Uniformitarianism

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Uniformitarianism is according to the University of California Berkeley a theory that "the processes that alter the Earth are uniform through time."[1] It was developed by Charles Lyell in 1830 in opposition to the previously prevailing model of Catastrophism, which had been used by Lyell's mentor William Buckland in support of the Biblical Flood.

'Catastrophism,' as this school of thought came to be known, was attacked in 1830 by a British lawyer-turned-geologist named Charles Lyell (1797-1875). Lyell started his career studying under the catastrophist William Buckland at Oxford. But Lyell became disenchanted with Buckland when Buckland tried to link catastrophism to the Bible, looking for evidence that the most recent catastrophe had actually been Noah's flood. Lyell wanted to find a way to make geology a true science of its own, built on observation and not susceptible to wild speculations or dependent on the supernatural... Lyell had an equally profound effect on our understanding of life's history. He influenced Darwin so deeply that Darwin envisioned evolution as a sort of biological uniformitarianism. Evolution took place from one generation to the next before our very eyes, he argued, but it worked too slowly for us to perceive.[1]

Despite the growing evidence that a mass catastrophe destroyed the dinosaurs, the scientific community remains wedded to the theory of Uniformitarianism, and committed to the assumption that such a catastrophe did not substantially alter uniform processes.

"For months I'd been on the trail of the greatest natural disaster in Earth's history. About 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, something killed some 90 percent of the planet's species. Less than 5 percent of the animal species in the seas survived. On land less than a third of the large animal species made it. Nearly all the trees died. Looy had told me that the Black Triangle was the best place today to see what the world would have looked like after the Permian extinction. This didn't look like apocalypse. We saw the first signs of death as we walked into the hills—hundreds of fallen timbers lay hidden in the undergrowth. A forest once grew here. Half a mile (0.8 kilometers) uphill we found the trunks of a stand of spruce, killed by acid rain. No birds called, no insects hummed. The only sound was the wind through the acid-tolerant weeds."

-Hillel J. Hoffman, "The Permian Extinction - When Life Nearly Came to an End," National Geographic.[2]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Uniformitarianism: Charles Lyell." University of California Berkeley.
  2. Hillel J. Hoffman, "The Permian Extinction - When Life Nearly Came to an End." National Geographic.