Uniformitarianism: A Double Edged Blade

A common principle of evolutionary thought is the idea of uniformitarianism. The idea, proposed as the principle of uniformity, can be translated as “the present is the key to the past”. The idea, most commonly applied to geology and some aspects of biology, predates Darwin by around thirty years. Proposed by Charles Lyell in his book Principles of Geology the principle of uniformity helped give rise to the old-earth movement, and thus paved the way for Darwin’s destructive work.  This article will examine the problems with uniformitarianism as well as the problems evolutionists create for themselves by accepting it.

A perfect example of how evolutionists use uniformitarianism is found in the Grand Canyon. Scientists can measure in the present the rate at which the Colorado River is cutting into the base of the canyon. By taking this known rate of erosion,  scientists can calculate the length of time it would take for the Colorado River to have carved the Grand Canyon. When this calculation is performed, scientists come up with an age of millions of years.  Evolutionists point to this date and taunt creationists with their supposed evidence. However, in so doing, they overlook a key assumption of the calculation.  The calculation assumes that the rate of erosion has always been the same.  This assumption is uniformitarianism in a nutshell.  It assumes how things work, and how long they take in the present, is the same as how they have always worked.  This is obviously not the case.

These assumptions are not limited to geology. Biology makes use of them as well. Speciation is a fine example of this. Scientists observe the rates at which isolated populations diverge into new species.  They then take this known rate and calculate the amount of time it would take for any two species to get back to a common ancestor.  Sometimes multiple rates are used depending on the depth and breadth of the study.  Here, however, there is more than one assumption in play. The first is that the rate of speciation is constant and that speciation happens continuously. This assumption is incorrect as speciation only occurs in isolated populations and not all populations are isolated. Further, the rate of speciation heavily depends on environmental factors such as climate or food availability.  The second assumption is that speciation can radically change the type of creature an animal is.  This has never been observed.  The third assumption is that there is a common ancestor, either universal or between two given animal species. A universal common ancestor is unproven and unprovable. To assume that one exists is irresponsible and sloppy scientific procedure.

If assumptions were the only thing wrong with uniformitarianism, it likely would not merit much consideration. After all, the vast majority of the evolutionary theory is grounded on assumptions, stated or otherwise.   However, evolutionists have a serious problem with accepting the ideas contained in the principles of uniformity.  In order for life to form, evolutionists argue for a primordial chemical cocktail, swirling and frothing in worldwide oceans.  They preach that this chemical cocktail somehow merged together to create life. This is at odds with the principle of uniformity because suddenly the past and the present are no longer functioning in the same way. Indeed, if evolution’s version of the origin of life is true, the earth would need to be vastly different than it is now.  No longer can present processes be assumed to have functioned in the same way in the past.  Evolutionists also point to proposed meteor showers as the reason the dinosaurs went extinct and the Ice Age as the reason many other mammalian creatures died. Both of these events are not observed in the present and would have had devastating, unpredictable effects on natural processes.  This contradiction is deadly.

Evolution cannot have uniformitarianism and have a primordial soup, meteor shower, or Ice Age.  The uniformitarianism demands that natural processes proceed at the same rate at all times. However, the three items mentioned above make this demand a physical impossibility.  But evolution has to have both uniformitarianism and the differing conditions.  Without uniformitarianism, evidence that the earth is old enough for evolution to occur becomes much slimmer than it already is.  Without the primordial soup, evolution’s conditions for life’s occurrence vanish.  Without the meteor shower, evolutionists cannot explain dinosaur extinction.

Evolutionists are forced into an uncomfortable position. They must choose which they will take, for uniformitarianism and their version of the past are mutually exclusive. However, either choice is poison to their own theory, from which there is no easy escape.  Thus evolutionists are likely to continue to ignore the contradictions between the two, so long as it enables them to continue ignoring God and following in the footsteps of Lyell and Darwin.

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