The written record of mankind refers to catastrophes of many types and sizes, including the biblical story of the great flood of Noah.

Most Neptunists and Plutonists assumed that global-scale events were more likely to happen gradually, like erosion, rather than suddenly, like an earthquake. But even James Hutton allowed for the possibility that a single event, such as a sudden uplift from below, could radically reform or destroy a continent.

In 1817, Georges Cuvier published Essay on the Theory of the Earth Studying the strata near Paris, he found evidence of massive extinctions of various organisms that appeared to be caused by repeated floodings from the sea. He reasoned that deformed layers under the flat layers showed that sudden, massive crustal dislocations caused the flooding and extinctions. In other words, catastrophic events. He argued that the most recent catastrophes happened within the last 5000 or 6000 years, leaving a small number of survivors who started the human race anew.

Fifteen years later, uniformitarian and catastrophist were used by William Whewell to indicate what would become the two major competing views in the 19th century.

In 1840, a Swiss, Louis Agassiz, published Etudes sur les glaciers. He had originally believed in a global ice age, ending with a catastrophic event that suddently brought the Alps mountains into existence. His essay took the position that all this had happened much more gradually than originally claimed.

By the beginning of the 20th century it was beginning to be widely assumed that the use of radioactive measure to date rocks was undermining catastrophic theories because of the millions-of-years time-lines that such dating methods generated.

But anyone looking over the astronomer's shoulder at the cosmos can see in any direction a simple truth--that massive catastrophes on a scale almost impossible to digest is nature's way.

On earth, some would count as a global catastrophe something that is powerful enough in intensity or duration to close down one geological era and open up a new one.

As Professor Derek Ager has pointed out, recent catastrophicists include J. Harlen Bretz. Between 1923 and 1969 repeatedly argued his theory that the evidence of sediments showed that in the U.S., the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana had been swept by a gargantuan flood of water. The evidence of the water's power is deep gorges (coulees) in rock as wear-resistant as solid basalt, such as the current site of the Grand Coulee dam. Now widely accepted, Bretz's theory of the Channeled Scablands was for many years rejected out of hand and ridiculed.

Since catastrophic flooding has been recorded at sites around the world, the important question is: what was the source such massive amounts of water and the cause of its powerful movements.

From another angle, comes Ken Hsu's 1983 book, whose title speaks for itself: The Mediterranean Was A Desert

Back Up | Uniformitarians | Gradualists

Main | Basic_Ideas | Gyro | Readings