Dec 24 2007

Debate With Hollow-Earth Proponent – Neal Adams

I will be on vacation and away from a broadband connection for the holidays, so for this week I will post a written debate I had with Neal Adams following his interview on the Skeptics Guide podcast. Each day (not including the 25th) will cover one exchange, with Neal’s arguments followed by my response. Each exchange covered a number of topics, but I will try to keep organized to make it easier to follow. Also, for full disclosure I have edited the format of Neal’s posts (at his request) to make them more readable. I changed punctuation and formatting only, not content.

Merry Christmas for those who celebrate it. Best wishes of the season to all of my readers. I will resume my regular posts on January 1st.

Neal Adams Writes:

This whole thing usually comes as a surprise to most folks and you will recall that I tried to warn you that a short time like your podcast could hardly be enough time to cover all this. In the end you fellows made a “cartoon” of it without realizing it because we, for logical reasons, hopped from area to area – too quickly to keep up with it all. Because this theory, as I said, lays over science like a new matrix, and each area first must be understood, then seen to link and be supported by all others . This is not common in today’s approach to science, mores the pity. The cartoon resulted! ……’This fellow is saying all science is wrong. He’s nuts.’

Of course that is not what is happening at all.

Showing how an Earth could grow led inexorably to all the rest, though one may not think so on first blush. I start with a simple premise: instead of the continents being joined on one side of the Earth, which made no sense from the get-go…….UM…….why? You see………?

1. the planets on one side would create a shift in the center of Earth’s gravity , Pangea-ward of 4 kilometers …….which would sink the center of Pangea and raise the middle of the Pacific above sea level.
2. The upper continental plates match all around the world.
3. Teracarnasaurus lived only between 89 and 93 million years ago. This large dinosaur has been found in France and Southern Africa. Impossible because at that time Pangea had been broken in half and the top island was at the North Pole and the bottom half was at the South Pole ….between the two a gigantic sea that we call the Tethys Sea, 2000 miles wide – a long commute for the Teracarnasaurus. In fact, Impossible!

There is so much more!

At any rate:…….I realized the Earth must’ve grown. WHY????……..hmmmmm
1. Continental plates are 1 to 4.5 BILLION years old,…While the deep oceanic plates are A. Constantly spreading and B. no older than 180 million years old and C. Deep down and lower than the continental plates by 3 MILES on average!.. THAT’S THREE MILES.
2. All the continents fit neatly together perfectly!
3. Dinosaurs were 4 times as large as animals, group for group, of today.
4. We are told by engineers that the top weight of flying creatures today, engineering wise, is 25 pounds. Flying dinosaurs were far bigger. Dragonflies had see-through delicate wings and can fly in our thick air at their present size but at 2 feet across their wings would collapse, etc.
5. The shallow seas on the continental plates were 400 to 500 feet deep. That brings sea level up to at least 400 feet deeper than now. Where is all that water? Disappeared? No ! It’s gone.
No , it can’t be..
6. 40 years ago geologists “thought” all the plates were “floating ” on a sea of magma. A foolish notion in the extreme. Now, in the era of seismicity, we know that only .04 percent of the asthenosphere is molten, the rest is crystalized and solid silicate basalts and such. The thing is, the material under the continents is solid, all the way down. ALL-THE-WAY-DOWN! Kinda hard to justify that with swimming about.
7. Three hundred and fifty million years ago a day was 19 hours long, and on and on.

At……………any rate, the Earth clearly grew. That kind of throws a crimp into ……….everything……when you think of it everything,…..You know? I mean, if it’s true,…and it is, it’s a reality that can’t be dodged, though a lot of energy has been spent trying to dodge it. It means ……not just Earth grows , but ……….well ….every independant celestial body must do the same thing. It can’t be another way. Oh, why, oh why did I volunteer for this job. My god, think of it! It’s like a hot poker of potential revolution.

Think of Darwin. His idea was very simple on the face of it – everything evolved from a thing we now call natural selection. Before that…. well, thinking was different. I reckon Darwin must have known that his views differed from all brilliant thinkers of his day. Perhaps that gave him pause for a time or two. But you know the idea is, that we all serve the truth and we really don’t have much of a choice in the matter. If you don’t start at the same point that I started at you are not likely to have traveled the same road.

