Talk:Law of superposition

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The following discussion is an archived debate of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the debate was no consensus to move.

Move from "Law" to "Principle"[edit]


I think that this article is more appropriate as a "principle", and not a "law". Please comment below before any move is to be made. +mwtoews 21:31, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

I have submitted the move request. My reasoning is that this is a well known geological principle, not a unifying law of the universe.+mwtoews 23:33, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Just make sure your Cabalistic moves go on the record as being unsupported by any discussion. If one really cared about geology history, or biological history they wouldn't offend the creators of the two terms: Law of Faunal Succession, and the term: The Law of Superposition. You are ignoring a two century battle from the 1700's to the late 1800's that gave rise to these terms, Totally to defeat the ideas of people "Hell-bent" on shoving their "pure–relgious–ideas" on the rest of the universe. So as a one man "law", that is what this change in name represents. It makes perfect sense, it is both Anti-historical, and is consistent with the events/battles fought against.... in the past, and I assume others will eventually win-out and reverse your attempts, or wikipedia's attempt, at their own names (A Re-Nameing). (A passionate speech, sorry-- ..from the Ariz-desert)(And as in other matters, I refuse to state a VOTE(you will totally do what you want)..--Mmcannis 07:36, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
No, it seems that law works better and is more in line with historic usage. A scientific law is a statement resulting from abundant observations - and thus a prediction of what will be observed in the future. Principle has different connotations. We say Newton's laws of motion rather than principles of motion. leave as is. Vsmith 12:12, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry if I had added it to the move que too soon; I thought it was a stale discussion. My reasons for this request is:
  • These are largely regarded as geologic principles, after the work of Charles Lyell's historic Principles of Geology text; I believe that this is also what is in the general textbooks of geology.
  • It's more common; e.g., using Google search (I've included "geology", "steno" and "lyell" to disambiguate from the superposition principle), here are the page counts:
Search hits using Google search
  law of superposition principle of superposition
geology 11,600 15,100
steno 334 2,290
lyell 200 1,860
  • What is the historic usage that "Law" is used over "Principle"? I recognize that the two terms have come in conflict over religious disputes (BTW, I'm not the slightest bit religious), however, I'm not sure how relevant that distinction is today. If anything, the "battle" of the term would make a great Wikipedia content, and I encourage anyone knowledgeable on the subject to include it in this, or other articles
  • Generally speaking, laws of science use equations to describe the phenomena; whereas principles are (or are based on) rules of logic
  • And, most importantly, to provide consistency within Wikipedia articles; e.g. Geology#Important principles of geology — this was my primary intent.
    +mwtoews 18:51, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
In the mid-1600's Steno did his "principle of original horizontality". 200 years later Darwin and his cohorts, (like Alfred Russel Wallace, et al) got through the geologic battle and jumped to "Speciation".
The "Law of faunal succession", and the "Law of Superposition" are co-buddies, and i don't know the date of their creation, But i am pretty sure they were co-produced ..... so that whatever discussions the Earth Science Cabal could have, could successfully leave the Religious-types, the Non-science types, the Anti-Knowledge-types, to another discussion, at another Table,... ..away from the people who wanted to discuss their two Laws, and who wanted to move "Discussions" forward into the other directions that automatically show their "Path".
Changing the geological principles back from the elevated status, Emboldens the Religionists. Superposition is a TRUTH; IT IS OVER the ENTIRE EARTH. As a principle it is a geology term. That is why the Hamblin Reference is from 1978. Today, fortunately both terms still exist. But Steno's principle of original horizontality, is actually a statement of a: Law of Original Horizontality, (Steno)-trying to compete in a Debate Storm, a "Sea, boiling with those who wish your ideas would shut up." But one cannot avoid truth. There is a Law of Gravity, a Law of Sucession, a Law of faunal 'Succession', and a Law of Superposition. (also a "Law of evolution", like the creation of 'Wikipedia').
