Did Volcanoes Kill the Dinosaurs

The big news: scientists think a volcano caused the Permian mass extinction: http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/02/04/volcano-mass-extinction.html

Maybe we’re now ONE STEP CLOSER to believing that volcanoes killed the dinosaurs.

 One of my more memorable newspaper interviews was with Virginia Tech professor Dewey McLean who staked his reputation on that theory and suffered for it. (I’m greatly simplifying his ideas, obviously. Click here for the real thing, the The Deccan Traps Volcanism-Greenhouse Dinosaur Extinction Theory)

Here’s an excerpt from my 2000 article:

In the late 1970s, before the asteroid theory was introduced, McLean proposed that a massive volcanic eruption caused the demise of the dinosaurs.

Soon he and his supporters were locked in a furious debate with Nobel Prize-winning scientist Luis Alvarez and others who backed the asteroid scenario.

McLean was belittled both publicly and privately as he stood by his theory. The embarrassment stalled his career, he claims, and the stress cost him his health.

“It’s very difficult doing your research under such brutalizing conditions,” he said. “The volcanists have almost become extinct. But I’ve never stopped. I’m still here.”


McLean obtained a copy of a letter from Alvarez to another scientist that ridiculed the Tech researcher[McLean].

“As a horrible example of what can happen to a scientist when he clearly – in sight of all his peers – ignores important evidence, I’ll remind you of Dewey McLean. … Dewey is now a forgotten person in his field, or when he is remembered, it is only for a few good laughs, at the cocktail party at the end of a Deweyless meeting,” the letter read.

Perhaps after reading today’s volcano news, some of those cocktail party laffers are having second thoughts!


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