Thursday, April 20, 2017

"But we used the juice"

(Narrative therapy, straightface, and the dead parrot of Plate Tectonics)  

"The Man in the Moon came down too soon,
and asked about his dinner. 
The scorpion replied, " I've eaten it Clive
You'll have to get used to being thinner."

Fig.1. The circumglobal mountain belt widening towards the Pacific. [Who can spot the crabby, cock-eyed crazy, coming out of its shell? ]
 Text and subtext.     There is something both biblical and inescapably pythonesque about a 'majority-of-one', (namely me and a mere handful of others) confronting a monolithic consensus of believers in Plate Tectonics in some sort of 'David-and-Goliath' struggle. It's a contest of geo-logic based on direct observation of the crust versus a hypothesis of geophysics based on remote sensing.  However the outcome is assured - death by a thousand cuts, .. or in this case, by a thousand slingshots.

Sitting in the front row and all agog to witness this pitiful contest (and I hope there's more than one) are your good selves. Behind the action are the cheer squads. Goliath's corner is absolutely chockers with all the professional Earth scientists, an informed public (incl. teachers, teachers' pets, students and schoolchildren) and a media responsible for science communication, .. all convinced of scepticism as a modus operandi [I did check for "operandum" but found I was revealing my ignorance of the genitive case (latin)] for rejecting "seeing-is-believing' cognitive norms of common sense and geo-logic. In the other corner, unwashed and unabashed, is a rent-a-clash mob who are just full of boos whenever the case-positive for common sense is advanced, whatever end of the ring they judge guilty of transgression.

The contest is over the fact of  the wysiwyg "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" :-:  the 'seeing is believing' trap - and the even bigger trap you get into when trying to work your way around it.  In other words the particular fact that the Earth's surface is constituted of 1/3rd continental crust and 2/3rds oceanic crust and that the 'wysiwygglie' (that the mantle has broken through the crust making its outer shell, i.e., its surface area) (and therefore by default its volume too) (and by further implication its mass as well), bigger (/greater) - leads to the conclusion [tantamount-to-observation, i.e., not a hypothesis) that the Earth was once constituted entirely of a continental landmass that was the sum of those continental fragments we see today, ..  and therefore that it was once smaller by those oceanic extents. 

Even more pythonesque is the vegemite and lemon juice that Goliath and his cohorts have smeared themselves with, and, with which suitably decorated, they are declaring themselves to be (and paraphrasing only slightly to give vernacular clarity). "Outsiders without a geological clue", .. and "not needing one".  [Not to mention the spinach between the teeth.]

 Here's the libretto for this pantomime :- 
".. Carey had long since bluntly told the structural geologists that they were working on second order features. Structural geologist did not take this kindly. Many of them were among the most famous of geologists and they had climbed the great mountain ranges of the world and discovered fantastic over-thrusting with offsets by stunning amounts.< .... > These were the geologists who legitimately speculated on the origin and history of the largest-scale features. These were the ones who were studying the deformation of materials in laboratories in order to apply scientific rigor to the interpretations of field observations. Now, outsiders with no credentials in structural problems were having the effrontery to say that their work had little bearing on the gross deformation of the earth. They didn't like it. However the people who would develop plate tectonics in the next few years, would not be structural geologists nor need to become such. " H.W. Menard (1986), The Ocean of Truth, P.232. 

And here's the cheerleaders in the Royal Box :- 
"The development of plate-tectonic theory certainly warrants a Nobel Prize," said Dr. Marcia McNutt, president-elect of the American Geophysical Union. "There is no doubt that it ranks as one of the top ten scientific accomplishments of the second half of the 20th Century." [Link, and scroll down to last para.] [And hey, .. link, .. don't even think about deleting yourself.  We've got you page-saved and fingered.]

... a claim that was unfortunately rejected.  "Unfortunately", because had it happened it would have given definitive weight to the point of these essays, which is that virtually whichever way we turn people behave as if they are are nuts, labouring under an illusion of confidence that would put them on a par (at least) with ... 

(drumroll and fanfare) ...
" The Lemon-Juice Bank Robber ". [or Audio]

So there we have it, .. David, Goliath, and the Bankrobber(s).  Could there be anything more expressively pythonesque of the dans macabre being executed along the journey to wherever it is we think we are going?  Fortunately we are excused this particular spectacle so the proxy (contest) continues.

