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What Is Uniformitarianism

QUESTION: What is uniformitarianism?


The concept of uniformitarianism was conceived in the late 1700’ by a Scottish geologist named James Hutton. However, the name “uniformitarianism” wasn’t coined until 1832 by William Whewell. This concept postulated that catastrophic processes were not responsible for geologic rock formations that existed on the Earth's surface. This new idea was diametrically opposed to the ideas of that time period, which were based on a biblical interpretation of the history of the Earth and were accepted for centuries prior to that time. Instead, the theory of uniformitarianism suggested that the formations developed over long periods of time through a variety of slow geologic and geomorphic processes.

In 1785, Hutton presented his ideas at meetings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He suggested that the Earth had a much longer history than biblical catastrophism dictated and that this history could be interpreted in terms of processes currently observed. He suggested that rock formations were created by slow weathering of bedrock over thousands of years rather than a catastrophic deposition like the biblical food. He further suggested that supernatural theories were unnecessary to explain the geologic history of the Earth.

Strangely, the ideas of the geologist, Hutton did not gain major support of the scientific community until the work of Sir Charles Lyell, a lawyer, reinforced them 45 years later. In a three-volume publication, “Principles of Geology” (1830-1833), Lyell presented a variety of geologic evidence from England, France, Italy, and Spain to support that Hutton's ideas were correct and to reject the theory of catastrophism. The acceptance of this new theory and the implications of it discrediting the Bible created a paradigm shift that has left a belief in the literal truth of the Bible in shambles to the present day.

The theory of uniformitarianism became the “time” foundation for the Theory of Evolution and the “Origin of the Species” book by Charles Darwin, which further discredited the Bible. The theory of evolution is based on the principle that the diversity seen in the Earth's species can be explained by the uniform modification of genetic traits over long periods of time thus making the supernatural creation story in the Bible unnecessary.

Dr. Henry Morris suggested that the motivation for Lyell to dethrone catastrophism and replace it with uniformitarianism was political and theological rather than scientific. The fact that Lyell was not even a scientist certainly supports that assertion.

Today our national theology is Secular Humanism which is supported by a foundation of biological evolution which is in turn supported by a foundation of uniformitarianism.

Although many geologists today have rejected uniformitarianism based upon several criteria and many scientists are questioning the truth of evolution based upon the lack of factual support.

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