What wiki-people, or wiki-encyclopedia does is irrelevant. .... Unless nobody goes in and makes "Your" corrections, and tries to keep the 'People' on the correct path. We are destroying more ecosystems on our planet as we speak. (But fortunately the Laws are still the laws, and truth is truth.) (Consensus, and Number Count, I hope aren't only the important factors. Whatever happened (as you suggested) to the "Discussion of the Laws names" as more important to the evolution of the terms themselves. ? (As an encyclopedia That section should have equal status with paragraphs about Floods, and fossils (that section needs renaming, I have now read it, and it is more about Geology, not biblical flooding.)(Almost anyway.)
Ecology/Biology books used to be "nut and bolts types"; in the 70's and 80's they switched to "sweet-type" environmental, /ecology based(Feel-good books), as the species disappear around the teachings of the books, ignoring the nuts and bolts,... The Truth....That you have to protect Ecosystems, and Environments. Alas, it doesn't look good, when you can't even keep the name of a New Name, around. here's to the Former: "Law of Superposition" (you've been over taken by the Law of 'Gravity' (=the Train)). ..From the Sonoran desert.. --Mmcannis 20:31, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
Okay ... and the discussion continues (I was getting worried that this was again a stale discussion).
  • First, regarding the status of "Law" vs. "Principle", you are correct. From the Principle (disambiguation) article: "Within most fields of study, and in science in particular, the elevation of some principle of that field to the status of "law" usually takes place after a very long time during which the principle is used and tested and verified." And I think it would be difficult to argue against the Law of superposition, since it is such a simple concept. I believe that the "battle" between the empirical geologists versus the biblical geologists is long over (unless you live in some parts of The United States): virtually all geological publications today never use biblical references (as opposed to say 100 years ago). The battle is over (within the geological community), and natural law won. However, I'm not convinced that using "principle" in place of "law" is demoting the elevated status, as it appears frequently in geological literature as a "principle" (even by Stephen Jay Gould, and other notable geologists). See the page counts I found previously: clearly it is most commonly presented as a Principle.
  • The Law of superposition tells us little when we attempt to us it to interpret an outcrop, or seismic profile, or any other evidence in the earth sciences. Interpreting an outcrop is always challenging for many geologists (especially students), as it can easily be mis-interpreted, and indeed, there are alway multiple interpretations to any outcrop. Thus, when the "law" is actually applied in the earth sciences, it is always used as a principle. If it were literally used as a "law", wouldn't there only be one interpretation? So yes, absolutely, "the * of superposition" it's technically a law, but is always used as a guiding principle in the interpretation of geological data.
  • If it is strongly argued that "the * of superposition" is a law (and not a principle), then why no the other important principles of geology? (In a related question, this also applies for The Law of faunal succession). As mentioned earlier, my main intent was to provide consistency within Wikipedia. Accusations that this is a "cabal attempt" or is "Anti-historical" is far fetched.
  • Is more time required to reach a consensus on the move? Please, other people, discuss below .. don't feel shy!
    +mwtoews 23:20, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
There doesn't appear to be to much discussion about this move, other than from myself and Mmcannis, so it is difficult to say if this is good enough for a consensus. I think my arguments speak fairly strongly for this move, and are not solely my opinions nor of one extreme — so it isn't controversial. This move is for consistency within Wikipedia, but it should remain clear in the article that this "Principle" is commonly known as a "Law" in the literature, and has the same scientific status of a "Law".+mwtoews 06:14, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Agreed –Alex LaPointetalk 18:19, 15 December 2006 (UTC)


