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Evolution by Catastrophe: Does it indicate Intelligent Design? (cont.)
By Bibhu Dev Misra (IIT, IIM)

In 1977 Gould said, ‘The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology…to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study.’[v] In 1980 Gould reiterated the problems in the fossil record for gradualism: ‘The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution.’[vi] It is worth noting that the absence of ‘missing links’ in the geological data had also concerned Darwin. In the Origin of Species (1859) he says that the absence of intermediaries ‘is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.’

Punctuated Equilibrium also raises uncomfortable questions for the field of genetics. Too much biological complexity must be built into too few generations. The level of DNA change a species can undergo in a few thousand years is grossly insufficient to justify the rapid and transitionless morphological jumps in the fossil record which ‘punctuated equilibrium’ purports are possible during speciation.

In 1999, writing in Nature, Oxford zoologist Mark Pagel stated while reviewing a book by Niles Eldredge: ‘Paleobiologists…saw in the fossil records rapid bursts of change, new species appearing seemingly out of nowhere and then remaining unchanged for millions of years-patterns hauntingly reminiscent of creation.’[vii]

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  1. Gould, S. J., 1977. Evolution’s erratic pace. Natural History, 86(5):14 [back to text]
  2. Gould, S.J ., 1980. Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging? Paleobiology, 6:119–130 (p.127) [back to text]
  3. Eldredge, N. and Gould, S. J., 1972. ‘Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism’, Time Frames: the Rethinking of Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria, N. Eldredge, Heinernann, London, 1986, pp. 202 [back to text]

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