Talk:Deep time

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Deep Time[edit]

This will become an interesting entry, though maybe "deep time" is just a wiktionary definition, or link to "geologic time". So far all that links here is James Hutton. A more enlightening approach might begin with the role of geologist James Hutton in discovering deep time. Deep time is not a theory. It is simply another way of expressing geological time. There needs to be a link to Geologic timescale, for starters... User:Wetman [19:16, 19 September 2003 (UTC)]

"The comprehension of geologic history and the history of life requires an understanding of deep time which is not easily grasped without deep thought and study." Who ever said that encyclopedias couldn't be a little tongue-and-cheek? Fuzzform 03:07, 3 December 2005 (UTC)

"Deep time is the concept that the Geologic time scale is vast because the Earth is very old." This really makes no sense to me --- or should I say, it seems tautological. I honestly don't think anyone who comes across this term and wants clarification will be able to learn anything substantial here. ---Dagme (talk) 12:49, 23 January 2013 (UTC)

My comment above echoes the sentiments expressed in the section "Obtuse article with no actual definition of actual title term" below. What it comes down to for me is calling BS on this article. ---Dagme (talk) 12:55, 23 January 2013 (UTC)

Before December 2010 (diff), that first sentence read simply "Deep time is the concept of geologic time." I never much liked the change myself. – Athaenara 02:31, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
Restored non-contorted version. Vsmith (talk) 03:24, 25 January 2013 (UTC)

Other uses[edit]

There is another use of this term in the writing community, where "Deep Time" indicates either the total engagement of a reader in a story; or that of the author in writing the story. Typified by a person getting so involved in the story that they lose track of time and the external world. Jim 3 Oct. 2006 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 16:28, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

I searched for Deep Time in the geologic or astrophysical (Sagan's billions and billions and billions) sense and was startled to see the other unrelated terms on this page. I nonetheless expanded on them slightly ('being in the zone,' etc). I will not be surprised (and I hope it happens) to see the geologic deep time aspect further developed here, in this article, and the other uses diverted to more suitable homes elsewhere. Athaenara (talk) 12:53, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

After I saw that the "Other uses" section had been removed (by 08:25, 12 December 2006 (UTC)—see article history), I retrieved it from an earlier version of the article and placed it here for discussion. (Three of the five items were about sports so I trimmed them to a single entry.)
    [Addendum: removed copy after it became disambiguation page—see below. –Æ. ]

As I remarked last month, I don't think the section should be a major feature of this article, as it addresses subjective psychological experiential uses of the term rather than deep time itself. I think it would be more appropriate if it were streamlined into a sort of disambiguation in a "See also" section, and I'd like to hear other views. –Æ. 10:50, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

The other uses of the term don't fit here, simply off-topic - add a disambig note at the top and put 'em in a disambig page pending further development is my reccomend. Vsmith 12:08, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
OK. Just made the disamb page (Deep time (disambiguation)) and copied the above there. Feel free to play with it :-) Vsmith 12:20, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Good solution. I removed the talk page copy. –Æ. 13:59, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Obtuse article with no actual definition of actual title term[edit]

Nowhere in this rather rambling and vaugly focused entry, is there anything approching a consise definition of the actual concept of "deept Time"! Why not? This ought to be the primary function of any article, with elaboration following. This article does not appear to have any clear direction. In one word: obtuse, or perhaps obscure. Fix it please, anybody who actually has some real familiarity with the concept. (talk) 11:07, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

Agreed. This is a rather peculiar article. Much of the content could be dealt with in the article on geological time. If geological time and deep time are synonymous, as this article rather seems to imply, then there is no need for anything more than a discussion of the origins of the term. I'm also slightly perplexed by the opening paragraph which discusses Avicenna and Shen Kuo. This paragraph makes potentially rather a substantial claim. How did Avicenna anticipate the concept of geological time? I'm not concerned with maintaining a sense of European primacy in this area, but this really needs to be qualified. What did Avicenna propose that anticipated modern ideas about the age of the earth yet differed from, say, ancient Greek concepts about the possible age of the earth? Jamrifis (talk) 09:51, 6 September 2008 (UTC)
Just as importantly, we need to recognize that 'deep time' was not a Huttonian invention, nor could that view even properly be ascribed to Hutton. This idea is textbook cardboard (as Gould would say) as the idea of an ancient earth was being bounced around by scholars prior to Hutton, and by his contemporaries during his time period. More importantly, Hutton did not actually argue for an ancient earth, with a history, per se. He argued for Aristotelian Eternalism in which everything, including the Earth was eternal, and claimed that the earth went through constant, repetitive cycles which left it with no historical markers, no unique events that would be necessary to ascribe a 'history' to the earth. This view is certainly not compatible with the concept of deep time listed in this article, which is viewed through the lens of a very long time scale, but with a beginning of this time scale, and with a history that can be observed. See Gould's Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle and M.J.S. Rudwick's Bursting the Limits of Time for more information on this subject. Geo-Dude87 (talk) 23:38, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
See: Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle Trabucogold (talk) 14:28, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

