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Author Topic:   Why is uniformitarianim still taught?
Silent H
Member (Idle past 5246 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 6 of 89 (87502)
02-19-2004 1:25 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Minnemooseus
02-19-2004 1:13 PM


Re: a theory? sheesh!
quote:
At the time of the birth of the uniformitarianism concept, the viewpoints were strongly polarized between catastrophism and "strict" uniformitarianism. Since then, the concept has become less strict, incorporating the recognition that unusual and extreme events do sometimes happen.
I was under the impression that what you call "strict" uni, is now being termed "gradualism" due to its insistence that geologic structures were formed slowly, rather than all at once.
And thus uniformitarianism as it is being used now, is sufficiently different than how it was defined in the past, and that elements of gradualism and catastrophism equally fell under modern uni's "umbrella".

holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)

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 Message 5 by Minnemooseus, posted 02-19-2004 1:13 PM Minnemooseus has not replied

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 Message 7 by MrHambre, posted 02-19-2004 1:46 PM Silent H has replied

  
Silent H
Member (Idle past 5246 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 10 of 89 (87546)
02-19-2004 3:09 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by MrHambre
02-19-2004 1:46 PM


Re: Putting the 'if' back in Uniformitarianism
quote:
I thought uniformitarianism referred to the general consistency of the processes themselves, like sedimentation or glaciation.
That is what it is now, and kind of what Hutton had pushed initially. But Lyell, who popularized uni, made the gradual phenomena (sed/glac/meta) look so important (apparently to cast down the possibility of catastrophism) that geology was hobbled in some aspects.
At least that's the way I learned it. Am I wrong?

holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)

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 Message 7 by MrHambre, posted 02-19-2004 1:46 PM MrHambre has not replied

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 Message 14 by Tamara, posted 02-19-2004 3:50 PM Silent H has replied

  
Silent H
Member (Idle past 5246 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 18 of 89 (87584)
02-19-2004 5:26 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by Tamara
02-19-2004 3:50 PM


After saying my description is how you understand it, you proceed to use the term uniformitarianism, without distinguishing which form (past or present) you mean. It seems in fact that you have used them interchangably. In that case I can't tell whether I agree with you or not.
How about using (if you agree with me anyway), gradualism for slow processes, catastrophism for fast processes, and uni for the idea that either speed process of yesteryear were the same kind of processes we see today.
Percy did a good job of explaining why smooshed does not mean a fast process had taken place. He also did a good job of explaining how even if uni accepts both grad and cat, a worlwide flood is still left out in the cold... especially by layering as you described.
I should add that my post also explains why Uni is still taught (the question posed in this thread). It is different than the gradualist form. Occam's razor supports the more comprehensive/general uni theory.
Does this post of yours mean your question has been answered?

holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by Tamara, posted 02-19-2004 3:50 PM Tamara has replied

Replies to this message:
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 Message 29 by Tamara, posted 02-20-2004 10:15 AM Silent H has replied

  
Silent H
Member (Idle past 5246 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 20 of 89 (87590)
02-19-2004 5:44 PM


Lies and the lying Lyell who told them...
Here's an interesting look at Lyell's work. It's an educational website so I'm pretty certain that this isn't biased (yet).
Notice some of his rather interesting theories about the earth, given his "gradual" and apparently "static" doctrine...
1) Predicted that fossils in the geologic record will show that life appeared all at once and did not go from simple to more complex.
2) Believed the earth has always had the same internal temperature and could not be cooling off.
Ouch.

holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)

  
Silent H
Member (Idle past 5246 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 23 of 89 (87602)
02-19-2004 7:06 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by Tamara
02-19-2004 5:58 PM


quote:
I oppose uni because it was conceived not because the evidence of observation pointed that way, but for reasons of opposing the religiously minded, because it was wrong when it was conceived (as it was defined by Lyell), and because it is no more valid today -- on the face of it -- than it was then and still confuses people...
It was not conceived solely to oppose the religious minded, it was not wholly wrong (though lyell was incorrect regarding mechanisms and characteristics of earth), and as it currently is understood it is valid and useful.
There seems to be this characteristic of people that don't like something, to pretend they are confused by it, and do everything they can not to understand it.
Within minutes of yahooing on uniformitarianism, catastrophism, and Lyell, all points on this issue can be clarified. I would hope, and I have seen you present no evidence to counter this idea, that a science teacher would deliver a better quality presentation than even a few minutes on yahoo.
So why does your confusion remain. Why should it not be taught as the theory, or principle, stands today? Even evolutionary theory has changed since Darwin. So has molecular and atomic theory. That's the beauty of science, it can change. You just have to keep up with it.
Uni certainly does not bias anyone in how they have to approach the study of a geologic phenomenon. NO ONE TODAY would take the default position that a formation was from a slow process UNLESS it had clear markers seen in other formations that are known to be from slow processes.
quote:
In other words, what makes sense to me most, is to assume uni & cat both at the outset, and go by the best evidence.
You can't assume both, but you can treat them with equal possibility. Scientists do, unless as I mentioned there are some markers. For example certain striations indicate windblown sand (slow windblown sand), and an oxbow lake is generally not formed after a few hours.
quote:
So maybe there is hope, and the concept will bite the dust after all.
I am uncertain why this is so much concern for you. Did someone die or something because of it? If it was just confusion, are all of these confused people also confused about how to use a library or the internet? Should we then hope libraries and the internet will bite the dust soon?
Seriously though, the same concept we are talking about with modern Uni would still be taught, just under another name. How will that help?

holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)

This message is a reply to:
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Silent H
Member (Idle past 5246 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 39 of 89 (87726)
02-20-2004 12:43 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by Tamara
02-20-2004 10:15 AM


Lee Harvey Oswald... ehr, sorry, heheheh... This is to say... SYLAS, did a good job answering your questions. Speed and Intensity can surely be different at different times, and this relates directly to the "speed" and "intensity" of the forces involved.
But let me address a couple of your more exotic notions...
quote:
do you mean natural, as in opposition to supernatural?
I mean natural as in forces and phenomena that can affect the planet. I have no idea what a supernatural force is. Outside of myths and fairytales I have not seen any supernatural force, nor have I met anyone that has seen a supernatural force.
If you are asking could God not have turned the earth from a flat map to a globe, when people started sailing and he didn't want them to fall of the sides... yeah maybe. But then Gandalf upon returning from Middle Earth with the Elves may have assembled the English Isles to remind him of his favorite part of the Shire.
This is why the PRESENT is the key to the past. Sure there may have been different forces/phenomena which happened in the past, but until we can make heads or tails of them in the present, or see similar forces at work in the present, then they just can't be applied as people might wish.
Here's two really good examples...
1) Continental Drift/ Plate Tectonics: This was a debatable theory within geology even in the previous century. No one had any solid evidence for mechanisms by which these HUMONGOUS things could move around.
I actually had a geology prof who had been opposed to continental drift in his younger days. He and his friends would raz visiting profs by wearing shirts with images of the continents tacked down and the phrase "stop continental drift" printed on them.
But then the images of the sea floors started coming in and he became the idiot. The evidence was now quite conclusive in the PRESENT that there were physical forces capable of moving continents around. So what once was posited, but not wholly acceptable, became clear.
2) Continental Flop: Currently no one believes that an entire plate or portions of plate could be flipped over so that what once faced the mantle now faces upward. But someone looking at a geologic formation (perhaps an inversion of layers from those formations around it) may come to this idea. How could this be?
If he appealed to supernatural forces what exactly would he be appealing to? There is nothing that he could start his description with, except some religious or literature text. If he appealed to natural forces (those we have experienced) people could at least get a grasp of what he was trying to say... ways to measure and detect.
For example he could predict a "super plume" could burst upward so fast and hard and with such an effect on liquids beneath the mantle that a plate actually pops up and flips over like a coin being tossed. People may laugh this off, but if there is evidence (like say inverted layering) it would stick around and could be possible, even if never proved.
Then one day if a super plume actually occured, at the site of a plate tossed like a penny geology would have a new natural mechanism to work with.
Then again, each formation would still have to have those indicative traits for flopping in order for a geologist to assign that as a possible cause. It doesn't just make every formation open to flopping.
And that is why "supernatural" is useless. What sign do we have to look for in a geologic formation that indicates "supernatural forces did it", except we don't know yet how to explain it?
Unique events are possible, supernatural ones are as yet unpostulatable.

holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 29 by Tamara, posted 02-20-2004 10:15 AM Tamara has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 43 by NosyNed, posted 02-20-2004 1:31 PM Silent H has replied

  
Silent H
Member (Idle past 5246 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 41 of 89 (87731)
02-20-2004 1:18 PM
Reply to: Message 36 by Tamara
02-20-2004 12:07 PM


