free debate

March 10, 2010

Expanding Earth "Theory": Going Against All Science

The proposed growth of the earth
going from bottom to top and showing
both hemispheres.
Image Credit: Michael Netzer
When I first came up with the idea of writing this post, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake.I would find some of the core claims being made by proponents of expanding earth "theory"*, break them apart, and then show the errors in their thought. As I started doing more and more research, I realized this was going to be impossible. Not because there aren't scientific responses to their claims, or even that their claims went beyond my knowledge of the subjects. No, the problem is in the sheer number of claims.

First, some quick background. From my research, expanding earth "theory" was first purposed in the late 1800's to explain the features and characteristics of the various continents (like how Africa and South America fit together). At the time, the idea was not well accepted, but was not considered crazy. This was still a few decades before Alfred Wegener purposed his idea of plate tectonics. Over time, we have gained an increasing understanding of how the earth works, to the point where plate tectonics is more or less a fact. In the last century, all of the new evidence has supported Wegener's theory, but some people are still trying to hang on to this failed idea.

As I mentioned before, if I tried to take their claims apart one by one this would quickly turn from a blog post into a book. Instead, I want to focus on some of the clues that should make you wonder if someone's ideas are based in reality.

The first big red flag is their dismissal of the scientific consensus. Could the scientific consensus be wrong? Sure. Saying that, though, we need to keep in mind that a scientific consensus is not something that is formed by a few guys at a bar. Many researchers, all trying to prove their own ideas over many years, work to see what model the evidence fits. Only after all this, and a repeated hashing of the evidence, is any consensus achieved. This happened very recently with the debate over what killed the dinosaurs. To think that you know better than the hundreds of geologists who study this stuff for a living, is simply arrogant. Neal Adams, maybe the most famous proponent of expanding earth theory, says that if he is right, "Everything, everything in science must change." At some point, as non-scientists, we have to step back as ask what is more plausible; that a loud comic book artist has come up with a revolutionary theory that does change all of science, or that the thousands of expert scientists worldwide understand their disciplines and the evidence for their models.

The other big clue is the use of what I have heard called "techno-babble." True scientists and science educators will often use a large vocabulary to try and explain confusing concepts. They use this vocabulary however, to try and be precise in their meaning. Scientific ideas can be inherently complex, so in explaining them the goal is to make them simpler. Proponents of non-scientific ideas will sometimes do the opposite. They will take a simple idea, and use complex language to explain it to make it sound more scientific. A perfect example of this can be found at Near the bottom of the page there is a "Diagram of Omnidirectional Gravitational Pressure on exact center of any spherical body." This is a really complex way of saying, gravity pushes everything towards the center of mass. If the language is unnecessarily complex, it may be because they are trying to muddle a point instead of explaining it.

I recommend to anyone who wants to get experience looking into claims like this, look at these sites. See if you can find the flawed reasoning behind each argument. What evidence are they leaving out? If you have questions about a specific claim they are making, let us know and we can help you. We shouldn't just dismiss these ideas because they don't sound right or are unfamiliar. If we are going to dismiss them, it needs to be because there is no scientific support. In the end, nonsense dressed up with nice animations and fancy rhetoric, is still simply nonsense.

If you want to understand this issue better, I recommend you read the debate between Neal Adams and Stephen Novella, published at Neurologica.

*I cringe at the thought of calling it a theory in the scientific sense, and so found the quotation marks necessary.