The Geoscientists’ Blind Spot

The Grumpy Geophysicist‘s blog has an insightful piece today. He relates the slow acceptance of continental drift (later morphed into plate tectonics) to an inherent nature in the way humans look at new ideas. It’s a good read…

The Grumpy Geophysicist

One advantage of looking back at the history of earth science is to recognize patterns that suggest certain biases.

Consider, for instance, continental drift.  Now this is often portrayed as Wegener right, others stupid dunderheads, but obviously that is too simple. First off, Wegener had a mix of good and bad observations.  Aside from fitting continents (a somewhat old parlor game by then), he noted common terrestrial species, ice deposits far from the pole, and the fundamental division between continental crust and oceanic crust.  But he also put a lot of weight on his own grossly inaccurate geodetic surveys and so concluded that Pleistocene deposits on either side of the Atlantic predated the separation of the continents.  But the big objection to continental drift was simply: how would it occur?

Here’s the funny thing: this is common to any number of ideas based off of observation in earth science.  If…

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About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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