The K/T Extinction Event and the Return to Catastrophism

Most mainstream geologists were catastrophists prior to Darwin and Lyell and the one big catastrophe that explained the upper layers of the geologic record was The Great Flood of Noah. But that all changed with Charles Lyell (a lawyer) who introduced Uniformitarianism to Geology, i.e. “The Present is the Key to the Past.” But at least two men — Immanuel Velikovsky with Worlds in Collision and Henry Morris with The Genesis Flood were writing about catastrophism again in the 1950’s and 60’s. They were ignored by many but they persisted in spite of the ridicule. Then in 1980, mainstream science finally woke up and published Alvarez’s paper on the K/T Impact. (K/T means Cretacious/Tertiary and refers to the boundary … Picture credit: Wiki “K/T Extinction”). Nature had this to say about it this week …

The science of the K/T impact (K is the customary abbreviation for Cretaceous) began in a more modest way, with attempts to get a sense of how quickly a thin layer of clays in the Italian Apennines had been deposited. No one foresaw that it would change how scientists and others see the world, and reintroduce catastrophism to the Earth sciences. Explanations that ignore the once-canonical principles of uniformitarianism — the gradualist paradigm in which the present is the key to the past — are now rife in studies of the history of Earth.
(Nature, 6 September 2007, p. 2)

In other words, “Dear Mr. Lyell … Thanks, but no thanks! Have a nice day.” Charles Darwin and Charles Lyell will ultimately go down in history as men whose theories were wrong. That’s not to say that both men didn’t contribute something. Small parts of their theories are useful, for example, the principles of uniformitarianism are roughly applicable in the post-Flood era and microevolution by natural selection does occur. But in the main, their theories were wrong and thus not very useful. In science, theories that are most useful are those which most closely approach the truth about reality … and, as it turns out the Bible is the most reliable source of truth about reality that the world has ever known … not only is it a reliable guidebook for life from the Author of Life, but it is an excellent source for scientific hypotheses as well.

2 Responses to “The K/T Extinction Event and the Return to Catastrophism”

  1. lordkalvan says:

    Unlike creationism, science is not an unchanging paradigm. That the surface of the Earth is formed by gradual processes that take tens of thousands of years is as undeniable as it is that that gradualism is punctuated by periodic catastrophic events, such as the Chicxulub impact event, the Deccan Traps, etc. Understanding evolves and adapts to new knoweldge and your suggestion that catastrophism has in someway supplanted uniformitarianism in modern geological understanding is incorrect.

    You should also note that, more correctly, it was James Hutton (1726-97) who originated the idea of gradualism (or ‘Plutonism’ as it was originally known) in geological processes, not as a denial of the occurrence of catastrophic events as such, but as a reasoned interpretation of the observations he made as a geologist. In Hutton’s time ‘Catastrophism’ as a theory was required to explain the evolution of the Earth’s surface in the short interval allowed by a strictly creationist interpretation of geological history; in other words, a belief in a ‘young’ Earth forced a catastrophic interpretation of what was observed rather than starting with observation as the driving force behind interpretation.

    It is also worth pointing out that the implied denigration of Charles Lyell (1797-1875) as a lawyer with, consequently, no meaningful understanding of geology is at odds with reality. From the Wikipedia article on Lyell:

    “Having attended Exeter College, Oxford ending in 1816, Lyell encountered geology as a serious profession under the wing of the naturalist William Buckland. Upon graduation he took a professional detour into the law, completing a circuit throughout rural England where he could observe geology. As his eyesight began to fail him during long hours focusing on legal briefs he in turn adopted geology as a full time profession. His first paper, “On a Recent Formation of Freshwater Limestone in Forfarshire”, was presented in 1822. By 1827, he had abandoned the law and embarked on a long geological career that would result in the widespread acceptance of the ideas, mainly uniformitarianism, proposed by James Hutton a few decades earlier.”

    So, by the age of 30 Lyell was, to all intents and purposes, a professional geologist and spent the rest of his working life pursuing that career.

  2. margiani says:

    There is already began new epoch; epoch of Cosmogeological theory!

    -Cosmogeological PLATE TECTONICS supports gradualism within peaceful periods only.
    -Cosmogeological PLATE TECTONICS supports rapid drift (global oscillation) within few days, every 10,000-12,000 years. (Noah’s flood-Gilgamesh’s flood) Each similar flood is connected to the basinal extinctions (slowly EB geo-transfer).
    -Cosmogeological PLATE TECTONICS supports rapid CATASTROPHIC PLATE TECTONICS after asteroid impacts and rapid EB geo-transfers (rapid movement of outer nucleus masses into asthenosphere). It produces rapid global movement of continental platforms and rapid subduction, obduction, overfolding of thin lithosphere platforms. It means rapid global folding-rugosity almost all oceans’ platforms. They are connected to the global extinction boundaries.

    Gilgamesh’s (Noah’s) flood is already decoded!
    kind Regards
    K. Margiani

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