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Was there really warfare between Science and Christianity?

Was there really warfare between Science and Christianity?

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The classic TV portrayal of conflict between science and religion is the reconstruction of the Huxley-Wilberforce encounter shown in the last episode of the 1970s series the Voyage of the Beagle. Wilberforce is portrayed as a scientific ignoramus and Huxley as a cool scientific orator. In many places it is assumed that Orthodox Christianity means accepting creation in six days and any departure from that is a shift in a liberal direction. This is the stock in trade of many treatments pitting science against Christianity

 

Geology and Genesis, 1790 to 1860

To put it simplistically Geology took off as a science in the 1790s under Hutton in Scotland, Smith in England and Cuvier and Brogniart in France when conclusive evidence was found for ordering strata and showing a vast age of the earth. Hutton’s chief spokesman was the Rev John Playfair and Smith’s the Revs B.Richardson and J.Townshend. Most educated people accepted the new findings and even the church press showed little opposition. From 1810 there was much geological fieldwork and in 1815 Smith produced the first geological map of England and Wales.

 

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Hutton and Smith

Geologists came from various backgrounds with a considerable number of clergy, often Evangelical. The 1820s was the heyday of clerical catastrophic geology of Buckland and Sedgwick, who held that strata were deposited over a long period of time (millions of years) in a succession of catastrophes or deluges, the Noachian being the last.

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Sedgwick and Lyell

In his Principles of Geology (1830) Lyell took over their methods and timescale and replaced catastrophism with uniformitarianism. Lyell has become a mythic figure with claims that he introduced notions of an ancient earth. That is bunk and has been discredited by such historians as Rudwick and Gould. As the vast of age of the earth was widely known in 1790 it cannot be the case as Lyell was born in 1797, unless miracles can happen!

Not all was smooth sailing and from the mid-twenties a vocal group, the Anti- or Scriptural Geologists, tried to show that geologists were mistaken and that Creation took place in 6 days. This disparate group included clergy and laity with a Dean of York, an Oxford Professor and Brande, Faraday’s colleague at the Royal Institution. Scientifically their writings were worthless by the standards of the day and were attacked by such orthodox Christians as Conybeare, Buckland, Sedgwick, Sumner and Pye Smith. Lyell mocked from the sidelines. To give an idea of numbers, during this period I can name at least six Deans of Cathedrals, a dozen Bishops and half a dozen clerical Oxbridge professors, who actively supported geology. In the period 1825-1850 the vast majority of Christians accepted geology, but a small and noisy minority did not. It is vital to get it in proportion. Andrew White in History of the warfare of science and theology claimed that the Anti-geologists were the Orthodox Party thus distorting our understanding.

By the 1850s the Anti-geologists were a spent force and even such an extreme Evangelical as J.Cumming accepted geology. Almost the only exception was Phillip Gosse in Omphalos (1857)

 

The Dawn of Evolution 1859

Charles Darwin

The Origin of Species was the seminal work of the decade and attracted great interest. The popular perception is that it was violently objected to by the Christian Church as it “questioned both the literal accuracy of the first chapters of Genesis and the argument from design for the existence of God”. The first part of this quote from Altholz is simply untrue as no educated Christians believed in 4004 BC in 1860, except a few Plymouth Brethren. Design in the strict Paleyan sense may have been killed by Darwin, but many kept to some kind of Design; Kingsley, Gray, Temple, Birks, and Hensleigh and Julia Wedgwood (Darwin’s Cousins). The main religious concern was whether our apedom would destroy our morality as Wilberforce made clear.

The responses to Darwin are fascinating and varied and no simple answer can be given. Initially some scientists were in favour – Huxley and Hooker, some not sure – Lyell, and many against, notably the leading physicists and geologists. Of Anglican and Scottish Presbyterian clergy (some of considerable scientific ability) none were literalists, and of 30 or so responses I have studied they are equally divided between being for, against or undecided. All 30 accepted geological findings and a scientific outlook. Wilberforce’s objections were largely geological, but felt our apedom would destroy Christianity. The evangelical Canon H.B. Tristram of Durham was a migratory bird and a competent ornithologist. He accepted and applied natural selection to birds in 1858, after reading Darwin’s Linnean Society paper. He went to Oxford in 1860 an evolutionist but after hearing Wilberforce and Hooker (Huxley spoke too quietly to be heard) he changed his mind. A year or so later he became an evolutionist again and used creation and evolution as synonymous.

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Wilberforce and Huxley

Well. was there conflict? There was not CONFLICT, but there was conflict. The reviews and the meeting at Oxford show that there was controversy both religious and scientific. The only example of ecclesiastical prejudice I can find is the sacking of Prof Buchman of Cirencester Agricultural College, whose evolutionary ideas offended the Anglican management. By 1866 even the Victoria Institute were tolerating evolution, even if some members objected. Within two decades most educated Christians accepted some kind of evolution, even if, like Wallace, limited evolution to non-humans.

 

Whence Conflict between Science and Religion?

The idea that there has been a serious conflict is widely held but recent studies have challenged this,whether they focus narrowly on Huxley and Wilberforce or look more widely. The conclusion by Lindberg and Numbers, Gould, Brooke and Russell is that the conflict thesis comes from a reading back into events by some of the protagonists of the 19th century. Huxley and Hooker embellished their controversies with the church, Edmund Gosse in Father and Son made his father to be typical of Christians,  Andrew White’s massive The Warfare of Science with Theology (1896) is so flawed as to be worthless, despite its massive documentation which often cannot be followed up, Darwin’s claims that at Cambridge he did not “doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible” are not true, Leslie Stephen’s concerns with the historicity of the Ark has been shown by Sir Owen Chadwick to be the product of a lively imagination and many evangelicals had come to Colenso’s conclusions about Noah some 30 years before 1860. Most of these examples are referred to in serious works of history but a little historical research refutes them. This does raise a few questions on Altholz’s assertion that for Huxley and others “Truthfulness had replaced belief as the ultimate standard.”

The conflict thesis in its classic form needs to be consigned to the bin, BUT there is an opposite danger – the total denial of any conflict whatever and the claim that there was harmony. That is as erroneous. The other danger is to ignore popular perception as this did and still does reckon there is a conflict.

To conclude, there was some conflict, which has various causes; the wish of some scientists to break away from church involvement, the concerns of some that evolution may eliminate God. There was also conflict of re-adjustment. But it is best seen as “a storm in a Victorian tea-cup” exaggerated for polemical purposes.

Finally there was no serious battle of Genesis and Geology, but a few Christians objected to geology. By 1860 biblical literalism was virtually extinct but was revived in the USA in 1961 in the form of Creationism. Neither was there a battle royal over evolution. In 1860 hardly any educated people were still literalists. Until this is firmly grasped it is impossible to assess the relationship of Christianity and Science and to consider exactly what were – and are – the problems.

The ultimate problem is why there is suffering and evil, but I’ll leave that.

