⇒Contended that organisms became extinct b/c the earth was always changing.
⇒Also believed that the world was quite young.
•The geological and biological records are indeed the result of slow, ordinary, long-
term phenomena and catastrophic events.
•By the late 18th century some scientists began to question the historical accuracy of
the Genesis account.
•In 1749, the 1st volume of A Natural History by the French scholar Georges Buffon
(1707-1788) was published.
⇒Articulated a perspective called uniformitarianism.
⇒UNIFORMITARIANISM: the concept that biological and geological processes that
affected the earth in the past still operates today.
⇒To learn about the earth, study the earth.
⇒The world looks the way it does b/c of known, natural, observable processes not b/c
of catastrophic events no one has ever witnessed.
⇒By the 4th volume of A Natural History, as pressure mounted on Buffon, he felt
obliged to retract everything he said.
⇒He tried to accommodate the biblical story of Genesis with his uniformitarian
perspective in his Epochs of Nature.
⇒He suggested that the world was indeed ancient and that earth’s history could be
divided in 6 distinct epochs.
⇒He estimated that the duration of each epoch was in thousands of years.
•Scottish geologist James Hutton (1726-1797) explicitly advanced the notion that by
studying natural, slowly working, repetitive processes (that is uniform, natural processes
such as erosion and weathering) we could explain the earth’s geology and geography.
⇒Presented uniformitarianism in a way that glorified even more greatly the creator
who had produced such a clever, self-sustaining system for the benefit of his crown of
⇒For such a system to work, a 6000 yr time span was insufficient.
⇒Suggested that the earth was at least hundreds of thousands of years old.
•The English geologist Charles Lyell (1797-1875) was perhaps the most eloquent 19th
century advocate for the uniformitarian perspective.
⇒Memorable statement: “The present is the key to the past.”
⇒In other words the key to understanding the past rests in the study of those
geological processes that can be observed in the present.
•The work of Buffon and especially Hutton and Lyell had opened the door for the
concept of an OLD earth- an earth that had existed long enough for the slow erosion of
mountains, the cutting of great canyons, the changing of animal species and even, perhaps
the evolution of humanity.
Natural Selection: The Contribution from Biology