The Rejection of Continental Drift: Theory and Method in American Earth Science

Paperback | April 1, 1999

byNaomi Oreskes

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In the early twentieth century, American earth scientists were united in their opposition to the new--and highly radical--notion of continental drift, even going so far as to label the theory "unscientific." Some fifty years later, however, continental drift was heralded as a major scientificbreakthrough and today it is accepted as scientific fact. Why did American geologists reject so adamantly an idea that is now considered a cornerstone of the discipline? And why were their European colleagues receptive to it so much earlier? This book, based on extensive archival research on threecontinents, provides important new answers while giving the first detailed account of the American geological community in the first half of the century. Challenging previous historical work on this episode, Naomi Oreskes shows that continental drift was not rejected for the lack of a causalmechanism, but because it seemed to conflict with the basic standards of practice in American geology. This account provides a compelling look at how scientific ideas are made and unmade.

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In the early twentieth century, American earth scientists were united in their opposition to the new--and highly radical--notion of continental drift, even going so far as to label the theory "unscientific." Some fifty years later, however, continental drift was heralded as a major scientificbreakthrough and today it is accepted as sci...

Naomi Oreskes is at New York University.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 9.09 × 6.1 × 0.98 inPublished:April 1, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195117336

ISBN - 13:9780195117332

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Table of Contents

I. Not the Mechanism1. Two Visions of the Earth2. The Collapse of Thermal Contraction3. To Reconcile Historical Geology with Isotasy: Continental Drift4. Drift Mechanisms in the 1920sII. Theory and Method5. From Fact to Theory6. The Short Step Backward7. Uniformitarianism and UnityIII. A Revolution in Acceptance8. Direct and Indirect Evidence9. An Evidentiary and Epistemic Shift10. The Depersonalization of Geology

Editorial Reviews

"On April 7, 1998, there was a note in Eos by David Stern that included a perceptive and amusing quotation from Teddy Bullard on the question, which has been recently reached something of a culmination in an important new book, The Rejection of Continental Drift, by Naomi Oreskes and publishedby Oxford in 1999."--EOS