The Study of Uniformitarianism Essay

1265 Words Mar 22nd, 2012 6 Pages
The Study of Uniformitarianism
The origin of life on Earth is a fundamental scientific question, but we do not know as much as many biology textbooks would like you to believe. (Pigliucci)
Uniformitarianism is vital to the world of science. It is a geological doctrine. It states that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It assumes that geological processes have essentially not changed today from those from the past which are unobservable. As present processes are thought to explain all past events, the Uniformitarian slogan is "the present is the key to the past". Uniformitarianism is a key principle of geology. My
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Hutton then sought evidence to support his idea that there must have been repeated cycles, each involving deposition on the sea floor, up lifting with tilting and erosion, and moving under the sea again for more layers to be deposited. In the spring of 1788 he took a boat trip along the Berkwickshire coast with Playfair and another geologist named James Hall. Playfair later recalled that "the mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time", and Hutton concluded a paper he presented at the Royal Society of Edinburgh with the phrase "we find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end."
From 1830 to 1833 Charles Lyell's multi-volume Principles of Geology was published. The book's subtitle was "An attempt to explain the former changes of the Earth's surface by reference to causes now in operation". In the book he stated that most of Earth’s structural features could be explained as the result of constantly occurring processes over millions of years, further developing Hutton’s idea. He drew his explanations from field studies conducted right before he went to work on the book. The terms uniformitarianism for this idea, and catastrophism for the opposing idea, were coined by William Whewell in a review of Lyell's book. Principles of Geology was said to be the most influential geological work in the middle of the 19th century, and Lyell is acclaimed as the father of

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