The Rejection of Continental Drift: Theory and Method in American Earth Science
In the early twentieth century, American earth scientists were united in their opposition to the new--and highly radical--notion of continental drift, even going so far as to label the theory "unscientific." Some fifty years later, however, continental drift was heralded as a major scientific breakthrough and today it is accepted as scientific fact. Why did American geologists reject so adamantly an idea that is now considered a cornerstone of the discipline? And why were their European colleagues receptive to it so much earlier? This book, based on extensive archival research on three continents, provides important new answers while giving the first detailed account of the American geological community in the first half of the century. Challenging previous historical work on this episode, Naomi Oreskes shows that continental drift was not rejected for the lack of a causal mechanism, but because it seemed to conflict with the basic standards of practice in American geology. This account provides a compelling look at how scientific ideas are made and unmade.
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To begin with, geology is not at all my subject; I believe I never took a geology-focused course and so last surveyed the topic during a more generic earth sciences class in high school. So it is not ... Read full review
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accepted Airy Alexander du Toit American geologists anomalies areas argued argument Arthur Holmes asthenosphere Bailey Willis Barrell Barrell's basalt Bowie's Carnegie cause century Chamberlin Charles Schuchert colleagues compression concluded continental drift continents and oceans contraction convection convection currents crustal Daly Daly's Dana deflections deformation density developed discussed displacement Dutton earth scientists earth's crust evidence explain facts field figure Fisher forces fossil geodesists geodesy geodetic Geological Society geologists geophysical geophysicists geosynclines Gilbert Gondwana gravity Hayford Hess Holmes's horizontal hypothesis idea interpretation isostasy isostatic compensation John Joly Joly Joly's Kelvin land bridges later Longwell mathematical mechanism Merriam mountain moved observed ocean basins oceanic crust origin perhaps physical plate tectonics Pratt model problem radioactive rigid rocks scientific sediments South Africa structure substrate Suess suggested surface Survey theoretical theory tion Toit Toit's uniformitarianism uplift Vening Meinesz vertical Wegener Wegener's Wright wrote zone
Page 13 - The effects must themselves teach us the nature and intensity of the causes which have operated ; and we are in danger of error, if we seek for slow and shun violent agencies further than the facts naturally direct us, no less than if we were parsimonious of time and prodigal of violence.