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Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences

From Heresy to Truth

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


Over the course of the twentieth century, scientists came to accept four counterintuitive yet fundamental facts about the Earth: deep time, continental drift, meteorite impact, and global warming. When first suggested, each proposition violated scientific orthodoxy and was quickly denounced as scientific—and sometimes religious—heresy. Nevertheless, after decades of rejection, scientists and many in the public grew to acknowledge the truth of each theory. The stories behind these four discoveries reflect more than the fascinating push and pull of scientific work. They reveal the provocative nature of science, which raises profound and uncomfortable truths as it advances. For example, the Earth and the solar system are older than all of human existence; the interactions among the moving plates and the continents they carry account for nearly all of the Earth’s surface features; and nearly every important feature of our solar system results from the chance collision of objects in space. Most surprising of all, we have altered the climate of an entire planet and threaten the future of human civilization. This absorbing scientific history is the only book to describe the evolution of these four ideas from heresy to truth, showing how science works in practice and how it inevitably corrects the mistakes of its practitioners. Scientists can be wrong, but science can be trusted. In the process, astonishing ideas are born and, over time, take root.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 05, 2015 – Powell (The Inquisition of Climate Science), executive director of the National Physical Science Consortium, takes a historical look at four truths in the earth sciences and how these truths came to be accepted. While he gives equal weight to his treatments of the age of the earth, continental drift, meteorite impacts, and global warming, it is his goal to use the first three topics to help inform understanding of the fourth. With each subject in turn, Powell begins with first thoughts on the matter and then tracks opposed views until the mounting data in each case is able to "transform heresy into truth." Scientists come off as fallible and stubborn as anyone, and indeed Powell says that "in science, being wrong is inevitable and indispensable." But he makes it clear that the process of science eventually succeeds in producing the best explanation of available data. In the case of anthropogenic global warming, there is no dispute in the scientific community and, despite media claims, this is borne out by peer-reviewed articles (of which only one in a thousand claims that this is not the case). Powell concludes that Big Oil is doing exactly what Big Tobacco did in trying to obscure the truth for its own ends.
Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences
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  • $34.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Earth Sciences
  • Published: Jan 06, 2015
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Seller: The Perseus Books Group, LLC
  • Print Length: 352 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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