Geoscience Research Institute

Video Series: Clash of Ideas

Is it true that our worldview influences the way we interpret data from the natural world? Is it also possible that observations from the natural world trigger revolutions in thinking? Exploring sites around the European Alps, this series looks at some historical examples of controversies in science and geology that illustrate the dynamic and complex relationship between scientific models and philosophical concepts.

Episode 1: Galileo and the craters of the Moon
This episode unfolds at the foothills of the Italian Alps, between Venice and Padova. It was here that Galileo Galilei broke the Aristotelian distinction between perfect heavenly bodies and imperfect Earth. By suggesting that the surface of the moon was similar to the varied topography seen on Earth, Galileo paved the way for the science of planetary geology. This step, often portrayed as a clash between science and religion, actually helped to develop a better understanding of creation and of the wisdom and power of God that the universe reveals.

Episode 2: Pluto vs Neptune and the origin of rocks
This episode, centered around the town of Predazzo in the Dolomites of Italy, addresses the early modern geology controversy on the origin of granites. At stake in this debate was much more than the origin of a rock type. The deeper question, still relevant today, was whether there was a beginning and there will be an end…

Episode 3: Moving Mountains?
This episode, filmed in the spectacular Swiss Alps of canton Glarus, presents an account of the development of ideas on the origin of mountains. It is both humbling and exciting to realize how much geological understanding changes with time.

Episode 4: A Lost Ocean and Plate Tectonics
This episode explains how an enigmatic suite of dark rocks in the Swiss Alps bears witness to the enormous tectonic forces which have been unleashed in the past history of our planet.