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Geology quotes

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A large number of well-trained scientists outside of evolutionary biology and paleontology have unfortunately gotten the idea that the fossil record is far more Darwinian than it is. This probably comes from the oversimplification inevitable in secondary sources: low-level textbooks semipopular articles, and so on. Also, there is probably some wishful thinking involved. In the years after Darwin, his advocates hoped to find predictable progressions. In general these have not been found - yet the optimism has died hard and some pure fantasy has crept into textbooks. This is illustrated by other statements in the Root-Bernstein letter, such as: `Evolution postdicts certain immutable trends of progressive change that can be falsified.' This is simply not the case! In the fossil record, we are faced with many sequences of change: modifications over time from A to B to C to D can be documented and a plausible Darwinian interpretation can often be made after seeing the sequence. But the predictive (or postdictive) power of theory in these cases is almost nil. The problem faced by the evolutionary paleontologist is not unlike that of the stock market analyst. Both the stock market record and the fossil record are complex Markovian time series wherein causal interpretations after the fact are often possible but the predictive value of theory is weak to nonexistent. In fact, the technical market analyst probably has a better record than the paleontologist. This does not disqualify evolutionary theory; it simply illustrates the difficulty of applying any statistical theory to actual cases.

One of the ironies of the evolution-creation debate is that the creationists have accepted the mistaken notion that the fossil record shows a detailed and orderly progression and they have gone to great lengths to accommodate this "fact" in their Flood geology.

David M. Raup, "Evolution and the Fossil Record", Science, Vol. 213, No. 4505, 17 July 1981, p.289 [1]
A great deal has changed, however, and contemporary geologists and paleontologists now generally accept catastrophe as a 'way of life' although they may avoid the word catastrophe... The periods of relative quiet contribute only a small part of the record. The days are almost gone when a geologist looks at such a sequence, measures its thickness, estimates the total amount of elapsed time, and then divides one by the other to compute the rate of deposition in centimeters per thousand years. The nineteenth century idea of uniformitarianism and gradualism still exist in popular treatments of geology, in some museum exhibits, and in lower level textbooks....one can hardly blame the creationists for having the idea that the conventional wisdom in geology is still a noncatastrophic one.
David M. Raup, Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin (Vol.54, March 1983), p.21 [2]
The charge that the construction of the geologic scale involves circularity has a certain amount of validity...Thus, the procedure is far from ideal and the geologic ranges are constantly being revised (usually extended) as new occurrences are found.
David M. Raup, U. of Chicago; Field Museum of Natural History, Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, Vol. 54, Mar. 1983, p.21 [3]


The profound role of major storms throughout geologic history is becoming increasingly recognized.
Dag Nummendal, 1982, "Clastics," Geotimes 27(2):23 [4]


It is a great philosophical breakthrough for geologists to accept catastrophe as a normal part of Earth history.
Erie Kauffman, 1983, quoted in Roger Lewin, "Extinctions and the History of Life," Science 221:935-937.[5]


The hurricane, the flood, or the tsunami may do more in an hour or a day than the ordinary processes of nature have achieved in a thousand years.
Derek V. Ager (Professor and Head of the Department of Geology and Oceanography at the University College of Swansea, England), The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record (New York, John Wiley and Sons, 1973), p. 49. [6]


"The fact is, the doctrine of uniformitarianism is no more ‘proved’ than some of the early ideas of world-wide cataclysms have been disproved." - Edgar B. Heylmun: "Should We Teach Uniformitarianism!
Journal of Geological Education, Vol. 19, January 1971, p. 35.[7]
"We know so little about our tiny portion of the universe and have observed it for such a minute period of time, relative to cosmic time, that extrapolating this meager knowledge to the entire universe seems highly speculative and perhaps somewhat arrogant." G. Tyler Miller, Energetics, Kinetics and Life: An Ecological Approach, Wadsworth Pub. Co., Belmont, CA, p. 233, 1971.

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