Of course I’m going to be dismissed by most educated scientists. For me, I’m not quite as impressed by formal education. I can read and there are no books forbiden to me in the end. I can think and I use many aspects of science in my work. I regularly speak to phycisists, geologists, engineers and a few paleoentologists. A small group so far, but growing rapidly lately.

All science that we know now will be overthrown eventually. I also study history. This will take a very big bite. The growth led to a methodology. I rejected many. The simplist seemed to fit the bill. Zero equals plus one minus one. Question is, can this simple clearly reproducable reality be shown to fulfill all the requirements of all forms of matter? Yes, it can. Can it be shown? Yes, it can. Can it be wrong? It’s possible that I didn’t think of something, sure. I doub’t it. Too much is right.
Could I be deluding myself? Hah, that’s the real question, isn’t it? I have this need not to be embarrassed by being wrong, so I seldom am.

Funny thing about the issues you guys raised after the show. You ought to review the questions raised. For example the gravity, EM question. The scientific community is trying to unify all the attracting forces …and somehow I’M WRONG for doing it?
Well anyway, ask away.
Neal Adams

Steve Novella Responded (note – some of these responses are to Neal’s points made during the SGU interview):


Thanks for writing. Regarding your theories, I will begin to address them below. But first I want to comment on your overall methodology. I hope you will take everything as constructive criticism. That is how science works, and if you want your ideas to get a hearing in the court of scientific opinion you will need to develop a thick skin toward criticism. Displaying hostility toward scientific criticism will only further marginalize you from mainstream science.

It seems that the main difficulty with your methods is that you rely too heavily on the argument from personal incredulity. In other words you dismiss explanations because they don’t make sense, and you support your own alternative because they do make sense. But making sense is not sufficient to establish that an idea is correct. You have not established the details necessary to actually disprove the standard models, nor have you provided empirical evidence to support your alternatives. If you want scientific acceptance, you will need to do this. That is how Darwin and Einstein convinced the world – evidence.

Specific Claims:

1) Evidence for a growing earth.

A) Pangea would have shifted Earth’s center of gravity causing it to sink in the ocean. This is not true. Planets are spheres because gravity crushes anything that sticks out too far. There is a limit to how large a “bump” can exist on the surface of the Earth, but smaller bumps can support their own weight so the surface is not perfectly smooth. On earth, the tallest mountain (Everest) is about 23,000 feet above sea level. The granitic crust can support its weight as well, even three miles (about 15,000 feet) above the sea floor.

B) Three fourths of the granitic crust is “missing”. Not necessarily. Catastrophic and other geological forces could have produced the unevenness of the Earth’s crust. For example, it is now well accepted that the early Earth was hit by a large meteor, throwing up debris that later coalesced into the moon (1). This catastrophic event would have left the surface of the earth very uneven.

C) Dinosaurs and other creatures of the time could not have been so big at present-day Earth size. You have not demonstrated this with any calculations or evidence. Please provide any relevant references. Pterosaurs (actually, they were reptiles but not dinosaurs) could fly in today’s gravity. They had bones lighter than birds, very large wingspans, and other anatomical features to increase lift. (2) Regarding the argument that dinosaurs could not have supported their weight, there are numerous papers calculating such weights and the consensus is that not only is there no problem with dinosaurs being as big as they were in 1g (today’s gravity), the evidence shows this was in fact true (3). Here is a relevant quote from the reference: “Bakker’s position is, the cross section of tendon attachment points implies that dinosaurs’ limbs were subjected to forces equivalent to those running and walking in 1g.” Also, you discussed evidence regarding T-Rex. But this evidence does not suggest T-Rex could not exist or even run in 1g, only that his top speed was about 25 mph (4). Your argument that he had to run faster to be a predator, and that he had to be a predator and not a scavenger because he looks like a predator is not a logical or evidence based argument, it is pure speculation.

D) What happened to the shallow seas? There are accepted models for sea levels, both locally and globally, to rise and fall by several hundred meters – enough to explain the continental inland seas (5). The basic answer is that when sea levels are low large amounts of water are locked into vast continental ice sheets. When this ice melts during warmer times, sea levels can rise by hundreds of meters. No mystery.

E) You wrote: “Teracarnasaurus lived only between 89 and 93 million years ago. This large dinosaur Has been found in France and Southern Africa . Impossible , because at that time Pangea had been broken in half and the top island was at the North Pole and the bottom half was at the South Pole ….Between the two a gigantic sea that we call the Tethys Sea, 2000 miles wide – a long commute for the Teracarnasaurus. In fact , Impossible!” This is factually incorrect (6). Europe and Africa remained next to each other with land bridges throughout this time period. They were never separated by thousands of miles of ocean.

