catastrophism


Also found in: Dictionary, Medical, Wikipedia.

catastrophism

(kətăs`trəfĭzəm), in geology, the doctrine that at intervals in the earth's history all living things have been destroyed by cataclysms (e.g., floods or earthquakes) and replaced by an entirely different population. During these cataclysms the features of the earth's surface, such as mountains and valleys, were formed. The theory, popularly accepted from the earliest times, was attacked in the late 18th cent., notably by James Hutton, who may be regarded as the precursor of the opposite doctrine of uniformitarianismuniformitarianism,
in geology, doctrine holding that changes in the earth's surface that occurred in past geologic time are referable to the same causes as changes now being produced upon the earth's surface.
..... Click the link for more information.
.

Catastrophism, however, was more easily correlated with religious doctrines (e.g., the Mosaic account of the Flood) and remained for some time the interpretation of the earth's history accepted by the great majority of geologists. It was systematized and defended by the Frenchman Georges CuvierCuvier, Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert, Baron
, 1769–1832, French naturalist, b. Montbéliard, studied at the academy of Stuttgart. From 1795 he taught in the Jardin des Plantes.
..... Click the link for more information.
, whose position as the greatest geologist of his day easily overbore all opposition. In the 19th cent., it was attacked by George Poulett Scrope and especially by Sir Charles LyellLyell, Sir Charles
, 1797–1875, British geologist. After studying and briefly practicing law, he spent most of his life in travel and in popularizing scientific ideas.
..... Click the link for more information.
, under whose influence the contrary doctrine gradually became more popular. Recent theories of meteorite, asteroid, or comet impacts triggering mass extinctionsmass extinction,
the extinction of a large percentage of the earth's species, opening ecological niches for other species to fill. There have been at least ten such events.
..... Click the link for more information.
 can be interpreted as a revival of catastrophism.

Bibliography

See R. Huggett, Catastrophism: Asteroids, Comets, and Other Dynamic Events in Earth History (1998); T. Palmer, Controversy: Catastrophism and Evolution: The Ongoing Debate (1999).

catastrophism

[kə′tas·trə‚fiz·əm]
(geology)
The theory that most features in the earth were produced by the occurrence of sudden, short-lived, worldwide events.
(paleontology)
The theory that the differences between fossils in successive stratigraphic horizons resulted from a general catastrophe followed by creation of the different organisms found in the next-younger beds.
References in periodicals archive ?
Rather than the endemic catastrophism that Titlestad's piece in this issue addresses, the image of recycling proposes an ongoing, if fitful process of making-the-future-out-of-what-the-present-offers.
For a critique of such cultures of catastrophism, see Lilley et al.
This denial represents the ultimate concession to catastrophism that Athanasiou opposes.
18) Whewell's preference for catastrophism was based on its compatibility with teleological epistemologies; catastrophism privileged the past in its understanding of the present, whereas uniformitarianism privileged the present, seeing present processes of change as key to understanding the past.
His appeal to the history of astronomy and his own experience with geological catastrophism shows that god-of-the-gaps models have always failed.
Where most ceramists would pull back, begin again and settle for a vessel wall that would stand, Ohr for his part seems to have pushed through the catastrophism of vessel failure.
apparently sudden Impact extinctions mean there are extermination of whole families or examples of catastrophism instead orders, as of Trilobites at the of absolute gradualism (Alvarez et close of the palaeozoic and of al.
The risks inherent in such an ambition are obvious, and in recent artistic and curatorial practice it has sometimes been hard to tell utopianism from archaeology, or nostalgia from catastrophism.
He was also unambiguously supportive of the global distribution of flood deposits, and of Cuvierian catastrophism.
Every Armageddon is a new Genesis, and catastrophism is an inescapable state of mind.
The term uniformitarianism was coined in 1832 by William Whewell (1794-1866), the English polymath, scientist, Anglican priest, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science, who also coined the term catastrophism to denote the idea that the Earth had been created through supernatural means and had then been shaped by a series of catastrophic events caused by forces which no longer prevailed.
Principles he described became known in Renaissance Europe as laws of superposition of strata, of catastrophism, and of uniformitarianism.