 

References;

J.H. Brooke, Science and Religion, some historical perspectives, Cambridge, 1991,

M.B.Roberts, Darwin’s Doubts about Design, Science and Christian Belief, 1997, vol9, p113-26

S.J.Gould, try historical essays in his various Penguins which are always well-argued

Brooke and Cantor, Reconstructing Nature, T&T Clark, 1998

Marston,P and Forster, G. Science, Reason and Faith, Monarch 1999

Numbers, R, Darwinism comes to America, 1998, Harvard Univ Press

Roberts, Michael Evangelicals and Science Greenwood 2008

and two useful books

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for more see the websites of http://biologos.org/  www.asa3.org   http://www.faraday.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/

 

Man but a worm

 

 

 

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My Trip to the Ark Encounter: Some Pictures and Reflections

Having met Ham at a meeting in 1992 I have followed his absurd ideas. This ark must be the most monstrous.

It is baffling why anyone believes what he says

Naturalis Historia

Just 10 days after the grand opening of the Ark Encounter on July 7th, I traveled down to Kentucky to pay a visit to Ken Ham’s latest evangelistic outreach endeavor. It was a Friday and I arrived less than one hour after opening and spent the better part of six hours on the Ark Encounter premises.   I have shared some of my thoughts about the Ark Encounter previously (Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter Opens to a Flood of Press but Few Visitors than Anticipated;  The Ark Encounter: Depicting a Real Flood with Unrealistic ImagesThe Ark Encounter Common Ancestors:  The Increasing Inclusiveness of Biblical Kinds).  Today I just take you on a visual tour of the Ark Encounter theme park, share a few more thoughts about the exhibits, and suggest some needed improvements.

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My first glimpse of the Ark as I pulled onto the Ark Encounter property.  The Ark…

View original post 2,261 more words

THE ORIGIN OF DARWIN AS A NATURALIST 1809-1831

2307230823112312232423262328234423572360HE ORIGIN OF DARWIN AS A NATURALIST

 

Darwin concluded The Origin of Species with this magnificent paragraph;

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

 

This makes me think of the narrow country roads in Shropshire, which were sunken by cart traffic over hundreds of years leaving high banks on either side. These banks became entangled with plants (hawthorn, brambles, hazel, campanula, primroses, snowdrops etc.) and colonised by various animals (insects, butterflies, lizards, rabbits, polecats etc) and host to birds.

The entangled bank was an integrated ecological web.

As Darwin rode round these lanes on his horse Dobbin, whether en route to his girlfriend, Fanny, or to shoot, he would have passed many entangled banks and observed the wildlife. From so small a beginning of a teenage horse rider and amateur naturalist came the most profound of scientific theories.

The Skills Darwin learnt before sailing on the Beagle

Outdoor skills from hunting and shooting and exploring.

Navigation, use of maps

Travelling through rough country, which still can be dangerous.

A wide range of naturalists skills, observation of plants and animals, habitats, specimen collection and preservation.

A good basic geology.

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This is why when he boarded the Beagle in December 1831 he was one of the most proficient young naturalists of his day.

 

The influences on Darwin. (1809-1882)

He was born at The Mount on 12 th February 1809

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and went to Shrewsbury School under Dr Butlet but was taught little but Greek and Latin and no science

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His father was a doctor with a good knowledge of science (and less on dietetics) and his grandfather, Erasmus, even more so. So from home he learnt much.

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His older brother, Erasmus, built a very good chemistry lab in a shed

 

He collected eggs etc from an early age.

He was keen on hunting thus observed the behaviour of foxes and birds.

From his late teens he collected beetles by the thousand!

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1825-27. He studied at Edinburgh for medicine and also learnt some geology and also marine invertebrates from Robert Grant

1827-1831. He studied theology and philosophy at Christ’s College, Cambridge and intended to get ordained. There was no official science teaching but John Henslow gave unofficial classes and field trips.

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1824-30 He did much naturalising around Shropshire and visited North Wales most years either to Snowdonia itself or to Barmouth. He climbed most of the mountains

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADSCF6991He went on great hikes and observed all he saw on the wildlife and a little on the rocks. His favourites were beetles, but also fungi and birds (which he shot to collect specimens)

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His favourite mountain was Cadair Idris and he shot birds for specimens at Bird Rock

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He explored the rugged Rhinogau with epic hikes and explored the Mawddach estuary

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He stayed at Barmouth supposedly being tutored in the binomial theorem but preferred other things!

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He left Cambridge in June 1831 and as he was planning an expedition to Tenerife he did geology around Shrewsbury and in July 1831 tried to make a geological map and visited the limestone hill of Llanymynech.

 

The last of the four photos is from Nesscliff where he studied a Permo-Trias outcrop. The view is of the volcanic Breidden Hills and to the left is Long Mountain which is capped by Old red Sandstone. Darwin and Sedgwick got within a mile of an exposure but turned back, thus making Sedgwick miss a vital exposure.

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The Sedgwick–Darwin Tour 3 to 20 August 1831

To the West of Shrewsbury 3-4 August

Shrewsbury to Denbigh, 5 to 7 August

Alone to Conwy, 8 to 9 August

Conwy to Bethesda, 10 to 11 August

To Anglesey and Dublin? 12 to 20 August

Separate Ways, 20 August

Caernarvon to Barmouth via Cwm Idwal 20-24th August

This map shows the route

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They both had a copy of Greenhough’s map. They new that the Orange rock in the south was Old Red sandstone (later Devonian) and it was younger than the older strata (later Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian) which he wanted to study. The aim was to find the ORS and then older rocks below it. Murchison who went to South Wales was guided to the contact by Rev Thomas Lewis and sorted it all out. Sedgwick’s aim was to follow the arc of ORS (orange rocks) along the North Wales coast and Llangollen and then find the older rocks below. That determined Sedgwick’s route  and his pupil Darwin just tagged along. as it turned out Sedgwick just missed ORS at Long mountain while at Shrewsbury  and then discovered there was no ORS in North Wales so he lost his stratigraphic marker! So when he started on 21st August 1831 on his own, he bagan in Llanberis which was not the best place to start, but that is another story.

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They travelled by gig with a driver. this picture is of one of Dr Robert Darwin’s patients -Mad Jack Mytton who though affluent died in a debtors jail.

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In August 1831 Adam Sedgwick (geology professor at Cambridge) came to Shrewsbury after looking at strata in DudleyBRESSAN_2013_Geologizing_-Darwin_Map1

 

and after a few days of geologising near the town they travelled to North Wales by gig (2 –wheeled carriage pulled by a horse) trying to work out what strata there were below the Devonian.Their first stop was up Castell Dinas Bran (silurian) and then to the Carboniferous Limestone of the Eglwsyeg cliffs. There is a fault between the two hills and no Devonian.

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This was for a HBS documentary which was edited out, showing young Darwin and old Sedgwick on the Eglwsyeg

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Next day they drove to Ruthin and looked first at Silurian strata by Vallee Crucis abbey, which shows the difference between bedding and cleavage.

