidence) proceeded to "tuck its leading edge" beneath the Asian Plate, thickening the crust and uplifting the Himalayas.

"When the leading (oceanic) edge of India itself first docked along the present northern margin of the Himalaya, it generated a 2,400-kilometre-long suture, or zone of joining (refs fig. above) tracked now by the sacred Indus and Brahmaputra rivers.  Seismic reflections from the crust-mantle boundary in this region indicate that India thereafter tucked its leading edge beneath that boundary and was over-ridden from the north in the main Himalayan mountain-building event terminating perhaps 10myBP"

"Docked"?  "Tucked"?  What sort of language is that to describe the spectacular consequences plate collision,  crustal crumpling, buckling, and the 'mountain-building' upheaval to form the roof of the world that so pervades the literature so?  No sort of language at all, really. By his use of the much more moderate language of "arising" we might expect some qualification along lines that emphasise the retention of essential flatness.  We don't get it, but at least we don't get the popular litany of "tossing high of mountains by crumpling and folding, twisting and collision".  Instead we merely get sedate "docking", and  "tucking under".

Publication may have been jeopardised had he cast doubt on Plate Tectonics from the vantage of his lifetime credits. Yet this is in fact what a close reading of his book suggests, cloaked as it appears to be in academic diplomacy and written more as an impartial onlooker, than as participant, ... which is interesting given that he (Cloud) lived the transition from continental drift to Plate Tectonics and knew full well the arguments for Earth Expansion, as well as its global expression in geomorphology.  He was also critical enough of the arguments for subduction, referring to Panthalassa (one of the lynchpins of Plate Tectonics) as  "The phantom global sea"  (p.166).  (Still, .. he was old-time, and knew the significance of plateaus.)  Geologists and geophysicists today apparently don't.  He impartially puts the two emerging hypotheses of the day in the same "outrageous" and "preposterous" bag (an interesting word-choice, given the nearly 20-year (supposed) acceptance of Plate Tectonics by the time of publication of his book in 1988): -

 "Two seemingly outrageous hypotheses have been proposed.  One calls on plate tectonics and subduction since the Archean to recycle the ocean floor so completely that no trace of it is left outside the residual greenstone minioceans.  The other hypothesis is even more outlandish.  It proposes that an Earth of a once much smaller volume has literally expanded like baking bread, extending its diameter to the present size.  Preposterous as these ideas may seem they meet the essential criteria of scientific hypotheses.  They explain what we know and they have verifiable consequences.  They are testable."

Testable?  They certainly are, and the test is the simple one of flatness and smoothness in Figure 2 that Professor Cloud fails to draw attention to, yet as a geographer he is equally certainly cognisant of it!

The writing seems to be of one who is personally bemused by the conundrums of  both hypotheses yet who, possibly on account of keeping a certain 'professorial distance', is at pains to represent the status quo impartially and let the voice of others speak. "Will crustal compression continue?" he asks.   "Assuming it does, will the Himalaya grow still higher, or will they at some point flow to lower levels under their own weight?"   (p.421.) 

The question is an interesting one (considering it already has; eastwards to Indonesia) (and Mr Cloud probably knew that too), .. and carries a barb that goes right to the core of Plate Tectonics and supports the argument for Earth Expansion - that the Himalyas are intrinsically gravitationally unstable and are, as professor Cloud says (but the Plate Tectonics' consensus of his time didn't), collapsing over India.  That is, .. India is not pushing from the south, Tibet is pushing from the north under its own gravitational weight due to the collapse of the now unstable, remnant curvature of the Pangaean Earth =>.  India never was anywhere else relative to the collapsing Himalayas, .. but was attached to Africa (according to a smaller Earth) =>

One thing we can admire about Professor Cloud's carefully chosen wording is an angelic hesitation to tread where others have no qualms rushing.  Plate collision by "docking" and "tucking" is excellent circumspection.  Others have been far more extravagant in their advertisement of an event that in fact never happened.  So we should thank Professor Cloud for his choice of language, if perhaps not for the disingenuousness that underpins it, .. and also give some consideration to the benefits of 'going-with-the-flow' when the price is merely one of lip-service and suspension of belief  - and maybe excuse him some dog-whistling (
"outrageous"), by way of retaining some self-respect. 

 [See also blog for Earth expansion at :- ]

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Plate Tectonics turns up for the Nobel Prize

 But is turned away at the door
( .. no frock .. )

" ..  Me frock, .. Anyone seen m'rock? .. "

You know the old adage: "If it looks like a duck, flies like a duck, walks like a duck (and f-@#$  like a duck, etc. etc", .. then we must seriously consider that what we are looking at is, for all intents and purposes, . a duck, .. particularly when the offspring exhibit the same appearance and behavioural proclivities.  Otherwise we must seriously reconsider the type - or deny the logic of reason.

...As Plate Tectonics does with its determined invention of a Panthalassa to deny the 1/3rd - 2/3rds proportional logic of continents to ocean floors that we see, and that the oldest part of the Pacific (northwestern margin) is the same age as that of the continental ruptures that allowed its emplacement.  That is, regardless of whatever was the *configuration* of continental rupture that allowed Pacific emplacement, the *ages* of the two (continental rupture and mantle emplacement) are the same (or the oceans are younger).

Which means the dilation of the crust and the emplacement of the Pacific are coincident in time.

Which means that there is no spatial or temporal room for the emplacement or destruction of *any* Panthalassa (Or Tethys) let alone one equivalent in size to the sum of the current oceans to meet Plate Tectonics' needs of a historical same-sized Earth.

Which means from the standpoint of simple geological principles of structural superposition, Plate Tectonics is false.

Even children in their bath know what a duck looks like.  Which is more than can be said for Plate Tectonicists who consider instead that  mountains form by crumplecrust "plate collision".

Such is the nonsense geo-logic is up against when rationality and logic are negated by obtuse ignore-ance.  Can geologists *really* deny that these three lynchpins of Earth dynamics do not exist? : -

  • Length difference of spreading ridges between the present and the past, which shows ocean-floor spreading is *towards* the ridge (not away, as Plate Tectonics would have it) .. and therefore the ridges keep moving up.
  •  Folding and mountains do *not* have causal equivalence across the punctuation of peneplanation, i.e., the folds of mountains are not formed by crumplecrust tectonics (as advocated by Plate Tectonics), but are gravitational collapse structures due to the reduction of Earth's curvature (as it gets bigger), .. and that mountains are simply the remnants of erosion [not "tossed high by the collision of plates].
  • The temporal equivalence of the Pacific ocean and its continental marginal ruptures, which tells us that a Panthalasssa and Tethys never existed.
... all three quite apart from many other considerations.

