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catastrophism

[kuh-tas-truh-fiz-uh m] /kəˈtæs trəˌfɪz əm/
noun, Geology
1.
the doctrine that certain vast geological changes in the earth's history were caused by catastrophes rather than gradual evolutionary processes.
Origin
1865-1870
1865-70; catastrophe + -ism
Related forms
catastrophist, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for catastrophist

catastrophism

/kəˈtæstrəˌfɪzəm/
noun
1.
an old doctrine, now discarded, that the earth was created and has subsequently been shaped by sudden divine acts which have no logical connection with each other rather than by gradual evolutionary processes
2.
Also called neo-catastrophism. a modern doctrine that the gradual evolutionary processes shaping the earth have been supplemented in the past by the effects of huge natural catastrophes Compare uniformitarianism, gradualism (sense 2)
Derived Forms
catastrophist, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for catastrophist

catastrophism

n.

as a geological or biological theory, 1869, coined by Huxley from catastrophe + -ism.

By CATASTROPHISM I mean any form of geological speculation which, in order to account for the phenomena of geology, supposes the operation of forces different in their nature, or immeasurably different in power, from those which we at present see in action in the universe. [T.H. Huxley, "Address" to the Geological Society of London, Feb. 19, 1869]
Related: Catastrophist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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catastrophist in Culture
catastrophism [(kuh-tas-truh-fiz-uhm)]

A theory holding that changes in the Earth take place swiftly and irreversibly. (Contrast gradualism.)

Note: A belief in Noah's flood is one version of catastrophism.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for catastrophist

catastrophism

doctrine that explains the differences in fossil forms encountered in successive stratigraphic levels as being the product of repeated cataclysmic occurrences and repeated new creations. This doctrine generally is associated with the great French naturalist Baron Georges Cuvier (1769-1832). One 20th-century expansion on Cuvier's views, in effect, a neocatastrophic school, attempts to explain geologic history as a sequence of rhythms or pulsations of mountain building, transgression and regression of the seas, and evolution and extinction of living organisms

Learn more about catastrophism with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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