Evolution By Explosion

Cam McCaul in the desert. Photo: Tyler Roemer

Evolution By Explosion A Gallery of Progression

In both geology and evolution, there is a theory called “catastrophism.”

Don’t stop reading yet. I know such esoterica may sound boring, but this theory includes supervolcanoes, the fiery death of the dinosaurs, mob violence, the invention of beer and a few unconventional photographs.

Do I have your attention now?

Basically, it goes like this: While small changes do occur slowly over time, the truly fundamental ones don’t happen gradually. They require a specific event, on a scale so massive and so sudden it has the potential to reshape any aspect of life on Earth—geological, biological, cultural or technological—in a moment.

Though initially introduced with a religious link (think the Garden of Eden and Noah’s flood) the concept found legitimate scientific support some two centuries ago as a way to explain surges of new species in the fossil record and the significance of large, disruptive events like floods or volcanic eruptions.

Since then, catastrophism has been applied to a spectrum of other subjects, including progressions in human culture like the invention of writing, the first alcoholic beverages and mountain biking. The concept remains the same; the catastrophe is just different.


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TYLER ROEMER (Above)

“Back in the day, most kids’ introduction to mountain biking was a wood ramp or a dirt mound in their neighborhood. They’d huck themselves with little regard for personal well-being, sometimes landing on their tires, other times not, but usually accompanied by such phrases as, ‘You got like three feet of air that time!’ To me, Cam McCaul riding a pile of sand in the desert isn’t any different—it’s still just a kid on his bike. But when nearly three decades of skill and style are captured in one trick, that’s progression in my book.”