This "survey" has content extracted from the discussion from above, where noted
  • Support: For the many reasons I've stated above. +mwtoews 03:00, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose: "Changing the geological principles back from the elevated status, Emboldens the Religionists" (and many other points stated in the discussion above)--Mmcannis 07:36, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose: "law works better and is more in line with historic usage" (from discussion, above) Vsmith 12:12, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
  • "Agreed"Alex LaPointetalk 18:19, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the debate. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Old discussion[edit]

Removed the following quote from article pending source information.

in a series of layers and interfacial features, as originally created,the upper units of stratification are younger and the lower are older, for each must have been deposited on, or created by the removal of, a pre-existing mass of archaeological stratification.

The implication was that it was a quote from Steno, but the wording doesn't seem to fit. Provide source and re-insert. (also fixed minor typo mush --> must). Vsmith 01:34, 19 January 2006 (UTC)

Examples of reversed sequences[edit]

1--The edge-layers of an Impact crater, can have an overturned sequence of rocks. It's still in the same sequence, just up–side–down, (the layers thrown radially outward, and overturned).
2--A Thrust fault can also produce an up–side–down layer of rocks. (It can be a trait of the particular fault in question.)---MMcAnnis...Mmcannis 18:21, 27 January 2006 (UTC)

Shark teeth (fossils) embedded in sed. rock[edit]

I found a shark tooth in a 2 Million yr old cliff, with the 2 mill Sanddollars that the cliff contained. This(a 1 unit Field Paleontology class following a 3-unit class), was at El Golfo, in Mexico, south of Yuma, Arizona (extreme SW, on California border). I just started reading the Nicolas Steno article. WoW, as to how he started. It is fantastically amazing that the religion debate will continue long after every single one of us who reads any words here, are looooonnnggg gone. (Darwin even wrote to Alfred Russel Wallace, and stated the exact same thing, (in reference to the stage-floor, public debates, which were the method of debating "ideas" in the 1850's, and in reference to a particular "Frenchman" who was his Antagonist for years). End of note. Steno must have been conflicted, to have always been fighting the 'religious battles' of his life.Mmcannis 21:38, 27 January 2006 (UTC)

The shark teeth in stone, is where he started ! (And, I had cupped my hand below a soft spot on the cliff, 8 ft up, and about 3 fossil items fell into my palm(1 the small,shiny tooth!)....hhmmm..."try to make it real, try to make it real, but compared to what, (from the song))---MMcAnnis,YumaMmcannis 21:38, 27 January 2006 (UTC)

At least I got to state an historical opinion, before a change. (from the ArizDesert)..Mmcannis 07:38, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

See also, for main article[edit]

I think some additions could be made in one line, to to the see also section: (didn't bother to read the biblical paragraphs–I hope the religious police can take care of it better than I; I get too emotional about the other species-group out there)-)

See also[edit]

So thought I'd put the items here before putting anything into the article. (From the Arizona-(Sonoran Desert))....--Mmcannis 22:48, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Law of superposition and the bible[edit]

Not reading the paragraphs, and all, I would assume that only One, or Two at the most paragraphs should be bothered with, in reference to the Bible. There are plenty of religious based discussions of Gilgamesh, and the Flood Stories, and all, or a separate article discussing off-handed-ly the problems with the religious history compared with actual Geological history, and the "Law of Superposition". Like i said above, the religious police, i hope can put any cogent discussions in context, and in 1, or 2 paragraphs..... from the AZdesert..--Mmcannis 23:17, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Topics:Geology, stratigraphy, bible[edit]

I didn't have major problems with the Bible section, but it was about "geology", as Mdotley understood by redoing it.

I had added the Original Hamblin reference and opened the book (Not to reread it though). I think I understand Now that they used Principle all through the Geology book, because that is how Science is Explained... by principles of this, and principles of that. Annddd.. those are the principles seen by all those Folks of old who saw this stuff before we are seeing it now on Planet Earth. Our 21st century eyes, can see the same 'rocks' and 'strata' they saw with their eyes. (and saw with their minds). This is what is so kewl about this is that, For Them, in their time of Late Medieval "Wars of religion vs Geology", at least they could get away from it by looking at stratigraphy, and fossils in rocks of Faunal succession, and at least dream about what Truth really was.

I assume our 1970's USA, and world-society elevated the Law of faunal succession and Law of superposition to those "starry-eyed" levels to get away from the crazies, if you know what I mean. Here's my personal story: I just set up some of the Category:Natural history of the Galápagos items, and just added the Cocos Plate to it, and Category:Natural history of Central America, and of Mexico. So the galapagos is a result of the Cocos plate separation from the other plates. (I should have already known). But that is what it's about. trying to find answers. So yes, I like the 2- laws, even tho they come from the "Principles" used in Geology.

