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No. 38: Mar-Apr 1985

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Geophysics: the sick man of science

"In order to be a famed geo-scientist and belong to the inclusive club of fully accepted geophysicists in their unknown thousands, one must kneel on the hassock and swear allegiance to the following tenets regardless of any scientific considerations:

"These must be held with religious fervour, dissenters are just not to be tolerated, the devotees feeling it their right, and indeed duty, to defend the creed against all criticism by any means of chicanery and of sharp-practice within their power, however crude and improper, so long as they judge they can get away with it, but all the time representing themselves to the world as acting with judicial calm in the best interests of their science. It will be shown that all three of these tenets are wrong, and how their (naive) acceptance has hamstrung the believers from making progress in the deep waters of terrestrial science, though not of course in the worldly world of 'modern science.' Shades of Sir Cyril Burt."

So begins a long technical article by R.A. Lyttleton, author of many scientific books and papers. (He may lose his union card after this paper!) Lyttleton proceeds to demonstrate the incorrectness of the first two tenets above. Lyttleton's reasoning is buttressed by many scientific observations and so much quantitative reasoning that it is impossible to encapsulate it all here. Suffice it to say that it all looks correct, serious, and above-board.

(Lyttleton, R.A.; "Geophysics: The Sick Man of Science," ISCDS Newsletter, 5:3, December 1984.)

Comment. Now this is interesting. The ISCDS is the International Stop Continental Drift Society, now defunct. The Society's Newsletter, if you don't already know, is usually a tongue-in-cheek publication. Not so here, Lyttleton is deadly serious. Either that or the joke is lost amid all the equations in the body of his paper!

From Science Frontiers #38, MAR-APR 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987