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K/T boundary event again

17 August 2018

This subject was sent in by several people including Jovan and William but Robert has gone straight to the source of the sauce in an article at www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/09/dinosaur-extinction-debate/… … the controversy over the K/T boundary event in which both sides have had an acrimonious relationship since the Alvarez theory was adopted as mainstream science. That is the gist of the article – but is there a political angle the magazine is trying to push? As I don't read The Atlantic I have no idea. In spite of politics, real or not, the article is a quite interesting example of how the uniformitarians have tied themselves in knots over this – when all could have been sunlight and contentedness if they had changed the dogmas to suit the song being sung (a catastrophic event). The electric universe people claim there was no asteroid or comet impact and it was a massive lightning bolt of some kind. Apart from that deviation the catastrophic nature of the event has been acknowledged by all and sundry and I would be loathe to opt for anything other than an impact as the recognition of this event was the first time catastrophism has been taken seriously by the uniformitarian establishment (although of course it was hard won over a resistant geological fraternity and took a long time to achieve). The opposition do not deny an asteroid or comet created a huge crater at Chiczulub in the Yucatan but they do deny it was the sole and only reason for the dinosaur extinction. Is this a case of divide and rule – and mute the magnitude of the event? No, the arguments against are based almost solely on uniformitarian geochronology. It is not even the old guard digging in their heels as one might have expected. It is all down to one geologist, Gerta Keller, who has been consistent in her opposition throughout the furore, as she has repeatedly claimed the Deccan Traps were a major contributory factor to the dinosaur extinction (and no doubt she is right). However, what she is arguing is that this took place much later than the asteroid strike – as this is what the geology is saying. Well, that is right also – but only if you accept that sedimentary layers cannot be laid down rapidly. Obviously, some sediments are laid down over a long period of time – but it is likely that during catastrophic events of the magnitude of an asteoid strike  could be laid down very quickly. Logic would demand the Deccan Traps (a vast outpouring of magma in what is now India) occurred as a response to the asteroid slamming into the Earth, almost instantaneously. After all we have had a paper out this month saying that earthquakes on one side of the planet invoke earthquakes on the other side of the planet – and this is what the Deccan traps seem to be all about. The asteroid strike would have caused the Earth to ring like a bell – with after shocks as well as the initial shock. There is no reason why sedimentary layers could not have been laid down rapidly in such a situation – unless you take the geological line with a whole sack full of faith. The fact that most geologists have accepted the impact theory suggests they know this is true – but do not want to rock the boat. The geological academic elite are a different kettle of fish. What are their views as they are the upholders of the faith in gradualism. We may assume that until they reach a judgement on the issue most geologists will refrain from commenting – but Gerta Keller is no shrinking violet and won't be shut up. She even goes so far as to criticise the way Alvarez got his theory accepted – by casting apsersions on other scientists (which of course is what she is replicating). That may or may not be true but Alvarez had a huge problem – he was not primarily a geologist. He was a physicist. Often, game changers are the product of outsiders and this seems to be another example. Geologists could not see the wood for the trees as they were impaired by their acceptance of the gradualist agenda. Alvarez, as a physicist, just saw the crater and was able to go straight to the quick and bite the ankle bones of the geologists. This is where the rancour comes in – and both sides have their own version. The Atlantic have presented us with Gerta Keller's side of the story, which is admirable but it is not the first time that has occurred – owing to the tenacity of Keller to continue her research in the face of criticism. That is how it should be. If you have faith in your point of view you should pursue the research in the hope of getting to the really big picture. Whether that happens is a moot point. Alvarez seems to have been quite unhampered by geochronology – precisely because he was not a geologist. No doubt if he was still alive he would have more to say on the subject – but it is still possible that Gerta Keller will prevail and the geological fraternity will come together in order to keep uniformitarian chronology alive and kicking.

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