Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Christopher Cody Matson
The principle of catastrophism states that all of the Earth's surface features and topography were produced by a few great catastrophes throughout history. These catastrophes were thought to have been so enormous in scale that no ordinary process could have initiated and supernatural forces had to be invoked. However, this was the philosophy of scientists in the 17th and 18th centuries, whereas the modern understanding of the principal relies very little on biblical providence. Not only were these land-altering catastrophes believed to be the fabricators of all the mountains, valleys, seas, and deserts, but the original catastrophism concept also implies that they need to have occurred in the relatively recent history so that they would fit the scriptural chronology of the Bible. The contemporary concept of catastrophism now allows for its rival principal, uniformitarianism, to overlap and combine to form a more accurate portrait of geologic change. Although the slow, ...