"...There probably  has been an ocean in the present-day position of the Pacific Ocean for nearly a billion years..." (Link
[I don't think so.  Not in my book at any rate.]

What's going on?  Why does Plate Tectonics ignore these lynchpins of global geo-logic?  The answer seems to be (Google it up) that : -

"Plate tectonics is a theory" (about 16,800 results at posting; 56,600 at 20171029)

..And as a theory it is touted as flexible, dynamic, etc etc.;  "The mark of a good theory is that it is flexible enough to incorporate new facts as they come to light".  And "being a theory" (centred in the oceans) Plate Tectonics is allowed to excuse itself from considering the facts of the continental crust, and have its 'theory' evolve as parallel, mutually contradictory threads, to be tested (by ever more research) against each other more than the geological facts, leading to the claim that it deserves a Nobel prize.

Ouch!   A good theory is tested against the *facts*, not its own hypothesised moving parts.  It is predictive and needs no goalpost shifts.

The main proponents of this Nobel-claim are of course, geophysicists.  I find it hard to believe that geologists are the same, for this much is noticeable: geologists of field orientation are much more open to considering the possibility that Plate Tectonics is false compared to their desk-driving academic cousins.  I put this down to two things, 1.  They got where they did in academia because they excelled at telling the required story, and 2.  if you *don't* tell the story in academic circles then you're in dangerous territory.  No tell the story? - no job.  Geologists in industry don't have that damoclean sword hanging over them, but by another token are mostly too busy to worry about the niceties of global geology, so most don't much bother with it; it is not of a scale relevant to day-to-day requirements of mining.   (However, with the world being dependent economically and politically on ore deposits and the reasons for their location, perhaps they should be more involved in this question than they are).

We have to take all this Plate Tectonics stuff with a big pinch of salt, for how can a theory of the Earth be claimed without taking the continents into account? .. Which is what Plate Tectonics essentially does.  In two of the most authoritative histories of Plate Tectonics I've come across (Menard* and Oreskes** - see footnote) there is not even an index entry for "mountains", which by the failure of Plate Tectonics to recognise peneplanation as the precursor to so-called "building", are still the most perplexing feature of the continental crust.  Consideration of global geology stopped at the continental margins, where, as Tanya Atwater succinctly puts it: -

"Subduction was a necessary adjunct concept" (Oreskes**, p.247)

Well, indeed it surely was ("if you believed Plate Tectonics was going on"). And indeed they did. And so they invented subduction of oceanic 'plates', and backed it with some highly questionable  seismological interpretations [1] [2]

 Fig.2.  The Asian - Pacific region  showing that earthquake distribution is far more an expression of the continental lithosphere, than it is the oceanic lithosphere.

The ocean floors that are riddled with more fractures than a truckload of slack... ..  How is that supposed to make it, "jostling" and "grinding", from one side of the planet to the other, without making a noise? 

The most perplexing features of the ocean floors (i.m.o.) are transform faults, .. about which Plate Tectonics has *nothing* to say other than that they are "the third boundary of plates, and the means whereby Plates "move /grind/ slide /glide etc." past each other". [1] (see also 32,100 /20171029).  If that is the case then there are as many plates as there are transform faults (+ duplicated across the ridge), not just the "seven or twelve ("depending").

...Plate Tectonicsw receives first prize (the Big Wooden Spoon).
But doesn't seem to notice.
("Hello Everybody!  How you doin'?" )
("Believe in me..Kiddo.")

Menard, H.W., 1986, An Ocean of Truth, a Personal History of Global Tectonics,  353pps, Princeton University Press. 
Oreskes, N., 2001, Plate Tectonics, an Insider's History of the Modern Theory of the Earth, 424pps, Westview Press

[ See also blog for Earth expansion at :-] 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Origin of Plate Tectonic Theory

 The party's over, Rover.  
  ( ... Lifting the wool from the eyes .. )

If you search the web for the origins or history of Plate Tectonic theory you get the wool pulled over your eyes.  Contrary to the proferred geological story, the development of Plate Tectonic theory was virtually wholly sociological in its origins, little to do with geological evidence.  Had it to do with *geo-logic*, it would unequivocally have gone in the direction of Earth expansion.  But it was the social and political contexts back in the days of the Cold War, that pulled it in the wrong direction.  The much vaunted "no mechanism" aimed first at continental drift and later against Earth expansion was just a cop out, .. an excuse to avoid what was obvious even then - that the Earth's crust (in respect of continental drift) had been displaced in relation to the ocean floors, and that (in respect of Earth expansion) it had been dilated, the support for the latter being primarily the continental retrofits on the smaller Earth as proposed by Carey and others.  It was a cop-out because if the path of geo-logic had been followed, research would have included considerations of continental geology instead of just mapping guyots (which Hess was good at) and the topography of the ocean floors generally.  This would have meant putting a big question mark over the funding, which was available, not for abstruse geological research, but for getting on with mapping the ocean floors and dodging guyots, which had military reasons (sailing submarines), not geological ones.

In Europe, the concept of mantle convection with continents riding on top, colliding in some places and pulling apart in others was well known and well accepted well before the Plate Tectonics 'revolution'.  Arthur Holmes textbook 'Principles of Physical Geology', had been a standard student textbook in Britatin at least for fifteen years by the time Plate Tectonics was developing in America. The last chapter of the book was devoted entirely to convection as a hypothesis for mobile crust developing the ocean basins and mountain belts.

However, if we are to read the preface to Naomi Oreskes' book  (1999), 'The rejection of continental drift, theory and method in American science', we would get the impression that American geologists who were wholly responsible for Plate Tectonic theory, might have been oblivious to this.
"..  (By 1978) I had completed two years as a geology major at a leading US university and counted myself lucky to have chosen a field of science heady  in the wake of revolutionary upheaval: geologists around the globe were reinterpreting old data and long-standing problems in the new light of plate tectonics.  It seemed a good time to be an aspiring young Earth scientist.  Imagine my surprise - and dismay -  to discover in England that the radically new idea of plate tectonics had been proposed more than half a century before by a German geophysicist, Alfred Wegener, and widely promoted in the United Kingdom by the leading British geologist of his era, Arthur Holmes.  The revolution that had been described by my professors in the United States as the radical revelation of a dramatically new vision of the Earth was viewed by many of my professors in England as the pleasing confirmation of a long-suspected notion."

