The Bos & Co

Bos Bet

Who knew? The Bos is a betting man. The recently retired federal scientist, global warming enthusiast, and unsuccessful Republican candidate for the New Mexico State Senate, tweeted his interest in a wager this week concerning the likelihood that the Hiawatha impact in Greenland would have occurred recently enough to cause the Younger Dryas climate crash, only 12,800 years ago.

So I took him up on it.  Here is my tweet accepting the challenge and proposing the terms of a wager:

If you are a regular reader, or have followed the controversy and read the journal articles, you may feel I have a solid wager based on the published evidence alone. But each side of a gamble comes with a set of assumptions, and my assumption is more nuanced than simply informed speculation concerning geophysical evidence for the date of the Hiawatha Crater.

The Bos thinks that it is highly unlikely for a massive impact to have occurred so recently because he assumes our observation of the evidence is unrelated to the impact itself. He offers a roulette analogy to demonstrate his reason for skepticism that the (literal) co-incidence of technological civilization (today) and a possible Younger Dryas impact (~12,782 years ago) could occur in such close temporal proximity given the much longer time span of the Pleistocene (~3,000,000 years).

To make his case, if you split time into buckets of distinct opportunity for two given occurrences (say the 3,000,000 years of the Pleistocene divided into 300 separate 10,000 year buckets) it is indeed unlikely to observe, in retrospect, that both balls settled down beside each other. If Event “A” is a given and known date, and Event “B” is a once-in-a-million year event, it is unlikely in Mark’s view for Event B to have occurred so closely to Event A, when both dates have been determined.

At first blush this seems rational, even persuasive. But years ago the Tusk came to believe this perspective is flawed. My confidence to wager is based in large part (but not entirely) on the following alternative formulation.

The Bos’ assumption that the two points in time are independent, and random with respect to one another, is incorrect because it ignores the strong indications from many disciplines that suggest an integral — not random — relationship between our current technologically aware position on the arrow of time, and the HolocenePleistocene Transition itself. In my judgement, the two “events” are not independent.

Mark presumes the YD Event–  and the modern human scientific knowledge to recognize the Event — our “frame of reference” — are unrelated.  In other words, he believes the Hiawatha Crater impact, Event “A” — and our unique point of human technological awareness, Event “B” — are distinct, and can be compared independently in terms of relative temporal probabilities.

Allen West and others have told me that Mark’s assertion is incorrect on its face. West correctly pointed out to me that the opportunity for the ball to fall in pocket 99 is the same for it to drop in pocket 23 or 76. Strictly, this is true. But I am sympathetic to Mark’s argument. The likelihood of the ball dropping into the range of, say, 33 – 66, is a lot higher than pocket 99 — right next door.

Putting aside West’s objection, Mark’s argument fails on a deeper level for me. If our ability to discover, publish, and debate the impact is not random in time — but indeed a result of the comet itself — all roulette wheel (or dice or dart) arguments are moot.

There seems to me reason to believe that modern human cultural progression (as uneven as it is) began at the Younger Dryas. It is well within mainstream science to accept that we humans were fundamentally re-directed by the unusual cold snap we call the Younger Dryas — and that redirection resulted in an accumulation of cultural knowledge that beget tweeting technological naked political apes like Mark Boslough. If civilization is a result of the Younger Dryas, than no civilian should be surprised if it were an extraordinary event that led to our current awareness. Put another way, the impact is extraordinary, and we are extraordinary — and this is not a coincidence.

The comet that created the Greenland crater is not a “random” event in time any more than your parents birth years are randomly related to your own. I agree with the late Han Kloosterman’s assertion that it is entirely likely that we — technologically aware humans — are a “pioneer species,” adapting to the aftermath of the comet. The Younger Dryas Impact is the starting point, and Mark Bosloughs, for better or worse, are its spawn.

Game on, Bos?


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