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Closed Topics

  1. Jul 10, 2009 #1
    I have no idea if I am posting this in the correct thread, or should have started a new thread; the op is ammbiguous on this point.

    Diamond Geezer opened a thread on the topic of the Expanding Earth with these stated intentions:
    "In order to understand this phenomenon, I would like to ask the august members of PhysicsForum to provide links to resources on the Expanding Earth hypothesis especially on the evidence one way or the other."

    The thread was promptly locked by Ivan Seeking on the grounds that 'the "expanding earth" topic is ...... nonsense'.

    Several points arise from this.

    1. I fully acknowledge the right of the forum administration to lock any thread at any time for any reason without providing explantions.
    2. That said, the administration appears to wish prohibit only certain well defined topics for moderately well defined reasons.
    3. However, in this instance the reason given for the lock down appears highly questionable:
    a) The cited closed topic is the work of former Batman artist Neal Adams. Serious proponents of expanding Earth theory would likely distance themselves from Adams. Arguably the closed topic is Adam's spin on the concept, not the concept itself.
    b) This is my main objection: to describe the theory as nonsense is to display a substantial ignorance of the Earth sciences. There is nothing wrong with being ignorant on a subject, on many subjects, but to use that ignorance when acting in a position of authority is a highly suspect practice.

    If this is nonsense, then substantial parts of Darwin's work and much of Newton's are also nonsense. If you wish to define nonsense as "a once viable explanation for phenomena that has since been superceded in the light of further evidence, or a superior explanation" then I would concede expanding Earth theory is nonsense. However, that is not how I, or the dictionary, or - I would hope - most scientists define nonsense.

    Diamond Geezer's request for evidence, as part of a logical process of investigation and probable rejection, seems a wholly reasonable one and not at odds with the intent of the administration to exclude the truly wild. I therefore request that the locked thread be reopened. Failing that I urge you to amend the reason for closure to remove the word nonsense, or any equivalent.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 10, 2009 #2

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: Forum Feedback and Posting Guidelines

    We don't discuss fringe theories. The reason is that there is no end to nonsense claims [and the people who want to promote them], but we do have finite resources. In the case of claims that can be properly tested or evaluated by science, for the reason cited above, we allow the journals to do their job and do the debunking of crackpot claims for us by not publishing them. If there is a reputable paper on the subject published in an applicable, mainstream, academic journal, then send me a link and we might be able to open the topic again. If no one can provide one, then consider the claim debunked or unsubstantiated. If one wants to understand all of the science behind the existing models for planets, then one needs to study the subject for many years.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2009
  4. Jul 10, 2009 #3
    Re: Forum Feedback and Posting Guidelines

    That is fine. If fringe theories are completely verboten then the thread should remain locked. I take it from this that there is no provision anywhere within the forum for a discussion of the historical development of current theories, or exploration of their former alternatives. That's fine too. It does exclude much useful and interesting discussion, but if that is how the forum administration has chosen to run things I fully accept it.

    Again, the inference is that expanding Earth theory is a crackpot claim. I fail to see how a once mainstream hypothesis that regained new life from the evidence for seafloor spreading can be classified as a crackpot claim. Yes, subsequent evidence has strongly favoured the plate tectonic paradigm, but that simply makes the Earth expansion theory wrong, not nonsense and not crackpot.

    Or many decades, which I have done and one still won't understand it all. But one will understand enough not to call Earth expansion theory crackpot and nonsense. Doing so does this forum a disservice, for it calls into question the scientific objectivity of the forum staff.

    You asked for references. This single selection meets the dual objectives of showing the idea was taken very seriously and in showing its importance in a historical context.

    S.W.Carey 1961. Palaeomagnetic evidence relevant to a change in the Earth's radius. Nature 190, pp 36.

    Carey was the chief, though not the only, proponent of expanding Earth theory until his death in 2002.
    Plate tectonics is generally a more effective paradigm for understanding Earth history. However, in the 1950s expanding Earth was more viable than what was to become plate tectonics. Placing it in the same category as alien abductions and the like inappropriately demeans its supporters and casts its detractors as reactionary rather than reasonable.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2009
  5. Jul 10, 2009 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: Forum Feedback and Posting Guidelines

    Obviously this hypothesis has been replaced by plate techtonics theory. There is no reason to address old theories or ideas that we know to be wrong. Recall that there was a flat-earth theory, and geocentrism as well. Should we have to explain those away many times each year?

