Geological activity takes place mainly in response to industrial and social pressures. Past geological reaction to these pressures profoundly altered popular conceptions of time, the Church, man, and the balance of nature. The present-day circumstances of geology are not essentially different from those of the past.
About 180 years ago when the history of the earth was enlarged into a geological time scale, the actions of geologists came into conflict with established beliefs on the creation and destiny of the world. Social concern for these matters was evident in the public attention given to geology during the early 1800s, and also later, when evolutionary concepts of man and his place in nature began to permeate society.
Petroleum geology in North America illustrates the role of technology in determining the style and scope of geological work. Peaks of activity cluster obviously on the introduction from time to time of new instrumental capabilities (geophysical apparatus, for example), although not infrequently such activity is testing concepts or relationships perceived long before. Organic metamorphism and continental drift provide two examples.
The petroleum industry now faces the dilemma of satisfying predicted demands for fuel, without doing irreparable injury to its environment of operation. Awareness of man’s place in nature, which is a fundamental perception of geology, governs the geological attitude.