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On to the top of the Horseshoe pass (my first big hill on a cycle) looking over to the grey limestone cliffs. The road was built in the 1810s to service the slate quarry

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Glancing over to Snowdonia behind the sheep they descended to Dafarn Dowarch, then made out of turf. Sedgwick stayed here in the 1840s.

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Past some limestone then descended to the complex Clywd basin of the Vale of Clwyd going past more Transition/silurian slate. This windy road is Nant y Garth, which I once cycled up in a thunderstorm doing field work for this.

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Darwin walked the last 6 miles to Ruthin where they stayed at the Castle Hotel. At Lanfwrog to the west Darwin found some red sandstone lying topographically  below Carboniferous Limestone 50 yards away. In fact, it was New Red Sandstone, not Old Red/Devonian which had been downthrown to the east. Alas there was no basin analysis to help them!!

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And then down some lovely lanes which would have been muddy! they visited the Ogof caves and found some rhino fossils – teeth.

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They took the road west of St Asaph and near Glascoed Darwin was dropped off to do a 20 mile traverse and Sedgwick carried straight on to Conwy.

Darwin’s brief was to find ORS below the Carboniferous and above the Silurian/Transition. The second photo is taken a few miles west looking north towards Abergele. The hills are Carb limestone and and the foreground is Silurian. Darwin must have been miffed not to find any ORS.

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He stayed at Abergelle and the next day walked to the Ormes and Llandudno chasing the non-existent ORS

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He left the Great Orme behind and crossed the brand-new bridge to Conwy and met Sedgwick near the castle.

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The next day, after Darwinstopped Sedgwick arguing with a waiter, they went up the Conwy valley to Cannovium and over the 2100ft Tal y Fan and dropped down to Aber for the night. They visited Aber Falls the next day and then went to the Bethesda Slate Quarries

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Here is the major problem I encountered in this study. Darwin’s notes on Cwm Idwal – 5 miles from the quarries – follw straight on from his notes on Bethesda. further in his Autobiography Darwn states he went round Cwm Idwal with Sedgwick. HE DID NOT. This is countered by the letters between D and S in September 1831 when Darwin told Sedgwick what he saw on his own and then Sedgwick corrected him after visiting Cwm Idwal a fortnight later.

Instead the went across Anglesey, as Sedgwick had Henslow’s wonderful 1822 geological map to guide him, but the ORS was still elusive and this supposed outcrop of ORS later turned out to be Ordovician. Later at Cape Verde Darwin described some recent conglomerates by the shore as hard as this. I can assure that the rock is very painful to hit with a hammer.

 

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And so the crossed the Menai Straits and shot down the newish London-Holyhead road, which had just been replaced by a dual carriageway when I visited there.

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From Holyhead they took a steam-packet to Dublin for the weekend as Sedgwick wished to meet some geologists. On their return they went to look at the precambrian rocks at north Stack and then went across Anglesey with Henslow to guide them.

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They found what Henslow’s incredibly hard ORS on which I nearly broke my arm. And so to the old Copper Mine at Parys Mountain. It dates back to the Bronze Age and I think it is still being mined

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And so they arrived at Caernarfon, when Darwin wanted to go home for the start of the shooting season. Sedgwick went to Llanberis and started in ernest and found it hard.

On his own from Caernarfon to Barmouth 20th to 24th August

Darwin left Sedgwick at Caernarfon and then visited Cwm Idwal on his own. He reckoned that the Devil’s Kitchen was a volcanic plug, but Sedgwick put him right a little later, explaining it was a syncline.

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A sketch to show what Darwin thought about Cwm Idwal and how Sedgwick corrected him.

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He found the geology difficult as I did when I tried to do my undergraduate mapping there. (I gave up and mapped a layered intrusion in Northern Canada instead!!). He was oblivious of any glacial features.  He must have found some predators – sundew.

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Two views of Cwm Idwal

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From Cwm Idwal it was 6 miles to Plas y Brenin, the coach inn at Capel Curig, where he spent two nights. The next day he climbed Moel Siabod and made more notes . After that he walked to Dolwyddelan and over the moors to Ffestiniog for the night. The next day he cross the Rhinogau by the the Bwlch Drws Ardudwy

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An early morning view from Plas Y Brenin

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In his autobiography Darwin claimed to follow a compass bearing to Barmouth. I do not believe him! First, the route would be an utter killerwading through boulders and 3 foot heather. Secondly his geological notes describe the localities visited and I mark these on the sketchmap.

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Moel Siabod and the moorland south of Dolwyddelan

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My key outcrop to determine his route was Carreg y Fran, which I located. Darwin said the rocks at the base of the cliff were conglomerate. They were in fact agglomerate.

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From there he cross the remote and rugged Rhinogau and made his way to Barmouth.

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After a few days at Barmouth Darwin returned home for the shooting season. Instead he accepted an invitation to travel on the Beagle

Here is Topper (1992-1994) my faithful field assistant, navigator and mountain climber.

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He took a stagecoach back to Shrewsbury and found a letter inviting him to join the Beagle!

In the summers of 1837 and 1838 he spent a few weeks while staying with his father in Shrewsbury looking at glacial deposits (c18000 years old around the town and by the field centre)

At this time he was very ill and only walked short distances.

In June 1842 he felt better and wrote the first half of a draft on evolution and went to Snowdonia and went home to finish it. It as not published.

Darwin spent two weeks in Snowdonia, staying at Plas y Brennin and other inns.

He looked for evidence of glaciation especially in Cwm Idwal and was convinced that Snowdonia used to have glaciers. He could only walk five kilometres.

But this will be my next installment

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CHARLES DARWIN AND THE HISTORY OF GEOLOGY, 1831 AND 1842 

 Along with many earlier visits to Snowdonia, the mountainous region of North Wales, in the 1820s to study natural history and to “climb every mountain”,

Darwin made two important visits to study the geology. In 1831 he spent nearly four weeks studying the geology of Shropshire and North Wales, mostly under the tutelage of Adam Sedgwick of Cambridge and then in 1842 to see whether there had been “former glaciations2 in Snowdonia. In 1831 he was a “learner” and made no contribution to geology[1], but his work on glaciations was highly significant[2].

My purpose here is to put Darwin’s two visits into the whole context of geology as a developing science. I give it in note form as a developing historical theme.

