Great Moments in Wrong Science: "Rain Follows the Plow"


‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ for the agricultural set…


I wonder what their justification is for draining the ogallala aquifer.


Ha Ha… Stupid people in the past. It’s a good thing that nothing I am sure of now will ever be laughed at by people in the future.


The magical thinking part of this is of course crazy, but it’s not completely off base. Heavily tilling the ground was one reason we were able to transform the otherwise arid plains into an agricultural powerhouse. Plowed dirt absorbs and holds moisture much better than hard packed clay, allowing you to farm in areas that would otherwise not have sufficient moisture for your crops.

Of course it is a double edged sword. In a drought there’s no rain to catch, and all of that loose soil is prone to drying up and blowing away, creating dust bowl conditions.


As a proud member of the People from the Past, I am offended.

Also, I wonder if building more railroads could mitigate climate change?

Of course NOT! But maybe if we built enough hyperloops…

That’s not the takeaway. What we should be learning is to analyze our own firmly held beliefs and consider the potential ways people 100 years from now will think we were being idiots, especially about things that will impact their lives directly.

They probably won’t care about fighting in Iraq. But climate change or pollution seems like a safe bet, as we’re still struggling to deal with the changes that the industrial revolution triggered.

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Similar statements are “rain follows the battle” and “rain follows the fireworks displays”, and I think it is more an example of people confusing the micro and the macro than a breakdown in observation of correlations and appropriate conjectures about causation.

Given appropriate thermals, the dust of plowing will be carried aloft and will seed clouds. This will change to a readily observable extent where the rain falls and when the rain falls, but over a larger timescale and region will not much change how much rain falls.

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Rain leads the parade.

Yep, pretty much. I particularly love those ecological screwups that can often be traced back to a group of “experts” who recommend a course of action that usually screws things up even more.

“We have to introduce diurnal Mongoose to these islands to save the native bird population. I’ve written a paper and it’s guaranteed that they will control the nocturnal rats.”

Well, Hawaii’s trying to get it right this time.

“The Rain Follows the Forest- Hahai nō ka ua i ka ululāʻau” is the state’s watershed development and protection plan. As of 2012, they’re trying to double the amount of protected watershed areas over 10 years.

The name sounds goofy, but what they’re talking about is the fact that the islands’ water supply is dependent on a healthy rainforest. So, they don’t literally think that rain comes just because the forest is there, but they know that a forest is needed to trap water and make a watershed. They’re removing non-native plants and animals, fencing replanted areas so they have a chance to grow, and more. So, I guess they took the wrong science and are applying just the name to some good science and preservation.

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