cover image Earth’s Deep History: How It Was Discovered and Why It Matters

Earth’s Deep History: How It Was Discovered and Why It Matters

Martin J.S. Rudwick. Univ. of Chicago, $30 (392p) ISBN 978-0-226-20393-5

Rudwick (Worlds Before Adam), emeritus professor of history at the University of California, San Diego, impressively demonstrates how our understanding of the age of the Earth has shifted over the course of several centuries. In the course of describing our growing knowledge, Rudwick shows how it is both possible and important to utilize historical techniques to gain insight into the history of the planet. He also argues persuasively about the historical relationship between religion and science: “In the history of the discovery of the Earth’s own history, as in the history of many other aspects of the sciences, the idea of a perennial and intrinsic ‘conflict’ between ‘Science’ and ‘Religion’—so central to the rhetoric of modern fundamentalists, both religious and atheistic—fails to stand up to historical scrutiny.” Rudwick presents a clear picture of the proponents of scientific discipline finding their way between conflicting hypotheses: a young vs. an old Earth; catastrophism vs. uniformitarianism; stability of the Earth’s surface vs. shifting continents due to plate tectonics. Throughout this rich and articulate presentation, Rudwick reveals how we have come to acknowledge an Earth far older than originally thought possible, with humans being a very late addition to the scene. Illus. [em](Nov.) [/em]