  1. 1660-1700. Earliest geology beginning with Nils Steno in Italy. Little grasp of an ancient earth
  2. 1690s E Lhwyd (born near Oswestry – 20 miles from Shrewsbury) and John Ray (the English Linnaeus) noted the boulders in Nant Peris a valley below Snowdon. As there were lots of boulders and only one or two fell down in a lifetime, they suggested that the earth must be much older that the biblical 6000 years. These were in fact glacial erratic transported there by glaciers.
  3. 1700- 1800 more evidence for an ancient earth and beginnings of working out the order of strata
  4. 1788 Rev John Michell, prof of geology at Cambridge worked out an order of strata;

Chalk                                                         Upper Cretaceous                                           120ft

Golt                                                            (Gault   Lower Cretaceous                              50ft

Sand of Bedford                                        Lower Greensand  – lwr Cret                          10-20ft

Northamptan andPortland lime                      (Jurassic)                                                        100ft

Lyas strata                                                       (Lias –Lower Jurassic)                                   100ft

Sand of Newark                                              (Triassic)                                                          30ft

Sherwood Forest pebbles and gravel              Permo-triassic sandstones                               50ft

Very fine white sand                                      uncertain

Roche Abbey and Brotherton Lime               (Permian Magnesium lst)                                100ft

Coal Strata of Yorkshire                                 Upper Carboniferous

This gives a good summary of strata from Upper Carboniferous to Upper Cretaceous

  • Smith developed this with use of fossils and then Geology map of England and Wales 1815.
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6 Cuvier worked on Cretaceous strata around Paris

  1. By 1820s strata reasonably well-known down to Old Red Sandstone/ Devonian. What lay below was totally unknown and refered to Killas. This was classically put in The Outline of the Geology of England and Wales by Conybeare and Phillips (1822)

Below are a series of geological columns and the final development for today is the right hand column. What is crystal clear is that the order has not changed since Michell made his preliminary one in 1788. After the publication in 1822 there was an immense amount of geological fieldwork all over Europe but only the British work concern us.

SELECTED CLASSIFICATIONS OF ROCK STRATA

WERNER

1790’s

WILLIAM SMITH

1799, 1812, 1815

CONYBEARE and PHILLIPS
1821-1822
DE LA BECHE

1833

LYELL

1841

HITCHCOCK

1860 US

 

1981

ALLUVIAL
VolcanicSTRATIFIED
(FLÖTZ)TRANSITIONPRIMITIVE
London Clay

Chalk

Greensand
Brick-Earth

Purbeck, Portland
Coral Rag, Cornbr.
Upper Oolite
Under Oolite
Red-ground

Magnesian Ls

Coal Measures

Mountain Ls

Red and Dunstone

Killas and Slate

Granite, Sien
Gneiss

SUPERIOR ORDER or TERTIARY
Alluvial
Diluvial
Upper Marine(Freshwater: London Clay, Plastic Clay)SUPERMEDIAL ORDER
Chalk
Chalk Marle
Green Sand
Weald
Iron Sand
Oolitic Series
Purbeck, Portland
Coral Rag, Oxford
Inferior Oolite-
Lias
New Red SandstoneMagnesian Limestone
MEDIAL ORDER
(Carboniferous)
Coal Measures
Millstone-Grit
Carboniferous or
Mountain Limestone
Old Red SandstoneSUBMEDIAL ORDERTransition LimestoneSerpentine
Sienite
Greywacke
Clay SlateINFERIOR ORDER
Granite
STRATIFIED

Modern Group

Erratic Block Gr.
Supracretaceous
Group

Cretaceous Group

Oolitic Group

Red Sandst. Gr.
Red Marl
Muschelkalk
Red Sandstone
Zechstein

Carboniferous Gr.
Coal Measures

Carboniferous Ls

Old Red Sandst

Grauwacke Group

(Inferior Strati.
Nonfossilif.)
UNSTRATIFIED
Serpentine, Trap
Granite, Volcan.

POST-PLIOCENE
RecentPost-Pliocene
TERTIARY
Newer Pliocene
Older Pliocene
Miocene
EoceneSECONDARY
CretaceousWealdonOolite or JuraLias
Trias or New Red
SandstoneMagnesian LsCarboniferous
Coal Measures
Millstone Grit
Mountain Ls

Old Red Standst.
or Devonian

PRIMARY
FOSSILIFEROUS
Silurian

Cambrian

CENOZOIC
AlluviumRecent
Pleistocene
Tertiary
PlioceneMiocene
EoceneMESOZOIC
Cretaceous
Chalk
Gault
GreensandJurassic
Wealdon
OoliticLias
Triassic
PALEOZOICPermianCarboniferous
Coal Meas.
Millstone Grit
Mountain Ls

Devonian
Upper
Middle
Lower

Upper Silurain
(9 units)

Lower Silurian
(4 units)
Cambrian

AZOIC

CENOZOIC
QuaternaryRecent
Pleistocene
Tertiary
Pliocene
Miocene
Oligocene
Eocene
Paleocene
MESOZOIC
CretaceousJurassicTriassic
PALEOZOICPermianCarboniferous
PennsylvanianMississippianDevonian

Silurian

Ordovician

Cambrian

PRECAMBRIAN

1830s. After the publication in 1822 there was an immense amount of geological fieldwork all over Europe but only the British work concern us. By 1830 British geologists had felt clear on the geology from the Old Red Sandstone to the top of the Cretaceous, but what lay above and below was still to be discovered. Lyell was instrumental in bringing order to the Tertiary, but in 1830 Sedgwick and Murchison decided to tackle what lay below the ORS in Wales, in preparation for a second volume continuing Coneybeare and Phillip’s work. They had described what lay below the ORS as SUBMEDIAL ORDER; Transition Limestone, Serpentine, Sienite,  Greywacke and  Clay Slate, indicating that it was scarcely elucidated. All this later came to be termed Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian, but in 1830 it was simply unknown strata.
(Shrewsbury is just north of the Long Mynd on the map, and Cwm Idwal is slighty above the letter “N” of Snowdonia)

The map above is a sketch map fo the geology of North Wales marking all strata older than the Devonian, i.e. all the shaded area on the map. In 1830 the weather was so bad that neither geologist went to Wales, but both went in the Summer of 1831. Murchison went to Southern Wales about 25 miles southwest of the Longmynd and was guided to an excellent downward succession from ORS to what was to be called Silurian by the Rev Thomas Lewis. Sedgwick went to Northern Wales and his aim was to find the ORS (marked on geological maps as lying below Carboniferous Limestone from Llangollen to Conway. When he found the ORS he hoped to find it going down conformably into Killas/grauwacke (now Silurian). This did not happen and he and Darwin concluded that there was no ORS from Llangollen to Conway, thus frustrating his intentions. Ironically at over 300 metres on top of the Long Mountain between Welshpool and Shrewsbury , there is a capping of ORS/Devonian strata but Sedgwick and Darwin did not go up the steep hill in their gig, thus missing the solution to the puzzle by two miles!

In early August Sedgwick and Darwin left Shrewsbury for North Wales to  look at the base of the Carboniferous Limestone hoping to find first ORS and then “Silurian” below it. They failed as there was no ORS. After that they went round Anglesea and found that no more helpful, though they found some ORS identified by Henslow in 1822, though some of that was mis-identified and turned out to be far older.  On 20th August Darwin left Sedgwick to go home via Cwm Idwal and Barmouth.  Sedgwick started working on strata by Llanberis, but had no stratigraphic markers or fossils to guide him. After a few years he managed to make sense of the geology.  Sedgwick called all these Cambrian and Murchison called southern Wales strata Silurian. It took another 50 years to sort them out properly into Cambrian Ordovician and Silurian.

 

After leaving Sedgwick at Caernarfon, he took a coach to Cwm Idwal, not knowing anything about the geology, except that it was older than the ORS. He had no geological guides to help him, so simply made notes. Cwm Idwal is a glacial cirque carved out of Ordovician Volcanics. Darwin gave brief descriptions regarding most as “altered slate” with some resembling basalt.

