"A curious phenomenon occurred at the farm of Balvullich, on the estate of Ord, occupied by Mr. Moffat, on the evening of Monday last. Immediately after one of the loudest peals of thunder heard there, a large and irregular-shaped mass of ice, reckoned to be nearly 20 feet in circumference, and of a proportionate thickness, fell near the farm-house. It had a beautiful crystalline appearance, being nearly all quite transparent, if we except a small portion of it which consisted of hailstones of uncommon size, fixed together. It was principally composed of small, square, diamond-shaped, of from 1 to 3 inches in size, all firmly congealed together. The weight of this large piece of ice could not be ascertained; but it is a most fortunate circumstance, that it did not fall on Mr. Moffat's house, or it would have crushed it, and undoubtedly have caused the death of some of the inmates. No appearance whatever of either hail or snow was discernible in the surrounding district." (Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, 47:371. 1849)
Reports such as this may record the arrival of cometary debris--possibly vaporized and refrozen or perhaps remnants of larger pieces. Little consideration has been given to the environmental consequences of dumping a huge quantity of H2O into the atmosphere; if it remains aqueous the effects would probably be minimal, however if the source arrived with sufficient energy to dissociate a large quantity of water molecules, a short lived volume of oxygen enhanced atmosphere might form. Should this occur near to ground the effect could be locally catastrophic. An event witnessed by the French explorer Rene Laudonniere in the year 1564 may record such a happening. This took place near Fort Caroline which was on the shore of Florida's St. Johns River.
". . . On August 29 there fell on the fort such a stroke of lightning that I think it more worthy of interest and of being recorded than any unusual thing that has yet come to pass, more strange than historians have ever written about. The fields were at that time all green and half covered with water, and yet the lightning in one instant consumed about 500 acres and burned with such a bright heat that all the birds which lived in the meadows were consumed. This thing continued for three days. It left us in wonderment, because we could not guess where all the fire came from."
Laudonniere goes on to recount how this event gave him an advantage in dealing with the local Indians who had surmised that the destruction was caused by French cannonade. He then relates a brief sketch of the aftermath:
". . . At the end of three days the fire was entirely extinguished. But for two days after that there was such excessive heat in the air that the river near which we had our habitation became so hot that it seemed almost to boil. Many fish died and of many species, to such an extent that in the mouth of the river alone there were enough dead fish to fill fifty carts. The putrefaction in the air bred so many dangerous diseases among us that most of my men fell sick and seemed about ready to finish their days. However, our good Lord took care of us and we all survived without a single death." (C.E. Bennett, Three Voyages, 1975)
Though one could theorize that lightning happened to strike at a time when swamp gas had somehow become spread over 500 acres, it would seem a strained explanation. The natives unfamiliarity with the phenomenon argues against such a hypothesis.
The importance of this line of research extends beyond academic interest. If conclusive evidence of relatively recent civilization crushing impacts can be recovered the information gained will certainly affect contemporary assessments of defense priorities. It seems, for a variety of reasons, quite possible that by identifying the source of the widespread belief in a wrathful sky-god we may be able to move beyond a war-prone mentality into an era which finds great comfort and reward in pursuing a greater understanding of what this author calls Grand Omniverse Design. As mentioned earlier, the artwork of Pleistocene people does not depict warfare--instead, a reverence for nature is expressed. Their world was one of abundance: in such an environment there is little incentive for conflict. The fall of "Lucifer," or whatever we choose to call the former of the Carolina Bays, was quite likely the event which set the stage for subsequent large scale conflict.
Scarcity became a fact of life for survivors who had little choice but to adapt their behavior to such conditions. Researchers should not underrate the social impact of events which caused widespread physical damage to the biosphere. The arduous agrarian social structure probably evolved as a survival strategy within a fauna impoverished environment.
[William F. Prouty's contention (1952) that the Carolina Bays were formed by impact has not been refuted by direct evidence nor has it been tested by more modern methods. Recently, however, several papers have been published which relate evidence that could be viewed as supportive of Prouty's hypothesis. For instance, P.S. Martin's "over-kill" scenario is in trouble due to finds of mammoths in Europe which date 5,000 years younger than earlier discovered specimens. This closes the gap between the youngest date for mammoths in America (10,500 B.P.) and for Europe (12,000 B.P.) to 1,500 years (see G.R. Coope and A.M. Lister, Nature Vol. 330, 3 Dec. 87, pp. 472-474).
The reduction of the temporal difference between finds on these two continents suggests that the megafauna extinction may have been synchronous in the northern hemisphere and related to the Younger Dryas cold event. Evidence is growing that this glacial readvance occurred abruptly (see E. Bard, et al., Nature Vol. 328, 27 Aug. 87, pp. 791-794) and was also felt in the southern hemisphere (C.J. Heusser and J. Rabassa, Nature Vol. 328, 18 Aug. 87, pp. 609-611). There is also suspicion that an atmospheric C-14 anomaly (discussed by E. Bard et al. cited above) may have occurred during this period. A large impact could explain the climate phenomena and account for a C-14 anomaly (see J.C. Brown and D.W. Hughes, Nature Vol. 268, 11 Aug. 77) which, if real, would have been greater around the area of impact (north America), which would in turn cause fauna in this region that survived the initial event to absorb a greater amount of C-14 and so date younger than fauna less exposed, thus further reducing the temporal difference between finds in Europe and America. Considering all this, it is certainly becoming more likely that Prouty's contention was correct. For an excellent review of the controversy over the origin of the Carolina Bays see The Mysterious Carolina Bays (1982) by Henry Savage.]
