Friday, October 30, 2009

October 30: Geology's Greatest Benefactor (Vol. 38, pp. 385-391)

Sir Charles Lyell is considered the founder of modern geologic studies. Darwin said that "the science of geology is enormously indebted to Lyell — more so, as I believe, than to any other man who ever lived."

Lyell took geology out of the realm of superstition with a bold statement — "By degrees, many of the enigmas of the moral and physical world are explained, and instead of being due to extrinsic and irregular causes, they are found to depend on fixed and immutable laws."

Instead of blaming an earthquake or flood on supernatural forces, it was time to take an objective look at the phenomena and see their commonality with other similar events. Again, the logical progress of the forces of reason over the forces of superstition.

Along with Darwin, Newton, Pasteur and the rest of the scientific giants of the 18th and 19th centuries, Lyell helped to take chance out of the equation as the dominant factor in how the world works, and replaced it with logic, reason and the scientific method. The world as we know it today would not exist without this tremendous leap in human knowledge.

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