He also note volcanic rocks at Devil’s Kitchen which he considered  the Volcanic rocks at Devils Kitchen to be  “Basalt protruded out of the slate” as an “inverted cone”. In fact, they were laid flat  and then gently folded into a syncline, as Sedgwick pointed out to Darwin in a later letter after .

1842 Glacier visit

In 1842 Darwin returned to Snowdonia, having travelled round the world in the Beagle. His purpose was to see whether the Glacial Theories of Agassiz and Buckland were correct. In 1838 he had been to Glen Roy and in 1838 and 1839 had looked at the gravels around Shrewsbury and concluded that “glaciers” has some influence. Initially he was wary of Agassiz’s ideas of a continental ice age and after Buckland visited Snowdonia in October 1842, when he demonstrated glaciations, Darwin went to Snowdonia for 10days in June 1842. (In fact he had half written his first manuscript[1842] on Natural Selection before he went and finished it on return.)

He confirmed the terrestrial glaciations in Snowdonia and confirmed Buckland’s identification of glacial troughs. The highlight was his visit to Cwm Idwal where he identified the remains of an icefall by Ogwen cottage, ice-scoured rocks and moraines. Most interesting are two boulders he described, now known as Darwin’s boulders. After visiting Moel Tryfan, which he realised was sea-ice he returned to Nant Peris near Llanberis and made more observations.

Darwin had confirmed that these deep valleys were not formed by rivers………

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References.

Darwin at Llanymynech; British Journal for the History of Science, 1996, Vol 29, pp469-78

Darwin’s Dog-leg ; Archives of the History of Natural History, 1998, Vol 25, p59-73

I   coloured a map ; Archives of the History of Natural History, 2000, Vol 27,p69-79

Charles Darwin’s 1831 notes of Shropshire,Archives of the History of Natural History 2002,Vol 29 , p 27-9; co-authored  with Prof.S.Herbert (University of Maryland)

Darwin’s Welsh Geology, 1831,  Endeavour  Spring 2001, 25, p33-37

Darwin, Buckland and the Welsh Ice Age, 1837 – 1842, accepted for publication in Proceedings of the Geological Association 2012

Sandra Herbert; Charles Darwin;geologist 2005

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A stormy sunset from Plas y Brenin looking to Snowdon – Crib goch peeping through the clouds

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fracking causes Asthma!!! Or does it?

Well, fracking causes terrible problems and the latest scare story is that it causes asthma. This has appeared on the Boots medical website citing an American study.

http://www.webmd.boots.com/asthma/news/20160719/fracking-may-worsen-asthma

 

boots

It even appears on the UK local government site.

http://www.localgov.co.uk/Fracking-industry-linked-to-asthma-attacks/41278

It has gone semi-viral on anti-fracking sites, but it is yet another spurious peer-reviewed paper on the health effects of frackinjg

The article is published in the prestigious JAMA – Journal of the American Medical Association. (I first came across this as in the 90s they published a paper arguing Darwin had panic attacks and agoraphobia. Seeing he wandered around Snowdonia when ill in 1842, it seems unlikely he had the latter. JAMA ignored my response, but no one with agoraphobia could visit Cwm Idwal in 1842DSCF7213

Here is the article

http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2534153

jama

the abstract sums the content of the paper and how

Residential UNGD( aka Fracking) activity metrics were statistically associated with increased risk of mild, moderate, and severe asthma exacerbations. Whether these associations are causal awaits further investigation, including more detailed exposure assessment.

This sounds serious but the actual conclusion says;

Asthma is a common disease with large individual and societal burdens, so the possibility that UNGD may increase risk for asthma exacerbations requires public health attention.

This is hardly a firm conclusion as it is only a possiblitiy.

ABSTRACT

Importance  Asthma is common and can be exacerbated by air pollution and stress. Unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) has community and environmental impacts. In Pennsylvania, UNGD began in 2005, and by 2012, 6253 wells had been drilled. There are no prior studies of UNGD and objective respiratory outcomes.

Objective  To evaluate associations between UNGD and asthma exacerbations.

Design  A nested case-control study comparing patients with asthma with and without exacerbations from 2005 through 2012 treated at the Geisinger Clinic, which provides primary care services to over 400 000 patients in Pennsylvania. Patients with asthma aged 5 to 90 years (n = 35 508) were identified in electronic health records; those with exacerbations were frequency matched on age, sex, and year of event to those without.

Exposures  On the day before each patient’s index date (cases, date of event or medication order; controls, contact date), we estimated activity metrics for 4 UNGD phases (pad preparation, drilling, stimulation [hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”], and production) using distance from the patient’s home to the well, well characteristics, and the dates and durations of phases.

Main Outcomes and Measures  We identified and defined asthma exacerbations as mild (new oral corticosteroid medication order), moderate (emergency department encounter), or severe (hospitalization).

Results  We identified 20 749 mild, 1870 moderate, and 4782 severe asthma exacerbations, and frequency matched these to 18 693, 9350, and 14 104 control index dates, respectively. In 3-level adjusted models, there was an association between the highest group of the activity metric for each UNGD phase compared with the lowest group for 11 of 12 UNGD-outcome pairs: odds ratios (ORs) ranged from 1.5 (95% CI, 1.2-1.7) for the association of the pad metric with severe exacerbations to 4.4 (95% CI, 3.8-5.2) for the association of the production metric with mild exacerbations. Six of the 12 UNGD-outcome associations had increasing ORs across quartiles. Our findings were robust to increasing levels of covariate control and in sensitivity analyses that included evaluation of some possible sources of unmeasured confounding.

Conclusions and Relevance  Residential UNGD activity metrics were statistically associated with increased risk of mild, moderate, and severe asthma exacerbations. Whether these associations are causal awaits further investigation, including more detailed exposure assessment.

Asthma is a common disease with large individual and societal burdens, so the possibility that UNGD may increase risk for asthma exacerbations requires public health attention. As ours is the first study to our knowledge of UNGD and objective respiratory outcomes, and several other health outcomes have not been investigated to date, there is an urgent need for more health studies. These should include more detailed exposure assessment to better characterize pathways and to identify the phases of development that present the most risk.

The article seems quite impressive but the devil is in the details or rather the map they provide to demonstrate their claims. This shows the occurrence of spudded wells and the incidence of asthma. They show the area covered with recorded incidence of asthma and then colour-coded numbers of patients with asthma.

Dark blue means the highest incidence and thus should coincide with greatest number of wells. Oh dear! They do not as the highest number of wells coincides with low incidence of asthma!

Apart from the fact that authors did not consider other causes of asthma – air pollution, smoking, obesity etc , the map simply does not support their claims, which are assertion-based rather than evidence-based.

Seth Whitehead deals with it more fully in his EID article cited below.

 

asthma

More and more dealing with anti-fracking claims is like dealing with creationism. all you need to do is a bit of simple checking with a moderate grasp of the science involved and the arguments crumble to dust (possibly carcinogenic or at least harmful).

