The title of this book, The Lately Tortured Earth, may appear flamboyant, but such is the fault of reality. The author objects to the pedantic sweet view of the world of nature that insists, often insidiously, upon its tranquillity and beauty, and sees in the ravaged countenance of the Earth the smooth cheeks of a baby; in the same view, when attention is called to evidence of harrowing experiences, the Earth becomes old alma mater, whose blemishes are to be expected in a being of some billions of years of age. By way of contrast, here we stress the devastations of the Earth and the short time span in which they have occurred.
'Tortured' means to be acted upon violently, strained, twisted, distorted, burned, choked, immersed in liquids, and electrically shocked. And, because the word 'recent' in geology goes back millions of years, we choose the word 'lately, ' signifying the past dozen or so thousands of years, approximately the Holocene period. I aim to be theoretical. I do not wish to pile up horrific details, nor do I.
By 'Earth' of course is meant our familiar globe, cracked and slightly irregular, with its high speed motions and far stretching atmosphere. We are interested in the geophysical column that extends radially from a presumably iron and nickel center, through an enormous mantle of molten rock and water, to where the biosphere dwells, then outwards by means of gases and electric charges to beyond the Moon. We seek to know what has happened lately to this Earth system. The amateur has his place in scientific revolutions, as in civil wars and politics generally. G. Grinnell, in an historical lecture on the revolt against early catastrophism, which prevailed at the London Geological Society from 1807 to 1832, had this to say: "What is extraordinary about the London Geological Society is that none of the original members were geologists. 'The little talking dinner club, ' as Davy put it, was a club for gentlemen given to talk, not to hammering rocks." Now of course, we all believe in hammering rocks, but prior to revolutionary occasions, a great deal of talk must be heard, and this book contains some of it.
I am addressing the book to amateurs, whose numbers will include, I suppose, liberally educated gentlepersons, bombthrowing intruders, and the specialist who seeks interdisciplinary enlightenment. Who, nowadays, among scientists and scholars, need not broaden his scopes anxiously and hopefully beyond his strict area of competence? Specialists in geophysics are unlikely to know archaeoastronomy or the sociology of science. An expert on radio-chronometry may be at a loss in archaeological chronology. Everyone must become an amateur to enter the lists of cosmogony, where the theory of quantavolution seeks to establish itself.
It hardly needs be said that I am myself an amateur, and could be nothing else, even if I had won my spurs in electrical engineering instead of political theory and behavior. This will become quite clear as the panorama of scientific materials and methods begins to unfold in the following pages. I hope to be regarded as an honest amateur, although I am professionally aware of the tricks that the unconscious underground mind can play upon an otherwise sincere scientist. There is no Piltdown Man fraud here, probably no wrong-headed Yale dinosaur, perhaps just plain errors, inadvertent omissions and foolhardiness, which I hope will be promptly discovered and publicized.
Isaac Newton, says a careful student of his work, fudged the members of one equation to improve its numbers for his proposition on the precession of the equinoxes; he manipulated averages in using the Moon's distance from the Earth to better correlate gravity with the Moon's motions; and "his use of the 'crassitude' of the air particles to raise the calculated velocity [of sound] by more than 10 percent was nothing short of deliberate fraud."  He then devoted some years to proving Biblical chronology correct, allowing catastrophes to rule the natural history of the universe until the Hebrew genesis put it into a sacred clocklike order. Aside from this, he became abnormally mad.
I have tried, on the problems that I set for myself here, not to fudge the facts, to select perforce my materials from the inordinate mass while letting the reader recognize the manipulations necessarily entailing, and to let no fraud enter my meager calculations. I intend to prove correct no sacred scriptures, beyond recognizing the contributions which they may make to scientific historiography. In all of this, I doubt that I am more than normally mad, unless it be in the presumption that this work will be useful to science.
Alfred de Grazia
1. Richard S. Westfall, "Newton and the Fudge Factor," 179 Science 4075 (23 February 1973), 751-8.