The Fabric of Geology

The Fabric of Geology

The Fabric of Geology

The Fabric of Geology

Excerpt

During the years immediately following World War II, many geologists became dissatisfied with the training that was being given to students of the earth sciences. Accordingly, the Council of The Geological Society of America, in December of 1946, named a committee to investigate the state of geologic education, and to offer suggestions for its improvement. The report of this committee appeared in the Interim Proceedings of the Society for 1949. Of the recommendations presented, the one emphasized most strongly urged that, at all levels of instruction, "only those inferences be presented . . . for which the essential observational data and the logical steps leading to the inference have also been presented." Before this criterion could be satisfied, the committeemen asserted, the logical structure of geologic science would have to be reexamined--"from the ground up."

When the time came to make plans for the Society's seventy-fifth anniversary, the Councilors, recalling this last recommendation, decided that the theme for the anniversary meetings should be the philosophy of geology. A committee was asked to produce a book of essays on the fabric of geologic thought, and to arrange a program on the same subject for the annual meetings in 1963.

The very lack of any modern book on the philosophy of geology is justification enough for this work. The members of the Anniversary Committee will have achieved their purpose if this collection, despite any shortcomings it may have, serves as a focal point for discussions of our role as scientists.

The book begins with a toast to James Hutton, as founder of modern geology. McIntyre seeks out the origin of the ideas which shaped Hutton's fruitful theory of the earth, and he finds some likely sources in some unlikely places--including steam engines, organisms, and the all but forgotten work of George Hoggart Toulmin.

Does geology have laws and theories of its own? What is to be understood when geology is called historical science? These questions are considered in a sequence of three essays. Bradley identifies the history and constitution of the earth as the two principal subjects of geologic investigation. Simpson goes on to develop the differences between the historical and the nonhistorical aspects of the science, which he finds in their respective concerns with the configurational as opposed to the immanent properties of matter and energy. If "laws," in the . . .

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