What’s a Geologist?

Why is it that so many seemingly educated people have no idea what a geologist does for a living? Even some doctors and PhD scientists don’t really know. I’m dead serious; I know this by the look people give me when they ask what I do for a career and I give them the answer. These people don’t realize that, outside of their exalted and specialized disciplines, they are actually quite ignorant.

I speculate that you can better measure someone’s capacity for thought (intelligence) by asking them to explain what geologists do for a living instead of an IQ test or SAT or GRE or any of that other bullcrap. I have come to the conclusion that if you don’t really know what a geologist does, then you don’t know anything!

Let me explain why:

First, I suspect that many people do not truly understand the implications of the law of conservation of matter (or mass)/energy, even if they are highly educated. Everybody who has at least a high school education is introduced to this law in introductory physics so there is not really an excuse for not knowing it, and it is arguably one of the most fundamental laws of reality. I don’t even think you need to take any physics class to “know” it.

What this law implies is that all of the technology (pipes, computers, cars, clothes, etc.) we see around us had to come from somewhere. These things had to be transformed (using energy) from Earth materials (matter) into the technology. They do not just pop into existence. This is a good thing because imagine your computer just popping into existence inside your stomach right now! That would suck!

Isn’t it obvious? All of our technology comes from somewhere and must go somewhere after we are done using it. DUH! Mines, wells, soil and landfills. Even recycling centers use energy and must be made out of matter as they recycle things. If one truly understands the implications of the law of conservation of matter/energy then one must immediately understand what a geologist does. The fact that many educated people don’t understand what a geologist does is disturbing, but also slightly hilarious.

Where do solar panels, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries come from? Thank a geologist first. Then thank a mining engineer, and then you can thank all of the engineers all the way down the manufacturing line to your doorstep.  You may think this is all so very obvious, but why then are so many people perplexed when asked what a geologist does? I speculate that they don’t know shit! I’m dead serious, I mean if they don’t know what a geologist does then do they truly understand how shit forms?

I blame all of this on our cultural paradigm of specialization: Obviously people can be both highly skilled, very intelligent in a certain field, but outside of their narrow sub-discipline they can be completely ignorant.  Our culture views specialization as a wholly good thing with no adverse side effects… yeah, right.


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