Calibration, Coherence, and Consilience in Radiometric Measures of Geologic Time

Philosophy of Science 87 (3):425-456 (2020)
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Abstract
In 2012, the Geological Time Scale, which sets the temporal framework for studying the timing and tempo of all major geological, biological, and climatic events in Earth’s history, had one-quarter of its boundaries moved in a widespread revision of radiometric dates. The philosophy of metrology helps us understand this episode, and it, in turn, elucidates the notions of calibration, coherence, and consilience. I argue that coherence testing is a distinct activity preceding calibration and consilience, and I highlight the value of discordant evidence and trade-offs scientists face in calibration. The iterative nature of calibration, moreover, raises the problem of legacy data.
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