Recently a prestigious peer-reviewed paper linking fracking to cancer was retracted  https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/fracking-will-give-you-cancer-not/

not to mention the embarrassing refusal of David Smythe’s geological paper https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/05/16/david-smythe-anti-fracking-geologist/

or MEDACT’s study guided by Mike Taylor https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/medacts-madact-on-fracking/ Medact have backed off and mostly emphasise climate change issues.

Yet we are told there are hundreds of peer-reviewed papers against fracking, but these are challenged  and often retracted.

Speaking sarcastically the biggest health risks of fracking are Stress-related illnesses due to scaremongering!

 

 

And also energy in depth give sound arguments why the paper is worthless.

http://energyindepth.org/marcellus/despite-provocative-headlines-new-pa-study-fails-to-link-fracking-to-asthma/

Despite Provocative Headlines, New Pa. Study Fails to Link Fracking to Asthma

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Geisinger Health Systems have teamed up again to release another study of the potential impacts of oil and gas development in the Marcellus, this time focusing on exacerbations of asthma attacks. This new study claims those who live near shale gas wells are “1.5 to four times likelier to have asthma attacks than those who live far away.”

Just to provide some quick context, this is the same team of researchers who published a study claiming premature birthrates were higher in counties closest to shale wells, even though theywere right in line with the national premature birth rate. One of the researchers that stands out is Brian Schwartz, a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute which has called fracking a “virus.” Considering that background, it’s not surprising that, despite the fact that study after study, including data from the Environmental Protection Agency, has shown that fracking does not harm air quality, the researchers apparently started the study with the following preconceived (and debunked) assumption.

“UNGD has been associated with air quality and community social impacts. Psychosocial stress, exposure to air pollution, including from truck traffic, sleep disruption, and reduced socioeconomic status are all biologically plausible pathways for UNGD to affect asthma exacerbations.”

As the researchers likely intended, the study produced provocative headlines like “Health study shows connection between asthma attacks and gas drilling” even though it actually doesn’t show that and the authors openly admit that. Here are some important things to keep in mind when reading this study:

Fact #1: Authors admit they have no data to link asthma exacerbations to fracking

By comparing the electronic health records of 35,508 asthma patients “with and without exacerbations” treated at Geisinger Clinic between 2005 and 2012, the authors claim to have identified 20,749 mild asthma exacerbation instances (new oral corticosteroid medication order), 1,870 moderate (emergency department visit) and 4,782 severe (hospitalization) asthma exacerbations that they claim show an “association” to residential proximity to natural gas development.

“Association” is the key word in the latter sentence — the authors concede right off the bat they have no data to show causation attributable to shale development:

“Residential UNGD activity metrics were statistically associated with increased risk of mild, moderate, and severe asthma exacerbations. Whether these associations are causal awaits further investigation, including more detailed exposure assessment.” (pg. 1)

Reuters rightly reported that “The study doesn’t prove fracking causes asthma or makes symptoms worse.”

Fact #2: Data show counties with highest number of asthma sufferers have little to no shale development; Includes no data for Washington County, which has the most shale wells

One would think that if you were going to study whether fracking contributed to asthma exacerbations you could want to compare patients with exacerbations in counties with shale development to patients with exacerbations in counties without shale development. But the researchers didn’t do that. Instead, they only looked at whether patients with exacerbations lived near a shale well.

What’s more than a little interesting is the fact the areas researchers studied (outlined in the graphic below in gray) which had the highest concentrations of asthma sufferers have little no shale gas production. Energy In Depth has added the names of three high production counties — Bradford and Tioga, which were included in the study, and Washington County:

The above graphic shows that most of the counties with significant numbers of asthma patients have little to no shale gas production.

Curiously, the county with the most shale gas wells in the state, Washington County, wasn’t even included in the study. A vast majority of Geisinger’s patients reside in the counties highlighted in dark blue, each of which have little to no natural gas development.

So based on the graphic above, it is clear that a vast majority of the 35,000-plus asthma patients included in the evaluation live in areas with little-to-no development. Which begs the question: How relevant could the relatively small number of patients included in the study who reside close to natural gas wells be considering a vast majority of Pennsylvania residents who live in areas with shale development were not included in the study?

All of this brings us back to the question of why the researchers didn’t compare data county-by-county. For instance, although between just 21 and 63 Geisinger asthma patients live in Bradford County — which has the second-most shale wells as any county in the state — data comparing Bradford County asthma exacerbation rates with counties with no shale development might have given a better picture of whether there was an association. But maybe the data didn’t support the researchers’ narrative, and therefore wasn’t included in the study?

What’s more, not only were a vast majority of Pennsylvanians who actually live close to natural gas wells not included in the study, the researchers included 72 patients who reside in New York state, which has, of course, banned fracking.

Fact #3: Researchers admit severe exacerbations occurred in patients who smoked or were overweight – yet they still suggest it’s because of fracking

Not surprisingly, the researchers’ data revealed that smokers and people who were older or obese suffered the most severe asthma exacerbations:

“Compared with patients with mild and moderate exacerbations, patients with severe exacerbations were more likely to be female, older, current smokers, and obese.”

The fact that the researchers failed to prove causation isn’t surprising considering asthma has numerous triggers including airborne allergens, animal dander, mold, smoke, cockroaches and dust mites. According to the Mayo Clinic,

Exposure to various irritants and substances that trigger allergies (allergens) can trigger signs and symptoms of asthma. Asthma triggers are different from person to person and can include:

  • Airborne allergens, such as pollen, animal dander, mold, cockroaches and dust mites
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold
  • Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)
  • Cold air
  • Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke
  • Certain medications, including beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen (Aleve)
  • Strong emotions and stress
  • Sulfites and preservatives added to some types of foods and beverages, including shrimp, dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer and wine
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acids back up into your throat

The researchers also concede that one of the study’s limitations is that it doesn’t consider what the patients’ occupations are, which could be major contributors to exacerbating their asthma.

Interestingly, in a recent radio interview, Dr. Theodore Them, the Chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine for Guthrie Health Systems in Bradford County, Pa. noted that studies on shale often leave out the very crucial element of “confounders” as the authors here have done. As Dr. Them put it,

“And there can be confounders such as smoking habits, drinking habits, drug use that never get accounted for in these studies and cause people to come to the wrong conclusions.”  (28:36-30:09)

Fact #4: Multiple Pennsylvania studies have shown the oil and gas industry is not impacting air quality in areas of development.

