Theory of Knowledge: Paradigm Shifts

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  • Topic: Geology, Catastrophism, James Hutton
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  • Published : April 26, 2012
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Theory of Knowledge - Paradiagm Shifts

What is a paradigm shift?
A paradigm shift is a change in the basic assumptions, otherwise known as paradigms, within the ruling theory of science. An example of a paradigm shift is the acceptance of Uniformitarianism and Gradualism in place of Catastrophism.

Catastrophism → Uniformitarianism and Gradualism
Georges Cuvier
1769 - 1832
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the predominant geological paradigm was Catastrophism. The catastrophists believed that the Earth’s geological features were the result of numerous sudden, brief, violent events. One such theorist was French paleontologist Georges Cuvier. His drive was to find an explanation for the extinction patterns he observed in fossil records. Cuvier suggested the catastrophe responsible for the more recent extinctions in Eurasia might have been caused by floods, although no references to Noah’s flood were made. This was because Cuvier avoided using religious or metaphysical reasoning in his scientific writings, for he was influenced by the intellectual state during the French Revolution and the Enlightenment. Charles Lyell

1797 - 1875
James Hutton
1726 - 1797
However, by the end of the 18th century, new ideas were proposed by many; James Hutton and Charles Lyell among them. Hutton, considered to be “the father of geology”, wrote his uniformitarian explanations for the formation of sedimentary rock and a comprehension of geological time (also known as Deep time) in the late 18th century. Lyell, a geologist, worked using Hutton’s ideas as a foundation and had findings which supported the uniformitarian idea that the Earth’s features were shaped by the exact same geological processes which took place in the present, gradually across a long stretch of time. A few decades after the publication of Lyell’s “Principles of Geology”, most geologists endorsed Uniformitarianism (meaning “the present is the key to the past”) and Gradualism (“geologic change occurs...
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