quote:
I am wondering if the following agrees more or less with folks here.
No. You still seem to be shaky on what similar processes, and the present is the key to the past, means. Please reread Sylas' post as well as the one I just did (you may not have gotten to yet) #39.
quote:
Uniformitarianism is something of a misnomer (in terms of implying uniform, unvarying processes) and should not be taught as part of modern geology. It is of interest mainly in the history of geology. Many geologists would be happier with some other term.
It has changed from how it was first postulated, just as most theories have, including evolution. Thus uniformitarianism is not a misnomer, it is simply easy to confuse yourself on if you equivocate between its early history and its current meaning. I am still uncertain why this is happening (thought perhaps I have some sympathy as I always forget how diabetes works, no matter how many times I am told).
It is true that in geology, it's mainly treated in its historical sense, but then that is because it has evolved to where it is now. I think Percy hit it on the head when saying that no one would call themselves a uniformitarian. But that is more a practical than an ideological stand. If PRESSED on the point I am a uniformitarian, I just think the term is a bit archaic. I would be a scientist that adheres to uniformitarian principles, or as they are refered to now: naturalism.
I will disagree with Percy that many geologists would prefer not to teach it, or that it is not taught in geology. Even in college I was taught about it. Yes it was mainly with regard to how its history as a science, but there was no idea that it ended and remained part of the past. The idea of Uni as I was taught, is that it evolved into the more general form we use today. But we don't have to keep bringing it up when talking about geology.
I mean really, every time we see a formation we have to say "present, key to the past"? Once you learn it, it just kind of stays with you and you don't have to name it.
Kind of like methodological naturalism isn't mentioned in every science class, except maybe as a part of science history and philosophy. That doesn't mean its not there as a foundation for method, just that we don't have to keep discussing it.
quote:
This does not mean that these processes themselves can be assumed a priori to be uniform or unvarying, or that the processes in evidence today can be assume to have functioned the same way long ago.
Yes on the first half of your sentence, no on the second. Why would they not have functioned the same long ago? You cannot assume they are uniform and unvarying as the forces in play are able to change over time. Just because forces may change does NOT mean that the processes have changed, only the rates of those processes.
quote:
Also, unique events may have shaped our planet in the past, but the simplest assumption (an already known process) ought to be tried first (Occam's Razor). No doubt, there are also processes we do not yet know about that have also shaped the planet.
Kind of right. Unique events may have shaped the planet, but no "assumptions" regarding mechanisms must be tried first. Scientists look at pieces of evidence presented by a formation.
If it is the same as that seen in other formations whose causes have been identified, then it can be assumed that the formation was formed by similar causes.
If the evidence is not the same as that seen in other formations, they will start to put together possible explanations using the forces and materials likely to have been present at the time.
There may be processes we have not discovered yet. There may even be forces and materials we have not seen yet. But these undiscovered "possibilities" are not brought to bear in an investigation, until known processes, forces, and materials have been exhausted.
Your last statement sounds terribly like an attempt to make it look like science cannot exclude "supernatural forces" as explanations, by admitting it has not uncovered every process. This is a bit too strong a statement, or inference (if that is not what you meant to say, but someone took from it).
And finally, the wikipedia is incorrect.

holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 36 by Tamara, posted 02-20-2004 12:07 PM Tamara has not replied

  
Silent H
Member (Idle past 5246 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 42 of 89 (87734)
02-20-2004 1:30 PM
Reply to: Message 40 by Percy
02-20-2004 12:47 PM


quote:
This implies that geologists are still using the term. They're not. The "uniform" part of uniformitarianism carries with it an implication, to most people upon first hearing it, of a constancy of process rates over time, and so the term is disfavored now because this is not the current definition.
I disagree. I was taught Uni in high school and college level geology. I was never confused as I hadn't gone in with any expectation of what it meant. Uniform could mean the rates, or the state of the universe (where laws do not change).
Instructors taught how geology began with the early version of Uni, which changed over time (became more generalized). It still stands as the foundation of the practice of geology, but its not necessary to go on about it.
quote:
Geologists today, to the extent they put a label on it, probably consider themselves naturalists.
This I totally agree with, and why I think Uni as a term has been lessed used, even by geologists. The general concept of Uni in its modern form has become part of naturalism which took useful aspects from other fields.
Rather than saying I'm a geologist which is founded on Uniformitarianism, it is much easier and less confusing to say I am a scientist which is founded on naturalism. If someone wants to get specific, then I'm a geologist...

holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 40 by Percy, posted 02-20-2004 12:47 PM Percy has seen this message but not replied

  
Silent H
Member (Idle past 5246 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 44 of 89 (87741)
02-20-2004 1:59 PM
Reply to: Message 43 by NosyNed
02-20-2004 1:31 PM


quote:
And, now, we see that they don't "drift". The whole surface of the earth moves and the continents are just carried along.
While you are right that there is a difference between the first mechanism (plowing), and the understood mechanism (being moved), that still sounds like "drift" to me. Kind of like driftwood moves from place to place from the action of water beneath it.
But if continental drift should be done away with, since people might get confused as the mechanisms beneath them have changed, I wonder what we should call it...
The surface of the earth moves and the continents are simply taking a free ride?
How about "continental grift".
[This message has been edited by holmes, 02-20-2004]

holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)

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 Message 43 by NosyNed, posted 02-20-2004 1:31 PM NosyNed has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 45 by Percy, posted 02-20-2004 2:07 PM Silent H has replied

  
Silent H
Member (Idle past 5246 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 49 of 89 (87769)
02-20-2004 3:50 PM
Reply to: Message 45 by Percy
02-20-2004 2:07 PM


Re: There's always plate tectonics
Where's the humour in that?

holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)

This message is a reply to:
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Silent H
Member (Idle past 5246 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 59 of 89 (87843)
02-20-2004 11:27 PM
Reply to: Message 51 by Tamara
02-20-2004 5:23 PM


I am responding only to underscore both percy's and sylas's posts. I think your sum still comes up a little too strong, and opens up possibilities which are not really able to be made.
Sylas and Percy also correctly pointed out the problems with your end question.

holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 51 by Tamara, posted 02-20-2004 5:23 PM Tamara has not replied

  
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