I admit to not thinking too deeply on the origin of ‘ice-ages’ but Tim Cullen’s (Malaga Bay) various posts on the ideas of Henry Hoyle Howorth published during the late 19tn century has caused a heads-up. What I have noticed from my geological wanderings is the loose association of ‘ice-ages’ with mass species extinctions and an even looser association with kimberlite eruptions.
Decades ago when I found myself yet again faced with large amounts of time due to the cyclical nature of the mineral exploration industry, fresh from the discovery that Kimberley region aboriginal peoples had seriously anachronistic traditions involving geological phenomena, I started to wonder if the geological record was significantly stretched so that events conventionally separated by millions of years, were actually not and that may be the events were directly linked. I started to wonder about the expansion of geological time from Velikovsky’s publications where he thought Egyptian history was fabricated by some 800 years. My own dilemma involved coping aboriginal traditions of geological events dated to 1,150 million years in the past.
I mentioned this topic to the then senior research geologist of the mining company I used to work for, WMC Limited, who replied that they were not allowed to think like that. That response caused one of those raised eyebrow moments, and I decided it wiser to do more research than becoming a geological martyr before the chosen time. The reason for the cognitive dissonance at the time was my construction of a 3-D graph in a spreadsheet showing a possible cause and effect relationship between the K-T event, kimberlite eruption and plateau basalt outpourings and the proposed Alvarez impact structure in the Americas. Conventionally these events are described as being millions of years apart and hence hardly of a cause and effect relationship. I had, because of my field work in the Kimberley, stumbled over geological neo-catastrophism and also discovered that it remained a serious No-No in the extant geological narrative.
The argument over chronology lies in two related facts, the belief in Creation per se, and the rejection of any catastrophic geological events.
The strange thing about Creation is that even the non-believers, the atheists, unconsciously accept it as the astronomical Big Bang event some 13.8 billions of years ago. And it seems most moderate believers in Christianity are intellectually quite comfortable with their faith’s narrative of creation being synonymous with the astronomical Big Bang event. Except, as I have often pointed out, the intellectual ploy of removing biblical creation from its Ushherian date, 4004 BC, to its present date, 13.8 billions years BP, involves the repositioning of a fiction not geological fact. Charles Lyell’s removing of biblical creation was, in his terms, logical for it enabled him to have his cake and to also be able to eat it. But I don’t think that branding geological uniformitarians as liberal Creationists would go down too well, despite the fact that is exactly what they are.
The alternative to biblical creation is the idea that the universe always existed, and then geological chronology could be collated as a series of events ranked in order of occurrence, not necessarily ranked in some rigid numerical chronology that the creationist model demands. In fact our whole understanding of the cosmos is based on the apriorism of creation and from a scientific stance, this is the very problem.
But given that about 4 billion souls believe in divine creation, more or less the Western World and the Middle East, any science would need to be compatible that cultural foundation and be creation-compatible. I suspect I would have more success in turning a stampeding herd of wildebeest than to convince those billions of souls that their belief might be an issue.
So what about ice ages? The problem is the existence of massive deposits of unconsolidated fresh sediments and erratics, (very large boulders and lumps of fresh rock), hundreds of kilometres from their places of origin. The catastrophic explanation involves enormous tsunami-like waves sloshing over land masses depositing their sedimentary loads in some violent geological catastrophe.
The conventional uniformist explanation involves the appearance of an Ice Age in which slowly moving glaciers move and deposit the sediments over the course of hundreds of thousands of years or even longer time spans.
Which explanation is the correct one, then?
I suspect the uniformist explanation is the politically correct one.
More on this in future musings.