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The Scientific Process

  I must again strongly disagree with Van Smith's recent statements.

VS states that there is a point beyond which questioning theories becomes
less rational and uses relativity, Maxwell's Equations and Evolution as
examples and then states that the impact theory also fits this bill.

Hardly - and remember I am a supporter of the impact theory at this time.

First of all, scientists are constantly questioning those major processes
all the time - that's how the theories get modified through time. The way
Academia is set up favors people who are able to upset established apple
carts. SJ Gould has made a large part of his wonderful and illustrious (sp?)
career doing just this to the theory of evolution as viewed by biologists
and paleontologists. When Eldredge first developed Punc.Eq. and he and
Gould developed it further, it flew into the face of much established
thought that had closed the book as VS seems to suggest is appropriate
now for the impact theory. I believe relativity is under constant scrutiny
by physicists. The fact that the theories can be modified at times, or
last through the work and still be considered useful just demonstrates their
robustness but it certainly doesn't argue for stopping to modify or
even throw them out.

Any scientist that finds evidence to vastly change or kill a major theory
gets a tremendous boost and all know it and continue to try to do it. Further,
it's to our advantage to do this because it makes theory better by
constantly testing it. The religious groups trying to disprove evolution
make a mistake not by trying but by not using methods that could at all
do the job. The fact that I personally believe that the fact that evolution
has occurred will easily stand the test of time is irrelevant. Any
scientific attempt to test part or all of the theory is useful. Scientists
don't do enough of it because the results are often negative and non-
publishable and we all know that most need to have real professional
currency come out of their research - papers.

Now back to the impact. The debate on whether the deposits are indeed
tsunami deposits are fully raging and with good reason. Sedimentologists
have an incredibly difficult science and most deposits have all sorts of
different interpretations possible as well as the difficulty in getting
exact timing down. And lots of things can generate them separate from
impacts. If there was massive volcanism during the K-T, without or with
an impact, you'd expect tsunami's from the seismic activity. Also,
massive slumping that occurs periodically also does the same. One about
80K years ago generated a 1000 foot wave that crashed into the island
of Hawaii.

All these lines of evidence have strengths and problems and there will
be lots of necessary work to nail this down for decades. Do I think it
will eventually point to an impact? Yup. Will we be able to show that it
was the major force that really knocked off the dinos, maybe. Should
it be studied vigorously - you bet. Any attempt to belittle those who
are trying to disprove the theory is doing a grave disservice. I have
absolutely no qualms with Bob Bakker's attempts to find other avenues,
for example. I just wish he'd be proactive about actually publishing
his ideas with sufficient supporting evidence in a refereed journal so
it will be part of the dialog.

Sorry for the length,

Ralph Chapman, NMNH