F) The continents are solid all the way down. Incorrect. The asthenosphere is red hot, so the rock is soft “like taffy.” This allows for the continental and oceanic plates to move slowly over the asthenosphere. (7)

G) “Three hundred and fifty million years ago a day was 19 hours long.” If you are going to use this to argue for a smaller Earth than you have to address the standard explanation for this: the rotation of the Earth is slowing down because of tidal forces with the moon. This is also moving the moon farther away from the Earth. These same forces have already slowed the rotation of the moon so that it is locked with it revolution around the Earth – that is why we always see the same face of the moon. Again, no mystery. (8)

H) Question – If the Earth is growing as you argue, then why has this not been measured? Scientists can estimate the amount of matter falling to the Earth every day and this is growing the size of the Earth but insignificantly compared to your theory. If the Earth were growing as you say, why has it not been measured? We can use satellites to very accurately measure the size and shape of the Earth and this has already falsified your theory. These measurements, however, have detected the slow movement of the tectonic plates. (7)

2) The creation of matter

You argue that matter can be created spontaneously. There are numerous problems with this hypothesis. First, and most devastating, is that when particle-anti-particle pairs spontaneously emerge from the “quantum foam” their net spin, charge, and momentum are zero. They immediately rejoin and cancel each other out. You are essentially correct is characterizing this as zero = -1 and +1. But by the same token -1+1=0. In the end you still have nothing. The universe did not create something from nothing.

At present there is no observation of the creation of something from nothing. The conservation of matter and energy remains an iron-clad law of physics without a single proven counterexample. You have no justification for your speculation that these particle can rejoin to form a matter particle. Nothing of the sort has ever been observed in a particle accelerator or elsewhere.

You next speculate that your hypothetical primary matter particle could make protons and neturons, again without justification. Also, this ignores the copious evidence from particle physics about the nature of such particles.

Further, you argue that hydrogen can combine to produce heavier elements, and that this is occurring inside the Earth. However, this is contradicted by what we know about atomic physics. We can calculate the energy required to cause fusion of hydrogen into heavier elements. Tremendous pressure and heat is required under natural circumstances – and these processes produce large amounts of energy. Where is all the energy from fusion within the Earth going? Also, fusion can only get you elements as heavy as iron. You cannot get heavier than iron without the input of energy. Such energies only exist within exploding supernovae – that is where all the heavier elements are made. There is no theory that can accommodate the creation of heavier elements from hydrogen within the earth.

3) Gravity

The mechanics of gravity are well established both by mathematical modeling and by empirical evidence. The orbits of the planets are precisely modeled (especially once relativistic effects are taken into consideration). These models were used to send probes to the outer planets – with obvious and demonstrable success. Your theories are not compatible with existing theories of gravity and electromagnetism.

One insurmountable problem with using electromagnetism to account for the orbits of the planets is that the strength of large-scale electromagnetic fields is inversely proportion to the cube of the distance. Therefore, this force is far too short range to account for the orbits of the outer planets, the Kuiper belt, and the Oort cloud. Only gravity, which is inversely proportion to the square of the distance, is long range enough to account for this.

Further, you argued that all the planets have iron in their core and this is why it is plausible for them to be held by electromagnetic forces. Even if we assume this is true, there are many objects in the solar system, like comets, that are essentially ice and dust. These objects follow the laws of gravity in an identical fashion to the planets. The bottom line is that gravity is the only force capable of explaining the structure of the solar system and the galaxy, electromagnetism cannot account for it, and the evidence for this is overwhelming. Your statement that the scientific community is trying to unify the forces is a non-sequitur. It does not address the problem with your theories. Also, unification does not nullify the known properties and effects of the forces, it simply provides a unified theory of their nature and origin.

I will also reiterate a point briefly made during the show, that if all the planets and moons were increasing in mass over time, then the moons would have fallen into their planets and the planets into the sun long ago. Their orbits could not possibly be stable if new mass were being created in them.

That’s enough for now. I will await your response.


Steven Novella










I will post round 2 tomorrow.

