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Jeffrey H. Schwartz’s Sudden Origins

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Schwartz hearkens back to earlier theories that suggest that the Darwinian model of evolution as continual and gradual adaptation to the environment glosses over gaps in the fossil record by assuming the intervening fossils simply have not been found yet. Rather, Schwartz argues, they have not been found because they don’t exist, since evolution is not necessarily gradual but often sudden, dramatic expressions of change that began on the cellular level because of radical environmental stressors-like extreme heat, cold, or crowding-years earlier.

Determining the mechanism that causes those delayed expressions of change is Schwartz’s major contribution to the evolution of the theory of evolution. The mechanism, the authors explain, is this: Environmental upheaval causes genes to mutate, and those altered genes remain in a recessive state, spreading silently through the population until offspring appear with two copies of the new mutation and change suddenly, seemingly appearing out of thin air. Those changes may be significant and beneficial (like teeth or limbs) or, more likely, kill the organism.

Why does it take an environmental drama to cause mutations? Why don’t cells subtly and constantly change in small ways over time, as Darwin suggests?

Cell biologists know the answer: Cells don’t like to change and don’t do so easily. As Schwartz and Maresca explain: Cells in their ordinary states have suites of molecules- various kinds of proteins-whose jobs are to eliminate error that might get introduced and derail the functioning of their cell. For instance, some proteins work to keep the cell membrane intact. Other proteins act as chaperones, bringing molecules to their proper locations in the cell, and so on. In short, with that kind of protection from change, it is very difficult for mutations, of whatever kind, to gain a foothold. But extreme stress pushes cells beyond their capacity to produce protective proteins, and then mutation can occur.

This revelation has enormous implications for the notion that organisms routinely change to adapt to the environment. Actually, Schwartz argues, it is the environment that knocks them off their equilibrium and as likely ultimately kills them as changes them. And so they are being rocked by the environment, not adapting to it.

The article’s conclusions also have important implications for the notion of “fixing” the environment to protect endangered species. While it is indeed the environment causing the mutation, the resulting organism is in an altogether different environment by the time the novelty finally escapes its recessive state and expresses itself.

“You just can’t do a quick fix on the environment to prevent extinction because the cause of the mutation occurred some time in the past, and you don’t know what the cause of the stress was at that time,” Schwartz said.

“This new understanding of how organisms change provides us with an opportunity to forestall the damage we might cause by unthinking disruption of the environment,” added Schwartz. “The Sudden Origins theory, buttressed by modern cell biology, underscores the need to preserve the environment-not only to enhance life today, but to protect life generations from now.”

Interesting. With a name like “Sudden Origins Theory” it almost sounds like something a Creationist would cook up. Of course, it isn’t. All he has done is given the boot to one undirected, natural cause (the modern synthesis) in favor of another undirected, natural cause (an aggressive environment and abrupt changes “out of thin air”). In a nutshell his idea seems to be that the environment becomes the stressor to knock organisms out of equilibrium and embed the seeds of change into their genes, although in a recessive state. Whatever the merits of his idea, it is interesting to hear what he does say in relation to Neo-Darwinism:

1. Mutations are generally harmful and more likely to kill an organism.
2. Cells are intricately designed to resist change and correct errors.
3. The fossil record, riddled with real gaps, debunks gradualism.

Of course, for his full view you’d have to read his book Sudden Origins: Fossils, Genes, and the Emergence of Species (John Wiley & Sons, 2000).

