November 20, 2018

What Killed Off the Dinosaurs?

What Killed Off the Dinosaurs?

The Atlantic has an article about the cause of the dinosaur extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Period, 66 million years ago and the raucous debate within geological circles.  Overall it’s a pretty good article, mostly addressed to laymen, and doesn’t get too scientific.  And let’s face it, dinosaurs are darn interesting—they’re big (the apatosaurus were the biggest land animal ever to walk the earth), scary (who didn’t shudder at the T-Rex scene in Jurassic Park), and have captivated imaginations since… well since we figured out what those skeletons represented.  I remember, as a child, my father taking me to the Chicago Museum of Natural History and standing in front of the T-Rex display—utterly fascinated—its part of the reason I am a geologist.

And they’re all gone (except for birds, but that is a post for another time)—long gone—disappointingly gone—so much so that the rumors of a dinosaur surviving still circulate: mokele-mbembe anyone?   The Atlantic casts the debate among geologists (not pseudo-geologists that think dinos died in Noah’s flood) as a David-Goliath battle (speaking of the Bible) between plucky Gerta Keller and her small merry band of volcanists and the disciples (minions?) of Luis Alvarez, the IMPACTERS (duh, duh, duh, duuuuuhhhh).  Sorry, but I’m only moderately exaggerating the melodrama the Atlantic article tries to make of the dispute.

As the article says:

Before the asteroid hypothesis took hold, researchers had proposed other, similarly bizarre explanations for the dinosaurs’ demise: gluttony, protracted food poisoning, terminal chastity, acute stupidity, even Paleo-weltschmerz—death by boredom. These theories fell by the wayside when, in 1980, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Luis Alvarez and three colleagues from UC Berkeley announced a discovery in the journal Science. They had found iridium—a hard, silver-gray element that lurks in the bowels of planets, including ours—deposited all over the world at approximately the same time that, according to the fossil record, creatures were dying en masse. Mystery solved: An asteroid had crashed into the Earth, spewing iridium and pulverized rock dust around the globe and wiping out most life forms.

 

Gerta Keller

Keller, a 73-year-old paleontology and geology professor at Princeton University, instead has proposed that a major volcanic eruption in Western India in the area known as the Deccan Traps was responsible for the disappearance, some 66 million years ago, of the dinosaurs.  The Atlantic paints the dispute as nasty and vicious—with geologists on both sides hurling insults and trying to ruin each other’s academic careers.

It all makes for a fine story, well told by the Atlantic writer, and captivating to read.  I have a few observations I’d like to make.

Observation #1:  This is no way to conduct scientific debate, and I think there is an undercurrent of smug satisfaction by the Atlantic writer that scientists are just like everybody else—prideful, petty, turf-protecting, and sometimes just downright mean.  Why this seems to come as a surprise to anybody is a surprise to me.  Scientists are human and can be counted on to act like… well… humans.  There does seem to be a certain schadenfreude in the Atlantic’s tone that the scientists are acting like… uh… politicians, but to be fair to the Atlantic, a lot of science these days does seem to be politicized.  Also, to a large extent, this debate takes place in academia, and like a dear late friend of mine who was a university professor often told me, academia has THE pettiest politics of anything including politics. Still, I’m an old-fashioned guy, so I have to say to the parties in this debate: knock it off—you’re making us geologists look bad, you should be ashamed of yourselves.  There is no excuse for anybody to call Gerta Keller a bitch, none whatsoever!

Observation #2:  No event of historical geology can ever be proved.  It is all inductive reasoning of the remaining physical evidence to the most probable conclusion.  To quote from the article:

Deccan Traps

The impact theory provided an elegant solution to a prehistoric puzzle, and its steady march from hypothesis to fact offered a heartwarming story about the integrity of the scientific method. “This is nearly as close to a certainty as one can get in science,” a planetary-science professor told Time magazine in an article on the crater’s discovery. In the years since, impacters say they have come even closer to total certainty. “I would argue that the hypothesis has reached the level of the evolution hypothesis,” says Sean Gulick, a research professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies the Chicxulub crater. “We have it nailed down, the case is closed,” Buck Sharpton, a geologist and scientist emeritus at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, has said.

Really, this is so disappointing if these guys are being quoted accurately—they are talking like idiots.  They really should know better than to make statements like “nearly as close to a certainty” and “case closed”.  The case is NEVER closed.  More evidence is discovered and the explanation MUST be changed.  The conclusions of science are always provisional, especially about events in the distant past.