Earth's history, including evolution of life upon it, is not at all like Lyell and Darwin imagined. It is a past heavily sculptured by the power of unconscious sky-gods--a revelation that will provide considerable fuel for philosophic speculation. To this author, the fact that life has not succumbed to such heavy-handed influence provides strong reason to believe that life is designed to endure. Designed to endure, here, does not imply a designer; rather the term indicates that life has a structure, perhaps intrinsic to the whole, which not only allows regrouping after tremendous decimation but also contains the capacity to generate forms (ourselves) capable of preventing or mitigating random assaults to its integrity. Based on our present behavior, some readers will, no doubt, view the above as laughable speculation. However, if one reflects upon the characteristics of his/her own immune system, similar attributes become apparent. Biological immune systems have the capacity to alter conditions of any part of the organism they belong to; these defenders of life also have the capacity to recognize pathogens and learn an appropriate means of dealing with such invaders. Living immune systems are not immune to error--they may fail to respond or overreact, bringing grave illness or death to the larger system which sustains them. Is it really outrageous to speculate that life could effect agents to protect its collective being on a planetary scale? Chemist James Lovelock in his Gaia Hypothesis (1979) argues that it is not.
Reflecting the mood of their time, researchers of the past saddled our species with the marvelously ostentatious label homo sapiens. Findings of late convey that the tag homo ignarus would be far more aptus. It is obvious we have much more to understand. By far the most important knowledge for us to obtain is the elusive art of getting along with one another. Premise and attitude form a major obstacle in the path to this insight. Certainly one of the most damning assumptions is: population growth and limited resources ensure that there is generally not enough to go around, therefore . . . Put forward formally by Thomas Malthus in the 18th century this tenet not only inspired Darwin and Wallace to theorize as they did; it also became a radical premise of economic theory. Malthus intended for his work to provide a rationale for mitigating want with "reason and foresight" (voluntary population control) however to mercantilists it was more of an affirmation of their contention that wealth could only be gained at the expense of another. Their position seemed to gain even more strength with the advent of the "survival of the fittest" concept. Accepting this assumption as a fact of life only fosters and perpetuates a contentious attitude. Contemporary knowledge gives us the capacity to both contract population growth and expand our resource base beyond terrestrial limitations. We need not forever war over how "the pie" is to be sliced up. Scientific research and invention have already gone far in undermining the premise of perpetual scarcity; however, economic and political convention tend to work against the potential for global abundance. Scarcity today is largely artificial--the causes now are generally secondary rather than primary. Factors such as government mismanagement, military spending, or maintaining market value currently leave people in poverty. In several ways mercantilism is still with us. The scientific community is better placed than any other group to help move our lot into a comfortable and sustainable future. However, there are many factors which steer researchers far from work pursuant to such a goal.
The purpose of this article is to provide investigators an incentive to work in concert on illuminating an aspect of our history that is important for us to comprehend. Perhaps a better grasp of our past will incline us more toward a positive sustainable future.
To prevent subsequent assaults by the sky-gods we must effect a means of moving them from paths that will eventually bring them upon us. Ironically the tools best suited for this purpose are the devices we so fear--thermo-nuclear bombs. This factor basically guaranties that the construction and continuous operation of such a defense system will be an international enterprise. Also to our advantage is the logistic necessity of basing this protection system in space. Unlike contemporary defense research and development spending, resources devoted to this type of project will buy far more than a theoretical increase of security.
The sky-gods are a wealthy lot in terms of resources sparsely distributed about Earth. By cooperatively developing the means to prevent these bodies from destructively showering us with their all, we will in fact gain access to their riches. Furthermore we will have also developed the capacity to refine these materials in space--ultimately providing the Biosphere with a permanent reprieve from our injurious mining and smelting operations. The space beyond Earth's atmosphere is ideal for many industrial processes, particularly those which require high level energy or involve biological toxins. Currently progress in developing the capacity to use outer space as a resource is retarded by a preoccupation with weapon systems.
The arms race has proven to be a difficult cycle to break--on both sides day to day economic activity is woven into this futile enterprise, and fear of a major breakthrough in weapon systems is high. The formulation of mutual trust is the only way this spiral toward destruction can end without mass sorrow. Working closely together over the decades necessary to complete an Earth defense system could certainly build such trust--particularly since the project would be economically rewarding for all involved.
Embarking upon an Earth defense initiative does not require that any party weaken their present system of national defense. Launching such a project demands only two factors--recognition that there is an urgent need to develop an Earth defense system and a willingness to draw and abide by a treaty committing sufficient resources to such a project.
This author has very little doubt that researchers will recover hard evidence which, when combined with existing data, will dramatically convey a sense of urgency to people who can directly influence the policy of their government. In view of its potential influence the likelihood that such data can be recovered seems more than adequate incentive for investigators to vigorously pursue this line of research.