ALBRITTON Claude C. Jr. - The Fabric of Geology

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1

025

The Fabric

o

Reading, Massachusetts

Palo Alto

London

CLAUDE

C.

ALBRITTON,

Jr., Editor

f

GEOLOGYPrepared under the direction of a Committeeof The Geological Society of America, in

commemoration of

the Society's

75th Anniversary

ADDISON-WESLEY PUBLISHING COMPANY,

INC.

Copyright

1963

GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICAPrinted in the United States of America

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS BOOK, OR PARTS THEREOF, MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE SOCIETY.Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 63-77726

PrefaceDuring the years immediately following World War II, many geologists became dissatisfied with the training that was being given to students of theearth sciences. Accordingly, the Council of The Geological Society of America, in December of 1946, named a committee to investigate the state of geologiceducation, 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. Mclntyre 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

when

geology

is

called historical science?

its own? What is to be understood 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 aspectsof 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 * Hubbert, M. K., Hendricks, T. A., and Thiel, G. A. (Chairman), Report of the Committee on Geologic Education of The Geological Society of America: Geol. Soc. Am., Int. Pr., 1949, pt. 2, pp. 17-21.

vi

PREFACE

usual sense of this term, apply to the immanent and not to the configurational in nature, then the laws of physical and dynamic geology are the laws of physics and chemistry. Kitts concludes that the theory of geology is likewise the theoryof physics

and chemistry

used by geologists, however, as instruments ofless

his-

torical inference.

Laboratory experiments have played a

important role in geology than in

chemistry or physics. And yet, as H. H. Read has observed, "Any man looking out of any window sees a geological laboratory in constant and full-scale operation." McKelvey develops this theme by showing how geologists have the unusual opportunity to observe the results of complex natural experiments that involve larger masses and longer periods of time than can be handled in the

laboratory.

The six essays forming the middle section of the book treat of geologic thoughtwithin the framework of some particular branch of earth science. Woodford critically examines the proposition in stratigraphy that fossils may be used to

order strata in chronologic sequences. Mclntyre investigates the reliability of certain methods for obtaining the absolute ages of rocks that are used to caliillustrates

brate the stratigraphic column described by Woodford. Mclntyre's essay also a trend toward the quantitative in geology, and this is the theme of

Mackin's comparison of the rational and empirical methods of investigation. Mackin draws his examples from geomorphology, the same field which Leopold and Langbein use to illustrate the association of ideas in geologic thought. Structural geology provides Hill with an example which he uses to develop Anderson also turns to rules of geologic nomenclature and classification. structural geology for examples to show how the geologist uses the logicalprinciple of simplicity.

Three essays are concerned primarily with the communication of geologic data and ideas. Betz examines the documentary tools of communication and suggests how these might be better used to contend with the "informationproblem" which is of growing concern to all scientists. Gilluly shows how G. K. Gilbert, in his scientific memoirs, took pains to disclose the chains ofreasoning that linked his observations to his conclusions. Harrison discusses the interpretative character of the geologic map, and illustrates the way in

which theory may influence mapping, and vice versa. The last two essays in the book identify contrasting areas of geologic thought and work which are in need of further development. Hagner urges that more attention be given to the history and philosophy of geology, while Legget points to the increasing opportunities of putting geology to work in the service of man.

A bibliography of writings that reflect upon the character of geologic thought concludes the volume.The planning of this book has beenpersons,

the resonsibility of a committee of eight who, in addition to the Editor, are Messrs. Frederick Betz, Jr., James

PREFACEGilluly, J. M. Harrison, H. H. W. W. Rubey.

vii

Hess,

Mason

L. Hill,

Luna

B. Leopold,

and

The members of the Anniversary Committee thank the Trustees of The Graduate Research Center, Inc. for sponsoring a conference on the scope and philosophy of geology, which was held in Dallas in October of 1960. At this meeting, membeis of the Committee presented their tentative thoughts on the Nelson Goodman, Carl G. logical foundations of geology. Three philosophers Hempel and John H. Kultgen served as critics, and were especially helpful in drawing lines between real problems and false issues. William E. Benson and Eugene Herrin were guests of the conference and active participants in discussions which did much to shape the contents of the book. The idea of bringing philosophers and geologists together for the conference in Dallas belongs to Mr. W. H. Freeman. As the Publisher's Editor for this book, he has, moreover, arranged to have most of the essays read by Professors Morton Beckner and Michael Scriven, whose forthright criticisms are gratefully

acknowledged. Mrs. Robert R. Wheeler prepared the special index for the annotated bibliography and also the general index for this book. Mrs. Jacquelyn Newbury typed much of the manuscript and obtained permission to reproduce the

numerous quotations in the bibliography and text. "When 'Omer Smote 'is Bloomin' Lyre," by Rudyard Kipling, is reprinted from Rudyard Kipling's Verse (Definitive Edition) by permission of Mrs. George Bambridge and Doubleday & Company, Inc.Dallas, Texas

C. C. A.

July

7,

1963

ContentsJames Hutton and the philosophy of geology1

DONALDGeologic laws

B.

MC!NTYRE12

W. H. BRADLEYHistorical science

24

GEORGE GAYLORD SIMPSON

The

theory of geology

49

DAVID B. KrrrsGeologyas the study of

complex natural experimentsV. E.

69

McKELVEY75

Correlation by

fossils

A. O.Precision

WOODFORD112

and

resolution hi geochronometry

DONALD

B.

MC!NTYRE135

Rational and empirical methods of investigation in geologyJ.

HOOVER MACKIN164

Role of classification in geology

MASONSimplicity in structural geology

L. HILT.

175

CHARLES A. ANDERSONAssociation

and indeterminacy in geomorphology

184

LUNA

B.

LEOPOLD AND WALTER B. LANGBEINix

xGeologic communication

CONTENTS193

FREDERICK BETZ, JR.

The

scientific

philosophy of G. K. Gilbert

218

JAMES GILLULYNature and significance of geological maps225

M. M. HARRISONPhilosophical aspects of the geological sciences

233

ARTHURGeology in the service of man

F.

HAGNER242

ROBERTPhilosophy of geology:

F.

LEGGET262

A selected bibliography and indexCLAUDE C. ALBRTTTON, JR.

Index

367

DONALD

B.

McINTYREPomonaCollege

James Hutton and thePhilosophy of Geology1

"When 'Omer smote 'is bloomin' He'd 'card men sing by land

lyre,

an' sea;

An' what he thought 'e might require, 'E went an' took the same