These serious issues/defects have now remained unaddressed for five (5) years! (talk) 08:57, 1 March 2013 (UTC)

Geology only?[edit]

Deep time is a term with geological origins, but applies to all periods of time so vast as to be outside of our intuitive grasp. If the roughly 4.5 billion years that our planet has been around counts as deep time, then so does the roughly 13.5 billion years that our universe has been around. This is not merely my original research; there are reliable sources showing that deep time is a term used in cosmology, not just geology. Examples include this and that. This shouldn't be surprising given that the the term arose by analogy to the astronomical term, deep space. Spotfixer (talk) 05:39, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

User Christian Skeptic (talk · contribs), who seems to be edit warring on this article (and perhaps other articles), changed "Proponents of scientific theories which contradicted scriptural interpretations" to "Proponents of geological theories which contradicted scriptural interpretations" and "Hutton's comprehension of deep time as a crucial scientific concept" to "Hutton's comprehension of deep time as a crucial geological concept" more than once with various edit summaries. Several other editors have since restored the original text, which is supported by the references. — Athaenara 08:00, 12 January 2009 (UTC)


So which is right? The Metaphysical Naturalism page, or this one? It is one or the other. The Metaphysical page is sourced. This one is not. WP should be consistent. (talk) 04:20, 1 May 2009 (UTC)

Both articles are sourced. — Athaenara 06:23, 1 May 2009 (UTC)
The way it appears to me is that science is dependent upon philosophy as per this quote from Metaphysical Naturalism. "These assumptions are the basis of metaphysical naturalism, the philosophy on which science is grounded." Deep Time is a philosophical concept. It is an important concept that science works within, rather than a concept like natural selection which can be hypothesized and tested. And so, it doesn't seem to be "scientific" in that it may come from or is derived from science. Radiometric dates are computed within the idea of Deep Time. They don't prove Deep Time, but rather, illuminate the depths from which Deep Time is conceived. Trabucogold (talk) 18:27, 1 May 2009 (UTC)


This article starts off with what looks like a rather PC nod towards non-western folk (Deep time is the concept of geologic time first recognized in the 11th century by the Persian geologist and polymath, Avicenna (Ibn Sina, 973–1037),[1][2] and the Chinese naturalist and polymath Shen Kuo (1031–1095).[3]) and then totally ignores them for the rest of the article. Presumably, that means they contributed nothing to our understanding (or we'd mention it) so in that case why mention them at all? William M. Connolley (talk) 15:54, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

Agree and shifted down to their own section. Was rather off for the lead sentence. Vsmith (talk) 16:22, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

Origin of the phrase[edit]

We know the concept has a long(ish) history, but this article really ought to make clear that the phrase "deep time" itself is of 20th century origin. To my old-fashioned ears it has the jarring ugliness of a particularly clumsy neologism. (It also reads very peculiarly when it is inserted into articles about the history of palaeonotology, an unwelcome intrusion of jargonese.)

Also, is the phrase widely-enough used to justify its position as title of this article? (talk) 07:37, 27 October 2010 (UTC)


Under the Section Scientific concept (second paragraph) it is stated that ". . . which contradicted scriptural interpretations could not only lose their academic appointments but were legally answerable to charges of heresy and/or blasphemy, charges which, even as late as the 18th century in Great Britain, sometimes resulted in a death sentence.

I could not find the cited information in the online source(s) and the book citation I did not have. I found this statement interesting and surprising as I read a lot of History so I Google'd and found that "The last execution for heresy in England was not until 1612, while Thomas Aikenhead was hanged for blasphemy in Scotland as late as 1697." This is from

The source for this statement on is (Source: for England see page 160, Keith Thomas Religion and the Decline of Magic Penguin, 1991)

Note that this is a British site. Therefore, the information provided in this Wiki page at this particular point is placed under considerable question.

The citations placed at the end of the paragraph make it impossible to determine which of the three sources, or two of them or all of them document this.

There is little doubt in my mind that heretics/blasphemers were put to death in England, only NOT in the 18th Century for sure.--TDurden1937 (talk) 18:28, 10 October 2011 (UTC)

This is fair enough. Not only were there no executions for heresy or blasphemy in the 18th Century, Thomas Aikenhead was hanged for denying the divinity of Jesus, not for doubting the age of the Earth. The citations offered here are way too vague - they relate to whole chapters, without any page number, but the one which is accessible online, White, which is a notoriously partisan and badly-written source, does not support it either. And yet after two years of this being pointed out, it's still there. (Well, it was until I removed it).--Rbreen (talk) 19:33, 21 September 2013 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Deep time/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

This article is in need of some expansion. I was doing research to understand this concept for my college introductory science class, and found it extremely vague and unhelpful. Bluestocking Lady (talk) 22:31, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

Last edited at 22:31, 10 October 2009 (UTC). Substituted at 19:54, 1 May 2016 (UTC)