The Nature of Geology

The Nature of Geology

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Geology can be likened to the parable about the difficulty of a blindfolded man describing an elephant by touching just one part of the animal. Much of the time geologists are flying nearly blind, unable to discern characteristics of rock masses directly. They rely on inference and extrapolation of limited information, attempting to draw a three-dimensional picture from point data and drill holes. In this way, geology is similar to medicine, another science that often relies on the interpretation of data limited in scope by the requirement to do no harm to the patient.

Geology, also like medicine, has an intuitive or even artistic aspect. Both sciences do not readily lend themselves to interpretation in definite mathematical terms. Statistics and probabilities are the mathematical coins of the realm.

But geologists often stray too far into “art” and forget that geology is a science. They describe rock characteristics in imprecise terms that are not readily translated into quantities useful to engineers. Furthermore, geologists tend to be idiosyncratic, developing their own classifications with little consistency between workers. Even more damning, many industrial geologists lose sight of the economic imperative to their work, leading to an obsession with esoteric academic questions. The generation of fallacious ore deposit models based on ego and idiosyncrasy can be devastating to a mining operation.

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