Wickramasinghe and Sir Fred Hoyle
Though Panspermia is not the focus of this blog, I consider the theory and body of evidence a friendly intellectual cousin to the Tusk’s Coherent Catastrophism and worthy of defense on the same grounds. Both philosophies (to use the old term) come from a place of humility in the cosmos — and both endure a fierce majority of opponents who attack not so new ideas with a nasty contempt beneath the expectations of fairly conducted debate. Such displays are particularly grating when the attacker has a demonstrably inferior intellect to the attacked.
An example of wonderful science being dismissed by a low-brow bully is the PlaitWickramasinghe affair of 2013. Last year Dr. Chandra Wickramasinghe announced the discovery of diatomaceous material in a meteorite, a notion previously endorsed by the President of the United States. This provoked popular science blogger Phil Plait to publish a series of juvenile assaults on the beloved Sri Lankan researcher [here here and here].
Plait is entitled to disagree with Wickramasinghe. But what disgusts the Tusk is his failure to respectfully acknowledge Chandra Wickramasinghe’s profound career of accomplishment in science — indeed astronomy, a subject with which Plait purports familiarity!
Science punk Plait makes no reference whatsoever to Wickramasinghe’s credentials or documented intellectual journey. Indeed, he attacks Dr. Wickramasinghe so directly and recklessly he creepily admits he is operating ad hominem:
Now, you might accuse me of using an ad hominem, an argument that cast aspersions on the person making the claim, and not attacking the claim itself. I’ll get to the claim in a moment, but sometimes an ad hominem is warranted! If Sylvia Brown claims she can predict someone’s future, you would be right to doubt her based on her past, since she has continually failed in every attempt to do so. If Jenny McCarthy claimed botox cures autism, again, you might be forgiven for doubting it based on her previous anti-vaccine and other false claims. You still need to examine the claims on their own merits, of course, but: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
So, to be polite about it, Wickramasinghe is something of a fringe scientist. Who would publish a paper by him?
When Wickramasinghe first walked the yards of Cambridge and published in Nature with his contemplative cohort Hoyle — Phil Plait’s cosmic life was created by Fisher-Price. Wickramasinghe has certainly forgotten more of science than Phil Plait has published.
I was comforted to see one of the few men alive who could adequately empathize with Dr. Wickramasinghe, Bill Napier, send Phil a one-day-to-be-iconic letter below in defense of his dear colleague. I wonder if Phil Plait even knows what it means to be collegial?
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