Reusch’s Moraine – Another “Consensus” Gone Awry

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There is a unique rock formation at Norway’s northern coast. Well, the rock itself is not unique at all, but its age is – 1,000 million years old. Actually, that age is not remarkable either as much of the earth’s surface is covered with ancient rocks of that age and older. So, what is so special about that particular rock?

Old Rocks

The earth has lots of old rocks, from the “Granite Shield” covering much of North America’s northeast to Greenland, Scandinavia, large parts of Africa, India, South America, Australia and Antarctica. The formation of most of these granite type rocks dates back well over a billion years.

Those ancient rocks were formed deep in the earth and were pushed up to the surface through the tectonic forces pulling some continents apart and pushing others together. For example, along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge the American continents are steadily moving further west, relative to Europe and Africa. The rate of that movement is only 5 cm (a couple of inches) per year but over time it adds up. At that rate it only took 100 million years to widen the distance to its present 5,000 km.

To put the age of 1,000 million years into perspective, some 200 million years ago the dinosaurs began to evolve and lasted until the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event some 66 million years ago. One thousand million years ago, there were only bacteria, fungi and algae on the earth, no higher organisms. So what then is so remarkable about that Norwegian rock? The answer is: It is thought to be a moraine; at least that has been the “consensus” by all scientific experts who have studied it over the seven decades following Reusch’s discovery.

Norway moraine

Moraines

By definition, moraines are glacial deposits. Reusch’s Moraine (RM) was named after its discoverer, the Norwegian geologist Hans Henrik Reusch (1852-1922) who found it in 1891 at the edge of the Varangerfjord near the northern tip of Norway. Reusch and dozens of expert geologists over the following 75 years concluded that this rock was an ancient breccia deposit of glacial origin. If there ever was a scientific consensus about anything, it was as hard as the rock of Reusch’s Moraine: The rock was about 1,000 million years old and the result of a glacial deposit. Period, end of discussion. When I visited the site with a friend (then an undergrad geologist) 50 years ago, he explained to me the great geological significance of the find.

Later in the 1960s new studies by Schermerhorn and other scientists indicated that the formation of RM was not necessarily of glacial origin but more likely to be a conglomerate (tillite) resulting from a massive sub-marine debris flow. A brief review describing all the reasons for the new theory was published in 1997 by M. J. Oard; it is available on the web. Quite surprisingly then, yet another, more recent study of the underlying rock has concluded the exact opposite. Once again, the idea of a glacial origin of RM is gaining weight.

Consensus”

The history of conclusions about the formation of Reusch’s Moraine is a prime example of the fallacy of the “consensus” idea in scientific fields. For three quarters of century all scholars agreed on one theory, perfect consensus if you want. Then, new findings led to an entirely different view which held for about another quarter century. Now, with the latest findings, the opinions about the origin of RM are more divided than ever.

Clearly, consensus is not a valid scientific concept. It carries no scientific weight whatsoever; in fact it is both utterly meaningless and counter to true progress. Neither one of the long-held “consensus” opinions about the origin of RM prove anything.

The widely claimed “consensus” about anthropogenic global warming, climate change and the idea of carbon dioxide as “evil extraordinaire” are even greater nonsense. Future generations will wonder why we have not learned from history’s examples of such false concepts.

(article updated: April 29, 2013)

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