Researcher cites a tendency in science to ignore, rather than go after, theories believed to be false.
Two Stanford geologists are disputing the decade-old explanation of the large amount of coal accumulated during the Carboniferous Period. Associate Professor Kevin Boyce and Postdoctorate Research Fellow Matthew Nelsen collaborated with scientists across the country to release a paper this past month in which they propose a new understanding of coal development.
The previous hypothesis of coal accumulation focused on a temporal lag between the evolution of lignin production in woody plants and the evolution of lignin-degrading fungi to break down this new material. This would have resulted in the non-degraded lignin building up, depositing massive amounts of coal.
“But [this explanation] can’t be true,” Boyce said.
The paper that Boyce and Nelsen collaborated on uses several lines of evidence in order to disprove the old hypothesis.
The most convincing evidence includes a fossil…
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