Stratigraphical conundrums

During the time of James Hutton followed by Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin, the mainstream belief in the Western World was that of divine creation at Usher’s date of 4004 BC.

Hutton imagined an almost infinite world in which crystalline basement was slowly eroded to produce sediments which were then deposited in sinking basins to then reach depths where they were metamorphosed and ultimately recycled back as crystalline rocks which appeared at the surface to be recycled again.

Lyell improved on this scenario but because he was also devout, being a Methodist, he ended up shifting biblical creation back in time by cherry picking his data (ignoring any catastrophic evidence) and using observed depositional rates to estimate geological time, about 20 million years.

Later on Eddington would assume, as we still do, that the earth was initially a hot body and from thermodynamic reasons estimated an older age for the Earth in hundred of millions of years, say, by calculating how long it would take to cool.

But the general belief that mankind evolved from primitive forms, basically Darwin’s theory, required a progressive development of life, and so the stratigraphical record was interpreted in such a fashion, where rocks containing primitive, or extinct, life forms had to be by definition ancient. Hence the Cambrian strata were dated according to their fossil content and from the rules of super position, at the bottom of the stratigraphical column.

While Darwin’s theory was an improvement of the fundamentalist short creation belief, or model, it was still an explanation of creation, a fiction that Lyell, and Eddington simply shifted backwards in time by rhetoric. This backward shift continued anew with the discovery of radioactivity.

Underpinning the evolutionary model was the firm belief that the Earth and the solar system had remained in its geometrical configuration for 4,500 million years, the belief being that U238 was all formed 4,500 million years ago, (strange that the age of the Earth was also the half life of uranium 238) and the variation in isotopic ratios in the various rocks the result of geological recycling.

Except that in 1950 Immanuel Velikovsky had his book Worlds in Collision published and which resulted in rather extreme expressions of cognitive dissonance by the scientific establishment, an attitude that still prevails today. The reaction by science is explicable only if science has become religionised and that Darwinian evolution and the intellectual framework erected around it regarded as an axiom, or fundamental assumption that cannot be changed.

I have to stress this point because what distinguishes the religious from the scientific is that the former only sees what it believes.

The engineer Richard Milton wrote a provocative book challenging Darwinism and which the former editor of Nature regarded as suitable for book burning. Milton’s insight was that nowhere was there an example of a complete stratigraphic column showing all the various sediments in proper, according to the paradigm, order.

Quite but from reading various opinions on geotectonics over the Christmas period, and readers comments on some relevant blogs, the argument remains restricted by the liberal creationist axiom, that the solar system was formed some 5000 Ma ago and things evolved from there to the present with, perhaps, a pseudo catastrophe or two in the form of meteorite impacts, but otherwise all things progressed rather uneventfully,

Except the human record as expressed in its myths and creation stories says otherwise.

When science dismisses these myths are fantasy and fiction, then that is the operation of the religious mind in action, one that only sees what it believes and dismisses any contradictory data.

So the idea of the Saturn Configuration is a good starting point but the trap of fitting that mythology based model onto the standard chronology will lead to many problems, so all future deliberations posted here will ignore radiometric dating, especially if radiogenic minerals and elements are formed at the Earth’s surface by the plasma-erosion mechanism. We need to remember that James Hutton with his recycling model was explaining nature while at the same time making his explanation compatible with the dominating theological tradition.

Like Velikovsky I hypothesise two starting points – a garden of eden world remembered by humanity as some golden era where humans lived with animals in an assumed rainforest type climate with abundant vegetative food, and the termination of the Roman Empire as evidenced by the burial of aqueducts under Holocene sediments as uncovered, to their surprise, in the German lignite open cut mines. The task then is to fit the geological record to the human one, bearing in mind that the existing geological record is also a human one, or artefact.

More in future posts…..

(incidentally Tim Cullen is having fun with ice age and glaciation theories at Malaga Bay).

About Louis Hissink

Retired diamond exploration geologist. I spent my professional life looking for mineral deposits, found some, and also located a number of kimberlites in NSW and Western Australia. Exploration geology is the closest one can get to practicing the scientific method, mineral exploration always being concerned with finding anomalous geophysical or geochemical data, framing a model and explanation for the anomaly and then testing it with drilling or excavation. All scientific theories are ultimately false since they invariably involved explaining something with incomplete extant knowledge. Since no one is omniscient or knows everything, so too scientific theories which are solely limited to existing knowledge. Because the future always yields new data, scientific theories must change to be compatible with the new data. Thus a true scientist is never in love with any particular theory, always knowing that when the facts change, so too must he/she change their minds.
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