Re: Help - Steve Austin info

Arthur V. Chadwick (
Mon, 03 Mar 1997 11:23:04 -0800

Joel writes:

>I don't have Austin's book and have not seen the video both of which I am
>sure are what are being referred to here. When this is just thrown out as
>a generality it is difficult to respond but I feel that I cannot let these
>comments go by without at least some effort to put the Mt. St. Helens work
>in perspective with historical and modern geology. Looks like I am going
>to have to buy Austin's book but in the meantime I am wondering if anyone
>knows of a review of Austin's primary points, what the primary claims are
>regarding how Mt. St. Helens proves so many things wrong, and/or a critique
>of his assesment. I am surprised how little material actually written by
>Austin I can find on the web.

My recollection of the video is a bit fuzzy by now, but the main points I
can recall have to do with catastrophism: Rapid deposition of complex units
and rapid erosion of consequent deposits, both of which are appropriate
constructs from Mt. St. Helens data. I guess you may wonder whether it is
appropriate to extrapolate this data to the entire geological record. The
answer probably depends more on your paradigm than on anything intrinsic in
the data. Mt. St. Helens eruption is a good example of catastrophism, no
doubt. But geology has embraced increasing levels of catastrophism during
recent decades, so that this in itself does not constitute evidence for any
particular mode of origins. At some point though geologists need to start
asking themselves how much catastrophism they can tolerate and still believe
in the traditional read on the geological column. To suggest that Austin's
stuff by itself constitutes such a wake-up call may be a bit premature.