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Researchers: Steve Gould’s Punk Eek is right; evolution can pause a long time, then happen rapidly


Punctuated equilibrium, that is. This one’s from 2020 but still worth a look. Author Renee Ducksworth is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona:

When things did settle back down, the pace of evolution would return to a virtual standstill. That’s the pattern we observe in the fossil record: disruption, change and then long periods of stasis. However, it took many years for scientists to accept this pattern. It contradicted the Darwinian paradigm, where evolution should occur through slow and gradual changes. Under the Darwinian view, the diversity of life can be explained by simply adding up many, many small inherited changes over a long period of time. Such gradualism was believed to be a necessary part of adaptation by natural selection – the process by which some variants of traits are lost each generation, because their bearers leave no offspring. The evolution of something new, such as eyes or feathers, requires a heck of a long waiting time But this persistent focus on natural selection as the sole mechanism of adaptive evolution has always been a sticking point. It can’t properly explain how anything new arises. After all, natural selection is a process that eliminates unfit variants – it doesn’t create, but changes the prevalence of what’s already there. Instead, novelty must come from the purely random process of genetic mutation. The problem is that when new mutations appear, they’re usually not a good thing. They are more likely to disrupt well-adapted systems than to improve them, especially if they have a big effect. The upshot is that the evolution of something new, such as eyes or feathers, requires a heck of a long waiting time. Not only is there a long wait for a beneficial mutation to come along, but then there’s the long process of accumulating enough of them to build up, step by step, a complex new structure.

Fortunately for the Darwinian paradigm, geological time gives evolution millions and billions of years to work with. Yet in the 1970s, the American palaeontologists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge proposed that the pattern of stasis and disruption might be something more than just imperfections in the fossil record. This punctuated equilibrium, as they called it, might reflect the uneven way that evolution actually unfolds. If Gould and Eldridge were right, then natural selection on random mutation suddenly had a much shorter timescale in which to accomplish major evolutionary changes. Because of this, punctuated equilibrium was initially met with scepticism.

However, there’s been a growing acceptance of this pattern among evolutionary biologists and theorists over the years, as new studies and techniques reveal it again and again across diverse organisms. For example, Stevan J Arnold, an evolutionary biologist at Oregon State University, and his colleagues looked at patterns of body size evolution in vertebrates using three different types of data that span vastly different timescales: long-term field and museum studies that compare changes over tens to thousands of years, fossil measurements that assess changes over 100,000 to around a million years, and comparative data that can detect divergence among species (estimated using genetic data) over a period of tens of millions of years. They found that bursts of body-size evolution occur only on the order of every million years or so.

Renee Duckworth, “Catastrophes and calms” at Aeon (August 13, 2020)

Punctuated equilibrium is what we observe but it isn’t popular. Punk eek makes it even less likely that life develops due to unintelligent random processes. It just does not allow anywhere near enough time.

You may also wish to read: He Said It: As A Butcher Eyes A Sheep, So The Darwinists Eyed Paleontologist Steve Gould (1941-2002)

Fasteddious @5 Agreed. It's easier to explain how a master inventor takes a long hiatus than to explain how he gets all that fancy work done during those limited periods he's working. Darwinian apologetics really misses the point here. hnorman42
Punk Eek is just a description of what is seen in the fossil record. The Stasis parts are easy to explain by what we know of Darwinian theories: maintaining a healthy genome through natural selection; that is, weeding out the genetically unhealthy. But Punk Eek cannot explain the "punctuations" (or Darwin's hated "saltations"), except by just-so hand waving. A combination of Darwinian mechanisms, plus Intelligent Design, can of course, account for the punctuations and the overall fossil record, as described in the following: https://thopid.blogspot.com/2020/03/a-model-for-intelligent-designevolution.html Clearly ID does a better job accounting for several aspects of the history of life on Earth.. Fasteddious
The fossil record doesn't show "evolution". Just organisms that come and go and stasis. One is due to... Not "evolution". The other outright falsifies the "evolution" myth. As long as we don't see any ongoing "evolution" in any living organism out there - and we don't for sure - the myth is dead wrong. Nonlin.org
Most who write on/comment on punctuated equilibrium do not understand it. It is exactly the same as Darwinian evolution. It’s just the slow changes are not expressed/seen until a significant change happens in some part of the non coding genome and is then made part of the characteristics of the species. So a sudden change then appears. It is actually a theory on the origin of proteins. I never understood it till I read the special issue celebrating Goulds life appeared (2007) and Allan MacNeill pushed his ideas. There is no way that Gould’s ideas could explain Evolution since new proteins and the necessary combinations of proteins are not possible. It’s possible to test punctuated equilibrium and simple Darwinian evolution by the comparison of genomes. Failed sequences that produce proteins in other species should be all over the various genomes. jerry
^^^ Well, it is a given that there is a lot of flexibility in the imaginary just-so stories of Darwinian evolution. (Just as there is a lot of flexibility in telling fairy tales)
Sociobiology: The Art of Story Telling – Stephen Jay Gould – 1978 – New Scientist Excerpt: Rudyard Kipling asked how the leopard got its spots, the rhino its wrinkled skin. He called his answers “Just So stories”. When evolutionists study individual adaptations, when they try to explain form and behaviour by reconstructing history and assessing current utility, they also tell just so stories – and the agent is natural selection. Virtuosity in invention replaces testability as the criterion for acceptance. https://books.google.com/books?id=tRj7EyRFVqYC&pg=PA530 “... another common misuse of evolutionary ideas: namely, the idea that some trait must have evolved merely because we can imagine a scenario under which possession of that trait would have been advantageous to fitness... Such forays into evolutionary explanation amount ultimately to storytelling... it is not enough to construct a story about how the trait might have evolved in response to a given selection pressure; rather, one must provide some sort of evidence that it really did so evolve. This is a very tall order.…” — Austin L. Hughes, The Folly of Scientism - The New Atlantis, Fall 2012 "Being an evolutionist means there is no bad news. If new species appear abruptly in the fossil record, that just means evolution operates in spurts. If species then persist for eons with little modification, that just means evolution takes long breaks. If clever mechanisms are discovered in biology, that just means evolution is smarter than we imagined. If strikingly similar designs are found in distant species, that just means evolution repeats itself. If significant differences are found in allied species, that just means evolution sometimes introduces new designs rapidly. If no likely mechanism can be found for the large-scale change evolution requires, that just means evolution is mysterious. If adaptation responds to environmental signals, that just means evolution has more foresight than was thought. If major predictions of evolution are found to be false, that just means evolution is more complex than we thought." ~ Cornelius Hunter
Were you going to mention that Darwin himself allowed that evolution might proceed at different rates? Seversky

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