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catastrophism

[kuh-tas-truh-fiz-uh m]
noun Geology.
  1. the doctrine that certain vast geological changes in the earth's history were caused by catastrophes rather than gradual evolutionary processes.
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Origin of catastrophism

First recorded in 1865–70; catastrophe + -ism
Related formsca·tas·tro·phist, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for catastrophist

catastrophism

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 catastrophesCompare uniformitarianism, gradualism (def. 2)
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Derived Formscatastrophist, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

catastrophist in Culture

catastrophism

[(kuh-tas-truh-fiz-uhm)]

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

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Note

A belief in Noah's flood is one version of catastrophism.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.