Also allelic mutations never had anything to do with creative evolution any more than natural selection did. It is all an illusion based on the unjustified assumption that the environment played a role in macroevolution. It never did as Schindewolf obviously recognized. All the environment ever did in the past or can do at present was and is to release whatever potential was still contained in the target organism. Today;'s organisms are quite incapapble of creative evolution just as Robert Broom caimed long ago. Trust me but of course you won't because you can't. Got that? Write that down. Who cares? Not I. "He that I am reading seems always to have the most force." Montaigne. Be more careful about what you read. "I read as little of Richard Dawkins as possible." Cyrus Noe I too Cyrus but I have read enough to note that he has neglected the greatest minds in the history of evolutionary thought in order to preserve his own warped egomaniacal materialist, atheist inspired, chance happy, fantasy world. He is a loser in the Tournament of Evolutionary Hypotheses I recently sponsored, the biggest loser of them all. How do you mutation intoxicated intellectual alcoholics over at "After the Bar Closes" like seeing your hero treated like trash? I bet it smarts doesn't it? Now like the good little mindless homozygous Darwimps that you all so obviously are, climb back up off the floor onto your slippery alcohol drenched bar stools and have another drink. I'm sure that by now you must need one. I know I do. I love it so! John Davison
Gould and Eldredge never had a theory of any description. They dreamed up this abuse of two words that used to have real meanings until they got a hold of them. Those words were "punctuated" and "equilbrium." They sound wonderful don't they but they mean nothing more than the recognition that evolution always occurred in spurts (sort of like sex). It was all pure hype. It explained nothing and only emphasized that which had been known by paleontologists for over a century. Of course it occurred in spurts. So what? What has that got to do with the price of hog bellies anyway? Gould was just another atheist Darwinian mystic like his senile buddy down the hall, Ernst Mayr and the one across the pond, Richard Dawkins. They were all three losers if you ask me so don't ask. Also please don't dignify "punctuated equilibrium" by calling it a "theory." It makes me irritable and that is not a good idea. Theories are hypotheses that have predicted specific results. Since when has Darwinism predicted anything? It is nothing but more Darwimpian foolishness dreamed up by victims of their obviously "prescribed" fates. There are millions of them. Like lemmings, they are marching in jack boot Nazi lock step, led on by their gallant Bandmaster, Richard Dawkins, to their certain destruction as they tumble off the cliffs into the sea below doomed to become nothing but pathetic little dead footnotes in the evolutionary literature. I love it so! How do you Darwimps over at "After the Bar Closes" like them raw Rocky Mountain oysters on the half shell washed down with all that warm Coors beer? Slippery aren't they? I hope they give you roaring dysentery. Be sure to take down your trowsers. John Davison
"All evolution was, like every other genetic change, instantaneous, discrete, unambiguous and with out intermediate states. " I know this will sound smug, but I truly don't mean it that way: are you saying something of the effect that some Neanderthal had a baby and out popped a Homo Sapien? And, I can't recall, but did Gould say something similar? ajl
Generation time never had anythimg to do with evolution. Sexual reproduction is and always was anti-evolutionary as is and was natural selection. All evolution was, like every other genetic change, instantaneous, discrete, unambiguous and with out intermediate states. There is absolutely nothing in the Darwimpian fairy tale that ever had anything to do with the emergence of a new life form, absolutely nothing. Got that? Write that down. I'm going to bed. John Davison
I really enjoyed all the discussion on common ancester. I have a question wrt descent with modification and common ancester (and I think it falls in the category of gradualism too). I can understand evolution and common descent within the micro world, like with a virus. There are probably quadrillions of bacteria out there reproducing all the time at a mind boggling rate. But, even in a good year, my wife still requires 9 months to give birth :-) and, if I get two women pregnant, that doesn't shorten the duration to 4.5 months. There are only around 5 billion "hominids" on Earth now (from what I understand, the highest the population has been), and they don't reproduce like a bacteria. Others in the animal kingdom are similar - Whales seem to fare even worse. So, when we look at small changes in bacteria, we know that these buggers reproduce like crazy - there are probably more bacteria located in the State of Illinois than the total number of hominids that have ever existed on Earth (just a guess on my part). So, it puzzles me how whales come about from a common ancester given that they don't reproduce too often, so you can't have the kinds of generations you have with a virus. Same for humans: to have evolved from a common 'ape-like' ancester to who we are now, how many stages would have had to occur over that time. Are there really enough repetitions and a large enough sample size (for interactions) for that to occur, even given millions of years? Since I am an engineer, and not a biologist, I guess my question is: have Darwinists answered this question already? And if so, I'd be interested in seeing what the answer is. As a related item, theistic evolutionists seem to follow along with gradualism too - so have they given an answer as well? ajl
