HSHM 211 Lecture 2: Global Catastrophe 2

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Hist of Science, Hist of Med
HSHM 211
William Rankin

HSHM 211: GLOBAL CATASTROPHE SINCE 1750 1/23/17: Catastrophe vs. Uniformity  Uniformitarianism (as opposed to catastrophism) 1. Only forces and events we can assume happened in the past are ones that we see around us today a. No catastrophes b. Boundaries between strata are gaps in data or gradual  Constructing the “stratigraphic column” 1. What strata/layers are there? a. 1790: o Diluvial: Flood o Tertiary (more fossils, mammals) o Secondary (some fossils, primitive sea creatures) o Transitional o Primary (no fossils) b. 1840: current model o Geologists identified strata by studying fossils in rock o Became historical record of life on earth  Theories explaining the stratigraphic column: erosion vs. uplift 1. “Neptunism” a. Theory that earth was once covered entirely by water, then the sea level declined/water receded b. Mountain layer primordial/primary, fossils deposited as water recede c. James Hutton (1726-1797) o Believed no explanation for the water, religious or otherwise o Productive research program: basis of work on stratigraphic column 2. “Plutonism” a. Theory of uplifting molten rock: molten rock was primary layer which rose above b. Fossils first, mountains being created through molten rock c. Abraham Werner (1749-1817) o Conviction that God would not create a world that would decay o “no vestige of beginning, no prospect of end” o Rejected by Christians and largely ignored by geologists  Science and religion in these theories 1. Catastrophism: Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) a. established that extinction is real o showed that mammoth and elephant were different species and that mammoth had gone extinct o extinction meant catastrophes occurred, no other explanation  “some kind of catastrophes” likely local events b. Cuvier’s work translated badly into English and embraced by Oxford geologist William Buckland o Lyell took Buckland’s classes, believed his approach was wrong  Wanted to remove geology from Biblical business entirely  Attacked catastrophism 2. Uniformitarianism: Charles Lyell a. Only consider known, present-day forces b. A steady-state earth o World in perpetual harmonious balance which kept with God’s perfect creation of earth o Very ancient earth and boundaries in the stratigraphic column, which were gaps or gradual changes o No directional development  Just random changes due to climate shifts, underrepresentation of mammals, etc. o Hutton taught Lyell taught Darwin  Key takeaways: 1. Research into Biblical Flood was very helpful to
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