    Obviously any paper would have to be current and address the reasons why plate techtonics is wrong and the expanding earth theory is correct. Also, satellites and other data sources and measurement technologies have completely changed the game.

    Unfortunately, the real limiting factor is our ability to properly police discussions about fringe theories. We simply don't have the resources to educate everyone about every failed theory. I should add that this was not a decision made by the admin alone. It was suggested by the staff, and agreed to by the staff. We have learned from experience that it is necessary. Rather than explaining away the many thousands of wrong theories, we focus on explaining mainstream science. We find this to be far more manageable and more productive than the alternative.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2009
  6. Jul 10, 2009 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: Forum Feedback and Posting Guidelines

    One more point wrt the language used: Often, what was once reasonable is today, crackpot. It is a matter of context. While I do find that, imho, the word "crackpot" is used far too often when referencing unpopular theories or models, say for example when physicists from one school of thought refer to another qualified school of thought [many published papers] as crackpot, anyone promoting something like the flat-earth theory today IS a crackpot. So in this respect, timing and context makes all the difference. Perhaps the expanding earth theory was once a reasonable proposition, but today, less any papers and evidence that might surprise us, which we would then honor, it is considered to be a crackpot claim.

    As for ocean-floor spreading, anyone with the even the most elementary understanding of plate techtonics knows that we also have subduction zones. If someone doesn't know this, they can ask about ocean-floor spreading without any reference to the expanding earth hypothesis - it is still possible to get any answers needed without promoting fringe topics.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2009
  7. Jul 10, 2009 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: Banned Topics

    Moved from the S&D feedback and posting guidelines thread.

    Again, please note that the banned topics list is approved by the entire staff and applies to all PF forums. The list is found at the bottom of the first post here:
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=5929

    If anyone has any particularly good scientific references [published papers or formal scientific sources] that address one or more of these topics, please send me a PM so that they can be reviewed and perhaps added as a reference.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2009
  8. Jul 12, 2009 #7
    I am reluctant to cause an argument on Physics Forums and very reluctant to argue with moderators, but I must protest the locking on the thread and the ex post facto claim that the Expanding Earth hypothesis is obvious nonsense and therefore cannot be discussed.

    I do not find the Expanding Earth hypothesis compelling at all. I think that some of its claims are explained by plate tectonic theory and the rest appear to have been experimentally falsified (as far as I can see).

    I was asking that people bring my attention to resources which explain the Expanding Earth Hypothesis (I refuse to call it a Theory) and resources which rebut key claims made by "Expanders" for want of a better term.

    I asked on the Physics Forums and got the thread locked. I'm sorry but that ain't scientific.

    Many now mainstream ideas in science were once fringe theories or hypotheses. The hypothesis that the continents moved relative to each other was a derided hypothesis at its time and its proposer called an amateur and a crackpot and worse. Now Alfred Wegener has an Institute named after him. He's like the Galileo or Copernicus of Plate Tectonic theory.

    I'm not arguing that the Expanding Earth has any particular merit. I simply request help and information about it in a scientific forum, by people who are far more knowledgeable than I am.

    Instead I get this:
    Originally Posted by Ivan Seeking
    Originally Posted by DiamondGeezer

    Ivan

    How was I to know whether the topic was banned when no mention is made of it on the linked page?

    John​

    Link updated

    which is a link to a Youtube animation by Neal Adams in favour of the Expanding Earth hypothesis.

    It wasn't what I was looking for (a scientific answer). It doesn't explain why the thread was locked citing a list of banned topics which doesn't include the Expanding Earth.

    The only reason I came here at all was to understand why some field geologists and geophysicists of my acquaintance believed in such a theory.

    Was I wrong to ask for scientific information here? Is there somewhere I should have gone for scientific information instead?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  9. Jul 12, 2009 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    The reasoning behind the rules has been explained: We only discuss mainstream [published] theories and formal hypotheses. The link was provided to show why the subject was closed. We always provide information to explain or demonstrate why the decision was made to close a topic.

