The Mechanism of Punctuated Equilibrium The Misconception About Macromutations
The Misconception About Restricted Populations Conclusion












 

In an earlier pages, we examined how the fossil record clearly invalidates the hypotheses of the Darwinist theory. We saw that the different living groups in the fossil record emerged suddenly, and stayed fixed for millions of years without undergoing any changes. This great discovery of paleontology shows that living species exist with no evolutionary processes behind them.

This fact was ignored for many years by paleontologists, who kept hoping that imaginary "intermediate forms" would one day be found. In the 1970s, some paleontologists accepted that this was an unfounded hope and that the "gaps" in the fossil record had to be accepted as a reality. However, because these paleontologists were unable to relinquish the theory of evolution, they tried to explain this reality by modifying the theory. And so was born the "punctuated equilibrium" model of evolution, which differs from neo-Darwinism in a number of respects.

This model began to be vigorously promoted at the start of the 1970s by the paleontologists Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University and Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History. They summarized the evidence presented by the fossil record as revealing two basic characteristics:

1. Stasis

2. Sudden appearance 172

In order to explain these two facts within the theory of evolution, Gould and Eldredge proposed that living species came about not through a series of small changes, as Darwin had maintained, but by sudden, large ones.

This theory was actually a modified form of the "Hopeful Monster" theory put forward by the German paleontologist Otto Schindewolf in the 1930s. Schindewolf suggested that living things evolved not, as neo-Darwinism had proposed, gradually over time through small mutations, but suddenly through giant ones. When giving examples of his theory, Schindewolf claimed that the first bird in history had emerged from a reptile egg by a huge mutation-in other words, through a giant, coincidental change in genetic structure.173 According to this theory, some land animals might have suddenly turned into giant whales through a comprehensive change that they underwent. This fantastic theory of Schindewolf's was taken up and defended by the Berkeley University geneticist Richard Goldschmidt. But the theory was so inconsistent that it was quickly abandoned.

The factor that obliged Gould and Eldredge to embrace this theory again was, as we have already established, that the fossil record is at odds with the Darwinistic notion of step by step evolution through minor changes. The fact of stasis and sudden emergence in the record was so empirically well supported that they had to resort to a more refined version of the "hopeful monster" theory again to explain the situation. Gould's famous article "Return of the Hopeful Monster" was a statement of this obligatory step back.174

Gould and Eldredge did not just repeat Schindewolf's fantastic theory, of course. In order to give the theory a "scientific" appearance, they tried to develop some kind of mechanism for these sudden evolutionary leaps. (The interesting term, "punctuated equilibrium," they chose for this theory is a sign of this struggle to give it a scientific veneer.) In the years that followed, Gould and Eldredge's theory was taken up and expanded by some other paleontologists. However, the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution was based on even more contradictions and inconsistencies than the neo-Darwinist theory of evolution.

172 Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution's Erratic Pace," Natural History, vol. 86, May 1977, p. 14.
173 Stephen M. Stanley, Macroevolution: Pattern and Process, W. H. Freeman and Co., San Francisco, 1979, pp. 35, 159.
174 S. J. Gould, "Return of the Hopeful Monster," The Panda's Thumb, W. W. Norton Co., New York, 1980, pp. 186-193.