Uniformitarianism, Catastrophism, and Geology

Uniformitarianism, Catastrophism, and Geology – Understanding the Basics of Uniformitarian Geology
Uniformitarianism is a geological doctrine, which states that current geologic processes, occurring at the same rates observed today, in the same manner, account for all of Earth's geological features. Thus, uniformitarian geology assumes that geological processes are essentially unchanged today from those of the unobservable past, and that there have been no cataclysmic events in earth's history. As present processes are thought to explain all past events, the Uniformitarian slogan is "the present is the key to the past."

The theory of uniformitarianism became the “time” foundation for Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution. The theory of evolution is based, in part, on the principle that the diversity seen in the earth's species can be explained by the uniform modification of genetic traits over long periods of time. These changes over long periods of time are supposedly evident in uniform layers of earth's crust known as the "geologic column."

Uniformitarianism, Catastrophism, and Geology – Understanding the Basics of Cataclysmic Geology
Catastrophism is a geological doctrine, which holds that geological features observable throughout the earth’s crust are the result of past cataclysmic activity upon the earth’s surface. In essence, the earth’s surface is scarred by some past catastrophe, the magnitude of which may or may not be observable today. Describing Catastrophism, geologist Dr. Derek Ager writes, “The hurricane, the flood or tsunami may do more in an hour or a day than the ordinary processes of nature have achieved in a thousand years.” “In other words, the history of any one part of the earth, like the life of a soldier, consists of long periods of boredom and short periods of terror.”1 The theory of catastrophism asserts that catastrophic natural processes have been primarily responsible for the deposition of the various layers in the geologic column and all the layered rock formations we observe today. Until the 18th century, no other plausible explanation was considered. Floods, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions were believed to be responsible for laying down the sedimentary rock layers we observe.

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1 The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record, 1981, pg. 54, 106.

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