[meteorite-list] Age of Man
From: Sterling K. Webb <sterling_k_webb_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 19 Jun 2009 15:35:11 -0500
Hi, Chris, List,
Wegener was a meteorologist, not a geologist.
He was working "outside his field," the ultimate
crime. He could never get academic support (or
a job) because he was not a geologist. Finally, an
Austrian university created a chair of "meteorology
and geophysics" for him, late in his life.
He got good funding, but for his meteorological
work, not geology. His theory was particularly
dispised in the US, and he was widely ridiculed
for it. A meteorologist! What's he up to?
The prevailing theory was Land Bridges: "The
scientific consensus was of sunken land and continents,
now covered in oceans. This land had once provided
a migratory path for the former flora and fauna,
now found as fossils in diverse continents. Land,
of course, was a permanent and unmovable feature
of the earth's surface. Although it might sink,
land could neither move nor be created afresh.
The sunken land had, it was supposed, suffered
from the effects of a 'cooling and contracting earth'.
As the core of the earth cooled and contracted,
its outer crust collapsed inwards. Mountains had
thus arisen, and oceans formed in the depressions,
covering the earlier land bridges."
Along with the theory of continental drift, Wegener
wrote many criticisms of the land bridge theory. This
did not make him popular, either. I recall seeing many
charts of "land bridges" in texts when I was in high
school, narrow intersecting highways across the Pacific
Ocean, with new ones added for every duplicate fossil
species find. Silliest dam thing you ever saw.
Sterling K. Webb
----- Original Message -----
From: "Chris Peterson" <clp at alumni.caltech.edu>
To: <meteorite-list at meteoritecentral.com>
Sent: Friday, June 19, 2009 3:05 PM
Subject: Re: [meteorite-list] Age of Man
> It is an urban myth that Wegener was ridiculed in any extreme way. He
> observed some interesting evidence but could not find a way to
> reconcile it and existing geological theory. So his ideas were- quite
> correctly- met with skepticism. He did not lose respect in the
> scientific community, and was able to secure funding for his projects
> until his death.
> While it is true that skepticism directed towards new ideas can slow
> down the acceptance of those ideas that ultimately prove correct, it
> also prevents science from spiraling out of control trying to prove or
> disprove every new thing that comes along. For every Wegener who is
> ultimately demonstrated correct, there are a thousand people with
> crazy ideas that will always be wrong (or more, in this day of the
> Even if more people had accepted Wegener's idea that the continents
> were once connected, it isn't clear that this would have changed the
> history of modern geology much. It still took a few more decades
> before the necessary technology came along to develop the tectonic
> theory underlying continental drift. Science did work, and the state
> of knowledge advanced.
> Yes, there's an element of truth in the "knowledge filter" idea. But
> just a tiny element. And its effect isn't to eliminate evidence, but
> to slow down its consideration. I've noticed that the more outlandish
> somebody's idea is, the more likely he is to complain of conspiracies
> and flaws in the scientific process suppressing new ideas.
> Chris L Peterson
> Cloudbait Observatory
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Jerry Flaherty" <grf2 at verizon.net>
> To: <cdtucson at cox.net>; <meteorite-list at meteoritecentral.com>;
> <cynapse at charter.net>
> Sent: Friday, June 19, 2009 12:32 PM
> Subject: Re: [meteorite-list] Age of Man
>> The video's commentary describing "knowlwdge filter " rings true.
>> Remember the reception by the then vaunted "Scientific Community's"
>> of Alfred Wegener's classic of the mid 1920's "The Origin of the
>> Continents and Seafloor Spreading"
>> Utterly ridiculed, Wegener continued in his quest until his untimely
>> death in Greenland gathering data in the form of fossils and rock
>> samples from opposing once contiguous coastal regions.
>> Fortunately not everyone dismissed Wegener and a network of
>> cooperative allies provided substantial material allowing Wegner to
>> republish several times always to a negative reception.
>> A world war later, when submarines and sonar played a significant
>> role, over 40 years after his death, Wegener was vindacated when some
>> woman scientist surveyed the wealth of new geographic information
>> sonar had inadvertently provided of the seafloor
>> So, if some information seems paradoxical, contradictory or
>> fundamentally unsound against the backdrop of the current rational
>> melieu, SUSPENSION OF JUDGEMENT might be the first utterance to
>> Just humbely "stick it away" into the vast resources of the brain
>> lest we stumble in an effort to retract words uttered in haste
>> Jerry Flaherty
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Received on Fri 19 Jun 2009 04:35:11 PM PDT