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How to insult a scientist August 19, 2010

Posted by Simon in Uncategorized.
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One thing that’s become clear as I read through articles related to the ALH84001 meteorite controversy is how personal and bitter some of the arguments were. Here’s a sample of some of my favourite quotes:

Jeffrey Bada, Scripps Institution of Oceanography – “This looks like stuff from Earth. It’s extremely dangerous to make these bold claims.”

Ralph Harvey, Case Western Reserve University – “To be brutally honest, nothing that’s been presented to me so far is compelling in any way, and everything that’s been presented can be explained in another way.”

John Bradley, MVA (a microanalysis company) – referring to the NASA group that made the initial claim –”I think it’s fair to say that there isn’t a meteoriticist on the face of the earth who believes them. In my mind, it’s finished. They are absolutely dead wrong on this one.”

Everett Gibson, NASA – referring to meteorite scientists who he says are trained to investigate high-temperature geological processes, not the low-temperature processes associated with life – “Suddenly they have a rock that has low-temperature processes in it, and it’s something different for them, and they may not have the tools or skills to work in this. ”

Malcolm Walter, Macquarie University – referring to some Australian research that supported the NASA claim – “I’ve had a quick look at their published article and it is nearly all about their observations in the modern environment rather than a comparison with Mars. When it comes to comparing with the Mars meteorite I don’t believe a word of it. They did some pretty nice work on modern bacteria and then got carried away with their own enthusiasm. These people are very skilled in the field of studying modern bacteria but are novices when it comes to thinking about life on another planet.”

Who said science was boring? In some later posts I’ll explore some ideas about why people got so worked up on both sides of the debate.

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