Terrestrial analogs, planetary geology, and the nature of geological reasoning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Scopus citations

Abstract

Analogical reasoning is critical to planetary geology, but its role can be misconstrued by those unfamiliar with the practice of that science. The methodological importance of analogy to geology lies in the formulation of genetic hypotheses, an absolutely essential component of geological reasoning that was either ignored or denigrated by most 20th century philosophers of science, who took the theoretical/ experimental methodology of physics to be the sole model for all of scientific inquiry. Following the seminal 19th century work of Grove Karl Gilbert, an early pioneer of planetary geology, it has long been recognized that broad experience with and understanding of terrestrial geological phenomena provide geologists with their most effective resource for the invention of potentially fruitful, working hypotheses. The actions of (1) forming such hypotheses, (2) following their consequences, and (3) testing those consequences comprise integral parts of effective geological practice in regard to the understanding of planetary surfaces. Nevertheless, the logical terminology and philosophical bases for such practice will be unfamiliar to most planetary scientists, both geologists and nongeologists. The invention of geological hypotheses involves both inductive inferences of the type Gilbert termed "empiric classification" and abductive inferences of a logical form made famous by the 19th century American logician Charles Sanders Peirce. The testing and corroboration of geological hypotheses relies less on the correspondence logic of theoretical/ experimental sciences, like physics, and more on the logic of consistency, coherence, and consilience that characterizes the investigative and historical sciences of interpretation exemplified by geology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-10
Number of pages6
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Volume95
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Fingerprint

Keywords

  • Analogy
  • Grove Karl Gilbert
  • Hypothesis
  • Philosophy of geology
  • Planetary surfaces

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

Cite this