And I'll reread this article now, but I never did think a section with the word "Bible" was appropriate in a Geology/ Stratigraphy/ "evolution of earth" article. my thoughts: from the ArizonaDeserts-- ..-Mmcannis 06:20, 19 December 2006 (UTC)


Hello, I'm first in here and I'm not good at English.

This is very complicated because it's the first time I visited here.

Hmm...Can anyone explain me about the "Law of crosscutting relationships"??

I'll really appreciate if you tell me.

p.s. Excuse my poor English.

I dig foundations and build a wall, hundreds of years later someone else builds a wall in a different direction in the same spot, their foundations cut my foundations - so hundreds of years later you can tell that because my foundations are cut by their foundations my wall was there first. EdwardLane (talk) 09:49, 29 February 2012 (UTC)

Law of superposition thoroughly refuted[edit]

I am surprised that no mention has been made of Guy Berthault, Pierre Julien, and Yongiang Lan. Berthault has done extensive research in the area of sedimentology that included disproving the 'law' of superposition. Please see Experiments on stratification of heterogeneous sand mixtures (Julien et al) at for starters.

I am not suggesting the page be removed. Despite the law being nothing of the sort, it is still used extensively. Instead, I think a section at the top should be included with relevant citations as to why the law has been disproven and something added to the summary to reflect that fact. Scott.Balfour (talk) 00:30, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

Berthault's supposed refutation of the law (or principle) of superposition has been greatly over-exaggerated by young earth creationists. There are exceptions to almost every scientific law and principle as new discoveries are made. This does not invalidate the principle itself, it merely means it is not an absolute. Additionally, Berthault decided to criticize superposition as originally proposed by Steno rather that dealing with the modern definition, for some reason. Dr. Kevin Henke has countered Berthault's claims online, and demonstrated that his research essentially did little more than reiterate exceptions that geologists had already been aware of for some time. Which is the likely reason geologists have not paid much attention to Berthault's YEC conclusions. See DyslexicDNA (talk) 23:18, 6 March 2013 (UTC)
Still, it must be awkward for conventional geologists, seeing Berthault has extensive videotaped experiments showing that moving water will simultaneously deposit sediments in distinct stratigraphic layers, much like is seen all over the Earth today. This isn't even someone's "theory"... It's direct experimental, observational evidence.

Why shouldn't such evidence directly countering the "law of superposition" be mentioned in the article? How can a direct observation be considered fringe? Very awkward, indeed.

Also reliably sourced: Berthault's experiments are well documented and published in secular Geology journals out of France. Here's a link to one: (talk) 18:20, 2 January 2014 (UTC)


i took this out; While discussing the origins of [[mountain]]s in ''[[The Book of Healing]]'' in 1027, [[Avicenna]] first outlined the principle of the superposition of strata as follows: :''It is also possible that the sea may have happened to flow little by little over the land consisting of both plain and mountain, and then have ebbed away from it. ... It is possible that each time the land was exposed by the ebbing of the sea a layer was left, since we see that some mountains appear to have been piled up layer by layer, and it is therefore likely that the clay from which they were formed was itself at one time arranged in layers. One layer was formed first, then at a different period, a further was formed and piled, upon the first, and so on. Over each layer there spread a substance of different material, which formed a partition between it and the next layer; but when petrification took place something occurred to the partition which caused it to break up and disintegrate from between the layers (possibly referring to unconformity). ... As to the beginning of the sea, its clay is either sedimentary or primeval, the latter not being sedimentary. It is probable that the sedimentary clay was formed by the disintegration of the strata of mountains. Such is the formation of mountains.''<ref>Quoted in [ The contribution of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) to the development of the Earth Sciences], among other sources</ref>

He was regarded as forward thinking but not related to "Law of superposition" J8079s (talk) 02:11, 10 November 2014 (UTC)

Copyright problem removed[edit]

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