Observation #3:  Neither cause being advocated for is necessarily an “either-or” situation.  There is no reason it couldn’t be “both-and”.  The article notes this:

Some scientists have attempted to find a middle ground between the two camps. A team at UC Berkeley, headed by Renne, has recently incorporated volcanism into the asteroid theory, proposing that Chicxulub’s collision unleashed earthquakes that in turn triggered Deccan’s most destructive pulses. But Keller rejects this hypothesis. “It’s impossible,” she told me. “They are trying to save the impact theory by modifying it.”

But then seems to pooh-pooh it, as if “you had better pick a side and stick to it”.  That is ridiculous, and Keller does herself a disservice by rejecting the “both-and” hypothesis.  Modifying a theory based on new evidence is what scientists SHOULD do.  I will go out on a limb here, and make a prediction—the continual gathering of evidence will eventually support a “both-and” hypothesis.  The critical issue, you might have noted, is really timing.  What was the timeline of the extinction event?  When did it begin, when did it accelerate, and when did it end?  How close can you correlate the asteroids impact to the extinction event?  How close can you correlate the volcanic eruptions to the extinction event?  Keller thinks she has evidence the asteroid hit 200,000 years before the extinction event started, while recent work by Renne places the impact within 32,000 years.  Please note that a 5% error bar, very reasonable for this type of work, is 3,300,000 years for 66 million years.  Maybe Klasie could weigh in on that remarkably high precision geochronology of 40Ar/39Ar dating, I don’t have the chops to critique it.

It has been pretty well established there have been 5 mass extinction events in the earth’s past.  They were:

  1. 445 Million Years Ago – End of the Ordovician Period – 57% of all genera – most likely culprit: climate change.
  2. 370 Million Years Ago – Late Devonian Period – 70% of all marine species died off – oxygen depletion and global cooling.
  3. 250 Million Years Ago – End of the Permian Period – the worst, some estimate 96% of all species died out – super volcanos in Siberia the main cause.
  4. 200 Million Years Ago – End of the Triassic Period – 1/5th of all families of marine life were killed – most likely cause the eruption of the Central Atlantic magmatic province.
  5. 66 Million Years Ago – End of the Cretaceous Period – 76% of all living things on Earth- big rock from space and/or super volcanos in India.

The Atlantic plays up the idea, embraced by Keller, that we are at the beginning of the 6th Extinction Event, this one man-made.  It’s an intriguing idea, because, aside from climate change, some 322 species have gone extinct in the last 500 years due to man, with two-thirds of those occurring in the last two centuries due to habitat loss or over-hunting/fishing.  According to a review published on May 29 in the journal Science, current extinction rates are up to a thousand times higher than they would be if people weren’t in the picture.  So, how about it, are we going to be the cause of our own demise?  Are we ourselves, the four horseman of the apocalypse?  Would God permit us to destroy ourselves?  After all, it would the SIXTH extinction, six being the number of a man (Revelation 13:18).

Comments

  1. Christiane says:

    ” The case is NEVER closed. More evidence is discovered and the explanation MUST be changed. The conclusions of science are always provisional, especially about events in the distant past. ”

    This.

    • This is certainly true but it doesn’t negate the idea of “settled science”. Einstein has been proven right so many times that the probability that Relativity will be overturned is practically nil. What will almost certainly happen is that at some future date some genius will do to Einstein what he did to Newton. Einstein didn’t overturn Newton, he incorporated his findings into a larger framework.

      Same thing with evolution, Bib Bang cosmology, etc. Science creates a foundation and then builds on it. It’s very rare that the foundation has to be completely dug up and started again from scratch.

      • Good point. I like that term “settled science.”

      • Christiane says:

        I taught sixth-grade science. 🙂
        This does NOT make me an expert on the subject, no; but I do know something about the Scientific Method whereby you propose a ‘hypothesis’ and then ‘test’ it.

        The idea is to set your ‘hypothesis’ up as an

        ‘IF’ you do this;
        ‘THEN’ this will result.

        so you set up the steps of your experiment (what you DO) and work it through those steps;
        and you record the ‘results’ using a visual graph if possible, and when the steps are completed,

        you progress to your EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION to see if your ‘results’ ‘SUPPORT’ or do ‘NOT SUPPORT’ your HYPOTHESIS.

