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From the beginning of this course, we have stated that the Earth is about 4.6 billion years old.How do we know this and how do we know the ages of other events in Earth history?Thus, we know that the dike is younger than the mudstone, sandstone, and shale.Similarly, the rhyolite dike cuts only the mudstone and the sandstone, but does not cut across the shale.The Grand Canyon is particularly good for this because different sedimentary rocks have different colors.For example, the mudstone, sandstone and shale are cut by the basalt dike, so we know that the mudstone, sandstone, and shale had to be present before the intrusion of the basalt dike.Principle of Original Continuity If layers are deposited horizontally over the sea floor, then they would be expected to be laterally continuous over some distance.Thus, if the strata are later uplifted and then cut by a canyon, we know that the same strata would be expected to occur on both sides of the canyon.
Note that you can follow the layers all along the walls of the canyon, and you can find the same layers on both sides of the canyon.
A more modern way of stating the same principle is that the laws of nature (as outlined by the laws of chemistry and physics) have operated in the same way since the beginning of time, and thus if we understand the physical and chemical principles by which nature operates, we can assume that nature operated the same way in the past.
Principle of Superposition Because of Earth's gravity, deposition of sediment will occur depositing older layers first followed by successively younger layers.
He concluded that process that are currently operating on the Earth must be the same processes that operated in the past.
This principle is often stated as "the present is the key to the past".