[Coral-List] Darwin was WRONG about reef formation

Osmar Luiz Jr osmarjluiz at gmail.com
Mon Oct 19 22:54:52 UTC 2020

Seeing these people bragging to prove Darwin’s wrong using the latest techology and 200 years of accumulated knowledge that wasn’t available to him just make my admiration for Charles Darwin’s observation skills and power of induction grows even bigger.


Osmar J. Luiz, Ph.D.
Research Fellow - Quantitative Aquatic Ecology
Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods
Charles Darwin University
Darwin NT, Australia

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> On 20 Oct 2020, at 3:01 am, Robert W Buddemeier via Coral-List <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:
> Yes, detail and precision are hallmarks of science.
> Yes, science advances by the process of falsification.
> Everything is uncertain, and thus, until we arrive at absolute perfection,
> everything can ultimately be demonstrated to be "wrong."
> In my opinion these principles can be and often are carried to
> anti-intellectual extremes, to which I attribute much of the public
> distrust of science.
> Unashamed confession:  I haven't read the article, just Doug's summary.  I
> also have not read Darwin's original work on the subject.  I have, however,
> done some work on the surface and shallow subsurface of atolls.
> My understanding is that Darwin set out to identify the origins of those
> interesting open reef structures scattered around the Indo-Pacific.  He
> came up with the NET CONTINUING growth of fringing reefs on the coasts of
> subsiding volcanoes (continuing is not necessarily continuous, although
> that would be a logical supposition in Darwin's time).  It was an extremely
> insightful conclusion, and fundamentally correct.  Did it explain
> everything we now know about atolls, almost 2 centuries later?  Of course
> not -- he can't be faulted for not being prescient, any more than Wegener
> can be faulted for not explicating the details of plate tectonics in
> support of his continental drift conclusion.
> So Darwin's theory needs refinement.  Initial theories pretty much all do.
> My question is, why the big headline now?  The Eniwetok (Enewetak) drilling
> project not only documented the coral-on-top-of-basalt theory; it also
> demonstrated the (recognized and published at the time) existence of
> unconformities, various kinds of diagenesis, and solution and erosion
> effects in the carbonate column.  Read the drilling logs and articles (USGS
> Prof Paper 260 & many many others).  Nobody used that to proclaim Darwin
> wrong then; the real excitement was (I think appropriately) that he was
> right about the basalt.
> It concerns me that this title  *appears to me* to be a case of unwarranted
> sensationalism, presenting the cumulative detail of 70 years of integrated
> reef research as having delivered a surprising result by demonstrating that
> a major scientific step forward taken over 150 years ago was not complete
> or completely correct.
> C'mon folks; when you are standing on the shoulders of a giant, don't
> gratuitously kick him in the head.
> Bob Buddemeier
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> On Sat, Oct 17, 2020 at 5:31 AM Douglas Fenner via Coral-List <
> coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:
>> or so says a new article:
>> Popular piece:
>> Study: Darwin's theory about coral reef atolls is fatally flawed
>> http://news.rice.edu/2020/10/12/study-darwins-theory-about-coral-reef-atolls-is-fatally-flawed-2/
>> Original review:
>> The origin of Modern Atolls: Challenging Darwin's Deeply Ingrained Theory
>> https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev-marine-122414-034137
>> My thoughts, based on reading the popular article and the abstract for the
>> review:
>> Yes, if you define an "atoll" as a ring of coral at the surface, and you
>> carefully ignore that it is on top of an accumulation of up to a mile of
>> coral reef carbonate, which is in turn on top of a two mile tall volcano
>> which all the evidence shows has indeed subsided with the ocean floor plate
>> as it moves across the ocean, then yes, sea level fluctuations with the
>> glaciation cycle are widely acknowledged to affect the coral reef
>> structure.  It appears that maybe the new thing in this review is that the
>> present ring is relatively young and built on top of the raised ring left
>> from low sea level stands when rainwater was dissolving the carbonate in
>> the center of the ring.  Actually, I don't think even that is new, though
>> their being a flat topped bank in between time may be new.  This is a
>> further embellishment on top of the Darwin theory, NOT a disproof of his
>> theory, which is heavily documented.  The argument back then was whether
>> there was a volcano under the carbonate, which drilling proved was correct
>> and is no longer in doubt.
>>     Perhaps by reading the entire review it will be clear that the review
>> isn't saying that Darwin was wrong about subsidence and a volcano being
>> under the carbonate, or that there was a sequence from fringing to barrier,
>> to atoll, but even the title of the review implies it is.  But of course
>> you attract a lot more attention saying that "Darwin was wrong."
>>      What do geologists think?
>> Cheers, Doug
>> --
>> Douglas Fenner
>> Lynker Technologies, LLC, Contractor
>> NOAA Fisheries Service
>> Pacific Islands Regional Office
>> Honolulu
>> and:
>> Coral Reef Consulting
>> PO Box 7390
>> Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA
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