        Then you report your findings: was your hypothesis ‘supported’ or ‘not supported’?

        That is sixth-grade level Scientific Method training. My students won prizes at the City Level Science Fairs, using tri-boards to display their experiments.

        Does this make me knowledgeable? Only in the area of realizing that your ‘hypothesis’ may not always be supported, and that this is not a ‘failure’ of the experiment, because it gives new knowledge one way or the other, so it has value. 🙂

        I don’t know from ‘settled science’. Maybe someone could give me an example. I might be used to another kind of terminology. 🙂

  2. As long as we’re referencing The Atlantic, here’s their article on the Permian super-extinction. The parallels between it and what’s going on now are, while thankfully not exact, worrisome.

    As for your closing question, my slightly more informed than average opinion is that this will probably – probably – not destroy the biosphere or the human race. Modern industrial civilization, however, is going to be over and gone by 2100, along with a sizable majority of the human population.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      I am very happy to not have children.

      • You “idolatry-of-children” idolator! 😉

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/troublerofisrael/2018/08/2136/

        • Screw that article.

          That issue is important to me, after so many years having it beaten into my head that anyone who didn’t want kids and god forbid a couple not have kids is less than Christian, lukewarm, evil, idolatrous, insert whatever bs qualifier you want. Those people would rather the unable to have biological children stay single than muck up their precious ‘marriage is for having children only’ views.

          Screw that article. And the author. And whatever holier than thou tongue in cheek point they are trying to poorly make.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > not destroy the biosphere

      Well, one needs to define “destroy”. 🙂 Terminally damage? That’s done.

      I live in a state where most of those not blessed by the socialist miracle of municipal water are advised not to drink the water. That’s a rather serious problem going forward – – – for both people AND AGRICULTURE.

      If you can’t drink the water your home value plummets – who is going to buy it? Do you want to raise your children there? Those who can leave. What industry remains in those places struggles to find workers, even some of the fast food restaurants go down to only operating their drive through due to lack of staffing [seriously, not making this up]. Industry packs up and moves, taking the jobs with them, those plummeted home values . . .down, down, down they go. Oh, by the way, schools are funded by Property Tax revenue here; so vacant industry and zeroed out home values . . . yeah.

      Watching this happen right now. Environmentally driven economic catastrophe is here, today.

      Reported in the news? Barely, you have to dig for it.

      • Try Desdemona Despair – they do a good job of aggregating the buried stories like this.

    • No, what will happen is that in responding to the challenges of global climate change human civilization will learn wisdom and create a peaceful sustainable global civilization.

      It’s possible!

      • I do also hold out hope that as we further advance, that technology will also at some point be better equipped to deal with some of these larger issues

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          I hold out little hope that Technology can save us. On the other hand I believe WE HAVE all the technology to solve this problem, currently, IMNSHO. No innovation required.

          But life-styles will have to change, so, not much hope there.

          Not even to anything like a monastic austerity. I believe 7.5 billion people can flourish with the technology we have, living very comfortably.

          But you can’t have a 3,500sq/ft home for 2 people on 1.5 acres of useless land and drive a single occupancy vehicle for every trip. The problem is the ludicrous waste, the real problem is “The American Dream”.

        • Technology – at least high amounts of energy use – is what got us into modern civilization, and this mess. We can only get out of the mess by using LESS energy – but that also means getting out of modern civilization. :-/

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > means getting out of modern civilization

            Nah, we can, very comfortably , run a “modern civilization” on a fraction of our current load.
            The hurdle is the legacy of cheap energy and massively subsidized development.

      • Why will this happen? On what do you base this assertion?

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          If Stephen is saying it “is possible” then he is correct. It is possible; it is hubris to deny that possibility.

          The **probability** of a “peaceful sustainable global civilization” seems very very very very very low.

          Remove the “global” part, and sure, I expect several peaceful sustainable civilizations to thrive; at least for the median duration of civilizations.

          • The probability of God Almighty humbling himself into the form of a human body, living for ~30 years like we live, allowing himself to be railroaded by a corrupt human court system and then nailed to a cross and dying, then rising again three days later…

            very very very very very low.

            Maybe God will make a way.

            • God’s not in the habit of rescuing nations from the consequences of their actions. Ask Israel.

              • I’m doing a study of Isaiah right now, so I hear ya.

                But it’s the WORLD we’re talking about, not just “Israel”!

