Jurassic Morissette: Irony and a Quick look at the Cultural Forces that Shape Science

How did the dinosaurs die?  An asteroid crashed in Mexico creating a heat wave/ash cloud combo killing the dinosaurs in the process.  That’s basically gospel.  However, geologist Gerta Keller disagrees.  She attributes it to rising temperatures thanks to carbon dioxide being belched out of volcanos. In a recent Al Jazeera America article she accounts for the older asteroid theory this way: “We were in the midst of the Cold War, and the world was terrified of a nuclear explosion wiping us off the planet…Isn’t it sexy to think that this happened to the dinosaurs?”[1]

dinosaur_asteroid-250x190dr strangelove

I’m not a paleontologist and I wouldn’t dream of evaluating either claim.  As far as I’m concerned, when Jehovah made the earth under directions from his father, Elohim, he used pre-existing materials including dinosaur bones.[2]  However, while I’m not a scientist, I do listen to a lot of Alanis Morissette and feel qualified to point out irony.[3]

Alanis Morissette

Let’s revisit the quote: “We were in the midst of the Cold War, and the world was terrified of a nuclear explosion wiping us off the planet…Isn’t it sexy to think that this happened to the dinosaurs?”  That’s a very fine criticism which unveils that scientific theory does not exist in a vacuum separate from cultural and political movements.  In this case, fear of total annihilation from an object falling from the sky. Maybe the Doctors Alvarez drifted towards the asteroid theory because they knew it would resonate and launch them to academic stardom, maybe it was just part of the zeitgeist, or maybe they’re just plain right.

However, what baffles me is that Keller thinks her theory is removed from the same cultural processes.  Yes, during the cold war, everyone was afraid of the bomb.  But, what imminent force is threatening all life as we know it in the 21st century?  Climate change from carbon dioxide.  Isn’t it sexy to think that this happened to the dinosaurs?

[1] http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/6/6/everything-you-know-about-how-dinosaurs-died-is-wrong.html

[2] I don’t actually believe this, but Mormons of a certain generation sure do.

[3] The irony of this statement is not lost on me.

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