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Re: extinctions and personality

Van Smith writes:

> Finally, Mickey Rowe, who seems to have taken all that I've said a
> little too personally, has referred several sources to me on
> different occasions in what are apparently attempts to both
> enlighten and insult me.  

Enlighten and lighten up, yes.  Insult no.  I'm sorry if I seemed
insulting to you.  I guarantee you, however, that you've seemed
insulting to other people (I'm not guessing... I have data to back
that up).  I'll be glad to continue this aspect of our conversation if
you're at all interested, but I'd much prefer to do so just between
you and me.

> Fortunately, on Friday, Peter Sheehan, Paul Sparks, and Larry Bowlds
> addressed all of Mr. Rowe's concerns with far more eloquence and
> authority than I could hope to do myself.

Insofar as I've come to take anything you're written personally, it
would be that I'm offended by the manner in which you appear to
conduct your science.  Your selective reading of the above is a minor
case in point.  Peter Sheehan came the closest to supporting you, but
he most certainly did not address all of my concerns.  What Peter did
write about them was:

  The problem is that William's statement about the decline has no
  evidence to back it up.  Personally, I have seen no evidence
  presented that there was a gradual decline of dinosaurs at any scale
  in the Hell Creek.  In fact, the only field study of the Hell Creek
  designed to test the hypothesis rejected a gradual decline.

I've asked Peter about this via personal e-mail, but he has not yet
responded.  Since the topic isn't dying here, I'll ask him again
publicly.  Peter, do you think that Williams misrepresents the data
from the Hell Creek Formation in his Figure 1c?  Also, do you have any
quarrels with his analysis of your work in the section beginning on
page 186: "Significance of the Barren Zone"?

Paul Sparks asked questions which related to Sheehan's work, and thus
can't be seen as independent, and Larry Bowlds posted a reference
which seems to describe Van Smith more than support him:

} Irrespective of their discipline, scientists rarely failed to
} embrace a mass-extinction hypothesis however poorly informed they
} were.

I apologize to everyone else on the list... you're seeing me at my
worst.  In my defense I will state that I don't think any scientist
worth their salt will push a position (particularly one outside their
own area of expertise) with the vigor that Van Smith has been pushing
the asteroid story.  At their best, scientists do not rely on
authority as Van has just attempted, nor do they claim to hold the one
and only truth.  Peter, when you wrote:

  Van Smith is on target.

should we translate that to mean:

  "I too am strongly convinced by the data that Alvarez was generally
   correct in his linkage of the Ir-enriched layer to both a bolide
   impact and the K/T extinction event."

or would we more accurately translate it to mean:

  "Anybody who disagrees with Van Smith on this issue is either
   uninformed or insane." 

IMHO, the former position is reasonable.  The latter is not.  Van, I
am an engineer by training.  I'm not innumerate.  However, I'm also
quite averse to to seeing people pull bunnies out of hats.  Both the
size and impact velocity of the purported bolide are currently open to
debate.  While your numbers are not implausible, they are also not so
secure as to warrant the depth of your convictions.

Mickey Rowe     (rowe@lepomis.psych.upenn.edu)