How did it happen that Naomi's professors gave her such an impression?  From today's perspective it seems hardly credible that  Wegener's 'continental drift' was not common knowledge in America by the time of 'The Great Plate Tectonics Revolution' in the 60s.   And of course, it isn't (credible).  Nor was it then.  Even in the antipodes, the last stop before the polar wastelands of Antarctica, Sam Carey had been teaching mantle recycling as a model for crustal tectonics for almost two decades before that revolution, before giving it up as unworkable and moving on to the next contextual framework for geological advance - Earth expansion.  It is simply inconceivable that Harry Hess, as one of those "senior geologists", though much earlier than Naomi's day and who would later claim the mantle of Plate Tectonics for himself, or his contemporaries, or those following, would have been unaware of the works of either Arthur Holmes or of Sam Carey; the latter in fact spending some sabbatical time in America at the invitation of Hess.
(Sam Carey [on continental mobility]) : "Through the 30s and 40s and 50s if you dared to propose this sort of thing in America you'd be laughed at, you're a ratbag flat-earther. And there was no chance of getting a job if you had that kind of idea. But by about 1956 I could see the glimmerings of the recognition that something was wrong, and then of course I was invited several times to Princeton. Harry Hess was the Chairman there and he and I became warmest of friends. I always stayed in his home, and in the many lectures I gave in Princeton, Harry realised it had to be, and later he became the leader in selling plate tectonics."   and click 'show transcript'
[ Interestingly, H.W. Menard, 1986, writing from personal recollection on the development of  Plate Tectonics and commenting on how Tuzo Wilson arrived at the idea of transform faults says, "Writing textbooks is not doing what counts, which is one reason why the older scientists in the United States never thought to read Holmes's text of 1944. Revising textbooks is an even drearier patching of new data on old ideas." (The Ocean of Truth', p.243.) ]

A strange observation surely, considering that the structuring of significant data and events is what one does from the perspective of more advanced years, and which by his book is precisely what Menard is himself doing. I guess he means that everybody was creaming themselves over the interpretations of new data to such an extent that everything previous was just indiscriminately swept away.  Maybe too that after coming back to Earth from the stratospheric heights of speculation and realising that the conceptual framework was already common knowledge in sophomoric textbooks, life *was* a bit "dreary".   Best to steer clear of textbooks if you're in America?  (But what about the young guys that were developing this?  )

Oreskes attributes this apparent oblivion of American scientists to the different ways that American and British /European geologists actually do science, telescoping those ways into the words 'inductive'  and 'deductive'.
"My English training and Australian experience had inculcated in me an inductive methodology, in which scientific problems originated in the observation of geological phenomena in the field, but many of my American professors disdained inductive science and what they pejoratively dismissed as "outcrop" geology.  They encouraged me to pursue a deductive strategy, and to rely primarily on the tools of laboraytory analysis.  This was particularly true of younger professors and those who had achieved a high level of professional recognition."
... but I don't think she has it quite right. I think the reasons are far more personal /political than can be explained by dedication to 'method'.  It would appear from historical considerations that those "younger professors" she mentions would have been those riding on the back of the triumphal deductive methodological American way of doing science , .. so to address the question "why the difference?" it would seem that we have to return to the sociology of an earlier day.  But first some clarification of the methodological difference might be in order.

In the inductive method you gather the data and make a judgement how they fit together. It's like doing a jigsaw, but in a kind of 'top-down' way, where previous experience, knowledge and understanding is brought to bear on how the pieces are likely to fit. In other words you build on what you already know.  This cognitive faculty is analogous in a way to being armed with the picture on the front of the box.  You've seen it before (or something like it), you know what it is (or something like it), ..  so where's the problem?   Well, one problem is  that it is seen as highly subjective; one's experience is unique and non-repeatable, and non-repeatability is eschewed in science.  Or to put it another way, science (of the mainstream sort) denies the individual.  'Big Science' is a Team effort, underpinned by institutional kudos.  Repeatability is an aspect of the deductive method consequent on the tools and apparatus of the laboratory.  But in the field of geology, and observation and the intellect of the individual, .. if you *do* know what it is, and you *have* seen it before (or some aspect of the picture on the front of the box), the inductive method works very well.  (Ask Louis Pasteur.) (Or Albert Einstein.) Or indeed the main players devising Plate Tectonics (!) [Note to develop Jack Oliver, Peter Molnar, John Dewey + ?others.]

One order of magnitude down from this is where, absent of Experience Understanding and Knowledge, an explanation of the data is simply formulated, .. fished from the air as a best guess as it were,  and tested against the data. The potential for circularity and junk (formulating conclusions around original assumptions) is obvious, but neverthless this method enjoys respectable currency as 'the scientific method'.  The obvious problem lies again in the guesswork, in the quality of hypothesis used to explain the facts.  Anybody can have an idea, after all, .. indeed usually more than one, .. and more than one typically does fit the facts.  So which idea is better than another? .. the one that might appear to fit the facts better?  .. or the one proferred by greater experience, authority and knowledge?  And who amonst those lacking such cognitive 'preparation' as advocated by Mr Pasteur, will be the arbiter?  And if all ideas /hypotheses are partly right (according to the method of multiple working hypotheses) what is the underlying synthesis, the explanation, ..the paradigm, incorporating all?  And how is this to be distinguished from 'just another idea'?

And then there is the 'deductive' approach where any allusion to the 'picture on the front of the box' is purposely eschewed.  Attention is given wholly to fitting the 'contours and matching patterns'  of the pieces themselves: the jigsaw is built from the bottom up as it were. The key thing here, is that it is not the *perceived* matching that is important, but the *actual* matching - in other words the degree of certainty involved, not one's perception of it.

This approach is admirably suited to the technological aspect of laboratory science - we stand back and let the tools do the job of unequivocally matching the contours and patterns of the pieces, e.g., the use of computers to do large calculations on large amounts of data.  The 'hands-off' objective approach thus offered is lauded.  However this deductive method suffers similarly from two things, firstly the 'being driven by the machinery' syndrome, i.e., the indiscriminate use of, and inappropriate reliance on, tools.  In geophysics this is the 'black box' syndrome; ..  because a tool was used, the interpreted result must, because it was objectively derived, be valid.  Secondly (which is really much a restatement of the same problem) the hubris of their drivers, exemplified in the garbage-in garbage-out factor and wacky interpretations that purport to be significant by those explaining their data.

Technology that can infallibly match contours and patterns of 'jigsaw pieces' is of course a boon to science  By all means we should stand back and let the algorithms of search-and-match do their stuff.  But we have to know that the designers are competent, and in particular that they are not failing to take account of alternative patterns of matching.  There is more than a little irony in Plate Tectonics claiming validity on account of the technologies that defined "sea-floor spreading when that 'spreading', inclusive of what is happening along the ridge as well as across it, also axiomatically defines the growth of an expanding Earth.  It is also disturbing that Plate Tectonics hides behind the gratuitous shibboleth of "no mechanism" and retreats from discovery, when evidential reality points in the direction that a mechanism should be sought.  As an explanation of natural phenomena "no mechanism" has no place in science, but going where no man has gone before is a (highly) risky business in science.  The mantra offers security by closing off no-go areas of research.

