Friday, 27 February 2009

The Great 'Grand Canyon Age' Debate!

Hi there!

I was very interested to read a post in Wayne Ranney's blog 'Earthly Musings' some weeks ago, regarding 2008 being the 'Banner year' for Grand Canyon research papers. In his blog he mentioned the geological 'hoo-hah' that was stirred up by the publication of a paper by Victor Polyak, which presented the possibility that part of Grand Canyon may well have been around 17 Ma. Shock horror!?! How could they say such a thing? Outrageous!
Or is it?

Their research into U-Pb dating of speleothems (cave formations) brought forward the possibility that sections of Grand Canyon may have been in existance a lot longer than originally thought. However, I suppose it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that rather than stimulate discussion and open the minds of other geologist to new possibilities regarding the age of Grand Canyon, their research paper seems to have brought a near hysterical response from "the young canyon police" as Wayne called them. Those geologists that are firmly behind the '6Ma age' scenario seem unwilling to entertain any other possibility which seems very strange to me.

While much of the geological terminology used goes way over my head, it is nevertheless interesting to read the reviews of the paper made by Pedersen et al and Pearthree et al (Sept. 2008). There seems to be a 'disprove this paper at all costs' approach rather than create a healthy discussion, but maybe that's just me misinterpreting their reviews. Polyak responds to their reviews with the inference that maybe many geologists don't fully understand cave formations and the hydrology behind them.

Okay, I haven't even started a geology degree course yet and am very much an outsider looking in, but I sincerely hope that when the time comes and I start to contribute to geological debate that I will be able to keep an open mind and be able when necessary to admit to myself and others, "hey, you know, I might just be wrong here!" Surely if one of my geological peers looks at my work, critically analyses it and shows me that I am wrong, that is GOOD for the geological world and me too? Surely we learn just as much by finding out that we aren't quite correct, as we do when proved right?

In Wayne Ranney's book "Carving Grand Canyon", he mentions the tensions in the air during the 2000 symposium on the origins of the Colorado Plateau, that was almost palpable between the 'young canyon' groups and those who had the audacity to suggest that it might be older! Surely, what every geologist or interested party wants, is to find the truth? I like to think that, in the coming years, as my geology studies progress, I will be 'man enough' to take criticism from my peers on the chin and embrace the fact that I might have been wrong.

Time will tell, I guess!

See ya later!