The Latest Attempt To Rewrite History

There have been several comments on this blog recently claiming that the consensus agreed with plate tectonics, but disagreed with continental drift.

This is revisionist nonsense, as I will explain below the offending comment.

dhogaza says:

In the case of continental drift, it took almost 70 years to accept the evidence, and allow the science to proceed.

The continental drift hypothesis – continents moving across the sea floor like ships upon the sea – was wrong, and rightly rejected (no one rejected the obvious fact that continents fit together like a jigsaw puzzle). As a physical mechanism to explain the fact that the continents do fit together, it was simply impossible and scientists at the time for the most part recognized that it was impossible. Wegener was unable to answer the “how do they move?” response to his hypothesis.

Despite this, there was actually fairly considerable acceptance, especially in Europe, that the coincidences of geographical fit, various fits of rock types and fossils, meant that some unknown mechanism had caused the continents to move, emphasis on the “unknown”. But science likes explanations, and it’s understandable that continental drift didn’t gain widespread acceptance given that its proponents couldn’t propose a physically possible mechanism for it.

Plate tectonics is not continental drift. And it came about due to the discovery of sea floor spreading, which came about as a result of improved mapping of the ocean floors using modern technology, in the 1950s. Once a reasonable mechanism was discovered and the theory of plate tectonics developed, acceptance was relatively rapid.

Nonsense. My physical geology professor at ASU was Dr. Robert Dietz – who discovered sea floor spreading.

He also wrote an article in 1983 titled “In Defense of Drift” – because the consensus was still fighting against Wegener 70 years later.

Dietz, Robert S. (Nov.-Dec. 1983). “In Defense of Drift”. The Sciences 23: 26.

There never was a rift between plate tectonics and continental drift. Continental drift was a description of the motion, and plate tectonics was the underlying mechanism. Alarmists are trying to rewrite this history to prove that most scientists aren’t actually as stupid as they pretend to be.

At the time of his death, Wegener was ridiculed  and his theory was scorned.  Today, it is renowned as an essential element of the unifying theory of earth science: plate tectonics. 04 Brusatte.pdf

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10 Responses to The Latest Attempt To Rewrite History

  1. dmmcmah says:

    I studied physics and applied math in college and worked in national labs for many years, and never heard the word “consensus” ONCE until climate change alarmism got big in the media. There was never any discussion of “consensus” on quantum mechanics or “consensus” on Maxwell’s equations, or any need to state that “97% of scientists believe in Maxwells equations”.

    • I spent most of my time in academia studying the history and philosophy of science and the phrase ‘consensus’ never came up either. Frankly, it would have been too dumb to bring up such a concept in the technical literature.

  2. Jimmy Haigh. says:

    “dhogaza” is a wellknow alarmist nutter. As a hobby he photographs birds. Except those lying slicedup underneath windturbines. He probably denies that.

  3. daveburton says:

    Coincidentally, I just read Michael Crichton’s summary of that argument, which was one paragraph in his famous and fabulous CalTech Michelin Distinguished Visitor’s Lecture with the tongue-in-cheek title, “Aliens Cause Global Warming.” He wrote:

    “Probably every schoolchild notices that South America and Africa seem to fit together rather snugly, and Alfred Wegener proposed, in 1912, that the continents had in fact drifted apart. The consensus sneered at continental drift for fifty years. The theory was most vigorously denied by the great names of geology—until 1961, when it began to seem as if the sea floors were spreading. The result: it took the consensus fifty years to acknowledge what any schoolchild sees.”

    If anyone here has not read that lecture, then read it now!

    • Dr. Dietz expressed frustration about how difficult it was to get the scientific community to accept the obvious. The consensus actually did not get completely on board for a couple of decades after his 1961 paper. Then Hansen came along and they had a new outlet to vent their stupidity.

  4. Most of us here would be familiar with the Miller–Urey experiment which created organic compounds from inorganic precursors, presuming the conditions of the early atmosphere. This experiment generated so much publicity and prestige that it became the dominant or ‘consensus’ perspective in the field. Firstly, origin of life research was a very small field, so all the peer reviewers were basically from Miller’s research team. For years they blocked all research that disagreed with any perspective presented by Miller. This is possible when (a) the research field is small and specialised and (b) the topic is highly uncertain.

    One of the seminal papers in the field was on the possibility of life arising near hydrothermal vents. This paper was published in such an obscure journal that nearly every researcher in the field had to obtain a photocopy of a copy of the original paper. That paper is now regarded as ground breaking, but at the time, every trick in the book had been applied to prevent it from publication. Nowadays, the theory is hardly considered ‘controversial’.

  5. you are arguing with dhogaza, … I see.

  6. gator69 says:

    Consensus is for committees, not science. And geology is still a relatively new science, my father did not consider geology hard science (no pun intended) until he saw what I was studying. During his time in school, there was no mechanism for CD, and it was considered speculation at best.

    • That is the same problem with solar activity. Some scientists can’t understand it so they reject the correlation between solar minimums and cold temperatures. As if their understanding controls the behavior of nature.

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