S-Space College of Education (사범대학) Center for Educational Research (교육종합연구원) SNU Journal of Education Research SNU Journal of Education Research vol.06 (1996)
The Critique of the Principle of Uniformitarianism and the Analysis of High School Earth Science Textbooks
- Song, Ho Jang; An, Hui Soo
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 교육종합연구원
- SNU Journal of Education Research, Vol.6, pp. 75-93
- Although uniformitarianism is widely recognized as the basic principle upon which the structure of historical geology has been erected, a closer investigation on the basis of present scientific knowledge and the philosophy of science reveals some of its invalid aspects. The concept of uniformitarianism was developed in a dual concept in Lyellian days. Substantive uniformitarianism (a testable theory of geologic change postulating uniformity of rates or material conditions) is false, ambiguous and stifling to hypotheses formation. Methodological uniformitarianism
(a procedural principle asserting that former changes of the Earth's surface may be explained by reference to causes now in operation) belongs to the definition of science and is not unique to geology. Moreover, it also has some methodological defects in forming bold and novel working hypotheses. Methodological uniformitarianism today should take the form of a much older and more general scientific principle: Occam's Razor, the principle of simplicity. Accordingly, substantive uniformitarianism, an incorrect theory, should be abandoned. Methodological uniformitarianism, now a superfluous term, should be best confined to the historical roles in geology. In this connection, the presentation of uniformitarianism in high school textbooks was analyzed. It was revealed that text books were riddled with false and misleading statements as to what uniformitarianism means. Since uniformitarianism, as presented in many textbooks, is in direct contradiction to the philosophy of Inquiry learning, it is important to rethink the direction of uniformitarianism presentation in Earth Science curriculum development.