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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Cuckoo

I finished reading the "abiogenic oil" chapter from the book Nine Crazy Ideas in Science by Prof. Robert Erhlich of George Mason U. I have no idea the popularity the book had when first published in 1991, but it does stand as a curious testament to popular science writings, whereby any dry, factual investigation gets in the way of selling books.

Erhlich does take a few potshots at Thomas Gold and his abiogenic theories but overall gives him a pass. What kind of a grade Gold in fact gets, we can judge in comparison to the other crazy ideas that Erhlich covers. He has a rating system by giving a "cuckoo" rating to each the nine crazee ideas, with the first three getting 0 cuckoos :
  • could be true, why not? -- Oil, coal, and gas have abiogenic origins
  • could be true, why not? -- Sun exposure is beneficial
  • could be true, why not? -- Faster-than-light particles exist
  • probably not true, but who knows? -- Low doses of nuclear radiation are
    beneficial
  • very likely not true -- Time travel is possible
  • very likely not true -- The solar system has two suns
  • almost certainly false -- More guns means less crime
  • almost certainly false -- AIDS is not caused by HIV
  • almost certainly false -- There was no Big Bang
As I recall, health and science classes in elementary schools used to teach the relationship behind Vitamin D and sun exposure (and probably still do). Strange insight indeed to put the well-understood Vitamin D uptake on the same level as abiogenic oil.

4 Comments:

Professor Blogger monkeygrinder said...

For another take on this, skeptic Michael Shermer gives some positive wordage to abiotic oil processes in his latest book, Science Friction : Where the Known Meets the Unknown.The caveat is that it is in a chapter on non-mainstream science that may become mainstream, rated on their likeyhood in Shermer's estimation.

He noted that every oil geologist was negative on the theory, but that Gold had been proven right on many other things in the past.

12:35 AM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

Gold shot his theories out as accurately as a shotgun. Most
scientists hate getting it wrong more than anything else. Evidently, Gold never cared.

4:54 PM  
Professor Blogger monkeygrinder said...

I couldn't remember what it was Gold had been right about; I think he was an astronomer. I'm not sure why that translated into Shermer giving his theories (conditional) credence.

1:21 AM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

Gold has been wrong about lots of things. That's why I mentioned his shotgun approach. I will cover these in a future post.

9:19 PM  

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