Lecture outline - Introduction to physical geology.

Physical geology = study of the processes that shape the surface and interior of the earth.

Physical geology as a discipline is evolving into earth system science. What does that mean?

The basic goal of this course is then to gain some initial understanding of how the earth operates (more on that).

Why would one want to do that?


Course mechanics:


Philosophy of science:

Since physical geology is a scientific endeavor it makes sense to consider the basic nature of that endeavor.


Some highlights in the history of geologic thought

Natural theology and cosmogenies, were also early hypotheses as to how the earth worked and what its history was. A cosmogeny was a more detailed creation and natural history account. A basic driving theologic question of the time -what does the creator's creation say about the creator?

To the right Turner's (a British artist) 1813 depiction of the biblical deluge. At this time the biblical deluge and the associated genesis account was still being used as a workable scientific hypothesis by many naturalists, who looked for evidence for the deluge in the geologic record. The lack of success in finding evidence for a global deluge coupled with abundant evidence for a long and complicated earth history led to the refutation of the genesis account and the biblical deluge in the scientific community.

Thomas Burnet, 1691, Sacred Theory of the Earth

James Hutton, formulated the principle of uniformitarianism and the concept of the rock cycle in the late 1700s. The setting was Scotland and the enlightenment.

William Smith's 1815-17 geologic map: This was a very significant piece of work and continued geologic mapping provided a fundamental basis for constructing the geologic time scale and geologic histories.The different colors represent different rock units defined by a combination of rock type and relative age.

Charles Lyell and deep geologic time in the Victorian era:

Alfred Wegener, continental drift and scientific progress in the 1920s. We will return to in some detail later.

Alfred Wegner photo. Photo source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred_Wegener.jpg

Plate tectonic revolution of the 1960's:


Useful themes in geology we will return to throughout the course.

What do you see in this image? By the end of the course you will 'see' much more.

Some thoughts of what can be seen in this image with some introductory geoeducation.


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