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Mundil hasn’t explained how subjective interpretation could have produced such a coincidence, he says. With a meeting of geochronologists in Boston coming up next month, Kerr hopes for a “frank and open discussion of all those little details that don’t make it into the literature.” Now I’m worried.What are all those little details that don’t make it into the literature?Samuel Bowring (MIT), for instance, got a date for the P-T extinction that, while it seemed to match some dates for massive Siberian lava flows, disagreed with the age Mundil prefers: Mundil, however, doesn’t believe that either the eruption or the extinction happened that recently.He thinks Bowring engaged in “arbitrary data culling” by throwing out more than half his zircon ages before averaging the rest of them together.

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When they don’t get what they want, they turn up the heat.

But Bowring says his choices were judicious, although “necessarily somewhat subjective.” In some of his zircons, the two different uranium-lead ratios gave different ages, suggesting that lead had leaked out of those zircons during the past quarter-billion years.

And other zircon ages looked distinctly old, as if those zircons had crystallized earlier than the rest and had later gotten mixed in with them.

Even if Mundil threw out only 3 of his 79 samples, we want to know if those three had a story to tell: on what basis did he assume they were “obviously too old”?

How can we know the 79 he used were not also obviously too old, at least to someone without Darwin glasses on?

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