 Earth expansion or Plate Tectonics,... it doesn't really matter. In a reversal reflecting the destabilisation that an enterprise such as this can have on you (i.e., me) the geological arguments have become the subtext to these pages. They are not important except insofar as they do illustrate gratuitous contention:  they can be dealt with in about ten bullet points (that is, if it is necessary to go beyond the first commonsense one mentioned above (about the 1/3rd - 2/3rds).  What is *really* on display is a superlative example of sheer incompetence, gullibility, and overweening hubris - understandable for a 'majority of one', but positively epic for t'others.

So is it mine (and the aforementioned 'handful') for attempting this expose? .. or that of everybody else's, ..namely the acme /acne of academic achievement and all others who have been content to be led up the garden path like children by a pied piper, .. and by implication that there is more than a kernel of madness implicit in the workings of the 'logical' brain.

Thematics :- (Dead parrots in the marketplace.) The text is therefore the weight of silliness and shame that accompanies this contest - and by extrapolation much of societal affairs.  The subtext is the offering of Earth expansion over Plate Tectonics as a template for illustrating this 'parallel evolution'

 Even without a single fact in the hand, just the imbalance of numbers is good reason enough for asserting any substantially minority view to be trivially irrelevant and therefore justifiably ignored, .. an easy target for the "j'accuse" of any majority who would be threatened by a charge of incompetence and egg-on-face.  On the other hand I quite happily wear that egg if it encourages readers to be more critical of the tripe we get served up, both scientific and societal, the dictates of which somehow come to be promoted as societal norms but are actually cancerous outgrowths from it.

 Whether in science or anywhere else logic doesn't balance well against consensus no matter what is said about it being the facts that count. Facts didn't matter to the seminal achievers of  the Big Ship who took beaming pride in being "outsiders" who regarded their geophysical achievements as unquestionably surpassing the banality of boots on the ground.  

Going by his choice of syntax in the quote above Menard is enjoying a moment of shadenfreude, saying not only that the facts of the Earth's surface geology don't count, but that they are trumped anyway by the assumption of convection,  in which oceanic crust is everywhere moving sideways on the backs of convection cells in the mantle.  Five to ten centimetres of basaltic material are being intruded every year into a fracture in oceanic crust at one end of the Earth in response to its descent into the mantle at the other end - with absolutely no expression of deformation in between, despite it having the effective strength (geologically speaking) of a heap of rubble - and despite the continental crust (the target of this laid-back behaviour of ocean floors) having been battered to buggery all its life as a result of "collisions".  And showing the abundant scars of it while the ocean floors, curiously, show none - except for what has occurred half a world away at the relatively passive end of this 'behaviour'.

He continues :-

["The Principle innovation was the introduction of the concept of the ridge-ridge transform fault and its implications. It was exactly the same concept that Alan Goode had generated when he also analyzed the motion of a spreading ridge with an offset (Fig.9I).  The simple fact is that no one had ever published anything about two sections of ridge connected by a fracture zone before.  I doubt that anyone had done any serious thinking about the subject.] Those of us who thought in terms of convection, an overwhelming majority, visualised a vast overturn of the mantle and flow rising and spreading under ridge crests, or spreading as ridge crests in the sea-floor spreading model.  It was hard to conceive of a flow pattern with giant convection cells rising under each section of ridge offset by a fracture zone. Perhaps that is why Hess could not believe that fracture zones were related to ridges. In my endless sketches of cross sections of ridges, I always thought of them as straight."(p.245)

[Not sure what he means by that last sentence. Straightness is a direct, self-evident fact of ridge segments, but if you are a believer in convection you might well have a problem with their relationship to transform faults ("dominoes" again).  On the other hand Hess's noted view is intriguing because the view here is that they are and they aren't (related), which is another way of acknowledging relationship while excluding any causality such as convection would imply.

And again :-
".. The discussion was brief, but it offered Vine [of the Vine-Mathews hypothesis] the occasion to refer to convection cells as "presumed" and "mythical." Certainly, the many problems related to convection that had been troubling the conference members would have been solved by eliminating convection entirely."   (Ibid. p.276.)
.. from which we can see a degree of caution tempering Goliathan hubris which got him wrong footed and has been purposely ignored since, leading to the outlandish, suggested imposition on Mr Nobel's goodwill.  Hence the need for this challenge (and some slingshots).  