No greatly sophisticated aparatus or deductive methodology is needed to confirm the upwards growth of the ocean floors.  It is as obvious at a glance as continental fits support separation in the Atlantic.  Are we to believe that this simple observation of along-ridge spreading there and elsewhere was overlooked by those developing Plate Tectonic theory? I think not. I think this is the unspoken lie (of omission) of Plate Tectonics that will torpedo the Big Ship, because it goes to the heart of the difference between sea-floor *spreading* and sea-floor *growth*, and chooses growth as the logical option, thus negating convection as the driver for Plate Tectonics .

We wait to see therefore what geophysicists will invent to deny this (for they haven't done thus far; they seem oblivoious to this implication) just as they denied Wegener his continental drift, and Carey his expanding Earth.  Having twice before snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by self-serving denial, what aspect of deductive 'rationalism' will it take for geophysicists to overcome their denial this time, to once again claim (eventually) as theirs Earth expansion as the forward position of deductive Earth science?

What will it take?  Again we get some idea from Naomi Oreskes' assessment of the sociology of the day:-
"The choices these scientists made, moreover, were self-ratifying.  American earth scientists chose not to pursue the field-based observational evidence relevant to the question of continental drift; instead they solicited the partronage of private institutions and miliary bureaucracies in support of instrument-driven science. Not surprisingly, then, little new observational evidence in support of the theory was gathered, while reams of instrumental data were.  And when these instrumental data were made public and their support of moving continents became evident, earth scientists were satisfied that they had made the right choice.  Yet had the Navy not been interested in supporting marine geophysics - had submarine warfare not existed - earth scientists would necessarily have taken a different route, and perhaps been well satisfied with that too."

[ H.W.Menard, 1986   " ..Moreover, success had become a trap.  An astonishing fleet of research ships had been created, and it had hungry crews.  Research laboratories were proliferating, and into them flocked eager graduate students who needed support.  In Washington agencies were created to grant funding.  The accepted way to finance a few kilobucks of thought by a senior scientist was to spend a megabuck at sea, and that took lots of time.   ('The Ocean of Truth', p.297) ]   (.. and money : me)

... from which it would seem to take some fortuitous coupling of technological apparatus and the security of funding to support its development to tell us what, from a much simpler and inductive commonsense coupling, is clearly apparent - that the Earth's crust has indeed been distended by the extents of the ocean floors.  Hopefully the background of war will not be an additional sociological ingredient, as previously was the case.  For it was *exactly* in this wartime coupling (and funding) that lay the evolution of Plate Tectonics; and whence better for that security of funding (in the days of the cold war) than from military sources through the tools that had proved their wartime use?

Moving on from this particular circumspection to questions of more geological import the question then arises, what difference would it have made had Hess (as captain /admiral of the Big Ship) accepted Carey's inductive *geo-logical* conclusion of Earth expansion, instead of as he did, reverting to the well known convective model of Holmes?  Hess did after all recognise the value of inductive empirical geology of Earth expansion in solving his three most pressing problems regarding the evolution of the ocean floors.  .. So why did he not go with it? 

Personally I think again the answer comes back to the security of funding.  Hess as a senior naval man knew full well that who pays the piper calls the tune, and that in the political milieu of the day the military were solely interested in securing and maintaining dominance, not answers to questions whether the Earth was expanding or not, nor even if ocean floors were spreading. The new tools that had been developed during the war for detecting ocean depths and the presence of submarines were obviously ones to develop in a new era of Cold War tension, where submarines were now armed with nuclear warheads and the threat of massive annihilation at the press of a psychopathic military button, was very real.  

Menard (Ibid. p.38) writes : -
"Before the war there were three oceanographic laboratories in the Unites States: Scripps, Woods Hole, and the University of Washington.  They had a total budget of less than $250,000. and with it supported three ships.  In 1948 the Navy poured about $600,000 into oceanographic laboratories, which was a sizeable expansion even after allowing for inflation.  Up to 1958 it spent a total of $46 million on academic research in oceanography.  The number of laboratories multiplied, and the Navy spent about $300 million for ships, facilities and equipment.  The Navy disbursements for three laboratories of the most interest here are shown in Table 1.

Lab          1948      1950     1952     1954      1956     1958        Total

WHOI       300       550     1,100    1,020     1,420    1,300      10,600
LGO           35       410        420       360     1,040       520        4,600
SIO           200       305     1,010       450     2,040    1,040        9,900

"By the end of the decade, NSF money was becoming abundant, and Scripps also received significant funding from the State of California.  The first decade of postwar expansion, to 1958, was only the beginning.  In the next seven years the Federal support for SIO and WHOI would triple to more than $10 million per year.  The total for all academic oceanography from ONR and NSF would reach $25 million per year = just 100 times what it ad been in 1941.   In 1948 no one knew that this would happen.  Even then, when funding had only doubled, Columbus Iselin, Director of Woods Hole, wrote, "The effects of this great outpouring of money on oceanography are by no means all healthy.  In the first place nobody knows how long it will last."  (SIO= Scripps Institute of Oceanography; WHOI=Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; LGO=Lamont Geological Observatory. NSF=National Science foundation?) "

How long it would last would depend on the reason for it.  The degree of funding, both directly by the Navy and by specially created Federal grants committees, suggests that it would last as long as Cold War exigencies deemed it necessary.  Military imperatives one way and another would have been central to funding.  Any geological understanding that may emerge was entirely spin-off, and had to be regarded as such by those dependent on it (if not the public paying for it).  There was a need to keep the focus on the ocean floors, and the methodologies that defined them.  Reds were under beds everywhere, and the navy was equipped to  nuke 'em, provided they didn't bump into seamounts, the ocean floor, or other submarines of opposing sort.  In terms of providing the funding for exploration of the ocean floors, Harry Hess, captain of the the Big ship, was (to the community of geophysicists) unquestionably an *admirable* hero.  No question.  If Hess's wartime experience had not happened, and Hess's military rank (as captain and later admiral) not been considerable, it is highly probable that Plate Tectonics would never, .. *could* never, have arisen in the face of the emerging geological paradigm of Earth expansion.  As Oreskes (above) rightly observes,  "Earth scientists would necessarily have taken a different route, and perhaps been well satisfied with that too."

"Different route"?  There was only one alternative - the one that Plate Tectonics has resolutely refused to countenance (Earth expansion), because to do so would be to admit that the Big Ship of physics didn't have a clue about mechanism, .. and *that* (in terms of funding) was a no-go area back then.  The same is still true today.

