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Four of the Most Dangerous Fraudulent Scientific Theories That Must Be Confronted

Climate-induced earthquakes, bottomless pits of oil, pet dinosaurs and a miraculous energy source: For the sake of public policy, it's important to debunk the lies.

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Gold’s hypothesis has been shown to defy the laws of thermodynamics ( pdf), but elements of it and other abiogenic scenarios persist on the fringes of the energy community—pumping up a belief in unlimited petroleum supplies, the existence of which is, in the minds of some, being concealed by big oil companies that want to keep oil scarce and its price high.

Belief in abiogenic oil is fed by several wells of evidence. Methane can come from mineral sources. It is generated, for example, in the rocks lining some mines. Most scientists who have examined such deposits have concluded that “resources of abiogenic energy gases in the Earth's crust are probably small and of little or no commercial interest.” However, some commercial gas fields are said to contain significant quantities of abiogenic methane ( pdf).

A few oil deposits have been found in non-sedimentary rock layers where no deposition of biological matter would have occurred. But it has been shown that normal biogenic oil could have migrated through the Earth’s crust from its site of formation into those non-sedimentary layers. No significant reserves of abiogenic oil have emerged, and there is no reason to believe in the existence of reserves big enough to keep us driving SUVs far into the future.

In the sociopolitical geography of the Web, enthusiasm for abiogenic oil usually runs in parallel with denial of human-induced climate change. That is logical, considering that we are all susceptible to wishful thinking of one kind or another. There is widespread realization that as world oil production declines, life will become much more difficult, and who wants that? But a world with a virtually infinite supply of oil would be a dream come true only for those who refuse to acknowledge the role of fossil carbon in climate disruption. For the rest of us, it’s a nightmare scenario.

3. Was 'The Flintstones' a work of nonfiction!?

I apologize for this one, but no weird-science list would be complete if it didn’t include at least one of those fantastic claims commonly made by creationists.

Especially popular is the story that “humans and dinosaurs lived together, at the same time." In many such scenarios, our ancestors are imagined to have hunted dinosaurs, but it's not clear whether they also kept them as pets or used them for transportation.

(There is something of a link here not only to the belief that a perceived increase in seismic activity is a sign of the end times, but also to the abiogenic-oil question. Belief in the recent creation of dinosaurs often coincides with belief in the recent creation of oil, especially among “conservative, flag-waving, proud Christian Americans,” as one abiogenic oiler calls himself.)

One strain of “evidence” for coexistence of humans and dinosaurs is the claim that their fossil footprints have been found together in the same rock strata. Probably the most famous such mingled prints were found near the Paluxy River southwest of Fort Worth, Texas, starting in 1910. But had they been bona fide, the “human” prints along the Paluxy, at 15 to 20 inches long, would have had to belong to veritable Goliaths. Finally, in 1989, a team of scientists found conclusive evidence that the so-called “ giant man prints” had actually been made by other dinosaurs.

Another debunked “discovery” involved the “Ica stones” of Peru, tens of thousands of small, rounded, apparently very old stones etched with fanciful figures. Some of those figures, it is said, closely resemble various species of dinosaur. When they first showed the Ica stones to outsiders in 1966, local residents claimed they had found them in a cave. But years later, they admitted they did the etching themselves, for sale to tourists. For artistic inspiration, they said, they had turned to “ illustrations from comic books, school books, and magazines.”

 
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