                • Revelation 11:18…

                  “The nations were angry,
                  and your wrath has come.
                  The time has come for judging the dead,
                  and for rewarding your servants the prophets
                  and your people who revere your name,
                  both great and small—
                  and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

          • My statement is a hope rather than a prophecy. I don’t expect Utopia but the “why do anything, we’re screwed” folks should not be believed either.

            Adam, the problem is global. The solution is global. When the Titanic went down everybody went down. The iceberg didn’t care about nationality.

            I think there will be much disruption and suffering. Because of the infrastructure in the West we will feel the effects last perhaps but there is no “American” solution or “Chinese” solution. I just think that life is preferable to death and in the end the things we will have to do to survive will force us to wise up.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says:

              > Adam, the problem is global. The solution is global

              Adaptation however, can be local.

              At this point in the game Adaptation may be a more achievable goal than Solutions. Or, best, do both, in case the Solutions don’t come to pass [as they seem politically very unlikely].

  3. “But then seems to pooh-pooh it, as if “you had better pick a side and stick to it”. That is ridiculous, and Keller does herself a disservice by rejecting the “both-and” hypothesis. Modifying a theory based on new evidence is what scientists SHOULD do. I will go out on a limb here, and make a prediction—the continual gathering of evidence will eventually support a “both-and” hypothesis.”

    In regards to climate change, it appears there are at least 3 camps in science: Deniers (it’s not happening or it is all natural), Alarmists (the sky is falling, ex. Thomas Mann), and Warmists/Luke-warmists (warming is taking place, humans are playing a role, but there is much to learn, and some uncertainty due to the complexity of the situation, ex. Judith Curry- who used to be an Alarmist).

    As Christians, we should encourage a seeking of truth, including transparency of those involved in the studies (Are all facts on the table? What uncertainties are there? What role does peer pressure play? What role do grants play? Etc…)

    All these need to be considered in hoping to find solutions to best help the situation (if it can be countered).

    • There is a fourth camp – global warming is happening, it is mostly human driven, and while it won’t destroy the earth it will render life miserable and hard for most people. This is rapidly becoming the consensus.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > rapidly becoming the consensus

        We are there; the debate is over. Outside of the hyper-partisan harbors – where it will never be concluded for ideological reasons – there is no debate.

        The conversation is singularly focused on what can be done to minimize its impacts, particularly now given that our Federal government is trending towards uselessness.

        • “There is genuine scientific consensus on the following points:
          -global temperatures have increased overall since 1880
          -humans are contributing to a rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations
          -CO2 emits and absorbs infrared radiation

          For the most consequential issues, there remains considerable debate:
          -whether the warming since 1950 has been dominated by human causes
          -how much the planet will warm in the 21st century
          -whether warming is ‘dangerous’
          -whether radically reducing CO2 emissions will improve the climate and human well being

          Leveraged by the consensus on the three points above that are not disputed, the climate ‘consensus’ is being sold as applying to all of the above, even the issues for which there remains considerable debate.
          For past a certain point, each increase in the level of consensus makes it more difficult for new information to surface, thereby lowering the veracity we should assign to it…
          The net result of this skewed ‘consensus’ is that inadequate attention is being paid to natural climate variability, and too many people, including scientists, assume that CO2 is a giant control knob that, if reduced, can eliminate bad weather, sea level rise, etc…
          Eliciting the opinion of experts is worthwhile, but it is important to clearly delineate which ‘experts’ should count: There must be a sufficient number of others who did arrive (and continue to arrive) at the same conclusion through independent verification and testing. A substantial majority of the individuals responding to the ‘expert’ surveys have not contributed to the primary literature on detection and attribution and have not conducted an independent assessment of this issue. Instead they have arrived at their conclusion based on the second-order evidence that a ‘consensus’ exists.” – Judith Curry 2016

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > For the most consequential issues, there remains considerable debate:

            Nope. You can keep saying so, but it is not true. Denial is not a form of debate.

            > whether warming is ‘dangerous’

            Seriously? I do not know what sources you are reading, but you can stop wasting your time with them.

            > assume that CO2 is a giant control knob that, if reduced,

            And nobody said that ever. This is a straw man argument. And such a notion is silly.

            > Judith Curry

            Ah, you found one of the 3-4% in order to defend a concept of wide-spread debate. Once a level of consensus reaches 80% – and we are at ~96-97% – the debate is over. You’ll never get to 100%, less than 100% does not make a “lack of consensus”, that is not how science, or the world, works.

