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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2004
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Claim CD200:

The evolution model is associated primarily with uniformitarianism, but evidence of catastrophism makes the uniformitarian assumption untenable.


Morris, Henry M., 1974. Scientific Creationism, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, pp. 91-100.


  1. Modern uniformitarianism (actualism) differs from nineteenth century Lyell uniformitarianism. The prevailing view in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was that the earth had been created by supernatural means and had been shaped by several catastrophes, such as worldwide floods. In 1785, James Hutton published the proposal that Earth's history could be explained in terms of processes observed in the present; that is, "the present is key to the past." This was the beginning of uniformitarianism. Charles Lyell, in his Principles of Geology, modified Hutton's ideas and applied this philosophy to explain geological features in terms of relatively gradual everyday processes.

    Geologists today no longer subscribe to Lyell uniformitarianism. Starting in the late ninteenth century, fieldwork showed that natural catastrophes still have a role in creating the geologic record. For example, in the later twentieth century, J. Harlan Bretz showed that the Scablands in eastern Washington formed from a large flood when a glacial lake broke through an ice dam; and Luis Alvarez proposed that an asteroid impact was responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Actualism (modern uniformitarianism) states that the geologic record is the product of both slow, gradual processes (such as glacial erosion) and natural catastrophes (such as volcanic eruptions and landslides). However, natural catastrophes are not consistent with creationist catastrophism, such as "Flood geology." First, they are much smaller than the world-shaping events proposed as part of the creationists' catastrophism. More to the point, they still represent processes observed in the present. Meteorites, glacial melting, and flash floods still occur regularly, and we can (and do, as in the examples above) extrapolate from the observed occurrences to larger events of the same sort. The scale of events may change, but the physical laws operating today are key to the past.


University of Oregon. n.d. Uniformitarianism.

Further Reading:

Lyell, Charles, 1830. Principles of Geology. London: John Murray.
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created 2003-8-16, modified 2004-9-9