The old clichés like ‘buying a pig in poke’, ‘don’t let the cat out of the bag’, and ‘empty sack of lies’ all have their roots in the same old con. It went something like this: At an old country fair, a con artist would approach a likely looking mark to sell him a piglet in a ‘poke’ bag. But it’s not really a pig in the bag; it’s a cat. The cat wiggles, and squirms, just like a little pig when you poke him through the bag. And as long as the bag stays closed, the con works just fine. But as soon as the bag is opened, the cat escapes. And the victim is left holding nothing but an empty sack of lies.
The Earth Sciences are founded on the unquestioned 19th century assumptions of Sir Charles Lyell. Namely the assumptions of gradual, uniform, geologic change. And the foundation principle that ‘the present is the key to understanding the past’. Churches, governments, and big institutions, loved it. They bought it like a pig in a poke. And they bought with generous funding packages. And with rules that shut the door to any publication, or consideration, of sudden catastrophic events, as a driving force in the geo-morphology of this world for more than 150 years. That’s a cruelly long time time to leave the poor kitty in a bag.
But the questions of just what the hell happened around 13,000 years ago that caused the extinctions of the mega fauna in North America, the disappearance of the Clovis culture, and a return to Ice age conditions that lasted more than a thousand years, has caused us to take a closer look, and I’m afraid we’ve let the cat out of the bag.
There are whole libraries of data now that leave no room for doubt that the most violent, and deadly, impact related natural disaster in 65 million years, happened only a few thousand years ago. Much of the data also indicates that the catastrophe at the end of the last ice age was only the largest of many such events in the past few millennia. And it has become clear that there is nothing in the short period of time we call ‘written history’ that presents any clue of the level of almost inconceivable catastrophic violence which has happened in Geologically recent, human times.
We are clearly on the cusp of a major paradigm shift in the Earth Sciences as far reaching as the realization that the world isn’t flat. But, while standard uniformitarian geology may appear to some to be a dead horse walking, it isn’t. Any new model for the surface terrains of this world that opens the door to consideration of occasional impact related catastrophe as a driving force in the geomorphology of the terrains of this world is incomplete without a gradual change, ’steady state’ component. Gradualism works pretty good as long as nothing sudden happens.
But I have found reason to fear. And I have come to believe that something sudden happens far more often than we thought.