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Debate With Hollow-Earth Proponent – Neal Adams”

  1. Steve Pageon 24 Dec 2007 at 9:46 am

    Have a great vacation, Steve.

  2. deciuson 24 Dec 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Thanks, Steve. Excellent idea, highly entertaining!

    I am just a few lines into it and the egregious errors and nonsense cut out of whole cloth have already choked me with laughter.

    WTF is a “Teracarnasaurus”, a character of Neal’s comics?
    Did he by any chance mean the group of Theropods which includes the Carnosauria and famously among them the Allosaur?

    In point 1 he crisply denies the possibility that the continents were joined to form the Pangea and in point 3, just a couple of lines below he garrulously proclaims: “Impossible because at that time Pangea had been broken in half…”, thus immediately contradicting himself.

    A cartoon resulted indeed.

    More later, if I survive the fun.

  3. Jim Shaveron 25 Dec 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Happy holidays to you and yours, Dr. Novella!

  4. John Conwayon 25 Dec 2007 at 7:15 pm

    Regarding pterosaurs (presumably Neal Adams is refering to them and not birds when he says “lying dinosaurs”), I’ll correct you on a small fact – their skeletons were no lighter than any other animals. Birds and pterosaurs both have hollow air-filled bones, but their bones are of larger dimensions. Imagine inflating normal bones with air like a balloon. In fact, many birds (and probably pterosaurs) have slightly higher relative skeletal mass than terrestrial animals.

    However, back to Neal Adams’ “animals were bigger in the past” argument; this is desperately wrong when it comes to flying animals. The average size of pterosaurs _increased_ during their evolution. The biggest pterosaurs were the last ones, in the Late Cretaceous, around 85-65 million years ago. The largest pterosaur, _Quetzalcoatlus northropi_, was from the very latest Cretaceous – and the very large pteranodontids were also late Cretaceous.

    Birds paint a similarly contradictory pattern. The first birds were generally crow-sized or smaller. It is much more recently that birds grew to giant sizes.

    Palagornithids were enormous pelican relatives similar to albatrosses, that had 6-meter wingspans and masses similar to the famously large _Pteranodon_. Palagornithids were relatively recent – and lived up to the Miocene (which lasted about five million years ago).

    Bigger still were the Teratornithids, South American giant birds of prey that lived until the Pleistocene – a mere ten thousand years ago! The largest, _Argentavis_ may have had a wingspan in the range of 8 meters, and weight 80kg. That puts it in the same size class as the biggest pterosaurs (bigger than the biggest Pteranodons) – just 8 million years ago.

    In short, the contention that flying animals have become smaller over time is flat wrong. In the case of pterosaurs, we see the opposite, a general increase over time. In birds we see more of a diversification in size, with the very largest generally being later.

  5. DLCon 25 Dec 2007 at 8:09 pm

    A well-written refutation of an unsupportable idea.
    Happy Holidays.

  6. Blake Staceyon 26 Dec 2007 at 2:24 pm


    One insurmountable problem with using electromagnetism to account for the orbits of the planets is that the strength of large-scale electromagnetic fields is inversely proportion to the cube of the distance.

    Technically, this is true of dipole fields, such as the magnetic field of a bar magnet or the electric field of two point charges separated by a fixed distance. The electric field from a single charge, or a spherical lump of charged matter, falls off as the square of the distance. For details, see any decent textbook on electromagnetism, such as David J. Griffiths’ Introduction to Electrodynamics.

    (Yes, I’m gliding over the near-field differences between electric and magnetic dipoles.)

  7. Steven Novellaon 26 Dec 2007 at 5:47 pm


    Thanks. This came up when this was originally posted on the show notes. Yes – magnetic field strength drops off as the square of the distance. But, large magnetic fields like the kind that are created by astronomical bodies like planets and stars drop off as the cube of the distance. This, obviously, is what is relevant to using the magnetic force to explain planetary motions.

  8. aduncanon 28 Dec 2007 at 3:25 pm


    Excellent, careful critique of another unusual claim.

    Your approximation of the height of Mt. Everest is off, though. You stated 23,000 feet. It is generally considered to be above 29,000 feet by most measurements.

    Alan Duncan

  9. Masala-Dosaon 05 Nov 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Steve- I just listened to the SKU interview today [4th Nov 2011]. You skilfully dissect the argument here. This blows the ‘Adams Gallop’ out of the water!

    I shall read (& listen) on to see how this develops.


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