Axiom: The Earth is Expanding

Much progress of science through human history has happened by the elimination of apparent facts – axioms­ – which have in fact proven to be false.

The Earth is flat. How can rain fall upwards? Disproved.

The Earth is at the center of the universe. This is obvious, it’s indisputable. The crystalline sphere that carries the Sun, Moon, stars and the rest of the heavens rotates about the Earth once every day. Disproved.

Earth’s continents and oceans have been permanent and always fixed. The bombshell claim that continents have drifted apart from a single, ancient supercontinent is heavily ridiculed at the turn of the 20th century.

You see, today that supercontinent has a name, and it’s called Pangea. It is also widely regarded as truth, existing as recently as 65 million years ago. Stegosaurus could walk unobstructed from Alaska to Antarctica, if he or she so desired.

But there was a time in Earth science when we had no explanation for moving continents – known as continental drift. Naturally, hypotheses were developed to explain how the surface of a hard and rocky planet could be so dynamic, bumping around like boats on water.

This hypothesis may hype your thesis

You mightn’t have heard of this next one, and if you haven’t, it will sound just as whacky as the ones before it, like the disproved flat Earth theory. But it may surprise you how recently it was put forth as a very potential hypothesis, only to be overtaken by a currently supported argument.

Up until the 1970s, Expanding Earth was an assertion that continental drift occurs because Earth is, literally, expanding.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

It follows the principle that all the continents used to be connected around a smaller Earth, with no gaps. There was no ocean to separate them, only land.

As expansion progressed, the continents broke apart, and oceans filled the gaps which grew between the land.

Put simply, Expanding Earth could exist as one of three forms:

  1. Earth’s mass has remained constant, gravity has decreased over time.
  2. Earth’s mass has grown such that gravity has remained constant over time.
  3. Earth’s mass has grown such that gravity has increased over time.

As crazy as some of it sounds, it was seriously considered as a potential truth by some, not half a century ago.

But is truth really true?

Today, expanding Earth is widely regarded as disproven. The theory of plate tectonics gained validity in the 1970s after seafloor spreading – the divergence of plates at their boundaries – was discovered in the two decades earlier. There is much scientific evidence that the Earth is not, and has never, expanded.

The existence of plate tectonics is evident in science; consensus holds that is it truth. But as it has successfully solved problems, like all science does, it has failed to account for others. It even continues to raise more unanswered questions…

How could Dinosaurs grow so large, given Earth’s ‘limiting’ gravitational pull?

Is the mantle beneath our feet truly homogenous and simple?

Why is Earth unique as a tectonically active planet?

What if our current methods are wrong, and Expanding Earth has been, at least in part, truth?

It is fascinating how axioms of the Earth science community have evolved over the ages, as with those of any and every other scientific discipline.

If you look back in history at past eradicated truths, a general theme seems to be apparent – human egotism becomes less of a driving force in scientific consensus; more and more we see ourselves as insignificant in the enormity of the universe – a universe that has been alive for far longer than the first words ever uttered by people.

What naïve ‘truths’ of ours today will future, enlightened generations smile upon, just as we smile upon the ‘unenlightened’ and disproven scientific models of past ages?


One Response to “Axiom: The Earth is Expanding”

  1. Molly Fredle says:

    The earth expanding is a hypothesis I’ve never heard of, but I could see people grasping onto that belief. Did scientists believe this theory?

    Fascinating topic and thank you for enlightening me 🙂