Geologists at the time (but somehow not since) of course objected to this charge of 'ignorance' by geophysicist outsiders.  Menard again, recounting a meeting in which Sir Edward ('Teddy') Bullard (of the "Bullard Fit" for the reconstruction of the Atlantic) was lecturing and "preparing to be an active convert to continental drift") :-
"Professor W.D. Gill "regretted the lecturer's [Bullard's] assertion that geophysical theories like continental drift were not obliged to consider the facts of structural geology." Taking the disagreements of geophysicists into account, geologists might well pin their faith on such facts instead of the meaningless concept of drift of "ludicrous" palaeogeographic reconstructions based on palaeomagnetism.  It was remarkable that drift had to be linked to convection, which was no more than an "attractive speculation."  "The lecturer in reply" [Bullard] gracefully backed down on his remarks on structural geology.  p.229 => 
[There is good reason Bullard backed down.  In another (auto?)biographical account he also refused to endorse Plate Tectonics when it came to a casting crunch.  Note to find ref.]

Although Menard appears to be taking a tilt against structural geologists in general, his target was actually Carey (cit. above) who by the time B.S. Plate Tectonics began to appear on the horizon (1960) had been forcefully arguing the case for Earth expansion for years before the evidence from oceanic research became available to support his case. 

Where Menard's argument was centred in the oceans and essentially ignores the continents, Carey's arguments comprehensively incorporated both and features of the Earth's rotation as well, that Plate Tectonics simply ignored (and still does), happily referring instead to "pots of soup on stoves as analogues for convection. (=> images)

Sadly, Menard died from cancer in 1986, the same year as his book Ocean of Truth was published.  Cancer is a disease that usually gives some time for putting affairs in order, so in view of his untimely death the inclusion of the word 'truth' in the title of his book reads rather oddly.  It isn't a word that comes easily to scientists at the best of times so to see it used like an exclamation mark in the title of a book documenting a seminal achievement "worthy of a Nobel Prize", is somewhat arresting given that the dynamic it is laying claim to is very much hypothetical and could be much improved by ignoring it altogether.  Either Menard is staking an unambiguous claim on behalf of the convectioneers crewing the Big Ship, or by overstatement ("truth" - almost a taboo word in science) is intentionally hinting at competence overreach by the said outsiders [in which he was prepared to include himself], thereby allowing a subtext of sorts to be read between the lines of his narrative, and was couching this with due deference to the sensitivities of others then mostly still living. To my reading there is very much an ambiguity in parts of his narrative that does not entirely mesh with the declarative certainty expected of a claim of 'Truth' on behalf of Plate Tectonics.  

By letting the players speak for themselves at critical points in the story he appears (without in any way lending direct support to expansion), to be nevertheless ambiguous enough about the matter to let the reader see the depth and motive of argument (not always favourable to Plate Tectonics or its proponents),  while at the same time (as if to compensate for this revealed 'depth') he seems to feel it necessary to put the word 'truth' in the title. It is not always clear which side of the debate he intends that word to favour - which could have been his intention.

So I read Menard's use of the word "truth" as playing a dual role, on one hand signifying a partisan statement for the ostensible record in order to cover revealed weaknesses in Plate Tectonics, and on the other (by a kind of titular exaggeration) to imply that the story might not be all it claims to be.  Inserting such a word into the title does make me wonder if he might be indulging in some 'dogwhistling' towards others still living, .. but who soon might not be.  Giving a clue. "Lighting a fuse with posterior intent."

Reason?  Because this drive towards establishing convection as a mechanism for geodynamics was not "dispassionate science revealed", but an active determination to sink Earth expansion, for which at the time there were indeed sympathetic views, and there was much, even as Plate Tectonic theory was being developed, that didn't gel with this (P.T.) theory - but did fit with Earth expansion.   Perhaps in the ten years of writing his book and with death looming, Menard was coming to see the force of Carey's argument more clearly, and was coding his narrative accordingly (with a little hint in the title).

The Admirable H.H.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]

Helped by the Editorial Board of American Scientist who "continue the occasional publication of essay-reviews that treat topics at greater length than our space limitations ordinarily allow", R.L. Armstrong reviewed of Carey's second book [Theories of the Earth and Universe, 1988,] and offers up a 'good cop - bad cop' sledge :-
"This is not a dispassionate scholarly work on the history of a science. It is a personal statement, at times autobiographical, and to a considerable degree self-congratulatory. It captures the essence of the man himself, his strongly felt views, his bold style, his favorite themes and cherished whipping posts, and his evaluation of his own role in the revolution that has taken place in earth science over the past 50 years. < ... >
"S.W. Carey is a brilliant and original thinker. We honor him for his ideas but at the same time see in him the pathology of genius. He has operated at times on the fringe of science, belatedly achieving recognition for his original ideas, eventually slipping out beyond science. He was fortunate to have played a major role in one scientific revolution. Contributing to two revolutions in one lifetime may be too much to expect." (Amer. Sci., Volume 77, 382-384.) Full text available here [link]
Consensus majority has advantage just by sheer weight of numbers, and disparagement can be used mercilessly. I'm not quite sure what he means though by "the pathology of genius". If I were one I might be able to untangle this ball of threads the cat brought in, .. work out in what sort of order all these 'dominoes' are supposed to go. Anyway, .. I don't think he was a genius at all if all he was doing was arguing from common sense against a cabal trying to screw hypothetical denials out of observed fact.