            > 2016

            And Ms. Curry retired from academia in 2017.

            • “and we are at ~96-97%”

              “The most recent study claiming a 97% consensus is Cook et al, Environ. Res. Lett. It was voted the most influential ERL paper of 2013 and was downloaded far more than any other ERL paper. The authors examined the abstracts of 11,944 peer-reviewed journal articles published between 1991 and 2012 to determine the level of scientific consensus for the position “humans are causing global warming”. Unfortunately, the key issue is not whether anthropogenic GHGs have caused any increase in global temperature – the issue is how much global warming have they caused.”- Curry

              https://judithcurry.com/2015/12/20/what-is-there-a-97-consensus-about/

              She still is involved in the field/research.

              Her main point is that those involved in this field need to put all their cards on the table, and let the research take it where it will. She thinks there is a lot of agendas being pushed, with little admission of uncertainties (which is why she pulled back from being an Alarmist).

            • > For the most consequential issues, there remains considerable debate:

              Nope. You can keep saying so, but it is not true. Denial is not a form of debate.

              Disagreements based on faith or politics are not acceptable. If 99% of people are in agreement on something, that 1% isn’t magically right because they are the outlier, and they aren’t contributing much of anything.

              • Adam Tauno Williams says:

                Yep, if 96% of people think an idea is crazy, one should seriously consider the possibility it is a crazy idea.

                96% is jaw dropping astonishing number.
                Find anything at all which anywhere close to 96% agree.
                Ignoring the astonishingness of that kind of consensus is delusion, full stop.

              • Fully agree.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      As Christians, we should encourage a seeking of truth, including transparency of those involved in the studies (Are all facts on the table? What uncertainties are there? What role does peer pressure play? What role do grants play? Etc…)

      Unfortunately, Christians are among the most fanatical of the Deniers, whether due to End Time Prophecy (It’s All Gonna Burn Anyway), Over-Spiritualization (This World Is Not My Home, I’m Just Passin’ Thru), SCRIPTURAL literalism, or Trump-worship. The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.

      • I think it also due an anti-science mentality

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Deeper.

          American “Christianity” == White == “Middle Class” == the people who do not want any of the required changes, as it will turn off their gravy supply.

          The conversations about “the science” is 110% disingenuous; it is about avoiding the answers.

      • Patriciamc says:

        There’s also the mentality that God gave us this world to subdue, so we can do whatever we like (uh, no), and that the envirormental movement is a form of paganism, Gaia and so forth (again, no). Pat Robertson was one of the early critics of the man-caused global warming movement, and he just happened to be an investor in Exxon. No correlation, I’m sure!

      • Christiane says:

        Here’s what I know:

        there is an alliance between the Republican Party and fundamentalist-evangelicals.
        The Republican Party supports Big Energy (usually coal, petroleum, gas) . . . . so in order to make sure there are as few restrictions on that industry as possible, fundamentalist-evangelicals will spout the party-line.

        Now, many evangelical people are in tune with the idea that we are to care for the Earth, not poison it. So they may either remain silent, or ‘vote green’ or actually stand up and teach their children about conservation and care of the environment regardless of the Republican mantras.

        Agree? Disagree? Please share your point of view and thanks. 🙂

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          there is an alliance between the Republican Party and fundamentalist-evangelicals.
          …fundamentalist-evangelicals will spout the party-line.

          As Eagle put it in a slightly-different context:
          “American Evangelicals have sold our birthright for a Supreme Court Appointment”.

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “””dinosaurs are darn interesting”””

    What REALLY blows my mind:
    – The time between Stegosaurus and the Tyrannosaurus Rex is 83 million years
    – The time between the Tyrannosaurus Rex and now is 65 million years.

    BOOM!

    The first dinosaurs punched in sometime -243M and the [albiet broad] category held the position of dominance until -65M; that’s 178 millions years. And the gold star goes to …!

    “””There does seem to be a certain schadenfreude in the Atlantic’s tone that the scientists are acting like… uh… politicians”””

    And what are Politicians, again? Ah, humans, right. Every person, every last damn one, is a politician. Doubt that? Go to an HOA or Neighborhood Association meeting, or you know . . . a church.

    “””“you had better pick a side and stick to it”.”””” Ugh, welcome to the oldest political trope in the book: sides.

