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  • Session T174

    As you prepare your GSA Connects 2022 abstracts, please consider submitting to session T174 - Case Studies in the History & Philosophy of the Geosciences: People, Places, & Things

    Co-Sponsored by the Geoscience Education Division and the History & Philosophy of Geoscience Division, a longer description can be found below. Please let me know if you have any questions.

    Like many sciences, the history and philosophy of the geosciences can be portrayed as a compilation of narratives and storylines, synthesized from the collective actions of the participants. But unlike many other sciences, the geosciences developed during the late stages of an intense era of philosophical development in the late 18th and 19th centuries. As a result, many of the ideas in the geosciences are relatively new and less reductionist when compared with other physical sciences. For geoscience ideas to be formed and generalized, they must be inclusive of multiple aspects of reality, at the expense of ever being fully complete. In the absence of universal laws, we must rely on history to document past work, while allowing philosophy to guide future work.

    Regardless of the inherent complexity of the geosciences and the diversity of landscapes across the world, most people enjoy compelling storylines, puzzles, dilemmas, etc., that allow them ownership of the conditions, provide immersive contexts, and some capacity for decision-making, particularly in dialogue in field and laboratory settings. Students can be motivated to engage more deeply in learning opportunities. Historical narratives lend themselves to understanding how methods in the geosciences have been tried, augmented, or discarded, while their outcomes become the basis for philosophical framing of the validity of geoscience research findings. In short, “tales” of people, places, and things as carefully constructed and presented case studies provide the mode, means, and opportunity for dialogue, argument, negotiation, and advancing human understanding of the Earth system.

    The History and Philosophy of the Geology Division (HPGD), working with the Geoscience Education Division (GED), seeks presentations that share the development, use, and impact of case studies that inform the geosciences discipline and can be used in geoscience teaching and learning settings, both formal and informal. These can take on, and are not limited to several different forms:

    • Historical scientific controversies that reveal the nature of science in general and geoscience in particular;
    • Persistent misconceptions held by the public and K-16 students, or as presented in media reports and instructional materials and textbooks;
    • Public understanding of the geosciences and geoscience concepts
    • Risk assessment of geoscience or environmental hazards
    • Cassandra unheard – instances of warnings of chronic and acute hazards ignored
    • Deep-time – multigenerational assemblages of how geoscience ideas developed or were discarded
    • Analytic Biographies – the stories of geoscientists and the cultural and historical influences on their ideas

    In this session, we envision not just rich examples of each of how these case studies were developed and disseminated, but also speakers providing conceptual frameworks for the construction of new case studies as well as for the assessment of student learning as a result of use of case studies. Through the use of case studies, all participants can be provided with learning environments that represent the nature of the geosciences, discussion platforms for historical and philosophical dialogues that advance our understanding of how geoscience is conducted and documented, and lead to a broader integration across the sciences, strengthening an greater understanding of the relationship of humans to the Earth.


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