The Rocks Don’t Lie

Geology is a lot like strategy; you have to know how to read the terrain before you commit yourself.  It also involves an understanding of time and pressure.  I’ve always loved geology or what’s termed in professional studies ‘geomorphology.’  Practitioners spend time sifting through shards of evidence that have survived the ravages of time.  The  most challenging aspect is to fill the gaps in the evidentiary record by inference.  This is where the fun begins.

When we study the application(s) of the laws that underwrite geology we discover that the arrival of humans occurred on a much older planet than previously known.

We should begin with the ‘new’ understanding of time and the significant impact this had on how we read topography.  This began with Nicolas Steno, who laid down by inference, what is termed ‘Steno’s Law of Superimposition’.  This only applies to sedimentary rocks along the diverging fault lines like the Atlantic.  Here, the oldest layers of rock will be at the bottom, the youngest at the top.  It is the opposite in places like Hawaii (actually the entire Pacific) where you have a converging fault line.  Steno was a Danish Protestant who converted to become a Catholic Bishop, his eye for empiricism never diminished.

The 18th-19th century studies of emerging geology reveal astonishing minds like Martin J.S. Rudwick, James Hutton, Charles Lyell and Adam Sedgwick.  These men ‘cracked’ the most significant dilemmas by introducing an articulation of time upon topography, meaning ‘deep time.’  This idea is termed ‘uniformitarianism’:  meaning that the forces that shape our planet now have always been working.  The new insight of an informed relation of time, a Protestant insight in places like Scotland, gave birth to geology.

This insight alone broke the Manichean ideology that suffocated early empiricism, its why the monarchists, papist Empires never got off the ground ‘so to speak.’

Want to be able to read how diverse landscapes like the Grand Caynon, the Scablands of eastern Washington or Siccar Point in Scotland were formed?  All of this is neatly told in ‘The Rocks Don’t Lie’ by David R. Mongomery.

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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