Expanding your horizons – quack geology

I was pointed at this today. It’s a video describing how closed minded scientists are ignoring the truth; a “conspiracy of silence”. The “simple truth is too upsetting to too many applecarts”.  That’s right ladies and gentlemen, plate tectonics is a lie.  Instead, it should be immediately obvious to all of you that the earth has instead just been expanding.

Apparently Earth – like a jumped up and grumpy teenager – has decided to stick two fingers up to conservation of mass, and have a growth spurt.  Earth has doubled in size in the last 65 Ma, with the doubling before that occurring in the preceding 600 Ma (“at least”). We’ll just gloss over the fact that to add that much mass we’d either need to break physics, or infer a planetary impact bigger than the one which formed our moon, of which there is no evidence whatsoever.

I should point out this is not a new theory – in fact it predates plate tectonics (for good reason).

As a study in presenting a flawed hypothesis with one-sided data, it’s a masterclass.  It’s intriguing how often the video narrator uses actual science which comes directly from plate tectonics to support this nonsense (e.g. the tranform faults running perpendicular to the rift axes).  More amusing is the constant affirmation that the continents fit ‘perfectly together’, in the manner of some Jedi mind trick, brazenly in the face of every animation they show which demonstrates that they don’t.

The vehemence of the power-of-suggestion reaches fever-pitch at 9 min 20, where the ersatz-Obi-Wan concludes that plate tectonics processes on Earth in the last 60 million years must be identical on all other planets. Then – brilliantly – because Mars shows no subduction zones, the whole of plate tectonic theory must be wrong.  A damning indictment indeed. Remember scientists – “you can’t have it both ways”.  Although apparently he can, as there is no mention of how this preposterous expansion bullshit applies to Mars.  Perhaps these are not the planets we’re looking for?

A few specific problems about the reconstructions shown here that strike me as particularly shoddy:

  1. India.  Notice how the animation completely fails to drive India up from Madagascar into Asia to form the Tibetan plateau?  Ignoring the transverse faults in the Indian Ocean they were so keen on when talking about the Pacific and Atlantic.
  2. Curvature. No account is made for deformation or shape changes due to this supposed decrease in earth curvature.  Map projection-tastic Batman.
  3. Mountain building. No mechanism is suggested, and no related deformation is shown.

Were that not enough, the theory relies entirely on the premise that subduction doesn’t happen. Which sort of flies in the face of rather a lot of observational data.  How about direct measurement of it happening?

GPS motion vector measurements showing collision at the Hellenic Trench, relative to a stationary European plate.

All this expanding earth nonsense assumes that we can formulate a hypothesis that allows an expanding earth to even happen – quite what is expanding and how is left completely to the viewers whimsy. At least the narrator admits halfway through that this little fantasy would “change everything in science”.

What is most disturbing about articles such as these is that you end up with  comments like this:

… Nice! I like hearing new theories! Now[sic] matter what it’s about! :3 I don’t know if this would be compatible with physics, but maybe there is something weird inside our planet, a mass producing force! I honestly am not sure about this whole thing though. But it dosn’t matter because we went[sic] there back then

There is a popular misconception that any theory is valid.  It is epitomised in the oft-cited journalistic attempts at ‘balance’, where if someone like Steven Hawking is interviewed, they have to achieve some kind of cosmic karma by putting him opposite a homeopath or Dr Gillian McKeith or something.

This expanding earth theory can easily be dismissed with a simple appliance of logic and facts.  It’s an extremist position with no basis in the scientific method, and therefore has no intrinsic relevence to the public engagement with earth science.  Or at least that’s what I thought.  Except, what you find is a rather widespread mythology. A Google search for “expanding earth” throws up 52.5 million pages. The Expanding-earth.org crapsite has over 400 k views.  It says a lot for the interest many people show in conspiracy-type theories and the like that even a ridiculous claim such as this can achieve widespread coverage.  The more I look, the more I find the internet spattered – like a wall after a shit and fan incident – with blogs and news sites, and discussion groups, filled with people who think this idea might actually hold water.

The interesting thing about this particular example is that you would never have expected it as a vehicle for conspiracy.  There’s no agency involved, the existing theory has no political bias to it, there’s no religious bent to the counter-theory, and there’s nothing implausible about the existing understanding.   In truth, this has more in common with medical quackery than it does conspiracy.  That tends to rely more on a charismatic leader-type person. For example – you may be familiar with the recently highlighted case of Burzynski vs the 17 year old blogger; legal threats from a PR operative, representing an American doctor Burzynski who offers “antineoplaston therapy” – best summarised as using piss to cure cancer.  Of course, there’s no peer reviewed work on it, and you have to pay a couple of hundred grand to take part in a trial, but what’s a quarter of a mil between friends?  As long as there’s a personality and figurehead, who cares about peer review and testing? Anyway, I get sidetracked…

The expanding earth crowd have their very own figurehead.  A respected geologist?  Not so much.  A high profile scientist in another area?  Nope.  Someone vaguely attached to a company that once had something to do with a guy who had heard about geology?  Try again.

The main figurehead for this is Neal_Adams, a comic book artist.  That at least explains the hordes of dribbling fans.  Although they probably argue about how the reconstructions in the 50’s were better and much darker.

Now they just need to work out how to fleece money from the believers.

About Pete Rowley

Earth Scientist with a background in volcanology and sedimentology. Enjoys a good rant, beer, and games. Dislikes reality TV, crowds, and unreasonable people.
This entry was posted in Education, Geology, Geophysics, Media & Perception, Not even wrong, Physics, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Expanding your horizons – quack geology

  1. many thanks for this – I needed a good laugh and I got it! 🙂

  2. Pingback: New age proposed for Giants Causeway | lithics

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