Friday, October 4, 2013

Quote: John Dewey On The Armchair Geologist

John Dewey in his review of Colliding Continents - a book about the geological evolution of the Himalayas by Mike Searle has these harsh words-

Reading a book like this makes one realise how shallow and limiting is the pseudo-geology done by those who sit in front of their computers composing drivel. As Francis Pettijohn remarked, ‘the truth resides in the rocks’ and that ‘there is nothing as sobering as an outcrop’. This work is a useful lesson to those who are not prepared to sweat and get tired and dirty and try to find out the message of the rocks.

Hard to argue against - but computer modeling when the inputs are acquired through hard fieldwork is a powerful tool to understand geological processes. John Dewey refers to the idea of middle crustal extrusion in Himalayan mountain building. This idea suggests that the rocks making up the High Himalayan Crystalline Series were initially a weak viscous middle crustal layer sandwiched between a strong upper crust and a strong mantle. These soft crustal rocks formed during the India-Asia collision and then were squeezed southwards and as denudation started removing the upper crust were extruded i.e. brought to the surface from underneath Tibet. This idea to be refined and to mature has required all possible ways of understanding the earth- fieldwork, high tech geochemistry, geophysical survey and .. yes... the computer geek... doing mathematical modelling.

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