From the Mailbox – “Interesting Strata”

Posted by on January 30, 2011 in From The Mailbox | 1 comment

This was a question sent to me via my mailbox. If you have any suggestions, questions or comments, you can leave your own here.

Joshua McGee asks: I assume you’ve seen interesting strata up-close in your climbing. Have they ever generated an insight about evolution? Other more emotional reactions, such as enormous respect for, or humility in the face of, the age and history of the planet?

Yes I have seen some different and interesting rock during climbing, varied compositions from layered and weathered sandstone to composite and granite rock, in as many variations as you’d care to count. To tell you the truth, I have to concentrate a lot when climbing, as we do put ourselves in life-and-death situations all the time.

I love bush-walking, and half the fun of going out climbing is, in times when I don’t have to focus on tying a knot or keeping my feet below me, looking at the nature of the land about me. The Australian bush is incredibly diverse with all manner of plants and animals, each one is interesting in its own way. I wrote a bit about this a couple of weeks ago. Part of the wonder I see in nature is geology, although I’d say that the worlds of biology and botany are of more interest to me.

I know there are some climbing areas in the USA where you can find fossils in the rocks you are scaling. Here in Australia it’s not uncommon to find seashells at the base of the rocks at Mount Arapiles, about 300km inland from the nearest ocean. Apparently once upon a time this cliff face was a sea cliff, and the earth buckled to pitch it upward. Knowing these kinds of things adds an extra layer of interest to my climbing experiences.

I guess the feeling I get is not about evolution per se, but an insight and respect for the age of the planet. All you have to do is look around you with open eyes, and it is apparent that the world is full of amazing, wonderful and diverse species, and remembering that this all evolved from the same place can be a bit mind-blowing. But at the same time, it all makes perfect sense too.

I’m not even going to entertain the idea that this world could have been formed in anything less than 4+ billion years. We can watch and see the eroding cliff faces, and see obvious evolutionary paths between animals. These ideas are not only fanciful, but very very wrong. I’m sure the Australian indigenous peoples would be quite offended by these ideas, since they have inhabited this land for more than 40,000 years. ( I should mention that they also have their own creation myths, which are just as fanciful, but nowhere as shortsighted as the now popular young-earth creationists’ story.)

I did think about this question last Wednesday when we were climbing at Cathedral. The sedimentary layers of rock there had formed over millins of years, and at some point tilted upward revealing the uniform sheets of rock that make up the cliffs. The timescales involved are impossible to truly fathom, but it really is obvious how these formed when one truly looks at them.

None of this was created, if by created you mean someone or something made it. It was however formed by geological events and weather over millions of years. No god was needed for this, just nature and time.

Don’t forget, if you want me to answer your question, or have a topic you’d like to see me cover on the blog, send me a message here. And stay tuned for more “From the Mailbox” coming soon to this blog!

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1 Comment

  1. Marvelous. Thanks for such a great answer.

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