Rivers of stone

For generations, most geologists have assumed without question that the present is the key to understanding the past. It isn’t. In fact there has been no hint in modern history of the level of violence in the Earth’s geologically recent past.

But modern, high resolution, satellite imagery has revealed the pristine planetary scarring of a large, catastrophic airburst event too violent, and terrible, to imagine, from the naive, 19th century, uniformitarian-assumptive, view of the world. That unquestioned viewpoint has been the foundation of the Earth sciences for more than 150 years.

21st century satellite imagery allows us to study the surface of the Earth at a level of detail our fathers could never have imagined. And in the past five years, the publically available image data has really come into its own.

More than a century ago, Harlan Bretz noticed, and tried to point out, the evidence for the mega-floods that sculpted the Grande Coulee, and the ‘Channeled Scablands’ of eastern Washington. What he had noticed was empirical, conclusive, evidence, of a major catastrophic event that the standard theorists of his day thought was impossible.

The aerial views allowed him (and anyone who looked where he was pointing) a perspective from which large catastrophic material movements could be perceived on a scale that had been unimaginable until he described them.

Harlan Bretz was the first to use Aerial photographs to detect,  and map, catastrophic mass movement of the Earth’s surface. Most of the academic community of his time thought he was nuts. After all most geologists agreed that sudden, catastrophic, geologic changes just don’t happen anymore. And that all geomorphology is the result of slow processes requiring millions of years. They believed that “The present is the key to the past”, and that the rocks of that area were all ‘well defined’. They were mistaken.

The satellites of today have upped the ante. Mr. Bretz could see evidence of material movement on a statewide scale. With the imagery now available through Google Earth we can detect, and read patterns of catastrophic material movements on a continental, and even global, scale. The event Bretz perceived was only implausible from a standard theory viewpoint because of its size. And yet, by comparison, it will be seen that his mega flood was only a minor little footnote in the events of the early Holocene.

The truth is faithfully, and legibly, written in stone. In a new language of fluid motion. And in the explosive emplacement motions of thousands cubic miles of wind-driven rivers of flash melted stone.

This blog is not an attempt to read that catastrophic geo-history for anyone. I’m afraid this is one the world needs to read for themselves.

I seek only to direct the attention of others to the first legible characters in a new kind of language; one of flash melted, wind-driven, rivers of stone. A language in which the empirically true geo-history, and recent catastrophic geomorphology, of North America is recorded in intricate detail.

Published in: Uncategorized on September 24, 2010 at 8:09 am  Comments (5)  

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  1. [I hope this isn’t too long…]

    This is a good posting.

    No, we cannot continue to build upon the uniformitarian-only dictates of the uniformly white anti-Bible-at-any-cost Anglo-Saxon scholarship of the mid-19th century.

    Sitting here in the year of Our Lord 2010, Anno Domini, we cannot now appreciate the intrinsic NEED scientists of that day had for distancing themselves from the Biblical Flood. In our non-secular world it seems hard to believe how strongly religion influenced thought then. In 1850 they were already 160 years removed from the first distancing attempt, the Royal Society. Even now, another 160 years along. the remnants of that are still with us, and thinking-via-Bible-verse seems even more repulsive. Back then religion absolutely permeated society and propriety. It took much courage to argue against it, and the scientists of that day are to be applauded for their determination. We could not BE where we are, if they had not fought so well – and so long.

    The scientists won the battle, in a long slugfest. The Church no longer dictates thought. THAT has been a healthy development. Nowadays when anyone talks about Creationism or Noah’s Flood, the general reaction is one of disbelief that anyone can be so irrational as to believe in fairy tales such as are in the Bible.

    But that is not to say they got all of it right, back then. When they threw out the bath water, they basically threw out the baby, too. I accept that they felt they HAD to.

    But Louis Agassiz, to whom we owe the idea of the Ice Ages, observed enough catastrophic evidence to believe that the onset of the ice was sudden. He was only a young pup at the time, though, so when Charles Lyell signed on to Agassiz’s ice ages and declared them to be part of his uniformitarianism (even the name reeks of religion, doesn’t it?) always and ever slow-slower-slowest gradualism, who was young idol-worshiping Agassiz to argue with the great Lyell? Better to accept the stroke of fortune and take the best offer of a position at a university.

    So MANY scientific fields since the mid-1800s have seen rational development move things forward, leaving behind the well-intentioned but simplistic and limited concepts of that time. Medicine, electronics, physics, astronomy – to name a few – have been open to new and more inclusive ideas. But not geology, despite its vast array of newer observing tools.

