Posted by: davidlarkin | July 19, 2008

Stephen Jay Gould’s Dissent

Most of the discussion of Darwinian evolution is between people who don’t know enough about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. In fact, “Darwinian” evolution is not supported by a preponderance of the evidence, if we were to apply that legal standard. It is actually disproven by a preponderance of the evidence.

Darwinian evolution assumes that evolution is gradual. As it has developed since the advent of microbiology, incremental change in a species occurs genetically with random mutations that gain dominance. Thus, in small steps, a horse becomes a giraffe as the neck gradually lengthens and the species-specific spots occur in the giraffe’s coat, allowing the giraffe to reach high up in the trees for food, and blend into the African landscape. Opposed to this principle of gradualism would be abrupt change and appearance of new species. Darwin rejected abrupt change as follows:

He who believes that some ancient form was transformed suddenly through an internal force or tendency into, for instance, one furnished with wings, will be almost compelled to assume, in opposition to all analogy, that many individuals varied simultaneously. It cannot be denied that such abrupt and great changes of structure are widely different from those which most species apparently have undergone. He will further be compelled to believe that many structures beautifully adapted to all the other parts of the same creature and to the surrounding conditions, have been suddenly produced; and of such complex and wonderful co-adaptations, he will not be able to assign a shadow of an explanation. He will be forced to admit that these great and sudden transformations have left no trace of their action on the embryo. To admit all this is, as it seems to me, to enter into the realms of miracle, and to leave those of science.

Darwin, C. (1872) The Origin of Species. Sixth Edition. The Modern Library, New York.

Science then proceeded to attempt to prove Darwin’s theory and the principle of gradualism by searching the fossil record. If gradualism is a fact, then the fossil record should reveal it. Unfortunately, the fossil record revealed the opposite from gradualism, stasis, followed by abrupt change.

In reaction to the clear failure of the fossil record to support gradualist Darwinism, Stephen Jay Gould with Niles Eldridge, became “heretics” among fellow evolutionists by claiming in 1982 that the Darwinian model was incomplete. They did not believe that the evidence for microevolution and gradualism was sufficient and proposed a macroevolutionary concept of “punctuated equilibrium” where a leap of change occurred seemingly unexplainable at the microlevel, since neither Gould or Eldridge were microbiologists and did not offer a microbiological explanation. Gould and Eldridge proposed this alternative because (1) species appear in the fossil record abruptly, and (2) organisms that make up a species commonly remain virtually unchanged for millions of years before going extinct. They theorized that random mutations in a species generally were not helpful and therefore were not naturally selected. As Gould put in more succintly in a 1977 Natural History article:

A new species can arise when a small segment of the ancestral population is isolated at the periphery of the ancestral range. Large, stable central populations exert a strong homogenizing influence. New and favorable mutations are diluted by the sheer bulk of the population through which they must spread. They may build slowly in frequency, but changing environments usually cancel their selective value long before they reach fixation.

S. J. Gould, 1977. “Evolution’s erratic pace.” Natural History 86 (May): 12-16.

Thus, according to Gould and Eldridge, abrupt genetic change appeared at an isolated environmental “periphery” of a specie’s natural history and existence over space and time such that the stasis recorded in the fossil record was faithful to the general evolutionary history of the species, which was static, and not gradually evolving. This theory caused a fury among fundamentalist Darwinists who clinged then and continue to cling to the gradualist random mutation and natural selection theory.

In Stephen Jay Gould’s 1,000 page opus “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory” (2002), he states very clearly that contrary to Darwin’s evolutionary theory of gradualism of species development, that “stasis and abrupt appearance represent a norm for observed history of most species.” p. 761. (280 pages on punctuated equilibrium theory)

According to Gould, evolutionary biologists have not been forthcoming with the evidentiary record. Darwinian evolution proposes that evolution of new species is gradual due to random mutation. Instead of publicizing findings that the fossil record does not confirm gradualism, he wrote, paleontologists mischaracterized the evidence of stasis as no evidence of anything. Gould writes in a lengthy parenthetical illustrating the profession’s unwillingness to publish the truth as follows:

(To cite a personal incident that engaged this paradox [that the “frequency of stasis in fossil species . . . was unexpected by most evolutionary biologists] upon my consciousness early in my career, John Imbrie served as one of my Ph.D advisors at Columbia University. This distinguished paleoclimatologist began his career as an evolutionary paleontologist. He accepted the canonical equation of evolution with gradualism, but conjectured that our documentary failures had arisen from the subtlety of gradual change,and the consequent need for statistical analysis in a field still dominated by an “old-fashioned” style of verbal description. He schooled himself in quantitative methods and applied this apparatus, then so exciting and novel, to the classic sequence of Devonian brachiopods from the Michigan Basin — where rates of sedimentation had been sufficiently slow and continuous to record any hypothetical gradualism. He studied more than 30 species in this novel and rigorous way — and found that all but one had remained stable throughout the interval, while the single exception exhibited an ambiguous pattern. But Imbrie did not publish a triumphant paper documenting the important phenomenon of stasis. Instead, he just became disappointed at such “negative” results after so much effort. He buried his data in a technical taxonomic monograph that no working biologist would ever encounter (and that made no evolutionary claims at all) — and eventually left the profession for something more “productive.”)

Gould, “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory” p. 760.

The origin of species cannot be “proven” in an experimental sense because it is “history.” Nevertheless, the historical fossil record unequivocally does not provide historical evidence to support Darwinian evolutionary theory. Hence, Gould and Eldridge’s theory of punctuated equilibrium, a non-Darwinian theory of evolution, rejects gradualism and tries to explain abrupt appearance. However, at this time punctuated equilibrium is a macro-evolutionary theory and has no microbiological explanation to make a “preponderance of the evidence” case. (Current Darwinian theory that incorporates microbiological science that did not exist when Darwin lived is generally referred to as “Neo-Darwinism”, though technically, neo-Darwinism was coined in 1895 to limit evolution to natural selection, and exclude any Lamarckian implications of Darwin’s hypothesis of pangenesis, his hypothetical theory of genetics.) There is no explanation for how a changed external environmental requirement, whether on Gould’s “periphery” of species environment or not, could cause significant abrupt micro-biological genetic modification sufficient to adapt former species to the changed environmental circumstances. How could the DNA of a single living cell be sensitive to macro-environmental change? The significance of random mutation to Neo-Darwinism is that it removes any external causal force or condition on the living cell, whether God or nature.

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  1. […] Stephen Jay Gould’s Dissent […]

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