Friday, May 4, 2007

An Apologist for a Geologist

An Apologist for a Geologist:

Lo, the Geologist-
The last to be employed, the first to be dismissed-
He riseth up early in the morning;
Mighty are his preparations,
Great are his expectations,
He strideth out armed with his classification book.
With copious notes, he exalts Taxonomy.
No detail escapes his mighty eye;
Reams of reports ensue- all with appropriate hedges.
He is careful to avoid extrapolation, since something not understood might be found to follow a pattern.
In the end all facts found to occur are well documented.
But when he returns home, late at night, smelling of strong drink,
The Truth is not in him.

Nevertheless, it is necessary that Geology, as it developed, exist. How else would we have found that there is a vertical succession of younger fossils in the earth’s Crust, as we start lower in a stratigraphic section and look shallower. The scheme which developed laid the groundwork for an understanding of Geologic Time. The simpler organisms were found in older layers and became more complex as Time proceeded (Jay Gould would dispute this, having found that in the Cambrian Burgess shale more arthropod phyla occurred than now exist). This laid the way for taxonomists to discern that Life has become more varied over the Phanerozoic (the time when visible life remains were deposited) up to modern times.
However, it is unnecessary that Geologists continue to use this procedure, for entities other than Life indications- that is, to continue to classify everything seen in the field and put it in a definition scheme; with this method, even things which vary continuously in the earth are locked into a Mold as if they were static. This builds an extensive Terminology, but hardly increases understanding. Entities which vary with space and time are then left in their Mold, as if they cannot escape their classification. For example, for the salinity of groundwater, which varies continually (by dilution) with distance from a salt source, e.g. for a salt dome, one might determine horizontally or vertically, the distance from that source (these two orientations will have different gradational relationships, according to the diffusion or movement system). This offers a method of solving for the separation distance of an oil well distant from that source. But if the Geologist classifies the salinity as low, moderate, or high, rather than use the measurable numerical quantity, then the mathematical and physical relation of salinity to distance from the dome is lost.
As a result of all this exorbitant classification, other Earth Sciences have moved in to fill the gap created by the loss of analysis and deduction- which is the usual domain of Science. The field of Geology should encompass all knowledge of the earth, but more analytical domains (such as Geophysics, Petrophysics and Geochemistry)have now acted to prevent their inclusion.