Plate tectonics was the first and only “theory of everything” in earth sciences. By explaining that mountains rise and fall because vast plates crash into each other with exquisite slowness, and that continents are but assemblages of “plates” drifting across the magma below them, the theory gave geologists the first comprehensive theory of what the earth has been doing for the last ten billion years.
Two great books chronicle the evolution of our thinking on geology, and particularly, plate tectonics:
The time scales of geology require an expansion of one’s idea of time. We live and die like fruitflies compared even to a ten-thousand year perspective, which is about one-tenth the right length for considering an ice age, and one thousandth for considering geological change. If you want a measuring tape for geology, use something where one million years is represented by an inch, and your tape is 30 feet long. Five and a quarter feet would get you back to about the end of the dinosaurs (63 million years ago).
Both these books should be read by anyone considering the nature of time and the earth.
Yet despite the triumph of plate tectonics as the theory of everything geological, there are disbelievers and skeptics within the body of respectable geology. Not all accept the unified narrative of oceans splitting apart and gradually being zipped up as plates rip apart and collide again somewhere else.
John McPhee writes about a geologist called Anita Harris in chapter two of “Annals of the Former World”, who does not believe that the Appalachian range, once as high as the Himalayas, was created by a continental landmass pressing against the eastern edge of North America.
Her skepticism about the adequacy of plate tectonics to explain the origin of the Appalachians is well-expressed here. Essentially she says, plate tectonics provides a story to cover up the absence of observation.
… Anita said, “I believe in plate tectonics — just not in the way they’re perpetrating it for places like the East Coast [of the US]. It shouldn’t be used as the immediate answer to every problem. That’s what I object to. Now that their suture zones have disappeared, people are going to microplates.”
If you have been interested so far, you will be smelling where this trail is going. No one has denounced Anita Harris or her equally skeptical geologist husband. There are no labels of “deniers” being tossed about, no declarations that those who dispute the triumph of plate tectonic theory are “unscientific”, “stupid”, and ought to be banned from publication. No cabals of geologists have tried to have them excluded from the American Geophysical Society.
She was not driven from her job at the US Geological Survey, and has received its Meritorious Service Award. So what gives?
The ability of a geologist like Anita Harris to hold her job while disputing the adequacy of plate tectonics shows that geology is still a science, which “climate science” is not.
Nothing in plate tectonics is causing or will cause my Ontario electricity bill to rise by $150 a month. Nothing in plate tectonics is causing coal-fired electricity plants to be shut down, and for large windmills to disfigure the landscape, and for government subsidy-seekers to engage in useless wind and solar ventures at taxpayer expense.
I suppose that if plate tectonics were the theoretical basis of a drive to reduce human CO2 production, Anita Harris would have been hounded out of the profession, for publicly expressing insufficient zeal
No one who contemplates the huge amount of government subsidies that have funded atmospheric sciences can doubt that many careers have profited from global warming alarmism, and many more thwarted and turned away from true science by the obvious political agendas their computer models are expected to be serving.
The theory – and it is still a theory – of anthropogenic global warming is driving billions of research dollars into atmospheric and cryogenic sciences, but the implicit bargain with the scientists is corrupt. There is huge pressure to come up with correct results, to go with the flow, and it is accompanied among the less scientifically-minded with a tendency to denounce the nay-sayers, the skeptics, the wait-a-minute! people who do not express sufficiently zealous approval of “man-bad, Gaia good”.
Wind-mills are not an atonement; they are just a particularly stupid way to generate electricity.
Right now I am waiting for a climate scientist to say that man-caused global warming would be disproved if any or all of the following things [fill in the blanks] happened or failed to happen.
In the spirit of Karl Popper, is man-caused global warming a falsifiable proposition? Because if it cannot be falsified, then it is a religion, and something other than science.