One Long Experiment: Scale and Process in Earth History

By Ronald E. Martin | Go to book overview

PREFACE

This book is about many things. First and foremost, it is about history, especially in terms of process. In all its permutations, geology has always been the science of the history of the earth. Geologists, including stratigraphers and paleontologists, are historians. But why is the earth’s history important? Its stratigraphic (fossil) record is basically one long (and poorly controlled) experiment that has followed a path contingent on its previous history. The record of those processes is the true value of the stratigraphic record because it gives us clues as to how we arrived at where we are today. Moreover, we must study not only the fossils and the phenomena themselves but also the limits to study of the processes recorded in the rocks.

Second, this book is about scale and hierarchy, and how geological processes that are detected vary with the scale used to measure them. The scales of geologic time and space offer perspectives not appreciated over a human lifespan. Geologic processes are not necessarily detectable over the timescale of generations, much less the Quaternary, but they are no less important, and perhaps more so, than the processes we do observe.

Third, the book is about the methodology of historical sciences such as paleontology and stratigraphy, and why that methodology is just as important as the reductionist approach to which most scientists—including historical scientists—have been indoctrinated.

-xi-

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One Long Experiment: Scale and Process in Earth History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Prologue - Methodology and Proof in Historical Science 1
  • 1 - Scale, Measurement, and Process- An Introduction 9
  • 2 - The Nature of the Stratigraphic Record- Curds and Whey 24
  • 3 - Random Walks in Muck 53
  • 4 - Time and Taphonomy 72
  • 5 - Biological Processes Inferred from the Fossil Record 95
  • 6 - Cycles and Secular Trends 132
  • 7 - Energy and Evolution 163
  • 8 - Extinction 186
  • Epilogue- the Nature of Nature 212
  • References 217
  • Index 253
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