    The position taken in the video actually qualifies for closure on two counts: First, no current, supporting, published works are available, and secondly, they promote the hypothesis by appealing to conspiracy theorists. All conspiracy theories are banned from discussion.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2009
  10. Jul 12, 2009 #9
    Re: Banned Topics

    Like Diamond Geezer I am also not wishing to be disruptive, but I feel this thread has raised important issues that I would welcome clarification on (or that, at the very least, I plan to pontificate on:smile:). There are three specific points I wish to address.

    Point 1: Derogatory Descriptions.
    This has been largely dealt with already. The Expanding Earth Theory was not a crackpot theory. It was entertained in various guises, over several decades even attracting the positive attention of Dirac. Placing it in the same category as alien abduction, or those 'theories' that claim all modern physics is wrong, is an insult to the researchers of the past.

    It has been argued that while it was not a crackpot theory, it is now a crackpot theory. This seems rather to subtle for its own good. It is an incorrect theory. It is almost certainly wrong. It is not crackpot.

    Would we seriously consider Joseph Black and Robert Boyle, amonst many others, to be crackpots because they adhered to the phlogiston theory. We now know that theory to be completely wrong. Was it a crackpot theory? Of course not. It was a viable explanation for the observations made at that time. Exactly the same was true of the Expanding Earth Theory.

    I would like to think that admins and moderators will be as diligent in future at policing inappropriate descriptions of superceded theories as they are at present, justifiably, of monitoring the promotion of nonsense.

    Point 2: Explicit Exclusion

    The item listed in this relates to speculations and claims by Neil Adams, former Batman illustrator, that not only is the Earth expanding, but that there is a conspiracy of scientists to suppress this fact.

    With respect, that has little or nothing to do with the serious Expanding Earth Theory, a theory that enjoyed exposure in major peer reviewed journals. By the same token, since you include Planet X in the excluded items list, I should not be able to post anything relating to orbital abnormalities of KBOs that hint at a tenth planet.

    Please resolve this ambiguity by providing a more relevant exclusion title than "Conspiracy of Science - The Earth is growing" and offering a link that relates to the theory proper and not to the musings of an enthusiastic, but misinformed amateur.

    Point 3: History Helps

    I was bemused by this statement:
    Are you actually stipulating that the history of science is of no value whatsoever and is not to be discussed on these forums? If that is the case I find it a remarkable position to adopt. The value of a historical understanding of how our current thinking has evolved allows us to better appreciate its strengths and weaknesses. An academic study of plate tectonics that was devoid of geosynclinal hypothesis, Wegner's brave but flawed attempts, expanding Earth, contracting Earth, land bridges and the like, would be a very poor study and leave a rather poor student at the end of it.

    The question asked by Diamond Geezer provided a real and present opportunity to explore the birth of plate tectonic theory while demonstrating the flawed nature of expanding Earth theory. I regret this opportunity has been closed.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2009
  11. Jul 12, 2009 #10
    I must be missing something here as well. If we cannot discuss hypotheses which are wrong by requesting information which discusses and refutes them, then what is Physics Forums for?

    There isn't a scientist alive who doesn't hold at least one, two or a dozen hypotheses about things which are against some "mainstream [published] theories and formal hypotheses", because if they did, they'd never produce anything useful in science.

    I didn't quote a conspiracy about the Expanding Earth, nor Neal Adams, so why lock the thread down? I wasn't interested in Neal Adams, I wanted scientific facts about a hypothesis that some scientists and field geologists gave serious credence to.

    There's a conspiracy theory saying that climate skeptics are paid off by Big Oil, yet those discussions on Global Warming/climate change aren't locked. There's a long standing conspiracy theory about Relativity being either plagiarized and/or fabricated by Einstein and suppressed by the world's scientists, and yet people make references to opposing views of relativity without getting their thread locked either.
     
  12. Jul 12, 2009 #11

    Ivan Seeking

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    I told you: We discuss mainstream science. If you have recent papers published in mainstream, applicable, academic journals, then let us know. If not, subject closed.
     
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