It is easy to make a case for Plate Tectonics being a classic example of "being used by your machinery", and Earth science being turned from its 'natural philosophy' inductive roots towards a tool-driven methodology of enquiry.  But as much as anything the course of Earth science exploration was determined by the political / sociological climate of those earlier days when bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and when later Russia would threaten America in the space race. Military spending from the Cold War to Star Wars has ensconced physics in the driving seat of Earth science, and ensured the survival of deductive methods that have given us the rag-bag apology of Plate Tectonics as a geological model for crustal tectonics and even, as a sop to a barking public seeking 'value for money', the hyped imperative to look for it on other planets. But even though it has provided for many "the gift that keeps on giving", the geological return from it has been poor despite claims to the contrary.  Worse than poor in fact, since it has spawned a false consensus that will require unlearning.

Plate Tectonics has given us starkly contradictory multiple working hypotheses that have served the Earth sciences very poorly, .. that have simply led us up the garden path.  Most of all it has been derelict in its scientific duty of falsification, in failing to give any billing whatsoever to alternative views, especially (amongst other things) the incontrovertible fact (apparent to anyone) that the spreading ridges through geological time have got longer along their length as well as across them, ..  and that transform faults are the brittle expression of this adjustment to growth,  and are *NOT* the so-called "new class of faults" expressing tramrails of convectional mantle flow as continents have separated, as advocated by Mr Wilson.  (Googlesearch : -  Tuzo Wilson, "a new class of faults").  If ever there was a case of the expedient scientific finagle, a magic rabbit from the geophysical hat to maintain a false assumption, this is one - second only to the choice of subduction over its natural alternative, overriding.

It is time to recognise that Plate Tectonics is long past its use-by, that its roots in military funding imposed a myopia that much hampered exploration of important geological questions by keeping the focus on the ocean floors rather than on their relationship to the continents, and that there is a need therefore for Earth science to return to its traditional (inductive) geo-*logical* roots.  In many ways the larger-scale geological questions *can* only be approached by guesswork, and until such time as computers can truly simulate the higher functions of the human brain, logic steered by rational assessment remains the best tool for the job - a tool that from the many contradictions of Plate Tectonics has been woefully absent in the development of that model.  Despite the obvious advantages that technology offers to science, the limitations of deductive methods of tool-driven exploration in Earth science should be recognised, not in regard to the tools themselves which are exemplary, but for the expediencies underlying their use that for decades have maintained a demonstrably false consensus, whose 'success' is unremarkable for anything other than it pays mortgages along the road that leads up the garden path.

Which is laudable enough as regards those who live in the garden, .. but the barking public dog might have something to growl about.

(And piss on the lamp post!)

See also blog for Earth expansion at :-]

Friday, May 6, 2011

Plate Tectonics is a Theory

Earth expansion is a fact
( .. an animated description of "what you see is what you get" .. )

Earth expansion is an observation of how things actually are, contextualised through crustal evolution over geological time since the Mesozoic. Plate Tectonics is a hypothesised denial of this on grounds of "No known mechanism". It is nothing less than a celebration of ignorance.

1.  Destruction of the ocean floors. We might (with Earth expansion) say that Plate Tectonics should begin with the creation /extrusion /emplacement of the ocean floors, because after all something must be created before it can be destroyed. 

But creation is not where Plate Tectonics begins.  Nor does it really begin with the destruction of the ocean floors. It begins with the *perceived need* for their destruction (J.O.)  It's a subtle difference that shifts the emphasis from the fact to the perception of the fact. The destruction itself is arguable, but for Plate Tectonics the *perceived necessity* for destruction is very real.

So the case for Plate Tectonics does not rest in the facts themselves, nor exactly in the way they are interpreted (though this is somewhat closer), ..  but in the way they could be perceived to be structured in the first place - *IF...* (and it's a very big 'IF' ) in order that they *can* be interpreted as desired.

The way I read it (as outlined in earlier posts), it begins exactly where the website of the USGS says it begins, .. with Harry Hess's *surmise*, .. as follows:-

"..The size of the Earth has not changed significantly during the past 600 million years, and very likely not since shortly after its formation 4.6 billion years ago. The Earth's unchanging size implies that the crust must be destroyed at about the same rate as it is being created, as Harry Hess surmised." [emphasis - df.  ]  (  and scroll down to "Convergent boundaries".)
Thus are facts nuanced (by presenting 'surmise' as a stated 'fact' of unchanging size.  The foundation is not in the body of the paragraph, but in the last four words - "as Harry Hess surmised" (that the crust must be destroyed at about the same rate as it is being created) - and they are hoping nobody notices the segue. It's quite possible the author him/herself didn't notice, though I doubt it.  Syntax like that is a quite slippery thing to construct. The Wikipedia succeeds in being more factual and says it this way :-

"Plate tectonics < ....... > is a scientific theory which describes the large scale motions of Earth's lithosphere. The theory builds on the older concepts of continental drift, developed during the first decades of the 20th century (one of the most famous advocates was Alfred Wegener), and was accepted by the majority of the geoscientific community when the concepts of seafloor spreading were developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s."
 ..which acknowledges that Plate Tectonics was based on earlier ideas of Holmes and numerous others (and not on a surmise of Hess) - that convection was the driver of continental separation.  It followed Hess's rejection of the implication of the geological evidence [presented by Carey] that the earth had expanded, which would "solve three of my [Hess's] greatest difficulties regarding the evolution of the ocean basins."

 Note that Hess didn't reject the evidence, .. he rejected the implication that followed from it re. enlargement as "philosophically unsatisfying", and therefore substituted the *need* for destruction of the ocean floors to match their creation (creation being all about expansion). No-one has contradicted Carey's case for expansion on geological grounds, only on the claim of "no mechanism".

The underpinning of Plate Tectonics was therefore not based on empirical fact but on Holmes' (and others') theory of convection,. The comment that  "crust being destroyed (at subduction zones) at the same rate as it is created  means that the Earth is not increasing in size", is entirely  hypothesis, and the circular argument is obvious, which incidentally renders Plate Tectonics equivalent to Junk Science. (Junk science is when the initial assumption (not the data) is used as the supporting pillar to reach the  conclusion inherent in the assumption.)

