During the 18th century, the most popular theory of how the current earth came to be was called Neptunist, named after the god of the seas, Neptune. It was based on the idea that the continents emerged as the waters that covered all the earth finally receded. All the matter suspended in those water, eventually precipitated out, creating the layers of sedimentation that can be observed world-wide. Of course the question was: what mechanism could accomplish all of this?

At the end of the 18th century came the Plutonist theory, named after the god of the volcanic underworld, Pluto. To James Hutton, called by many the father of modern geology, the earth is a machine that works to maintain life. New continents arise because the earth inner heat sources cause expansion, pushing even the seabeds up to land. Again the question was: what mechanism could accomplish all of this?

In the 19th century, based on the evidence available then, many observers of the earth's geological record, such as Charles Lyell, believed, as Claude Albritton has put it, that "in order to build a reputable geological science, one must begin by assuming that the laws of nature are permanent and immutable--unchanging with the passage of time...and that past changes had been similar in degree to those operationg in the present."

Over many years, Lyell's much-revised text Principles of Geology was incredibly influential and was read even by the general public. Those who followed his views came to be called Uniformitarians, from the word 'uniform.'

Others, such as Georges Cuvier, believed the opposite. They were called Catastrophists, from the word 'catastrophe.' They believed that the available evidence showed that disasterous global events, however rare, had radically altered the earth's surface a number of different times.

But in the last forty years the pendulum has gone the other way. Thanks to original thinking begun by meteorogist Alfred Wegener, many geoscientists now believe in crustal changes that are: (1) continuous, (2) gradual and (3) small (that is, relatively local, not global). They fit in the Gradualist tradition, which has alway had common connections with both of the other two positions.

This is the direct opposite of basic pole shift theory, which emphasizes sudden extremely large changes. Current consensus beliefs mostly discount sudden catastrophic change, except in some extreme past, except for extra-terrestrial causes, such as comets. They don't take very seriously what we are curious about: that some earth-bound mechanism--such as polar ice growth--could trigger sudden, catastrophic dislocation of some or all of the earth's surface.

To learn more about the consensus view--the theory of plate tectonics--visit the United States Geological Service (USGS). Its introduction is based on THIS DYNAMIC EARTH by W. Jacquiline Kious and Robert I.Tilling. You'll find an entertaining history of the plate tectonic theory and some evidence , pictures of the earth's major plates and a book, map and video list for further reference. If you do nothing else, read the case of polar dinosaurs in Australia.

Make sure to ask yourself: does this information help or hurt pole shift theory ?

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