uniformitarianism and catastrophism

Uniformitarianism - The belief that all geological formations have come about as the
result of slow and gradual processes over long periods of time. It holds that
the processes which we see at work today are the same as have always been
at work and account for everything that we see in geology. Rejected is any idea
of catastrophic events being responsible for any geological formations. Based on
this philosophy the age of the earth is measured in millions of years.
"The present is key to the past."
Castastrophism - The belief that catastrophic events have been responsible for many
geological formations that we observe in the earth today, and that these
catastrophic events resutl in rapid production of geological formations. Based on
this philosophy, the age of the earth is measured in thousands, not millions, of
"The past is the key to the present."
A Brief History
Throughout the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth, many scientists
and theologians supported the Flood theory of geology, the belief that the
Genesis flood was a primary agent in forming the present day surface of the
Flood geology was challenged in the nineteenth century by Georges Cuvier. He
advanced the theory that while the surface deposits of the earth were laid down
by Noah's flood, the major fossil strata were the result of a series of great floods
that were separated by long periods of time and that occurred long before man
was created. Cuvier's theory was the accepted theory among geologists for
about 30 year.
Cuvier's theory was replaced by the theory of uniformitarianism which was
popularized by Charles Lyell. He believed that the geological processes we
see at work today have been at work from the beginning and adequately explain
everything that we see in the earth. He completely rejected the idea of
catastrophic events as having had any role in creating the geological formations
that we see today. This view ruled the day by 1840, which is the year that
degrees in geology were first made available in universities.
Peter's Prophecy
2 Peter 3: 3-7
"The past is the key to the present (and future)."