    “””Would God permit us to destroy ourselves?””” I am confident the wealthy [aka Blessed|Chosen] will manage to find a way through. I mean that satirically, and I actually mean it.

    • “I am confident the wealthy [aka Blessed|Chosen] will manage to find a way through. I mean that satirically, and I actually mean it.

      They mean it too, and they aren’t satirical about it.

      https://medium.com/s/futurehuman/survival-of-the-richest-9ef6cddd0cc1

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Yep. I have heard this kind of thing first-hand. 🙁

        Nailed it: “They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves?”

        I thought Scandinavian/Finnish weary-elder-gods nihilism was dark. But we can’t hold a candle to the Tech-Bros, they will be popping popcorn and watching the nations burn, wrapped in a warm blanket of smugness and self-satisfaction.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Like Rapture Ready Christians during Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War, the Tech-Bros don’t expect to be there; they expect to have uploaded themselves into The Cloud and be “watching the nations burn” in Meatspace from the safety of Cyberspace, non-physical ones and zeros on Internet superservers.

          • Christiane says:

            Wouldn’t all that contemptuous smugness cancel out their ‘salvation’ ????

            I’ve wondered about this recently.

        • Until they realize that their entire lives and fortunes are based on the system they think is collapsing. When it collapses, so will their fortunes. You can only store so much food, so much water, and so many guns before your stash runs out. And THEN what will you do (assuming someone with MORE guns dosen’t come and take it from you before it runs out)?

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            Oy vey, did you try to talk sense to a Tech-Bro? I gave up on that years ago.
            Something about being that lucky – and that kind of wealth is principally luck [no, not genius] – really messes with some people.

            It is like trying to explain to an astonishingly beautiful friend what life is like for all the rest of us; that friend is completely convinced that everyone is polite and eagerly helpful. Yeah.

            A little bit of bad luck can be a good thing.

        • –> “They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves?”

          Isaiah 22:12-13…
          The Lord, the Lord Almighty,
          called you on that day
          to weep and to wail,
          to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth.
          But see, there is joy and revelry,
          slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep,
          eating of meat and drinking of wine!
          “Let us eat and drink,” you say,
          “for tomorrow we die!”

  5. I was disgusted by that Atlantic article and commented about it in this biologos thread. But if you click on it, what you should really do is read some of the links I provided. One didn’t work— the link to the 2010 Science piece,, but someone else provided a link that did work..

    https://discourse.biologos.org/t/debate-over-dinosaur-extinction-in-the-atlantic/39195/8

    Personally I think both factors played a role, but Keller seems to have an obsessive need to discredit Chixculub. At one point she was arguing, weirdly, that the evidence showed there was a much bigger impact which gave the iridium layer and perhaps caused the extinction, though usually she says it was the Deccan eruptions. Charles Officer, depicted as a martyr, initially denied that the iridium came from an asteroid and after a crater of the predicted size was discovered, denied it was an impact crater

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I have heard that at the time of the K-T boundary, the site of the Deccan Traps was near-directly on the opposite side of the world from Chixculub, and that the impact shockwaves would have concentrated there eitther triggering or supercharging the Deccan Traps giga-eruption.

      In any case, like Democrats and Republicans since 1980, we have two One True Ways at each others’ throats.
      “IMPACT! NOT VOLCANOES! DIE, HERETICS!”
      “VOLCANOES! NOT IMPACT! DIE, HERETICS!”
      Even if there is no link like theorized in my first paragraph, what if both Chixculub and the Deccan Traps went down around the same time in a one-two punch? One or the other in isolation would have been enough to mess up the world and trigger some sort of extinction event, but with BOTH AT ONCE the effects would stack into a Mass Extinction.

      • The asteroid only people do have some arguments, but you can read them at the links in the biologos thread. I think it is more likely that if you have both an extremely large impact and some huge series of eruptions, they both probably played a role.

        What irritated me was how the Atlantic writer basically turned it into a political morality play where the impact theory won because it seemed cool. Actually, in the early years if anything the sensational catastrophic nature of the impact idea offended the uniformitarian prejudices that most geologists had at the time. The theory came out when I was in college taking a geology class and my professor clearly thought it was a bit silly. I followed it from the sidelines—I wanted to do my thesis on a related topic but my advisor in grad school didn’t feel he knew enough to help, so I didn’t. Anyway, the theory acquired support the old fashioned way— with the original evidence of the iridium, more evidence of shocked quartz, a prediction of a crater of the size later found. Sure, maybe the volcano theory has some validity, but the Atlantic article was slanted for melodramatic purposes. There are some people on both sides who have acted badly, but the scientific arguments are more interesting.

