Years ago I began to recognize a repeating phenomenon in the rhetoric of evolutionary literature: Scientists, echoed by science journalists, would only admit a problem with their models or a challenge to their ideas once they thought they had found a solution. I’ve called these “retroactive admissions of ignorance.” We now have another example of this, from a paper just published in Nature Communications purporting to demonstrate Darwinian gradualism: “General statistical model shows that macroevolutionary patterns and processes are consistent with Darwinian gradualism.” Retroactive admissions of ignorance, weakness, or other problems typically come in the first sentences of the abstract or introduction of a paper. The rest of the paper is then supposed to show why the admission no longer applies, as the weakness has been cleared up. This paper is no exception to the pattern.Casey Luskin, “Nature Communications Retroactively Concedes a Lack of Evidence for Darwinian Gradualism” at Evolution News and Science Today (March 8, 2022 )
The supposedly slam dunk paper deals with body size in mammals. Trouble is, it’s too easy a topic. Body size is — everyone agrees — easily malleable, compared to say, the development of vision:
The point is that while this recent Nature Communications paper purports to find evidence of gradual evolutionary change in mammalian body size, that’s not something that would surprise anyone in light of the diverse spectrum of body sizes that often exist even within a species at any given time. Change in body size, even gradual evolutionary change, does not represent the kind of novel body plans or novel phenotypic traits that the neo-Darwinian model struggles to explain.Casey Luskin, “Nature Communications Retroactively Concedes a Lack of Evidence for Darwinian Gradualism” at Evolution News and Science Today (March 8, 2022 )
And then that very week, Luskin tells us, another paper came out: “The paper concludes that tuataras (lizard-like reptiles from New Zealand) have experienced stasis and virtually no change over at least the last ~190 million years” Now that’s gradual.
The paper is open access.