Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Medea Hypothesis (Part 9): Contradictions in the Evidence

Ward draws on many sources to present as evidence for the Medea Hypothesis. Some are papers on the deepest Deep Time of the Earth about the Archean, Protreozoic, and even Hadean eras. Others are models that project backwards and forward both the carbon cycles and the biosphere contents (biodiversity and biomass). He also draws upon the astrobiology realm that he has ventured into several times. Finally, of course, he draws on his rich paleontological background as well. This would seem like an excellent brew for producing a synthesis of ideas about the past, present, and future of the biosphere, which Ward attempted to actually do. However, unfortunately, Ward makes a lot of missteps and pulls together data and models that contradict each other. It can be that scientists often do this, putting a different interpretation on the data, rectifying the contradictions or at least offering proposals how they might be less incongruous by predicted discoveries. Alas, Ward doesn’t offer any such thing.

Some of the contradictions:

1. Franck et al’s carbon cycling model and Ward’s interpretation of the Kasting Methane disaster. The Kasting methane disaster, if it was present, ought to have impacted the global temperature sufficiently to have at least shown up in the model.

2. Ward’s presentation of Archean and Proterozoic Periods as peak biomass periods and the temperature of the world, as he states it, as being higher than the ‘optimum’ for productivity.

3. At what period the peak of biomass was is presented in a contradictory fashion. At different junctures he states that it is the Pre-Cambrian, Cambrian, Devonian through Carboniferous, and Eocene.

4. At what period the peak of biodiversity is presented as is also equally contradictory

5. States that biomass and biodiversity are independent, yet states that the periods with the highest biomass and biodiversity are the same in their respective sections.

There are more, but this is sufficient. For a book of 150 pages, with 103 mostly dedicated to the scientific side of the Medea Hypothesis, there seems to be a nontrivial number of contradictions. He could have addressed the contradictions and ought to have.

For example, Ward could have acknowledged the shortfalls of the Franck model even if this would have opened up more criticism and explained why the model was not addressing the Kasting scenario. Furthermore, he could have given evidence based on the geological record for the Kasting scenario. He doesn’t bother.

This may be sloppiness in his writing. This may be that he hasn’t finished baking the Medea Hypothesis. So far, the mortar seems wet between the bricks. Extremely wet: it's weeping.

More coming, James. Hang on.

For the previous posts on the Medea Hypothesis look here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The completed Medea Hypothesis Review Table of Contents is here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That seems to be the problem with Ward, he seems to way to be able to say, by whatever means necessary, that the best days of life on Earth have passed, that we are going downhill at a very rapid rate and all life is about to suffer a horrible fate, and there is no other life-sustaining planet out there for us to flee to or for life to go on. Basically, the paleontological equivalent of a nihlist.