"Gaps in the fossil record" is a criticism of gradualism. The neo-Darwinian synthesis (NDS) supposes more than gap filling fossils, were they to be found, can substantiate. The NDS has a type generator and filter model. It supposes changes generated by RMs and filtered by NS have produced all biology. Lets look at a proposed descent from the Bonobo to the Human starting with the Bonobo. The NDS supposes there were RMs leading to inheritable changes, with sufficient of the descending lifeforms surviving and at the end of this RM dense chain a human emerges. A chain of genomes each belonging to a breeding lifeform existed in time. As each passed NS filters it is reasonable to expect the corresponding lifeforms would still be around. Similar chains of lifeforms are predicted by the NDS between any ancestor+descendant pair. By the NDS we should see a greater profusion of lifeforms around us than we do. As far as I am aware such dense chains are nowhere seen and the fossil record does not support one such chain. RMs and NS do produce changes, but it seems not much passes NS. It seems to me missing dense existing lifeforms is another criticism of the NDS and gradualism. RussellBelding
Gould's theory was not "based on a lack of data." It was an attempt to describe the pattern of speciation in the fossil record given what population geneticists have learned about speciation. Gould's theory actually requires more data, demonstrating stasis in most lineages, followed by rapid speciation, followed by stasis in the subsequent lineages. It was an attempt to bring paleontologists, who primarily believed in phyletic gradualism, a descendent of the ladder progress notions, into the substantiated world of modern genetics which has demonstrated the reality of allopatric speciation - time and time again. Alex
From the article: "Rather, Schwartz argues, they have not been found because they don’t exist, since evolution is not necessarily gradual but often sudden, dramatic expressions of change that began on the cellular level because of radical environmental stressors-like extreme heat, cold, or crowding-years earlier." With Schwartz we can look at the power of men to delude themselvs. When Darwin substituted *extrapolation* for *observation*, he fabricated an enclosure for intellectual suicide. Darwinism *requires* a "leap of faith" from the observed to the never-can-be-observed. Whoever makes the leap seems to be unable after that to reconnect with reality. All they can do is flail like men caught in quicksand: the more they struggle to pull themselves out, the more helpless they become. In the end, to preserve their faith, they become insane. Red Reader
This is good stuff, largely for Schwartz's admissions, rather than his theory. Just underscores how bankrupt RM+NS is, at least in the view of some scientists, in explaining the diversity of life we see before us. Avocationist's comment is spot on. Gould's theory (at least the punctuated part) is one of the few actually based on a lack of data rather than affirmative data. Gould and Schwartz should both be applauded for proposing theories that fit better with the actual historical record, but can be justly faulted for their equally problematic reliance on assumed, unobserved and unexplained phenomena such as recessive mutations and resulting saltations. Is there any reason to believe that an environmental stressor would produce recessive mutations that hang around until "poof" a new organism appears? Probably not, but it is good to see Schwartz challenge Darwin's "slight, successive" orthodoxy. Eric Anderson
So what does the following FAQ from the AAAS (a banner ad sponsor of this site) mean? Does the author of the article above support "contemporary evolutionary theory"? AAAS Q&A #3: "Is there 'evidence against' contemporary evolutionary theory? No. There are still many puzzles in biology about the particular pathways of the evolutionary process and how various species are related to one another. However, these puzzles neither invalidate nor challenge Darwin's basic theory of 'descent with modification' nor the theory's present form that incorporates and is supported by the genetic sciences. Contemporary evolutionary theory provides the conceptual framework in which these puzzles can be addressed and points toward ways to solve them." russ
Darwin of the gaps. geoffrobinson
I certainly notice, as with Stephen J. Gould, that it is often the Darwinian evolutionists with a slightly altered perspective, concocted precisely because the theory doesn't fit the facts, which gives the lie to the propaganda that NDE is a coherent, working branch of science. Although this is the right direction, (scientists need to start seeking the mechanisms for sudden change)I think he places too much value on the environment as an adequate cause for so many animal types. avocationist

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