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2 Many of our ideas about the history of the planet Earth and the various processes that have shaped it are founded on observations made in northern Europe and eastern North America, places marked mostly by uncommon passivity of earth-shaping phenomena. These regions, for example, lack the climatic extremes of the tropics, they lack the proximity to the largest ocean on earth, and they are associated with an almost complete absence of deep ocean trenches where the earth’s crust is being destroyed, a process associated with often-explosive volcanic eruptions and abrupt land movements. For many people, the Pacific Basin is the other side of the earth and consequently less well known and understood. The Pacific Basin occupies around one-third of our planet’s surface yet remains marginalized in many textbooks of natural science. It stretches almost from pole to pole, contains the largest ocean on earth, and hosts most of the world’s deep ocean trenches. In terms of understanding the history and the evolution of our planet, the Pacific is too important to be sidelined, but the fact that this has happened has made it fertile ground for the imaginings of people for centuries. Much of what we know about the ancient history of the planet Earth has become known only quite recently, for example: t UIFPMEFTUSPDLTPOFBSUIGPSNFEBSPVOEŠ ŜŜŜNJMMJPOZFBSTBHP t UIFDPOUJOFOUTBOEPDFBOCBTJOTIBWFDIBOHFEUIFJSTIBQFTBOEUIFJSQPTJUJPOT relative to one another through time t NPVOUBJOSBOHFTTPNFUJNFTSJTFSBQJEMZBOEBSFXPSOEPXOTMPXMZ t POBTDBMFPGTFWFSBMNJMMJPOZFBST NBOZJTMBOETJOUIFXPSMETPDFBOTBSFUSBOTJFOU phenomena—going up, going down, appearing, disappearing t KVTUBTWBTUOFXBSFBTPGUIFFBSUITDSVTU QBSUJDVMBSMZPOUIFPDFBOĘPPS IBWF formed within the last million years or so, so others (including whole islands and bits of continents) have disappeared within the same period The Earth’s Dynamic Third The Pacific Basin 8 Vanished Islands and Hidden Continents of the Pacific It is not surprising that such ideas represent a radical departure from the ideas of most educated people a century or so ago. Today most earth scientists regard these old views as antiquated: worthy but irrelevant. Yet some of today’s pseudoscience writers, either unaware of modern scientific thinking or dismissive of it, employ some of these old ideas to prop up their fanciful notions about human and planetary evolution. When you mention lost continents or vanished islands to some such people, their eyes light up with a neophyte’s passion because they believe that knowledge of such ancient worlds holds the key to long-lost secrets about humans and their powers that will prove to be the panacea for many apparently insurmountable problems of modern human existence. Such assumptions are born more from wishful thinking than from rational scientific evaluation. One hundred and fifty years and more ago, almost everyone in the Western world who pondered the history of the earth considered it a largely unchanging body whose principal features—mountains, valleys, ocean basins, and islands—had been fixed in both form and configuration since their creation. This view, styled fixist by subsequent detractors, was supported (and indeed prolonged well past the point of expected demise) by the Christian churches, which taught of a single act of divine creation unaffected by the subsequent behavior of the created (human or inanimate). Anything less could be taken as challenging God’s omnipotence. Our understanding of the nature of the earth and the ways in which it has evolved acquired over the past 150 years or so, particularly the last half century, contradicts this belief. Everywhere on the earth’s surface there is change, and this is continuous. Nothing is truly fixed except as it sometimes appears to people who cannot extend their time horizons beyond that of a single human life span. Some change has been catastrophic, some slow. Some changes have gone unobserved, others were witnessed by thousands. Changes also took place before there were people to observe them, yet it is still possible to discover the nature of these changes through the study of various environmental proxies. Whatever way we look at it, the earth is a dynamic place. The Pacific Basin Most textbooks in geography and geology focus on Europe and North America, manifesting a bias toward regions of the world about which most is known and can be demonstrated, and where most potential buyers...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780824865443
Related ISBN
9780824832193
MARC Record
OCLC
456566429
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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