A Case Study In Expert Scientific Stupidity

“Doesn’t the east coast of South America fit exactly against the west coast of Africa, as if they had once been joined?” wrote Wegener to his future wife in December 1910. “This is an idea I’ll have to pursue.”

It is just as if we were to refit the torn pieces of a newspaper by matching their edges and then check whether the lines of print ran smoothly across. If they do, there is nothing left but to conclude that the pieces were in fact joined in this way.

Meteorologist Alfred Wegener proposed his theory of Continental Drift in 1915. Everything about the theory was obviously correct, which is exactly why he was met with decades of rage and denial by the expert scientific community.

“Utter, damned rot!” said the president of the prestigious American Philosophical Society.

“If we are to believe [this] hypothesis, we must forget everything we have learned in the last 70 years and start all over again,” said another American scientist.

Anyone who “valued his reputation for scientific sanity” would never dare support such a theory, said a British geologist.

He couldn’t get a job as a professor in Germany because of his heresy. The body of experts couldn’t believe that continents moved, even though they saw it happening all the time.  During the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, the land moved as much as 20 feet.

Fifteen years after he proposed his theory, Wegener froze to death exploring the Greenland Ice Sheet – and a few decades later the clueless body of experts accepted his painfully obvious theory.


About stevengoddard

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19 Responses to A Case Study In Expert Scientific Stupidity

  1. maguro says:

    You mean the scientific consensus was wrong? I’m shocked.

  2. suyts says:

    A sadly beautiful piece of scientific history.

  3. pyromancer76 says:

    A moving remembrance of Wegner’s effort and his very sad demise. Establishment science, establishment anything, hates ideas new and different, especially when they have an unconscious intuition that the ideas might be right. I think, however, there is a big difference this time. I think there has been a conspiracy to fix the science from some time in the 1990s with so-called “climate scientists” paid by many large corporate and financial interests (even if through government funding — in the U.S., Clinton, Bush, Obama) to fraudulently alter the science. All those climate exchanges did not get established for nothing. All those publications were not taken over by these “global corporations” — Economist, Scientific American (a German publishing company I think), Science, Nature, as well as the board of directors at all my once favorite environmental organizations “for nothing”. They all expect big returns without having to compete one whit in the free market. How about them “capitalists”! All monopolists, oligopolists to the core. We Americans know this from all our business cycle busts of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. The richest bigwigs tend to engage in the worst frauds that caused the worst damage every time. Gaming the market. Even our beloved Google is deeply tied to this one.

    Baying in encouragement — with lots of footwork — have been the socialists (marxists, maoists, fascists) all of whom want to see the victor in the “war for democracy and free enterprise” vanquished. A perfect storm, if you will. Now that “we” are on to them, I don’t think they will triumph — but the going might get tough at times.

    Glad you have your own blog, Steven Goddard. You’re doing your part!

  4. Sundance says:

    Thank goodness we have powerful money driven scientific organizations that prevent this sort of thing from happening today. It makes consensus so much easier.

  5. T G Watkins says:

    As a general rule I would prefer incompetence and ignorance as reasons for the spread of monumentally stupid ideas, religions being the prime example, rather than conspiracy
    But the more one explores the strange world of AGW the more that one has to agree that, maybe, pyromancer has a point.
    It is difficult to explain the complete indifference of MSM, politicians and ‘learned’ scientific societies to the obvious lack of evidence supporting AGW and the considerable body of evidence against without, at least considering, guiding hands.

  6. Ronald Henry says:

    A key difference between AGW and continental drift (now plate tectonics) is that AGW is a theory with a mechanism in search of facts to support it and, in the early days, continental drift had plenty of supporting facts and observations but no mechanism. Too bad that the Wegener Institute is pro AGW, I don’t think Alfred would approve.

    • MichaelM says:

      I appreciate the distinction you’ve drawn here, but I’m not sure I agree. Is the ‘mechanism’ for AGW especially CAGW, the radiative effect of CO2? And isn’t this effect of a logarithmic nature? From the graphs I’ve seen, even 600ppm of CO2 would have only a miniscule effect.

      I’ve always thought this was the weakest part of the whole theory. Based on it I’m not worried at all. I always thought the (probably incorrect) graphs of .7 degrees warming since 1900 was the genesis of the theory. (for ‘warmers’ – i myself am a ‘flat earth denier’ ) 🙂

      • Ronald Henry says:

        The mechanism is the increased “atmosphere effect” (a better name than greenhouse effect) that keeps the surface of the earth warmer than it would be without an atmosphere, caused by increased carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases. I agree that the current and predicted increased concentration of greenhouse gases are too small to worry about, but this is the root of all the fuss. Without it, there is no need to discuss negative or positive climate forcing, stability of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, retreat of Himalayan or other glaciers, tree ring proxies for temperature, and on and on.

        As late as 1966, I experienced first hand the wrath of the establishment continental drift deniers when I wrote a review of the subject for a geophysics class. My professor’s outraged comments on wasting his and my time with this baloney were almost as long as my paper. His main argument – there was no conceivable mechanism to allow continents to move.

    • Ronald Henry says:
      November 15, 2010 at 9:58 pm

      A key difference between AGW and continental drift (now plate tectonics)

      I don’t think this post was intended to support AGW, but to support those who are showing it is obviously wrong.

  7. Where do you start with this one…..

    Did you know there literally was a scientist that said Einstein should be killed because of the bizarre ideas that General Relativity brought with it? There really was. There were conferences held to denounce General Relativity and Einstein even attended some of them in hopes to speak during Q & A to defend himself.

  8. Did you know there was a man named Giordano Bruno who lived in the late 1500’s that was burned at the stake for heresy because of his bizarre ideas? In years to follow many of his ideas were accepted, or I should say discovered, as true by science. He was waaaaaay ahead of his time. To scary for the religious people to leave him alive.

  9. “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”


  10. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:


    Oh no those perky sunspots control the weather again

  11. Michael Crichton, right is might

  12. “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”


  13. Why are most people just following what was laid out before?

  14. omnologos says:

    Imagine the Twitter ‘bot of 1610AD, with all those thousands of quotes by Aristotle and his commenters ready to be fired against geocentrism deniers such as Galileo and Kepler…

    • Mike Davis says:

      That is easy to imagine because we are the deniers of Geocenterism. That was based on no real world evidence just like ACC!

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