Sappy Birthday, Plate Tectonics
Authors of prose and poetry often use personification to set the imagination and emotions moving. Such talk is infrequent in science, because it can confuse more than illuminate. We’ll let the reader decide the effect of a commentary in GSA Today1 by Shoufa Lin (U of Waterloo, Ontario), who asked, “When did the life of plate tectonics begin?” In this picture, rocks morphed into living organisms acted upon by Darwinian evolution, through all stages of life:
The question of when plate tectonics began, and in particular whether it began in the Archean, is the focus of several recent articles…. I support the idea that “modern-style” plate tectonics “evolved” from an earlier form of proto-plate tectonics…. In support of the “evolutionary” view, I would like to offer the following comments…
Most, if not all, geologists agree that plate tectonics is a part of the earth system now. We should also agree that plate tectonics did not exist at the very early stages of Earth. (Before that, there was even no Earth!) If we agree on this, we should also agree that there must have been a period during the early stages of Earth’s evolution when the process of plate tectonics was conceived and “embryo” plate tectonics began. The embryo grew into a baby, the baby into a teenager, and the teenager into an adult: “modern-style” plate tectonics. The embryo and the baby might have looked, behaved, and functioned quite differently from the adult…..
So when did the life of plate tectonics begin? Some might say that it began the moment the embryo was conceived, while others would say that it did not begin until the baby was born. I suggest we had embryo and the baby plate tectonics in the Archean, and the answer to the question of when plate tectonics began will depend on how mature you believe the process had to be before it could be called “plate tectonics.”
1Shoufa Lin, “Comment: When did the life of plate tectonics begin?” GSA Today,Volume 17, Issue 3 (March 2007), pp. 12�12.
Is any commentary really necessary? This is SO-O-O-O stupid. It shows how Darwinian thinking is completely out of control. Rocks don’t think! They don’t grow. They have no DNA. There is no program controlling their development. Plate tectonic theory, as an abstract concept, cannot be thought in terms of embryos and teenagers. Who are the parents, for crying out loud? Mother Earth and Father Time? Charlie has no claim on crustal plates. How can a serious geological journal, with its heart dead-set against intelligent design, publish such nonsense? It belongs in the mythological literature department, not a scientific journal. Shoufa said these ideas first arose in a conference in 1995. Apparently 12 years has not healed the brain damage.
The important subtext here, though, is the weakness of plate tectonics theory. Notice the admission that geologists disagree about the onset and speed of plate tectonics. Venus and Mars, remember, have no such crustal dynamics. Maybe the personal language used here is pulling wool over the eyes of viewers so they won’t notice the muddy thinking.
The only thing lacking maturity in this story is the personification, a character flaw rampant in the Darwinian mentality. Here is one baby that can be ethically thrown out with its dirty bathwater.