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Section 1.2 Geology as Storytelling

Geology is storytelling: piecing together a past history based upon our observation of the world around us. Geology seeks to answer the questions:

  • What is the Earth made of?

  • What forces shape the landscape?

  • How did the Earth come to be as I see it today?

In this sense, the geological structures and materials we encounter testify (as their own witness) to a past history of the Earth. The work of a geologist is to interpret this record and tell the story of creation. (This introduces another ongoing tension in science: the extent to which scientific truths are "constructed" vs. "discovered".)

These themes are consistent with the the NSF-supported Earth Science Literacy Initiative (ESLI), formed in 2008 to create a succinct document outlining what citizens should know about Earth science. One of the outcomes of this initiative was the development of a coherent and fundamental set of Big Ideas:

  1. Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet.

  2. Earth is 4.6 billion years old.

  3. Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air, and life.

  4. Earth is continuously changing.

  5. Earth is the water planet.

  6. Life evolves on a dynamic Earth and continuously modifies Earth.

  7. Humans depend upon Earth for resources.

  8. Natural hazards pose risks to humans.

  9. Humans significantly alter Earth.