Many people were working in the new field of geophysics, and framed their results accordingly, thus skewing the emphasis of the findings away from geology.  This is the reason why Plate Tectonics (as a theory of convection) supplanted continental drift as something new when it wasn't.  The way Hess in his 1962 paper dismissed Holmes's work on convection reads as a classic example of appropriation.  The problems he was trying to address in relation to the ocean floors were by no means new :-

"In reality, this question had been solved already by numerous scientists during the forties and the fifties, like Arthur Holmes, Vening-Meinesz, Coates and many others: The crust in excess disappeared along what were called the oceanic trenches where so-called "subduction" occurred." ...  (link)
What he was doing in adopting this was avoiding having to face the implications of the data of continental retrofits and much else, which supported a smaller Earth as illustrated by Carey.  And he was not alone. The complicity of the entire geophysics community in Hess's appropriation is apparent from the reference in the Wikipedia, that Hess's paper was "for a time the single most referenced work in solid-Earth geophysics".
(Continuing the above quote..) :-

" ... Therefore, when various scientists during the early sixties started to reason on the data at their disposal regarding the ocean floor, the pieces of the theory fell quickly into place. Wikipedia ref."
    "Mid-ocean ridge spreading and convection"
I don't believe the "various scientists" did accept it on the data, because the essential facts on which those pieces of the theory "fell quickly into place" described creation of the ocean floors, which were all about the Earth getting bigger (expansion).  Geophysicists were effectively taking the fall-back position of adopting the theory-of-the-day of convection that for nearly two decades had been first-year text-book geology  - and (riding on the back of sea-floor spreading) calling it new.  I believe *this* was the reason why geologists "adopted it" -  because they already accepted it as a norm.  They didn't "adopt" it at all (on new data); they already owned it.  They must have, because as a theory it had been standard text-book geology for nearly two decades.

The phrase "quickly falling into place" seems to be designed to gloss over this point, with the purpose of talking up new data of the ocean floors. Media likes to be part of  'new developments' - especially ones related to new fields emerging from prestigious institutions.  In today's terms  the "falling quickly into place" was a 'media beat-up'.

Thus was laid the track down which the brand new gravy train was about to roll.  What was being proposed in principle, in terms of theory at least (convection) was no more than people already knew from the work of Wegener and Holmes.  Certainly the facts emerging from the ocean floors were substantial, but that substance, first and foremost, supported expansion.  Destruction was a device, an avoidance, a ploy (a cop-out), to avoid having to face what could not be talked about, i.e.,  everything that the criticism of "no mechanism" could be aimed at.  As a result and with a consensus assured, the emphasis was towards shoring up and confirming the meme that people already knew, rather than (as science demands) its falsification.

It was a classic example of the 'meme machine', .. an appeal to people's intuitive understanding of the way tectonics worked using crumpling tablecloths to describe mountain building, and soup in a pot to describe convection :- "Everybody already knows what we mean, so we don't have to explain ourselves very well.  In fact we don't even have to explain ourselves at all; all we have to say is, "everybody knows" ".  And from then on, slogans will do. 

In fact those subduction zones need very close scrutiny, which, in their reference to 'flat subduction' and "overriding" Plate Tectonics is only now beginning to do.  "Flat subduction" does not return oceanic lithosphere to the deep mantle.  And with no return to the deep mantle there is no convection, only spreading (/"growth") and decoupling of the crust from the mantle, . which is expansion.  Sea-floor spreading is the fact.  The theory to explain how so much has occurred is still not known, but the geological reality is a powerful incentive to get to know.

Hence the *necessity* of subduction, with all its contradictions, for without it, Plate Tectonics is in the same ("no mechanism") position as Earth expansion.  But the 'soup-in-a-pot' convection model has no currency in the exchange with Earth expansion, based on factual evidence in the alternative blog (which Plate Tectonics ignores).

In short, Earth expansion includes facts that Plate Tectonics omits, and explains facts for which Plate Tectonics provides only self-contradictory conundrums.  By the very nature of scale and time of parameters in Earth science, predictions are specious. The only valuable prediction is that Plate Tectonics will naturally evolve to Earth expansion as 'observation + logic' trumps theory founded on "philosophical un-satisfaction", denial of evidence,  ignore-ance of what can be directly observed, and skewed perceptions of how things could be otherwise - *IF*.

[ See also blog for Earth expansion at :-]

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dracula's Blood cuts the mustard?

 This is not about the science
( .. It's about the facts not cutting it)

If I were to write a nice little smiley note to all believers in Plate Tectonics in a bid for hearts and minds, .. you know, to win friends and influence people, this is what I would say:-
"There is light at the end of the tunnel of your philosophical dissatisfaction. There is a simpler paradigm. Your trials, ..your tribulations, are over. Your calls for "more research needed", are now thankfully redundant. Ocam's razor, sharp as it ever was, is telling you all conundrums besetting Plate Tectonics are explained in a single cut. The mustard has been sliced and you are saved the bother. The jigsaw is done. There *is* no more research needed. You can all go home."

"So far so good?"
"Nah, mate, ..failed the first hurdle."
"What?  what's the first hurdle?"
"The heart - you just drove a big wooden stake right through it."
"How? Isn't it good to have a problem solved? 
"Did you come down in the last shower of rain or what?"
"Coz there's a whole lot of people whose whole existence is all about solving problems, doing jigsaws, and they just love doing them in the dark.  Don't you know?  It's their job to keep telling everybody just how dark the place is.  Shine a light on them with a solution and it's worse than cock-crow to Dracula."
"You mean they're not interested in solutions?"
" 'Course not. You tell them the jigsaw's done an', .. well, .. what are they going to do for an encore?"
"Well, couldn't they do something with Earth expansion instead? .. in the daylight so to speak?"
"You mean after telling everybody how fascinating the dark is when doing jigsaws?"


(I guess that's it, isn't it - people expressing their  philosophical dissatisfaction with daylight are hardly likely to change hats at the drop of one and advertise it just because somebody switches a light on, ..are they? )

"Does that mean I'm wasting my time, .. trying to wheedle Plate Tectonics into seeing it's trolling around a dead Dracula?"
" 'Fraid so."
"Is that why they're not speaking to me?"
" 'Fraid so."
"Jeez, ..if that was me, ..I'd ditch it like a shot."
"Yeah, ..but not everybody's an empirical rationalist enchanted with daylight. There's a lot of currency in dead Draculas, provided you can keep them dark and the blood warm. There's a whole industry peddling them."
"EeeEEyukK.  What's the going rate?"
"A sinecure, ..a lifetime's career, mate."
"Wot?  ..Sucking blood in the dark?
"Yeah, the dark.."

(Plate Tectonicists - pushing shit uphill maybe a better way of putting it, .. or rather, up a mountain.  Condemned forever to have the shit (and the mountain) roll back down on them.  The ancient Greeks tell a good story about that, but didn't quite have that additional bit about the mountain falling down.  Guess they didn't know then about the Earth expanding and the propensity for mountains to do exactly that or they would have added it to the plot, ..given the uphill strugglers being such a mendacious mob deserving of burial.)