Schwartz states in the study’s press release, “We are concerned with the growing number of studies that have observed health effects associated with this industry,” but it is more likely that he and his colleagues are actually concerned that there are numerous studies showing the opposite is true. Just to name a few:

  • A recent Pennsylvania report commissioned by Fort Cherry School District in southwest Pennsylvania actually examined air emissions at a nearby well site in Washington County — the state’s most active shale county — and “did not show anything remarkable with respect to chemicals detected in the ambient air. When volatile compounds were detected, they were consistent with background levels measured at the school and in other areas in Washington County. Furthermore, a basic yet conservative screening level evaluation shows that the detected volatile compounds were below health-protective levels.”
  • Another recent Marcellus study led by researchers at Drexel University found low levels of air emissions at well sites. As they explained, “we did not observe elevated levels of any of the light aromatic compounds (benzene, toluene, etc.)” and “there are few emissions of nonalkane VOCs (as measured by PTR-MS) from Marcellus Shale development.” Another Pennsylvania study by Professional Service Industries, Inc., commissioned by Union Township in Pennsylvania that found “Airborne gas and TVOC levels appear to have been at or near background levels for the entire monitoring periods in the three locations monitored.”
  • The Pa. DEP conducted air monitoring northeast Pennsylvania and concluded that the state “did not identify concentrations of any compound that would likely trigger air-related health issues associated with Marcellus Shale drilling activities.” A similar report for southwestern Pennsylvania came to the same conclusion.
  • A peer-reviewed study looking at cancer incidence rates in several Pennsylvania counties found “no evidence that childhood leukemia was elevated in any county after [hydraulic fracturing] commenced.”

There are several more examples of studies using direct measurements finding low emissions throughout the country that the researchers apparently chose to ignore when making the stereotypical activist claim that, “Unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) has community and environmental impacts.”

Even studies conducted by fracking opponents have shown no elevated health risk near fracking sites, albeit after they garnered the desired headlines. A corrected version of a 2015 University of Cincinnati found that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) emissions in Carroll County, Ohio, are well below levels deemed of concern by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The original retracted study exaggerated cancer risk by 725,000 percent due to what the researchers later claimed was an “honest calculation error.”

Fact #5: Improved U.S. air quality — courtesy of fracking — is actually reducing asthma

Not only does the Johns Hopkins asthma study dismiss the aforementioned Marcellus studies that have shown low emissions at well sites, it also ignores the fact that fracking is the No. 1 reason that three pollutants linked to asthma — nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) are all in rapid decline.

A recent study of the U.S.’s top 100 biggest power plants, which account for 85 percent of the country’s electricity, found that SO2 emissions are down 80 percent, while NOx emissions are down 75 percent. PM 2.5 levels decreased 60 percent from 2005 to 2013, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The reasons for these declines is obvious, considering power plants have traditionally been the biggest source of this pollution and power plants just happen to be shifting from coal to natural gas at a record pace. Natural gas emits one-third the nitrogen oxide as coal and just one percent of the sulfur oxide of coal, and the two pollutants combine to form PM 2.5.

Recent World Health Organization data indicates that the U.S. is reducing these air pollutants while much of the world continues to struggles, which WHO states contributes to increased risk of asthma and other health problems:

“As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them.”

Ironically, the U.S.’s progress in improving air quality, thanks in large part to the Marcellus Shale, is perhaps most evident in New York, which has infamously banned fracking.

The “Big Apple” has the cleanest air in over 50 years, thanks to an increased use of natural gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid this out in a press release in 2013, stating:

“Today, because of the significant improvements in air quality, the health department estimates that 800 lives will be saved each year and approximately 1,600 emergency department visits for asthma and 460 hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular issues will be prevented every year. The City expects further improvements in air quality and the future health of all New Yorkers as buildings continue to convert to cleaner fuels over the next several years.”

In 2005-2007, it’s estimated that PM2.5 levels in New York City contributed to over 3,100 deaths, over 2,000 hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and 6,000 emergency department visits for asthma annually.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has also developed a factsheet that explains how natural gas reduces asthma attacks:

“This shift has also yielded significant public health benefits, avoiding thousands of premature deaths and more than 100,000 asthma attacks in 2015 alone.”

So, even assuming for a moment that the Johns Hopkins study’s “association” of asthma exacerbation could actually be proven as causal, it is clear that shale development has done far more to reduce asthma and other troublesome ailments than it has done to make them more prevalent.

Fact #6: Study conducted and funded by fracking opponents

We have to give Schwartz some credit: after producing numerous studies that fail to disclose that he’s a fellow at the anti-fracking Post Carbon Institute (something EID has brought to lightwith his previous studies) he finally disclosed that fact in this latest study:

“Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Schwartz is a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute (PCI), serving as an informal advisor on climate, energy, and health issues. He receives no payment for this role. His research is entirely independent of PCI and is not motivated, reviewed, or funded by PCI. No other disclosures are reported.”

The study also received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: at least three of itsboard members are also on the board of World Wildlife Fund, which has made it clear that it is, “against the use of fracking to extract shale gas – or any other ‘unconventional’ fuels – from the ground.”

The study also used satellite data from Skytruth, a group that is against hydraulic fracturing and indeed all industrial activity. Skytruth is funded by numerous anti-fracking groups, including the Tides Foundation, Greenpeace, Oceana and the Heinz Endowments.

Conclusion

The researchers claim this study “adds to a growing body of evidence tying the fracking industry to health concerns.” Problem is, the study — and many others like it — actually doesn’t have any evidence to prove causation, while numerous studies that actually provide real evidence that fracking is reducing asthma throughout the U.S. continue to be overlooked.

Edit
This further blog continues the hatchet job.
http://energyindepth.org/marcellus/pa-health-report-destroys-activist-fracking-asthma-study-conclusion/
This map from a PA state survey puts the knife in further.

More details in this extensive paper.

 

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When will the paper be retracted?

There are Dinosaurs in the Bible? Job 40-41

 

Dinosaurs-Built-Stonehenge-----Sounds-Legit

One of my favourite recent claims from Creationists is that early people used dinosaurs to build Stonehenge. That is perfectly reasonable if the earth is only 10000 years old and dinos lived alongside humans. Ken Ham has written books on it has a museum on Kentucky to prove it

51gBlHMEfwL__SS500_edendinos

and is now building a life-size ark  – with modern construction methods.

One of the crazy bits of misinterpreting the Bible is to calaim the the book of Job tells us all about dinosaurs.

Here Greg Neyman shreds this wonderful bit of eisegesis! Enjoy!

 

A review of the creation science theory that Job 40-41 refers to dinosaurs

Source: Creation Science and Biblical Interpretation, Job 40-41, Dinosaurs in the Bible?

 

Caution Creationists3

The Mistrust of Science and what it means for natural gas.(= GMO +YEC)

I always value Nick Grealy’s comments on fracking and his articles are consistently good.

His comments on the pseudoscience of anti-fracking also apply to Creationism, anti-GMO, anti-vaxxers, anti-global warming etc.

They come from the smugness of the secure who don’t need to struggle to live and “know not what they do” for the less advantaged.

I am tempted to comment on the first paragraph, but assure all that I look much younger than Nick

http://www.nohotair.co.uk/index.php/57-content/front-page/3308-the-mistrust-of-science-and-what-it-means-for-natural-gas

sci placeboI’m in general good health. I never get so much as a sniffle, haven’t had a headache in years, and as long as I stay away from mirrors I feel 30 years old. Thanks to either good genes or the beneficial aspects accruing from twenty years of smoking, drinking and staying up all night, I often appear ten years or so younger than I actually am.

