Actualism

Powerful Essays
Creation Research Society Quarterly 2012. 49:135–152.
Volume 49, Fall 2012

135

Battlegrounds of Natural History:

Actualism
John K. Reed, Emmett L. Williams*
Abstract

A

ctualism is a fundamental assumption of secular natural history.
It replaced the Christian view of causality through providence, and it asserted an absolute physicochemical and geological continuity.
Though often confused with uniformity and uniformitarianism due to secular obfuscation, actualism, at root, is a method of geology that limits historical processes and events to observed present-day causes. Actualism fails as an absolute explanation of historical causality: it cannot be precisely defined, it surreptitiously assumes unjustified metaphysical positions, and its secular formulations fail logical and empirical truth tests. Only when justified as a contingent manifestation of providence does it avoid these problems. However, that formulation is of little help in deciphering the rock record, because it was largely shaped by nonactualistic discontinuities.

Introduction
George Gaylord Simpson, prominent twentieth-century evolutionist and formidable foe of early creationists, faced an unexpected attack late in life. His neo-Darwinian/Lyellian views were challenged by secular revolutionary views of biohistory (punctuationism) and geohistory (neocatastrophism). In
1970 he published an argument against critiques of uniformitarianism. He failed to slow the new trend but did a service to all by identifying six foundational topics

of natural history (Figure 1). Having addressed the first, naturalism (Reed and
Williams, 2011), this paper addresses the second, actualism.
Actualism emerged from the optimistic idea of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that science (modeled after Newtonian physics) could unlock
Earth’s past. But today’s climate is different. Christians object to its underlying materialist philosophy, and atheist philosophers, who have



References: Ager, D.V. 1973. The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY. Ager, D.V. 1993. The New Catastrophism. Baumgardner, J.R. 2003. Catastrophic plate tectonics: the physics behind the Genesis Brown, W.T. 2008. In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, 8th edition Goodman, N. 1967. Uniformity and simplicity. In Albritton, C.C. (editor), Uniformity and Simplicity, pp Gould, S.J. 1965. Is uniformitarianism necessary? American Journal of Science Gould, S.J. 1975. Catastrophes and steady state Earth Gould, S.J. 1984. Toward the vindication of punctuational change Gould, S.J. 1987. Time’s Arrow Time’s Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Hooykaas, R. 1963. The Principle of Uniformity in Geology, Biology, and Theology, second impression Hooykaas, R. 1970. Catastrophism in geology, its scientific character in relation to actualism and uniformitarianism. Hooykaas, R. 1972. Religion and the Rise of Modern Science Klevberg, P. 1999. The philosophy of sequence stratigraphy, part I - philosophic background Laudan, R. 1987. From Geology to Mineralogy. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. Meyerhoff. 1992. Surge tectonics: a new hypothesis of earth dynamics Mortenson, T. 2004. The Great Turning Point Mortenson, T. 2006. The historical development of the old-earth geological timescale Plantinga, A. 1997. Methodological naturalism? Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith 49:143–154. Reed, J.K. 1998. Demythologizing uniformitarian history. CRSQ 35:156–165. Reed, J.K. 2000. Historiography and natural history Reed, J.K. 2001. Natural History in the Christian Worldview Reed, J.K. 2008. St. Hutton’s hagiography. Reed, J.K. 2009. Review of The Man Who Found Time: James Hutton and the Reed, J.K. 2010a. Untangling uniformitarianism, level I: a quest for clarity. Answers Research Journal 3:37–59. Reed, J.K. 2010b. Modern geohistory: an assault on Christianity, not an innovative

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