Earth's Deep History: How It Was Discovered And Why It Matters

Paperback | November 3, 2016

byMartin J. S. Rudwick

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Earth has been witness to mammoths and dinosaurs, global ice ages, continents colliding or splitting apart, and comets and asteroids crashing catastrophically to the surface, as well as the birth of humans who are curious to understand it. But how was all this discovered? How was the evidence for it collected and interpreted? And what kinds of people have sought to reconstruct this past that no human witnessed or recorded? In this sweeping and accessible book, Martin J. S. Rudwick, the premier historian of the Earth sciences, tells the gripping human story of the gradual realization that the Earth’s history has not only been unimaginably long but also astonishingly eventful.

Rudwick begins in the seventeenth century with Archbishop James Ussher, who famously dated the creation of the cosmos to 4004 BC. His narrative later turns to the crucial period of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when inquisitive intellectuals, who came to call themselves “geologists,” began to interpret rocks and fossils, mountains and volcanoes, as natural archives of Earth’s history. He then shows how this geological evidence was used—and is still being used—to reconstruct a history of the Earth that is as varied and unpredictable as human history itself. Along the way, Rudwick rejects the popular view of this story as a conflict between science and religion and shows how the modern scientific account of the Earth’s deep history retains strong roots in Judaeo-Christian ideas. 

Extensively illustrated, Earth’s Deep History is an engaging and impressive capstone to Rudwick’s distinguished career.  Though the story of the Earth is inconceivable in length, Rudwick moves with grace from the earliest imaginings of our planet’s deep past to today’s scientific discoveries, proving that this is a tale at once timeless and timely.
 

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From the Publisher

Earth has been witness to mammoths and dinosaurs, global ice ages, continents colliding or splitting apart, and comets and asteroids crashing catastrophically to the surface, as well as the birth of humans who are curious to understand it. But how was all this discovered? How was the evidence for it collected and interpreted? And what ...

Martin J. S. Rudwick is professor emeritus of history at the University of California, San Diego, and affiliated scholar in the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. His many other books include Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution and World...

other books by Martin J. S. Rudwick

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:392 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:November 3, 2016Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022642197X

ISBN - 13:9780226421971

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Table of Contents

Introduction
 
1. Making History a Science
The science of chronology
Dating world history
Periods of world history
Noah’s Flood as history
The finite cosmos
The threat of eternalism

2. Nature’s Own Antiquities
Historians and antiquaries
Natural antiquities
New ideas about fossils
New ideas about history
Fossils and the Flood
Plotting the Earth’s history

3. Sketching Big Pictures
A new scientific genre
A “sacred” theory?
A slowly cooling Earth?
A cyclic world-machine?
Worlds ancient and modern?

4. Expanding Time and History
Fossils as nature’s coins
Strata as nature’s archives
Volcanoes as nature’s monuments
Natural history and the history of nature
Guessing the Earth’s timescale

5. Bursting the Limits of Time
The reality of extinction
The Earth’s last revolution
The present as a key to the past
The testimony of erratic blocks
Biblical Flood and geological Deluge

6. Worlds Before Adam
Before the Earth’s last revolution
An age of strange reptiles
The new “stratigraphy”
Plotting the Earth’s long-term history
A slowly cooling Earth

7. Disturbing a Consensus
Geology and Genesis
A disconcerting outsider
Catastrophe versus uniformity
The great “Ice Age”

8. Human History in Nature’s History
Taming the Ice Age
Men among the mammoths
The question of evolution
Human evolution

9. Eventful Deep History
“Geology and Genesis” marginalized
The Earth’s history in perspective
Geology goes global
Towards the origin of life
The timescale of the Earth’s history

10. Global Histories of the Earth
Dating the Earth’s history
Continents and oceans
Controversy over continental “drift”
A new global tectonics

11. One Planet Among Many
Exploiting the Earth’s chronology
The return of catastrophes
Unraveling the deepest past
The Earth in cosmic context

12. Conclusion
Earth’s deep history: a retrospect
Past events and their causes
How reliable is knowledge of deep history?
Geology and Genesis re-evaluated

Appendix
Creationists out of Their Depth
 
Glossary
Further Reading
Bibliography
Sources of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Index

Editorial Reviews

"Earth’s Deep History, a grand sweep from the 17th to the 21st century, is a thrilling story of discovery and debate, insight and interpretation.”