"Gee, that's no way to win friends and influence people."
"Telling them they're a mob of mendacious bloodsuckers."
"So what do you suggest I do call them,"
"Well, be nice. Tell them their labours are appreciated."
"But they're not."
"Tell them anyway."
"They'd see right through me."
"No they wouldn't.  They'd just love people to tell them what a great job they're doing."
"Sucking blood?"
"*Withdrawing* blood. It's to prevent illness and disease and promote the healthy balance of humors."
"*I* don't think it's very funny."
"They've been doing it for at least two thousand years."
"Yeah?  Don't people die?"
"Well, .. that's exactly the point:- Really spectacular prevention wouldn't you say?"
"Sure, .. I'll say.  Ok, I suppose we can build around that, ..about death being a spectacular prevention of illness and disease."
"Good.  You're getting the picture."
"What about lobotomy, can we throw that in as well?"
" <  &%&^#$$@ 

The facts, not cutting it
Plate Tectonics bleeds Joseph Blogs
(The 'facts' - not cutting it

[ See also Expanding Earth blog at  ]

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Big Lie #8 Oblivion - The Hero's Journey

"The most powerful lie is the lie by omission"

Let's be very, very clear about this. The reason why Plate Tectonics was developed as a theory did not come from any astute evaluation of the geology.  It developed precisely *in spite of* astute geological evaluation.  It developed because Hess could not accept expansion despite it removing his three most serious dificulties in dealing with the evolution of the ocean basins, claiming it to be (according to him) "philosophically unsatisfying" (on account of a lack of a mechanism).
Hess, (1962):-
"..While this [expansion] would remove three of my most serious difficulties in dealing with the evolution of ocean basins, I hesitate to accept this easy way out. First of all, it is philosophically rather unsatisfying in much the same way as were the older hypotheses of continental drift, in that there is no apparent mechanism within the Earth to cause a sudden (and exponential according to Carey) increase in the radius of the Earth. .."
[The second reason was about the extra water needed - see Hollywood Cowboys post]
...and so he tarred it with the same 'no mechanism' brush as had previously been done with Wegener's observations of palaeogeological reconstructions for continental displacement ( 'drift' by the way was the term others attached to Wegener's work).  Hess's reason was "philosophical dissatisfaction", ..nothing to do with the geological facts that Hess (according to his admission that it would explain his three most serious difficulties) nevertheless clearly found intrinsically appealing.

A point for today's Plate Tectonicists to consider, ensconced as they are in the certainty of Plate Tectonics, is what would have happened had Hess overcome his "hesitation" and accepted those points.  Not only would his view have aligned with that of others who favoured expansion, notably Carey, but also with that of Heezen, Tharp, reportedly Jack Oliver; Tuzo Wilson (before his capitulation to the Plate Tectonics camp), and no doubt others who would then have seen which way the wind was blowing. The Earth Sciences would almost certainly be fifty years further advanced in the direction of expansion. There would be no Plate Tectonics theory, and no derived, abortive geological explanations  - no mountains built of colliding plates, no plates even, possibly not even any convection.  It would also have forced the physics community to address their destitute lack of understanding of the physical processes that caused the Earth to rapidly extrude a mantle bubble the like of which there was no precedent in Earth history.  And possibly by now there would indeed be understanding of a 'mechanism'.

Or would it?  Was Hess so big, that he could have had such an influence as coercing the physics establishment to put their house in order and find one?  As it was, Hess's "hesitation" (/"philosophical dissatisfaction") led him to choose the 'lose-lose' option : "We (/I) can't think of a reason; you can't have your geology".

It is difficult to assess the full legacy of this.  On the theoretical side certainly, there is half a century of misadventure in the Earth sciences (and a commensurate waste of resources) that will need to be revised.  Economically could be included the dearth of supply to the labour market following the drop in enrollments leading to the closure of geology departments, because students see little point in studying a subject that has little more than kindergarten 'soup-in-a-pot, rumplecloth' appeal underpinning it, ..that has arrived at its destination and has nowhere else to go.  As well there is the stymying of research in physics that might explain a rapid massive mantle blow-out of the planet.

Who knows?...    Given the drama described by Moores at Carey's lecture, Hess's 'hesitation' may simply have been due to the 'not invented here' syndrome.  Hess was a geologist concerned with the geophysics of the ocean floors.  Carey was a geologist of global orientation who had not only been teaching Plate Tectonics for twenty years but had, with good reason, discarded it as unworkable, and moved on to convincingly demonstrate that from a geological perspective expansion was the only viable option.

So what was going on? What *is* going on still?   Hess with his 'convection' in 1962 after all was essentially just making a pitch for the standard status quo of continental drift that had been in Arthur Holmes book Principles of Physical Geology since 1944, and which was a standard student text (and Carey by 1956 had been teaching for twenty years).  What subtexts were at work that made Hess turn away from Carey's forward position that would overcome his (Hess's) three main problems, and choose the lose-lose option?

Here's what I think is the reason.  Almost certainly Hess would have placed himself in an extremely precarious position had he accepted Carey's conclusion. And would have known it.  Right or wrong was not the issue.  Carey was a free-thinking flamboyant maverick of a geologist with a big idea and even bigger geological data to support it, and was visiting from the other side of the world.  Hess, a geophysicist, was by all accounts much more reserved and conservative, and was reportedly struggling to understand his ocean-floor data, which only clicked when the penny dropped with the publication in 1960 of Bruce Heezen's (who favoured expansion) work in the Atlantic.  (For the resistance Heezen's work generated, and the pivotal role played by Marie Tharp, read this.) It was all very well for Carey to propose expansion (and even soundly support it with empirical geological data). It was quite another for a resident (geo-) physicist "to catch that particular infection" (Armstrong quote in 'cowboys' post), and have to cite it to a funding body on his home turf as a basis for research. Such would almost certainly have been committing what some saw Carey (albeit from the other side of the world) as already having done - "professional suicide".
"..From 1930 to 1960 a scientist who supported it knowingly committed academic hara-kiri. S. W. Carey of Tasmania, a major figure in igniting the revolution, could not get his papers published in reputable scientific journals in the 1950s. "He had to run them off on a mimeograph machine and distribute them himself," Wilson says.  (By Robert Dean Clark, Society of exploration geophysicists).
Why should Carey have been perceived as "committing professional suicide"?  After all, according to Moores, Carey had blown their minds with his exposition of palaeomagnetism and polar wander paths to the extent of obviating all further discussion on the point, and Moores and Armstrong both conceded Carey's pivotal role in formulating Plate Tectonics.  What Carey had done, surely, was the stuff of the cutting edge (what's more, he followed it up by writing three books on the subject).  Why should that have been regarded as professional suicide?  Far from it, Carey's place in the history of Earth science is assured.

And why was Tuzo Wilson himself warned that he "was headed for the wrong side of the scientific tracks" by choosing geology over physics?  "at [a] time [when] students were told what they could bloody-well do"?  [And, by inference, what they couldn't].  Whatever it was, it would certainly seem to shed light on the scientific establishment's intolerance of  innovation, and the importance of 'institutional kudos'. Funding is perhaps not uppermost in the public's mind when they think of science and scientists, but it most assuredly is for those who have chosen it as a career.

