STEM and Society: A hard-won theory - tectonic plates in Victoria

STEM and Society - Tectonic Plates

In a ‘post-truth’ society, fuelled by soundbites and status updates, opinions and personal theories are often presented with unwavering certainty but remain untested.

In this climate, it can be confusing when we hear from scientists reluctant to deal in absolutes, who instead engage in conversations about ‘degrees of certainty’. In the world of science, a ‘theory’ is the closest something may ever come to being ‘the truth’.

To understand what modern scientists can go through to arrive at an accepted theory, we’re taking a look at one of the major revelations of the past century: the theory of tectonic plates. This theory describes how the enormous fragments of our planet's shell move against, over and under one another at their boundaries to slowly change the shape and location of our continents and oceans.

In this special online discussion, you’ll meet four eminent Victorian geologists, Dr William Birch AM and Professor Andy Gleadow, who started out at university to find themselves amid a global battle of contesting ideas. Hear about their experience as a fiercely held status-quo gave way to a hard-won new theory within the international scientific community. They’ll be joined by Professor Peter Betts and Associate Professor Sandra McLaren, both authorities on the current state of geophysics and plate tectonics.

Our panel of experts will be joined by teacher Jerome Holleman and his students from Northcote High School, who have been taking part in the Big History learning program that aims to connect knowledge across disciplines and challenge students to embrace science, think critically, solve problems and drive innovation.



This special series of online presentations explores the science and stories behind the game-changing work undertaken by Victoria’s scientific community. Our leading experts will talk about the work they’re doing to engage the community and bring about meaningful change in their field of study and in our everyday lives. Presented by the Victorian Parliament, with the Royal Society of Victoria and Victorian Parliamentarians for STEM.