  6. Testing. I just posted something. It didn’t go up.

  7. Command F: “were you there??????” No results found.

    HUG, you’re slacking!

  8. Chaplain Mike, would you be interested in me connecting you with a WordPress developer who is a believer? I’m not sure what the plans are for the site right now, but if you’re interested I can connect you two to see if there’s any change of upgrading the site and it’s systems.

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    The Atlantic plays up the idea, embraced by Keller, that we are at the beginning of the 6th Extinction Event, this one man-made. It’s an intriguing idea…

    As well as “the Commercial” (or “the Sermon”) with an opportunity for Angsty Virtue Signalling. I have come to expect that “commercial/sermon” from ANY coverage in the media that could be linked in any way to Global Warming. Like over-Saved Christians who cannot speak to anyone without steering the conversation into Witnessing the Other into the Altar Call.

  10. What a depressing discussion today. But not as depressing as how the region I live in has flooded to a degree that seven years ago was called a “once in a century event” two more times since then — that’s mighty depressing.

    • Christiane says:

      Hello Robert F,

      Has the region where you live built up a lot recently using lands that were better used for drainage management?
      We have an area that is rich in natural wetlands and one decade twenty years ago, the builders were allowed free-reign to drain and build on some of those natural wetlands . . . . so a drought came, and the salt waters of the ocean backed up into the city water maintenance system and we all had to use bottled water and replace a lot of ruined pipes and appliances in our homes . . . .

      natural wetlands serve a purpose, and removing them so builders can profit usually leads to profound effects for the entire region, yep

      people are learning . . . the hard way, I’m afraid . . . . but they are learning through suffering

      • We are surrounded by small family farms. The property I live on was likely farmland 30 years ago, and there has been lot of development in the area, with many new residents (Lancaster County, PA), including my wife and myself, arriving in the last decades. The area is very water rich. In the ten years we’ve been here, there has been visible erosion in the belt of trees that separates our apartment complex from the creek across the road: many trees have fallen down, and the banks of the creek have decayed. The last half of this summer has seen record breaking rains; I’ve been anxious for much of that time about flooding from the creek, as I’ve watched the town we live in undergo severe flooding twice in the last month alone. People who have lived in the area all their lives tell me they’ve never seen precipitation and flooding like the last few years.

        • Christiane says:

          It sounds more like events brought on by a progressive ‘global warming’ effect . . . . however, those trees have roots which hold the soil from erosion in normal situations . . . .

          I love Pennsylvania (my husband is from Butler, PA, north of Pittsburgh). We have often been through Lancaster Counter on business years ago and it is beautiful. But in another part of Pennsylvania, I also know how wealthy people once built a massive dam so they could fish on a resort lake area and then failed to maintain the dam, which one day breached and caused the famous and deadly Johnstown Flood (my godmother was from Johnstown), so Pennsylvanians aren’t always up on the dangers of messing with Mother Nature and anticipating the consequences of their interference.

          Just a thought:
          I hope your apartment is on the second or third level, just in case of a major creek flood. Way up on the Mohawk Trail in western Massachussetts, the Deerfield River flooded out and really messed up roads and washed out properties after a hurricane came through. Some of the footage of the flooding was alarming in how fast the water was flowing . . . . very dangerous, that.

          • We’re on the second floor. Heavy rain today and for the next few days rain in the forecast; flash flooding in a number of places in the northern part of county. Crossing our fingers along with saying our prayers.

  11. ….445 Million Years Ago – End of the Ordovician Period – 57% of all genera – most likely culprit: climate change.
    ….370 Million Years Ago – Late Devonian Period – 70% of all marine species died off – oxygen depletion and global cooling.
    ….250 Million Years Ago – End of the Permian Period – the worst, some estimate 96% of all species died out – super volcanos in Siberia the main cause.
    ….200 Million Years Ago – End of the Triassic Period – 1/5th of all families of marine life were killed – most likely cause the eruption of the Central Atlantic magmatic province.
    ….66 Million Years Ago – End of the Cretaceous Period – 76% of all living things on Earth- big rock from space and/or super volcanos in India.

    “I had not thought that death had undone so many.”