    The late evolutionist Stephen J Gould had his “punctuated equilibrium,” in which change is rapid, essentially instantaneous. So even the evolutionists have begun to abandon the “everything and always, slow-slower-slowest” concept. PE, of course, was acceptable because it did not conjure up God and Bible-thumping. But Gould did not come up with that concept simply because he wanted to change things around a bit. He was driven there by the evidence. But let it be said, too, that even the eminent Gould had a tough row to hoe. Even now, many think it is too radical. The entrenched in science are only a little less dogmatic than their pew-kneeling brethren, sorry to say.

    And, yes, “dogmatic” is the right word.

    The next-to-limitless time line, the gradualism, the always incremental – and the uniformity with present processes – are all principles that have been imbued almost with the ivy from the very towers of academia. They have been locked into stone, and de-entrenching them will be the work of many decades, for those who see the evidence like Agassiz did, like Gould did, and like Getz did.

    Science does claim for itself a reasonableness that it too frequently simply does not possess. One would think – based on our school day lessons about it – that science is an endeavor in which, when good evidence is brought in, everyone sees its merits and mentally blends new evidence with old. And the all parties would exit the lecture hall, arm-in-arm, to head to the Boar and Stag for a pint of ale together in collegial brotherhood.

    It is SO not so.

    Careers are invested in maintaining the infrastructure/construct behind the many papers of the several or many academics involved. To accept the new is to reject their own work, with the most invested being the older ones with three decades of work in it; i.e., the people who are the acknowledged leaders are the very ones most threatened. Can we expect them to act any different from the priests who silenced Galileo?

    Of course not. Who would want the work of a lifetime to be supplanted by someone else’s interpretation of the evidence? So, the first reaction – perhaps lasting several decades – HAS to be rejection.

    So, it has nothing to do with evidence and everything to do with careers. No matter how much they deny it, they are basically a priesthood redux.

    Evidence?! We don’t need no stinkin’ evidence!

    The world of evidence has moved on, with its better tools for observing such as satellites and scanning electron microscopes. And at the very least we have computers to help us analyze, to process in so many ways it makes our own brains spin, much less what it would do to Lyell’s and Darwin’s.

    New observations, new evidence, allow us to have new glimpses – new WAYS to see new specifics in what we see. Glimpsing means we see MORE of what has always been there to see. And in seeing MORE, how can we not begin to see that some of the old “seeing” was blind to some extent?

    All the “-ologies” mean the “study of.” To study is to see more, and then to see even more, and then to see even more. We have not come to the end in any discipline yet. There is always more. More to learn. More to see. More to understand. All of which means we can USE the better understanding in more ways.

    Those who believe (and there are many) that we have come close to the end in any of the “-ologies” are – unbelievably – wrong. Why they would even WANT such a state to exist is hard to fathom. To have nothing left in your field to study would mean no more scientists in your field – just a bunch of engineers, forever applying the known in search of oil or creating faster rockets. They should be glad – on behalf of future scientists in their field – that new doors are being opened. Even hypotheses that argue differently keep one’s scientific field alive.

    “I seek only […] a language in which the empirically true geo-history, and recent catastrophic geomorphology, of North America is recorded in intricate detail.”

    Even this new understanding will be misunderstood to some degree and will need to be adjusted in the future. It will not be the final word, any more than Lyell’s. . .

    • Thanks,

      I certainly hope it’s not the final word. I’ve found many troubling questions I will never be able to answer without help.

      As an autodidact, I see myself as a simple tracker following the signs, and footprints, of a monster. To really understand the beast, and hopefully, to learn ways humanity might be able to prevent, or survive, a repeat performance, will take the work of many disciplines. And alot of people who are much better trained than I am.

      I have many hard questions for them.

  2. I read long ago that no one ever taught anyone anything – that the teacher could only present it, but it was always the student that learned it, or not. So, no matter a classroom or not, we are all autodidacts. The classroom merely comes with the potential for a certificate – making us all the exact equals to the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. Except the formula in the movie was b.s. . . . lol)

    Agassiz, though educated somewhat, taught himself to read glaciers (which I believe he misread to a high degree). Einstein – who taught him relativity concepts? After 16 years, we are required to teach ourselves or else we get no more degrees. That is the function of the thesis – to show we can do original work – to go where no man has gone before.

    But those extra levels of teaching ourselves – are they education or indoctrination? Some of both. Some say the more education, the less original we are able to think – that we only learn what is thought to be impossible, what directions to not inquire into.

    But the real lesson of Oz is that all four are parts of the same psyche – courage, smarts, innocence, and to have a heart. And to move our feet forward. We can’t get there without finding a Yellow Brick Road worth our efforts. And the start of it is always right at our feet, no matter where we are.

