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Volume 20 (1) - 1997


The concept of earth relief genesis: its common and hidden (or true) meaning

Pages 169-177


One of the most common concepts in geomorphology is that of the genesis of earth relief. The most usual meaning of the term «genesis», which we commonly use in the elaboration of our theories is restrictive, only partial. According to this meaning genesis is the beginning of things and phenomena. In earth science the concept of genesis, which can be used for every investigation, includes all the events in the history of the formation of a landform. These are its origin, development, modifications and even its extinction. Therefore the genesis of earth relief includes all that we know about a landform and the origin, the beginning, of phenomena is simply one of the phases of genesis. If we consider the sequence of the so-called «five questions of scien-ce» (what? when? where? from where? why?) it can be said that the concept of genesis in its widest sense allows us to give a definitive answer to all five questions, including the last, which requires investigation of the ultimate end of things, even if natural phenomena do not necessarily have an end. Three contradictions are intrinsic in the concept of earth relief genesis: 1) Elaborating a scientific theory in the field of earth science one answers firstly the last of the questions of science (why), and paradoxically this way of proceeding brings about satisfactory results. 2) As the beginning of things (for example of relief forms) materially escapes us, why in retrospect do they seem to be in a definitive state? 3) In science in general the concatenation of phenomena in successions of cause and effect is the most valid way of establishing temporal relations between the phenomena. In geomorphology however things are different because morphological sequences define the temporal relations between relief forms, without there being necessarily a cause and effect relationship. Examination of these contradictions allows us to shed light on a hidden and true meaning of the concept of earth relief genesis, which describes the spatial distribution and space-time states of the relief form. The inescapable aim of our research must be the understanding of genesis, or rather the spatial organization of earth relief.

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