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The Atlantic: “Nastiest feud in science” erupts over dinosaur extinction theory

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Gerta Keller with Antrodemus (dug up 1941)

Paleontologist Gerta Keller attributes the extinction 66 million years ago of three-quarters of Earth’s species, including all dinosaurs, not to an asteroid hit but to a series of volcanic eruptions. A writer goes with her on a field trip:

The prestige of science is solidly behind the asteroid:

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.

But Keller thinks that a serious of monstrous volcanic eruptions in the Deccan Traps in India produced the extinction event.

Keller’s resistance has put her at the core of one of the most rancorous and longest-running controversies in science. “It’s like the Thirty Years’ War,” says Kirk Johnson, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Impacters’ case-closed confidence belies decades of vicious infighting, with the two sides trading accusations of slander, sabotage, threats, discrimination, spurious data, and attempts to torpedo careers. “I’ve never come across anything that’s been so acrimonious,” Kerr says. “I’m almost speechless because of it.” Keller keeps a running list of insults that other scientists have hurled at her, either behind her back or to her face. She says she’s been called a “bitch” and “the most dangerous woman in the world,” who “should be stoned and burned at the stake.”Bianca Bosker, “The Nastiest Feud in Science” at The Atlantic

In that case, it is safe to assume Keller is onto something. Who talks that way about someone who is just wrong about an event that happened so long ago that it really affects no one today who didn’t just choose to be in the fight? Great read.

See also: In the past, the field has been littered with speculations such as that dinosaurs were dumber than mammals and did not look after their young. But we now know that some dinosaurs did look after their young and that the capacity to do so is much older than formerly thought. Also that placental mammals are not uniformly smarter than all other life forms.

See also: Extinction: Had the dinosaurs been dying out before the big K-T extinction?

Dino diminuendo (They were dying out before the asteroid hit.) That might help account for why all dinosaurs disappeared but only a large proportion of other vertebrates.

Smoking did not kill the dinosaurs, but dark matter might have contributed

Dinosaurs doomed by egg-laying?

Size helped largest dinos survive longer?

Do mass extinctions happen every 26 million years or so?

and

Study: Two years’ darkness provides clue to total dinosaur extinction

We can’t understand evolution without understanding stasis and extinction

14 Replies to “The Atlantic: “Nastiest feud in science” erupts over dinosaur extinction theory

  1. 1
    ET says:

    Well, if a giant impactor killed off the dinosaurs then we would expect to see their remains in and above the K-T boundary.

    If they died off before then we would expect the K-T boundary and above to be devoid of them. We would expect to see a paring down of dinosaurs up to the K-T.

    So, what do we see?

  2. 2
    doubter says:

    I think the “consensus” view is that the demise of the dinosaurs came about from both disasters happening simultaneously. The Deccan Traps eruption happened first and pushed the saurians into a decline. Then the giant asteroid impact delivered the coup de grace. As far as I can tell absolutely no dinosaurian fossils have been found in or above the impact layer.

  3. 3
    ET says:

    Largest dino bone still 13 centimeters below the K-T

    The gap has shrunk but I don’t think it supports the conclusion that dinosaurs were well right up until the impact.

  4. 4
    tribune7 says:

    Gerta Keller’s attackers are not scientists despite what they may claim.

  5. 5
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    Trillions of dead things, from the very large to the very small, laid down suddenly and violently in waterborne sediment all over the world. So scientists blame volcanoes and asteroids, but a global flood is beyond the pale. The article is right about one thing, though; these competing pet theories and declarations of certitude have nothing to do with the actual data of the fossils. There are other motivations at work other than inference to the hypothesis most likely to be true. The battling ram of the hypothesis that gives moral license, fame, glory and destruction of their enemies, that’s the ticket.

  6. 6
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    Hey mod, how come the edit function doesn’t work anymore? I have to fight autocorrect and you give me a tiny stick. Not a battling ram, unless it’s a mountain sheep I guess 🙂

  7. 7
    News says:

    Dean_from_Ohio at 6: Are you sure the Edit function does not work any more?

    I just edited my comment to add this sentence.

    Or do I misunderstand the problem?

  8. 8
    vmahuna says:

    Whatever killed off the dinos did NOT kill off frogs. Or early mammals.

    And it’s the same in the oceans: ALL of the swimming dinos died. Sharks and boney fish came through just fine.

    There was something very specific about dinosaurs and other closely related lizardy things that caused them to die off while other animals came through just fine.

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    News, I find that if you are not a thread owner, over the past year plus the 20 minute edit window has gradually compressed itself into now less than 2 minutes. Thread owners have no 20 minute limit. KF

  10. 10
    Pearlman says:

    I suspect the dispute is due to the fudged inflated consensus chronology, if RCCF both events were in far closer proximity about 1656 anno Mundi Mabul impacts year, as explained in/by RCCF framework for understanding science.

  11. 11
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    News @ 7, KF @ 9 is right. About 18 months ago the 20 mins edit period was down to 12 mins or so, but has declined from there. Now it’s about 60 seconds. I try to edit; it lets me edit, but when I go to save the edit, it says I’m no longer authorized to make the change. Then the edit button is gone for good. Gone in 60 seconds, or less.

  12. 12
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    The edit worked just now with 19 min 55 secs remaining, but not with 19 min 40 secs remaining. So the edit window works for less than 20 seconds now for me.

  13. 13
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    Be careful or I’ll get out my battling ram! 🙂

  14. 14
    bb says:

    Trillions of dead things, from the very large to the very small, laid down suddenly and violently in waterborne sediment all over the world.

    The Genesis account points to massive amounts of ground water released, not just rain. Volcanism breaking up the “fountains of the deep?” Steve Austin thinks so. Did an asteroid cause the initial tremors?

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