Map of the United States showing the Permian red beds and evaporites, which were interpreted as an ancient lake of strong and concentrated acid! (after Benison et al.1)

As a reader of the geological literature, I am amazed by the paleoenvironmental interpretations that are often made. Rarely do the researchers qualify their interpretations with “possibly”, “maybe”, or other such words to indicate uncertainty. We read, for example, that a particular conglomerate was laid down by a stream, or a such-and-such siltstone wasdeposited by oscillating tides. Sometimes they will even tell you what the climate was like millions of years ago when formation X was laid down. These paleoenvironmental deductions use the uniformitarian assumption and are usually based on the type and character of the formation and the particular fossils contained in the rock. Here is one such statement about a Permian evaporite formation in the North American mid-continent deposited over an estimate area of 200,000 km2:

“They were deposited in non-marine saline lakes, pans and mud-flats, settings that are typically assumed to have been alkaline.”1

Usually these evaporates would automatically be assumed to have been deposited in non-marine saline lakes, pads and mud-flats. They would have simply stated that the environment was alkaline, except for a rather shocking new discovery, which sheds light on the value of such paleoenvironmental deductions as well as on the uniformitarian assumption….

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