J.T. Wilson :-
"From 1930 to 1960 a scientist who supported it [continental drift by convection - d.f.] knowingly committed academic hara-kiri.  S. W. Carey of Tasmania, a major figure in igniting the [continental drift /plate tectonic 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. [ ]
Also, "igniting a revolution by committing academic suicide" is a strange way to put Carey's achievement, when all that is levelled against him is a litany of ad hominems under cover of grudging credit for being a "major figure", while across the board nothing whatsoever in half a century has been mentioned of his geological arguments against Plate Tectonics..

Dunning-Kruger (repeat link) is a red light to anyone who considers "using the juice".  So forget it.  Nail your colours to the mast and take the consequences.  Anyway, change doesn't happen by force of argument regardless of how compelling are the facts or how competent the advocate. The socio-economic 'political milieu' must first be engaged and cultivated (/"massaged")  before an idea will take root, usually by propaganda, or as Menard says, "roadshows") (also), .. when it is then arguable on which side of the 'change-divide' volition lies - that of the person trying to do the changing, or that of the person being asked to nail themselves to the mast.  Being "before your time" is like being still-born, committing suicide without having lived.

But lather on the juice if it helps.  It worked for Goliath - for a time, .. till his bluff got called. And maybe it will for me too.  All three of Carey's books [1] [2] [3] comprehensively debunking Plate Tectonics have been ignored by the mainstream Earth science community.  Not one countervailing argument has ever been presented in a public forum (afaik).  

The Challenge.  So, putting it out there.   Let's see which 'knights in white satin' are game to eat spinach, draw Excalibur from the stone, use the juice, and challenge the heresy of Earth expansion on geological grounds.  "No mechanism" [about mass and how it is created] is the only charge thus far.  Is it a valid one?  I don't think so.   However, I don't understand anything at all about the world of quantum physics.  I don't even understand light, or electricity, particularly when we go through the alpha point into the 'peas in a football park' subatomic space (link).   And from the best of my understanding it would appear I'm not the only one despite the many marvellous things we can do with both.  If it wasn't backed by the respectability of the BBC I would read this as a somewhat cynical sledge leading to a conclusion that the whole of the standard model of physics needs discarded and started over [8/9 minutes.  Or better, listen from the beginning.]  Not bad for the destination reached by a worldful of physicists , drawing a blank like that.. after half a century of building on the achievements of the atomic bomb, .. .. 

[Something here about filling out the envelope compared to breaking through it.]

 As I've said elsewhere I don't even understand why fluff sticks in my navel, but I get the distinct impression that people are going about physics in ways that are disconcertingly similar to the way they went about Plate Tectonics - by consensus majority.  There's just something about the way consensus works that doesn't gel with the needs of science. .. ..  

 Dunning-Kruger is a sword that cuts according to which edge of it has the deficit of competence, so whoever takes up the challenge had better be prepared for oblivion-by-egg-on-face.

Some see Plate Tectonics as a crown jewel.  I see it as fairy floss.  I think it is a classic case of deliberate, cooked up, serendipitous 'intellectual' misadventure.  In simpler vernacular a disingenuous 'con-job' of the eleven-fingers sort, backed by institutional power.  If there is any 'brilliance' in it, it is the laser-like warning spotlight flashing on it and other similar examples of how we willingly let ourselves be led up the garden path by con-artists, if not despots,  of all sorts - with the purpose of ripping us off of what meagre social capital we manage to hold on to, all in the interest of (when it is boiled down) the corruption of what 'money' is supposed to be all about, .. namely the basis of fair exchange, leading to common wealth.

[Trump had still to be elected when I wrote that bit.  But he's only the fall guy.  There are many similar casualties of narcissism - and hubris.

Like me?  Keep track of the argument and see. ..

"Want to see a magic trick - how to turn ten fingers into eleven? "
 < holds out both hands, fingers stretched >  :-
 "See, .. ten."

 < then clenches fists and releases fingers one after another and counts >
"Ten, nine, eight, seven, six"...  .. and five's eleven".
"Wow!  That's got Talent.  You're not British by any chance?  "
" .. Want to see it again?"

... Vegemite, spinach and lemon juice. ..

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No fear. You never know what will be held against you these days.

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