I am a Catastrophist. So are you, if you have thought about it: catastrophism is the belief that the Earth has been affected by catastrophes in the past, radically changing its geology or biosphere. Two I can think of off hand are the Chicxulub impact which may have killed off the dinosaurs and enabled the rise of mammals- I can’t make a judgment and am unaware of the current consensus- and the impact which left us with the Moon, which has no iron core so is parts of the crust of both planets. Oh, and the Deccan Traps?

Pause for Wikipedia-

No, Livescience: Gigantic deluges of lava known as flood basalts have been linked with mass extinctions throughout history.

I had heard that Catastrophism and “Uniformitarianism” are opposing theories. Creationists are Catastrophists, seeing the evidence of Noah’s Flood everywhere; Creation-deniers are

(What did she just say? “Creation”-deniers??)

Uniformitarians, believing that the same natural laws have caused the deposit of strata throughout the Earth’s history. Creationists would argue the two theories are mutually exclusive. That idea infected my understanding of Georges Cuvier, who coined the words, but again from Wikipedia I learn he was a serious scientist, proving some fossil species had become extinct. Previously it was thought they must still live somewhere- an idea coming from Biblical understandings.

Whereas, I am both. Strata have formed in similar ways over the last billion years, and there have been catastrophes. (Yellowstone may produce a flood of lava/basalt! We’re all going to die!)

The point of my sermon this morning-
or mid to late afternoon, if you are in the US-
or any time, if you are reading this later-
is that understandings can entrap us. “Catastrophism” is a useful concept, but not if seen as rigorously distinct from Uniformitarianism. Particularly, identifiers of what we are not, such as imagining I am not a Catastrophist because that has to do with belief in the Flood, can create a blind spot preventing understanding.

Understanding must always be open, a jumping-off point for further understanding. Ideas can liberate and enslave us.

I have a question for you. A blogger called “Francois Tremblay” wrote this:

Trans genderism, through intimidation, death threats and sexual bigotry, pushes one giant act of erasure: they seek to destroy all women-only spaces, which means erasing any possibility of feminist advancement.

That makes me a monster. Any action to defend women against my destructive attack is justified. Now, Francois Tremblay is not one of those bloggers entirely obsessed with trans women, and s/he writes of other feminist issues as well. My question is, have I a right to object to someone quoting that blog on something unrelated to trans issues, in fact something I agree with? If she was unaware of FT’s attitude to trans women, should she now agree not to quote FT again?

And what is a reasonable analogy? Is it like quoting the Vegetarianism posts of a white supremacist? Or someone who blogs on how monstrous Trump voters (rather than Drumpf himself) are, but then about how they are so completely wicked and incorrigible that you might being to think, wait a moment, steady on- all of them, merely monstrous? I might happily interact with a blogger after they produced just one post strongly opposing BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, but how might a Palestinian feel about that?

giovanni-martinelli The Three Graces

7 thoughts on “Catastrophism

  1. For your info, François Tremblay is a male name. I may pass by many of them everyday. It’s quite a common name in these parts.


    • I am irritated that you should twice in a row tell me things I already know, where what I have written does not indicate ignorance. Of course, we ignore other Leviticus taboos, so why take any notice of the book’s sexual taboos, is a common argument, but yesterday I addressed different issues. And, Francois (oddly, no cedilla) is a male name; so is George, and, so I understand, is “Currer”, though I have never heard of a man using it; but the range of interests and style of argumentation is more common in women, though I have come across a man who writes like that.

      Added: “Currer” is “ambiguous”.


  2. It may be the case that in order for “intelligent” life (i.e., that having a symbolic world and not driven purely by instinct) to emerge, a planet must be of just the right composition and size, with just the right gravitation and visited by just the right number and sized comets to create just the right land-to-water ratio. Perhaps, too, it must be tilted 23 degrees (as a result of an impact with another planet) in order to have just the right seasons. And it may require an unusually large moon like ours that collided with what would have been its second moon. And perhaps an extinction event would be required at just the right time in order for just the right kind of mammalian life to evolve. A planet residing in the “Goldilocks zone” is necessary, but far from sufficient, for the emergence of intelligent life. This is all extremely unlikely. Fermi’s paradox solved. We may be alone in this galaxy, and possibly in the universe.


    • I heard recently that the Moon might hold the axis of spin stable- without it, the axis would vary, the length and intensity of seasons would vary, and natural selection could not take place. Then I saw a cartoon: two ants, one says: “All the pheromone trails are ours. We have proved there is no intelligent life above.” XKCD, I think.

      Intelligent reptiles?


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