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

Philosophy of Science 87 (3):425-456 (2020)
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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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Archival date: 2019-08-23
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