The Sixth Extinction


Elizabeth Kolbert

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Uniformitarianism Term Analysis

The theory, popularized by Charles Lyell in the early 19th century, that species gradually go extinct over extended periods as a result of gradual changes, such as environmental changes, decreasing resources, and so on. As a theory on the causes of extinction in species it stands in contrast to catastrophism.

Uniformitarianism Quotes in The Sixth Extinction

The The Sixth Extinction quotes below are all either spoken by Uniformitarianism or refer to Uniformitarianism. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mass-extinction and Morality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Picador edition of The Sixth Extinction published in 2015.
Chapter 4 Quotes

Darwin's successors inherited the "much slow extermination” problem. The uniformitarian view precluded sudden or sweeping change of any kind. But the more that was learned about the fossil record, the more difficult it was to maintain that an entire age spanning tens of millions of years, had somehow or other gone missing. This growing tension led to a series of increasingly tortured explanations. Perhaps there had been some sort of “crisis,” at the close of the Cretaceous but it had to have been a very slow crisis. Maybe the losses at the end of the period did constitute a "mass extinction."

Related Characters: Charles Darwin
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
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Uniformitarianism Term Timeline in The Sixth Extinction

The timeline below shows where the term Uniformitarianism appears in The Sixth Extinction. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: The Original Penguin
Mass-extinction and Morality Theme Icon
Science and Paradigm Shifts Theme Icon
...catastrophes that caused large numbers of species to go extinct. The opposite of catastrophism is uniformitarianism, which is closer to Darwin’s idea of species and landscape gradually changing in tandem. (full context)
Chapter 5: Welcome to the Anthropocene
Mass-extinction and Morality Theme Icon
Natural Selection and Mass-extinction Theme Icon
Science and Paradigm Shifts Theme Icon
...Cuvier to introduce the new paradigm: some animals go extinct. The same is true of uniformitarianism: for a century, scientists tried to explain the “gap” in fossil layers by citing the... (full context)