The role of assumptions and worldview in geological interpretation

Dr K. Benison from the United States writes in response to Michael Oard’s article Beware of paleoenvironmental deductions. Dr Benison was the principal author of the study that Michael Oard was commenting on, and this exchange presents a penetrating look at the influence of worldview on how geology is interpreted.

Dr Benison writes:

As author of the paper referenced here, I am flabbergasted with the interpretations this article makes and I disagree with them. First of all, this paper was published in Nature, a journal that allows only 2 pages for a research letter. Details about the study are published in several other, lengthier journal articles (Benison and Goldstein, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002). Second, more recent work in southern Western Australia has documented many similarities between the modern acid saline lakes there (with pHs measured as low as 1; Benison et al., 2007, Bowen and Benison, 2009, etc.). Little work had been done on the acid lakes in Western Australia previous to the publication of the Benison et al., 1998 paper, but now we have lots more data that supports the concept of “comparative sedimentology” (the sedimentologist’s version of uniformitarianism) . Third, some of the facts of the research study were misrepresented. For example, the original paper claims that there were likely numerous lakes during the Permian in this midcontinent area, but your web site here describes it as one big lake. Finally, I suggest the concept of actualism be considered, as well. Actualism states that Earth processes occurring today likely occurred in the past, but perhaps at different rates and different intensities (easy to understand in terms of changes in atmospheric chemistry, ocean chemistry, and life through time).

I doubt if you will publish this comment on your web site. However, if you truly are a critical thinker, you will.

Creationist researcher Michael Oard replies:

I am not surprised that Dr. Benison disagrees with my article on paleoenvironments. We have different frameworks of natural history which drive our differing interpretations. Having published the article in 1999, it obviously could not have incorporated information from her cited works, several of them that I have since read. I do find it interesting how these acidic saline lakes in Australia are related to the huge ‘evaporites’ seen in the rock record….


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