And here we must  reflect briefly on this much: Science is a thing unto itself and chooses the people who do it, by setting a high bar of commitment.  

It is very important here to recognise the schism between the 'geo' and the 'physics' on which this argument for expansion turns.  The positive arguments for expansion lie in the empricial geology; refutation lies, not in any positive achievement of physics (or geophysics), but in the FAILURE of physics to understand how it can happen.  'Geo' - 'physics'.  (+   - )  =  0  (Neutered.)

Surely we can (and must!) commend Carey for his geological acumen and commitment to his conviction of global expansion, ..for speaking up forcefully for geology, ..but we must also spare a thought for Hess and see the difficulty he would have been in had he adopted Carey's position. [Edit revision here in relation to "Hess as geo-physicist":- Basically the reason seems to have been simply the 'not-invented-here' syndrome, as well as giving legitimacy to the "No Mechanism" bugbear of expansion in the face of the emerging importance of geophysics.]  It was all very well for Carey, a geologist from the other side of the world, to talk, but for Hess, a senior figure in an enterprise heavily involved in geophysics to give it legitimacy could have been fatal to his career.  In my view it was this realisation that focussed Hess's mind keenly on the need to reject expansion. He had little choice.  Even today it is an area that invites professional suicide for those 'career artists' who might venture into it.

Thus we can understand the "hesitation" (denial even), from a physics point of view.  But not from a geological one.  It is not cloth-headedness that makes geologists go along with Plate Tectonics, but pure expediency.  Few would take the route Carey did for the sake of geological principle, and Carey might not either had his position in far-off Tasmania been apparently secure. Expediency begets necessity; Carey did after all withdraw elements from his thesis, that as a graduate student he knew if included would have cost him his degree.  Carey well knew the heat in the potato he was holding, and the challenge it posed to the establishment in general, and to Hess in particular, and would therefore have also well undertstood Hess's dilema.  Whether he was sympathetic or not is another matter.  My guess is he probably was, though with some natural misgivings regarding what we might call the 'workings of the system'.

I do wonder therefore, ..was Hess doing the heroic thing under the circumstances and talking in code, when he conceded that expansion would remove his three most serious problems?  After all, he needn't have said that. Was he in fact throwing out a message-in-a-bottle so to speak, to the geological community when facing his moment of truth and the realisation that in having to choose the lose-lose option he was going to have to scuttle his Big Ship, or, which amounted to much the same thing, have it fated to sail the geological seas like the Marie Celeste, a ghost whose geophysical achievements would be forever consigned to oblivion in the face of the geological storm that appeared to be looming on the horizon?  That concession from Hess of a 'three-problems solution' was no small thing.  It is one too that subsequent comment has gone to considerable trouble to eradicate. To the best of my knowledge all retrospectives focus on Hess's "rejection by no mechanism", and ignore his coded(?) "acceptance of expansion" that would solve his problems in understanding the evolution of the ocean basins.

"The most powerful lie is the lie by omission"
 ~ George Orwell

 Lie?  Certainly one that Hess could not explicitly state. It is also one that the current crop of Plate Tectonicists would do well to consider when contemplating the foundation of their 'no-mechanism' position.  "No mechanism" has no place in science, concerned as it is with the collection and collation of observable empirical facts, and no geologist should be conned by that mantra. To cite "no mechanism" over the geological evidence is to support the wall-eyed ignorance of physics and to advertise ignore-ance of the geological facts - and the principles on which it is founded.

Hess, by putting the +  and the -  together like that was laying bare his dilema, and by both = 0 thereby stating that he had virtually no option but to stay with the status quo and reject expansion, for otherwise was to commit the hara-kiri Carey was perceived to be doing. From a geological perspective of course Hess would have been doing no such thing, but from a physics perspective he was. Was this why he jumped from his seat in agitation?  Bruce Heezen (geologist / oceanographer) working in the Atlantic had already published on the huge dilation there and, Hess knew, supported expansion.  Indeed it was that very work on which Hess built his own.  But then it wasn't Heezen providing the grand synthesis and bludgeoning the audience with it. Hess would probably also have known the trouble that Heezen's work was landing him in ("read this" link above).

What was Hess to do?  What he in fact did (in terms of mechanism) was to simplistically restate convection in terms already well known, and attempt to taint others' views in terms identical to those levelled against Wegener forty years earlier - of "continents ploughing through the oceans etc etc."
"..The continents do not plow through oceanic crust impelled by unknown forces; rather they ride passively on mantle material as it comes to the surface at the crest of the ridge and then moves laterally away from it."
...exactly as Holmes had stated it in 1944 (and earlier in 1928).  Hess was saying nothing new here.  In my view it was wrong of him, in 1962, to represent by then current views of convection the way he did, but in context we can see why he might have done so - and why others in review might have allowed him to; indeed might have tacitly encouraged him to.  For all the ostentatious trumpeting, invention of a new vernacular, and prize-givings etc., that have gone on since, convection as represented by Hess - indeed even as it is understood today, is little different from Holmes' day.  The way I see it, it was an attempt to tart up the 'geo' element  of geophysics in order to deflect attention away from the destitute-in-knowledge 'physics' part, by people who didn't seem to have much of a clue as to the Pandora's Box of geological conundrums they were opening by doing so.

Or perhaps they exactly did, .. and were far more willing to face the geological conundrums than consequences of the physics ones. 

And that is the reason why I think Plate Tectonics exists today, a blousy old lush of an empress, tarted up in incongruous geological rags for anyone who fancies having their geophysical way with her - a mute lush for all seasons, stood over by an ignorant pimp.  

Seen against this background the prizes for Plate Tectonics and calls for prizes are little more than a cop-out, .. sustenance for scientists afraid to face the unknown when facing it spells oblivion for whoever does.  The receiver is the fall-guy, the sacrifical lamb.  It is the audience that applauds, who benefits.

Basically, geophysicists are in a bind.  They cannot use geological evidence to support expansion even if they believed it, for basically the same reason Hess couldn't.  It's actually in a double bind because of the way that physics operates.  Physicists proceed from hypothesised mechanism (as many as are needed) to explain the facts (and Plate Tectonics embodies many that are contradictory).  Geologists proceed from the facts, and using the Principle of Uniformitarianism, conclude mechanism (if mechanism must be known). But the lack of known mechanism in no way subverts the arrangement of the facts, if that arrangement is made according to sound logical principles.

So long as geologists allow the tail of physics to wag this dog, there will be no advance.  Everyone will be the loser.  

Plate Tectonics as an achievement?  (I think I'll go fishing...) (..with me mate George.)


[ See also Expanding Earth blog at  ]