    And you know what? The Wizards behind the curtain of academia are more cluster than wise – and they don’t HAVE the answers to NEW questions. Your questions area as likely to be too hard for them to answer as not. Not unless they join in.

    But don’t be afraid to ask the questions. They may need us to cover all the bases, to make sure they aren’t overlooking something.

    Some day a comet WILL hit Earth.

    For the first time in our known history, we MAY have the capacity to defend ourselves. Evidently the last time there was no capacity to do that. If, for example, Atlantis was real, and they weren’t able to, then humankind was set back thousands of years – and perhaps even yet haven’t recovered fully. That would make history just us all scrambling to get back to where we were.

    Where would we all be if they HAD defended Earth?

    Not every civilization in the cosmos was interrupted. I think how much a civilization can develop after 10,000, 25,000, 50,000 years – even a million years. Since we live in a solar system with billion kiloton objects threatening us, it is only a matter of time before we have to start all over again.

    Shoemaker-Levy 9 showed us what we are in store for – one or more impacts with plumes bigger than our planet. Obviously here the plumes would be bigger – true extinction events.

    And what can happen on Jupiter now can not only happen to us in the future, but could have happened in the past.

    The assumption is made that any in our past were when human civilization was not very developed. Why that is, I can’t tell, because if you look around the only remnants of what went before are huge stone structures that could withstand a direct nuclear strike. It is amazing that they haven’t put two and two together. No, all they’ve done is try to tell us that the megalithic sites were all built during man’s “slow” ascent from the ape – but, in fact, the time period they talk about is VERY short. They have to tell us that, or admit that we are not the pinnacle of evolution – that someone was here before us. And that it was not aliens – it was us.

    I don’t want us to have to start all over again.

  3. If we can figure out a way to keep it from anihilating us, a common threat to stand shoulder to shoulder against might be good for us.

    But it’s a little sobering to realize that humanity’s only chance might someday lie in setting asside every difference, on short notice, in order to face the common threat of an extinction level event without being blown back into the stone age again.

  4. “On short notice” means our goose is cooked. That is why efforts by the HISG and Cosmic Tusk are important.

    Devising a 100% effective strategy to divert or destroy an incoming comet/meteoroid is of primary importance. Getting it designed, built, then put in place is an absolute must.

    And then it has to be maintained (and upgraded as often as possible), because it might be hundreds – even thousands – of years before it is needed.

    THEN it is “on short notice.”

    I do believe we did not go back to the stone age right away. Egyptian and Sumerian technology and/or cultural organization imply that they were inheritors of all that. From the Hyskos shepherds, the Egyptians all of a sudden built megalithic structures. How and why are still being debated. The paradigm that this all grew from a shepherding culture makes little sense. Similarly, the Sumerians were conducting commerce just like we do today (sans the computers), at least 5000 years ago. Where did that all derive from? Out of thin air?

    But over time it was all lost. That is exactly what we would expect to see, if our modern society managed to salvage some of its technology but little of its infrastructure. That it lasted for a good long while tells us how much warning they had, because they had preparation time.

    It is exactly what we will be faced with, just like all the post-apocalyptic movies tell us: Back to dog-eat-dog, living in the wild – and then the long, slow gradualistic climb back to building an infrastructure that can sustain technology.

    SOMETHING happened, and what happened before will happen again.

    The gradualists tell us all the impacts on the Moon were millions of years ago. Perhaps they are right, but it might just as well be true that they are reading into it based upon their uncritical acceptance of the vast time scheme Lyell handed them – the time scale partly devised to shut the traps of the religious people, to tell them once and for all that the world wasn’t created in 4,004 BCE. By adding 3 or 4 zeros, they could laugh it up together in their university town pubs, about those ignorant religious quacks.

    But they didn’t challenge it enough. They began to ignore cracks in the evidence. And now we are where we are.

    Thank goodness for Velikovsky and his followers. He wasn’t correct about most of it, but he asked some tough questions – questions that haven’t gone away. And since SL9, they’ve all gotten on the catastrophe bandwagon. A bit late, but here, nevertheless. But their ignoring attitude, the puffing out of the chests, will do no good when we DO have to go on short notice.

    Academics are NOT what we need now. They will only get in the way. We need engineers, some folks with hands on ability. That is how we got to the Moon. Von Braun was not an academic. He was a smart KID who was there at the beginning and knew it all from hands on experience. And then 99% of the people in NASA were technicians or engineers. Ivory towers are not going to make it.

    We certainly have the wherewithal to seriously meet and damage a visitor. But the proper strategy has to be arrived at and then implemented. That seems to be exactly what we are not doing at the present.

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