Examining the Impact of Geology on Society

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EXAMINING THE IMPACT OF GEOLOGY ON SOCIETY:

_AN INTER_ _-_ _DISCIPLINARY APPROACH_

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The experiences we all face as humans are somehow connected in one way or another to Earth and all of its daily processes and functions. Said that, understanding Earth's relationships is very critical to the ability of our own society, as well as the capabilities within ourselves to make well-informed decisions about Earth's environmental issues. One way or another, these issues affect our daily lives.

Unfortunately, for many years and even still resuming today in many cases, our level of geologic knowledge has indicated that the history and nature of our environmental interactions is not that well understood. Respectfully, there have been numerous assumptions and theories along the way. However, there has been a controversy overlying much of our understanding. This controversy earned its attention starting in the early 19th century when geological theories of 'How old is the earth?' became popular. In the mid to late 1700's, the dominant view in Europe regarding Earth's age was based entirely on biblical interpretation. In the bible, the book of Genesis said that the Earth was approximately 6,000 years old, because God created the world in six 24-hour days about 4000 B.C. and about 1600 years later the earth was reformed by 'Noah's catastrophic flood.' During the late 17th and 18th centuries, the authority and inspiration of the bible began to fade away. Biblical skepticism was flourishing by the formation of group followings in areas such as atheism, agnosticism and deism. These groups and their ideas started to have a great impact on the theories and development of Earth's geography and age. As a result, science and geology began growing in its influences and they were on their way to becoming the ultimate source of truth. Departing from philosophical views, such as many of the bible's statements, is essential to view Earth's truth and existence through the set 'laws of nature.'

As we've come to learn, theories may take years or even decades to win a general acceptance. This stands especially true for plate tectonics. Plate tectonics is one of the most important and arguable geological theories of all time. It consists of large scale motion between the upper mantle and crust of the Earth. The man who studied this movement so extensively was a gentleman by the name of Alfred Wegener. In 1911, Wegener was browsing around the school's library where he taught at the University of Graz in Marburg, Austria before coming across a paper of an assortment of fossils that had identical plants and animals found on complete opposite sides of land off the Atlantic Ocean. He became very interested by this information. So, he began more research on this matter to see if there were more circumstances with other or similar organisms separated by thousands of miles of oceans. With this new fossilized information on two separate continents, Wegener began to notice that there was a close fit between the coastlines of South America and Africa. Their geographic similarities seemed to fit like a puzzle to him. This explained why the same organisms may be living on two different continents separated by thousands of miles ocean water. "A conviction of the fundamental soundness of the idea took root in my mind" (Wegener). His theory was going to require a lot of supporting evidence. Wegener began his research by studying more into the geography of different continents. He saw that large features, such as mountains, seemed to match very closely when the continents were brought together. For example, the Scottish Highlands matched very closely with the Appalachian mountains of North America. Also, that there was a distinctive rock strata in South Africa known as the Karroo system that followed almost identical to the Santa Catarina system in Brazil. Wegener also indicated that the fossils found most usually demonstrated a climate that was different...
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