Science & Education

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 197–211

Geology as an Historical Science: Its Perception within Science and the Education System

  • Jeff Dodick
  • Nir Orion
Article

Abstract

For much of the 20th century, geology has largely been ignored as a pre-college science subject in many English-speaking nations. In this paper, we examine some of the historical based influences which have affected its status within the educational system. A key factor is that as a science, geology has sometimes been treated as being derived from physics. This is supported by episodes in which geology and physics have interacted. Thus, in the late 19th century, many geologists accepted Lord Kelvin's restricted calculation of the earth's age even though the fossil record spoke differently. More disturbing, are events in which geologists have attempted to replicate physics' methodology. Thus, Charles Lyell defined the principle of uniformitarianism on the basis of Newton's ‘Vera Causa’ in which only those processes operating today would be accepted as geological causes. Lyell believed that uniformitarianism had to be defined as such, if geology, like physics was to be considered a valid, logically based science. However, the adoption of such restrictive principles is short sighted because it does not consider geology's unique defining characteristics, its historical interpretive nature. These characteristics complement the physical sciences, and also provide students with another route to scientific literacy, a major goal of Project 2061. The environmental crisis, with its large collection of interconnected variables, emphasizes that the systemic methodology of the earth sciences has much to contribute in the future to both science and education, specifically, and the welfare of the planet, generally.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeff Dodick
    • 1
  • Nir Orion
    • 1
  1. 1.Weizmann Institute of ScienceRehovotIsrael

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