I should like to give an introductory course on geology.
Before I start, I should like to know that there are people who want to read it, so please say so in response to this post.
It will consist of a series of articles presented in what I think is the right order for teaching geology. I shall present them perhaps at weekly intervals, except for the first few which will merely clarify definitions and which we can get through quickly.
I propose that since my main purpose is exposition, rather than debate, I should break from usual forum etiquette in the following way: if someone points out an error in one of my articles, or a point that needs clarification, then I shall thank them for their input and then change the original post, so that each particular article is as good as your collective criticism can make it.
The objective of this course is to show how it is possible to reconstruct the past history of the Earth from our present observation of the rocks.
It will differ from other textbooks in that it will place a strong emphasis on asking and answering the question: "How do we know?" Most textbooks report certain aspects of geological knowledge simply as things that are known: for example, that granite is an igneous rock, or that sandstone with certain properties is aeolian; or that the Earth's core is iron; but without addressing, or at least without systematically addressing, the question of how these things are known in such a way as to satisfy the doubts of the skeptical or the inquisitiveness of the curious.
As a result, the average geology textbook does fairly poor service to the skeptical, or to those who wish to debate and convince the skeptical. It also, in my view, does a disservice to the science of geology itself: for the story of geology is in effect the world's longest-running detective story, and it is more interesting if geology is presented as such than as a collection of facts handed down from on high.
Finding the right order in which to structure a course in geology is perhaps the most perplexing decision facing its author. No solution is ideal, because (with the exception of the definition of basic terms, which clearly should come first) it would be best if every topic could be discussed last, so that the reader can come to it with the rest of the course as context. As this is impossible, some sort of compromise has to be made.
The contents of the course will be as follows:
(1) Rocks and minerals: in which I explain what is a mineral, what is a rock, what are sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks.
(2) Surface processes: including weathering and erosion, rivers, glaciers, nearshore processes, marine sediments, etc; with a systematic look at all the different types of sediment and their corresponding sedimentary rocks --- peat and coal; glacial till and tillite; deserts and aeolian sandstone; coccoliths and chalk; etc, etc, etc.
(3) Plate tectonics: in which we describe how it is known that plates move, what is know of the mechanisms, and what effects this has in terms of faulting, folding, orogeny, ophiolites, terranes, etc.
(4) Stratigraphy: a discussion of actualism, of Steno's principles, of way-up marks, of cross-cutting relationships, of the geological column, of index fossils, and so forth.
(5) Absolute dating: those dating methods other than the relative methods of stratigraphy. This will include a look at some of the methods of more doubtful value, such as racemization.
(6) [This is added by edit in November] I shall have to add a section, hopefully a short one, about paleoclimatology. This is something of an afterthought, but having written much of the rest of the course and repeatedly said that such-and-such a thing would be put off until I talk about paleoclimatology, I don't see how I can not talk about it. So be it.
At that point I shall have done what I set out to do, in that the reader will then have a grasp of the principles of historical geology. However, it may be that the readership will have further questions. In particular, the reader may want to see some historical geology actually done, or in other words to see some case studies. It may be possible to continue the discussion along these lines.
Note on sources
It will not be necessary to give references for notions which are the common property of geologists, such as the definition of a mineral or the fact that granite is felsic. However, I shall provide references to the more abstruse or particular facts to which I allude.
Thanks are due to Pressie for volunteering to review the material. Any remaining errors are, of course, mine. As a great man once said: "We all have our little faults".
I have read and thought on these matters and see incompetence and lack of imagination and the biggest error of all. Rejecting the historical confidence in the bible for boundaries despite our civilization oweing itself to it.
This is a science thread about geology. Your participation in this thread causes me a great deal of concern because you have in the past demonstrated an inability to maintain focus on the science. If you mention the Bible or religious issues or other non-science issues in this thread again then I will remove your posting privileges in the Geology and the Great Flood forum, which would mean you wouldn't be able to participate in the Potential Evidence for a Global Flood thread, either.
Please, no replies to this message in this thread.
"No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride...and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well...maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten." — Hunter S. Thompson