University professor’s book provides compelling ideas

“How did we get to be so smart?” That’s a question Jerry Dobson began asking, one that propelled him through intense research and eventually to the creation of “Waters of Chaos,” a book that combines imaginative theory and scientific fact.

Dobson, a professor of geography at the University of Kansas and president of the American Geographical Society, originally began the research to satisfy his own curiosity. However, as his theory developed, the scope became so broad he thought it better suited for a novel than for scientific publications.

“I wanted to bring out ideas in people that need to be discussed, and this book is a prompt for those ideas,” said Dobson.

It’s a story of mankind’s evolution. “Waters of Chaos” is a science mystery that traverses the centuries in two parts, beginning over 10,000 years ago with an ancient saga and ending in a modern quest. The book uses imagination and science to weave a story that challenges prevailing thought on the evolution of human society throughout the ages. Several real-life experiences were also included, one of which Jeff Dobson, Dobson’s twin brother and the co-author of “Waters of Chaos,” had to pass through 41 Egyptian military checkpoints in an unsuccessful attempt to reach a geographical site.

Dobson is careful to clarify that much of the text is theory, not scientific fact, but prods us to see how changing sea levels have shaped history. For 100,000 years, the sea level as we know it today was consistently 25 meters lower, leaving a considerable amount of landmass above water during that time. This coastal landmass, labeled Aquaterre by Dobson, is equivalent to the size of North America, and he poses the question, “What happened on that land during those years?”

Dobson analyzes the possibility that the rise and fall of sea levels could have had a large effect on mankind and its cultural development.  Although agriculture didn’t evolve until 16,000 years ago, or art until 37,000 years past, evolutionary theory estimates we’ve had the same physical brains for approximately 100,000 years. “Why did we possess all of that potential brain space, unused yet capable of so much, if there hadn’t been something to cause it to develop?” This is another question Dobson asks, and he arranges his research on paper in a way that favors the development of well-placed questions.

Throughout history, human fate has been inexorably linked to water. Ancient lore from Greece to India speak of floods that would reshape the earth.

“It’s not far fetched to ask if these ‘waters of chaos’ could be a historical analogy to rising sea levels,” stated Dobson, who believes that questions like these enable us to dive into real history. “I’m cautious about saying what’s fact, but regardless, we have to ask these questions in order to know.”

Dobson, professor of geography at KU and president of the American Geographical Society, will speak about his book at the Dole Institute of Politics, today, Wednesday April 17.  A book signing and sale will follow the presentation.

  • Updated Apr. 17, 2013 at 1:35 am
  • Edited by Alyssa Scott