Closely related to the definition of evidence that we have been debating lately is the notion that evidence does not “speak” for itself. It is always interpreted within a paradigm. This is not wrong for the simple reason that it is unavoidable. That said, a researcher runs off the rails when he becomes so enamored with the paradigm within which he is working that he literally cannot see evidence smacking him in the face. Gould notes one such case concerning stasis:
Paleontologists therefore came to view stasis as just another failure to document evolution. Stasis existed in overwhelming abundance, as every paleontologist always knew. But this primary signal of the fossil record, defined as an absence of data for evolution, only highlighted our frustration – and certainly did not represent anything worth publishing. Paleontology therefore fell into a literally absurd vicious circle. No one ventured to document or quantify – indeed, hardly anyone even bothered to mention or publish at all – the most common pattern in the fossil record: the stasis of most morpho-species throughout their geological duration. All paleontologists recognized the phenomenon, but few scientists write papers about failure to document a desired result. As a consequence, most nonpaleontologists never learned about the predominance of stasis, and simply assumed that gradualism must prevail, as illustrated by the exceedingly few cases that became textbook “classics”: the coiling of *Gryphae*, the increasing body size of horses, etc. (Interestingly, nearly all these “classics” have since been disproved, thus providing another testimony for the temporary triumph of hope and expectation over evidence – see Gould, 1972.) Thus, when punctuated equilibrium finally granted theoretical space and importance to stasis, and this fundamental phenomenon finally emerged from the closet, nonpaleontologists were often astounded and incredulous.
Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2002), 761
Gould’s remedy: Try to make yourself bust out of the confining paradigm.
Abrupt appearance may record an absence of information but stasis is data. Eldredge and I became so frustrated by the failure of many colleagues to grasp this evident point . . . that we urged the incorporation of this little phrase as a mantra or motto. Say it ten times before breakfast every day for a week, and the argument will surely seep in by osmosis: ‘stasis is data; stasis is data’
Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2002), 759.