Historical Event

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Date:

January 1, 1830

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Short Description:

Cuvier proposed a series of catastrophes, each of which had totally wiped out animal and plant populations (thus producing the fossils), followed by a period of calm during which God restocked the earth with new (and improved) species.

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Title:

Book:

Person:

The Animal Kingdom

Topics: (click to open)

Geology
Creationism of Life, Intelligent Design
Young Earth Creationism
Christianization
Science
Religion

Important Text:

Meanwhile, orthodox Christianity was saved from

the embarrassing inadequacies of the Diluvial Theory

by the French geologist, naturalist, and member of

the Académie des Sciences, Baron Georges Cuvier

(1769-1832). To explain the progressive sequences of

fossils found in rock sediments, Cuvier proposed

a series of catastrophes, each of which had totally wiped

out animal and plant populations (thus producing the

fossils), followed by a period of calm during which

God restocked the earth with new (and improved)

species, The Noachian Flood was just one of these.

The Catastrophe Theory was a great balm to many

troubled minds. Adam Sedgwick, a geologist at

Cambridge University and a teacher of Charles Darwin, 

expounded the theory thus: 'At succeeding periods

new tribes of beings were called into existence,

not merely as progeny of those that had appeared

before them, but as new and living proof of creative

interference; and though formed on the same plan,

and bearing the same marks of wise contrivance, of-

tentimes unlike those creatures which preceded them,

as if they had been matured in a different portion of the

universe and cast upon the earth by the collision of

another planet.'

In formulating the Catastrophe Theory, Cuvier rou-

tinely took for granted an extreme rapidity of changes

in times past as compared with the present, but con-

ceded that perhaps a little more than six thousand

years was required. So, following the example of his

countryman, Comte Georges de Buffon (1707-1778),

he added eighty thousand years on to the age of the

earth. According to calculations of members of the

Académie, made after Cuvier's death, there had been

twenty-seven successive acts of creation, the products

of each but the last being obliterated in subsequent

catastrophes, thus providing a geological 'clock'. An

Englishman, William Smith (1769-1839), raised the

number of strata to thirty-two.


Opposite: This fossil

crocodile, illustrated in

Cuvier's book, The

Animal Kingdom (1830),

is obviously related to

present-day species

and it was such finds

that posed a problem to

the proponents of the

Diluvial Theory.

Baron Georges Leopold

Cuvier, the French

comparative anatomist,

explained away the

progressive sequences

of fossils found in strata

by proposing a series of

catastrophes, the Flood

being just one of these.

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