Don’t let that fool you. I’ve also had a fractured skull leading to two brain operations, a burst stomach artery, two separate forms of cancer and a heart valve replacement. Never once during my involuntary medical adventures did I ask to be prescribed the treatment 3% of doctors recommend. In short, I trust science.

I’ve noted here before that natural gas opponents on the other hand, too often choose to cite the outliers in science. And let’s be fair, science isn’t a democracy. Galileo presents an obvious example where one person disrupted conventional wisdom. In the modern era we have the relatively unsung, but spectacular, case of Barry Marshall and Robin Warren who counter to all conventional medical thinking discovered peptic ulcers were not caused by stress, spicy food and too much stomach acid, but by a virus which shouldn’t even have existed. They won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2005.

A recent piece in the New Yorker by a surgeon, Atul Gawande came to my attention ironically enough through a tweet by Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director at the Grantham Institute which studies climate change (on which we agree how overwhelming evidence supports it) but also one who frequently cites outlier studies that paint natural gas in a negative light. Just as often, he chooses to ignore any which show the opposite. Like many communications professional in the climate sector, he often enthuses about emerging technologies that may – or may not- be ready for prime time. Equally, although he too welcomes the two great climate wins of lower carbon emissions and lower carbon intensity, he chooses to present them mostly as wins for renewable technology alone, not for the other key trends of efficient design and the coal to gas switch.

Gawande barely mentions climate -or energy at all, being a physician. Nevertheless, there is much read across here for the natural gas debate. Much of what Dr Gawande says rings a rather depressing bell. I commend the whole piece, but this extract refers firstly to an issue we resolved in the UK a long time ago, but a growing one in the United States – often among the same constituency as fracking opponents – the anti-vaccination movement.

People are prone to resist scientific claims when they clash with intuitive beliefs. They don’t see measles or mumps around anymore. They do see children with autism. And they see a mom who says, “My child was perfectly fine until he got a vaccine and became autistic.”

Now, you can tell them that correlation is not causation. You can say that children get a vaccine every two to three months for the first couple years of their life, so the onset of any illness is bound to follow vaccination for many kids. You can say that the science shows no connection. But once an idea has got embedded and become widespread, it becomes very difficult to dig it out of people’s brains—especially when they do not trust scientific authorities. And we are experiencing a significant decline in trust in scientific authorities.

Today, we have multiple factions putting themselves forward as what Gauchat describes as their own cultural domains, “generating their own knowledge base that is often in conflict with the cultural authority of the scientific community.” Some are religious groups (challenging evolution, for instance). Some are industry groups (as with climate skepticism). Others tilt more to the left (such as those that reject the medical establishment). As varied as these groups are, they are all alike in one way. They all harbor sacred beliefs that they do not consider open to question.

To defend those beliefs, few dismiss the authority of science. They dismiss the authority of the scientific community. People don’t argue back by claiming divine authority anymore. They argue back by claiming to have the truer scientific authority. It can make matters incredibly confusing. You have to be able to recognize the difference between claims of science and those of pseudoscience.

Pseudoscience is especially strong in the UK fracking debate. An engineer, a handful of doctors, or one geologist are often cited as being the Galileo or Marshall and Warren of our time. But the important point is that one or a handful of outliers are their authorities. It used to be said that you can choose your opinion, but you can’t choose your facts.  Today apparently, one can also choose your science. Gawande continues, echoing my point cited above in reference to methane emissions, chemicals and even seismology, but specifically addressing many issues of the day:

Science’s defenders have identified five hallmark moves of pseudoscientists. They argue that the scientific consensus emerges from a conspiracy to suppress dissenting views. They produce fake experts, who have views contrary to established knowledge but do not actually have a credible scientific track record. They cherry-pick the data and papers that challenge the dominant view as a means of discrediting an entire field. They deploy false analogies and other logical fallacies. And they set impossible expectations of research: when scientists produce one level of certainty, the pseudoscientists insist they achieve another.

It’s not that some of these approaches never provide valid arguments. Sometimes an analogy is useful, or higher levels of certainty arerequired. But when you see several or all of these tactics deployed, you know that you’re not dealing with a scientific claim anymore. Pseudoscience is the form of science without the substance.

I trust Gawande. He’s a doctor. But he also highlights some issues transferable to the natural gas debate. One of several mistakes the gas industry has made is assuming that people listen to facts. Another is not reaching out to new audiences, an issue not unconnected to spending precious resources only preaching to the already converted. The environmental movement is equally guilty of course. The extreme churches, right and left,  often have a common business model: Think of it as tithing in reverse- priests pay their own congregations.

Either pro- or anti-, the general public increasingly don’t listen to the facts, they listen to the messengers. They listen not to the noise, but to the signal.

I’ve also mentioned the concept of “surprising validatorsbefore.  Surprising validators only arise when they have information -from communication – to start their journey from. After that it’s important for them, and them alone to speak to their congregation.  Stephen Tindale in the UK is a classic example, but I’ve always tried to be one too. I’m obviously a natural gas supporter – but not to the exclusion of anything except coal. Or pseudoscience.

Gary Sernovitz’s inspiring book the “The Green and The Black” shows there is at least one other metropolitan liberal progressive apart from I who also supports natural gas.

I would hope communication works both ways. I have a lot of people on the right who read me here, and sometimes I’ve turned down money from conservative groups. Yet I have influenced them on climate. The liberal ones have never offered sadly.

That’s a shame. I speak to a lot of greens in my sometimes apparently quixotic quest to explore for shale gas in London. After all not only are they my neigbours, they’re also my tribe. I surprise them by not having horns, not denying the climate, and sharing most every other value they hold.

But, when, not if, the London project comes to pass, there may be another barrier. “Conventional wisdom” investors, or at least those from the right, are convinced (by the protestors!) that I would never get acceptance that would allow any progress.  To that I can only say one thing: They too need to get out of their bubble. Speaking to people, instead of demonising or giving up on them may show how the natural gas industry is pushing on an open door.

But first one has to discover the door, and then turn the handle. Afterwards, as in most things, and here I refer to my medical adventures again, one finds that things aren’t so scary after all and there are nice people only too happy to help.

Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth

An excellent book about a wonderful place which Creationists are determined to misunderstand

Age of Rocks

Book Review
Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth
by Carol Hill, Gregg Davidson, Tim Helble, and Wayne Ranney (editors)
(hardback from Amazon or direct from the publisher for under $30)

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Prelude to Catastrophe: Why this book is so needed today

When I was 16 years old, I encountered the first book I ever read about geology. It was the first step of many toward a doctorate in the discipline. To this day, I can still praise Steven Austin’s Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe as a simple primer on the processes by which sedimentary rocks form. His explanations of features like cross bedding, faulting, erosion, and layering were clear, accessible, and generally accurate. Yet Austin’s book did not gain popularity for accomplishing what any introductory textbook already had. His provocative message was that the Grand Canyon was laced with fingerprints of a recent global catastrophe, as described in chapters 6-9 of the…

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