Niles Eldredge and Punctuated Equilibria
AchillesSinatra: In this thread, with the help of distinguished biologist and paleontologist, Niles Eldredge, I'll attempt to give the quietus to a couple of what I believe to be unsustainable claims, frequently seen both here and elsewhere. These are:
1. There exists something that can sensibly be called "THE theory of evolution", and
2. The theory of evolution "fits all the facts"
Clearly, simply refuting the first claim will serve to kill two birds with one stone: If there is no such thing as "the theory of evolution" then it cannot possibly "fit all the facts".
(All quotes below are taken from the preface to Eldredge's book "Time Frames" )
Eldredge begins by describing the state of affairs in evolutionary biology sixty years ago:
"Particularly, by 1959, the so-called "synthetic theory of evolution" -- essentially Darwin's notion of evolution by natural selection smoothly integrated with a basic understanding of heredity developed only in the twentieth century in the post-Darwinian science of genetics -- was accepted as THE theory of evolution."
So, we see that around the time that Frank Sinatra was recording "I've Got You Under My Skin", and Alaska and Hawaii were joining the forty-eight, it would have been quite plausible to speak of "THE theory of evolution".
And peace reigned on Earth.
AchillesSinatra: Alas, the peace was short lived. In 1972, Niles Eldredge and co-author Stephen Jay Gould introduced their theory of "punctuated equilibria" to an unsuspecting world. Eldredge explains their motivation:
"Similarly, the theory of 'puntuated equilibria' , with its related notion of selection operating at levels higher than the organism (the level of Darwinian natural selection, which today is defined as 'differential reproductive success' of organisms within a population), represents a rethinking of evolutionary processes based, ultimately, on the realization that a purely Darwinian or 'synthetic' view conflicts to some extent with our observations of nature."
In other words, Eldredge, Gould, and their fellow travellers had become persuaded that the traditional Darwinian-based account, even if partially adequate, by no means "fit all the facts".
The reception from their evolutionary peers, as is often the case when traditional views are challenged, was far from cordial:
"The furor that developed (in several quarters and at different times) tells us that something more is afoot than the straightforward objective evaluation of a set of postulates about the nature of things -- the standard, if distorted, view of scientific behavior. Passions have been aroused, including our own, a phenomenon in itself informative to anyone who would understand how scientists do their thing. But the intensity of the reactions to punctuated equilibria, both pro and con, implies more than mere scrapping among territorial evolutionists : the debate has revealed some very deep disagreements over the very way we should be looking at the organic world."
What we have, then, is not only a bifurcation of one theory into two, but two camps radically opposed as to whose theory "fits the facts".
Eldredge goes on to explain how, since their original collaboration, himself and Gould have come to diverge in their understanding of punctuated equilibria:
"From the very beginning, as we were working on the 1972 paper that coined the term and propelled the idea into general notoriety, Stephen Jay Gould and I have differed to some extent on the significance, the implications -- and even, on occasion, some aspects of the basic content -- of punctuated equilibria. Though, of course, our positions are (and always have been) closely similar compared to opposing views; we have continued to debate fine points between ourselves and our close, like-minded colleagues --a necessity if we are to continue to grow. Neither Steve nor any other colleague mentioned here is to be expected to agree entirely with my version of the punctuated equilibria story."
In conclusion, then, we have two warring theoretical camps -- traditional Darwinism vs punctuated equilibria -- violently at odds over whose evolutionary account best fits the facts.
Moreover, even within the confines of the PE barracks, a happy consensus has not been achieved. Clearly, there are at least some facts whose theoretical "fit" is disputed.
The only mystery here, as far as I can see anyway, is why anyone would find this surprising. Merry Christmas, peace on Earth, goodwill to all men, and a branch of science in which perfect harmony reigns supreme? Who are you trying to kid?
Let the battle rage
zeffur: If punctuated equilibrium is true, then we should be able to create artificial environmental changes in creature living conditions to create sufficient pressure to force a "rapid burst of speciation until stasis is again reached".
Given that we have domesticated many species of animals & not seen such rapid change in speciation--one would think that such a hypothesis is just more rubbish.
Also, according to info that BS has posted in the past about fruit fly torture tests, it's pretty well proven that no such new kind of creature was ever produced--no matter what they tried after thousands of iterations. All they were able to do at best was to isolate a final dumb-down version of the genome that was the last batch of fruit flies alive before causing complete extinction within their test set.
AchillesSinatra: "If punctuated equilibrium is true..."
A true scientific theory. Get a hold of yourself, man!
AchillesSinatra: Well, yeah, I don't believe for a minute either Eldredge or Gould is naive enough to believe their theory is true.
They're far too sophisticated for that.
Unlike some people I could name.
AchillesSinatra: Keeps me off the streets anyway.
And it's more stimulating than pablum like, say, "How I built an Ark with Two Ringtailed lemurs on it"
AchillesSinatra: "So they're just adding more caca to the pot to show anyone can do it & thereby further demonstrate how conspicuously retarded/ridiculous the ToE/Neo-evolution truly are?"
No, I don't think that's a fair criticism.
Both are extremely intelligent men and worthy of listening to, even if they turn out to be wrong.
You're just a religious wacko, Zeffur, if you don't mind my being blunt.
And not all that bright, either.
AchillesSinatra: "If punctuated equilibrium is true, then we should be able to create artificial environmental changes in creature living conditions to create sufficient pressure to force a "rapid burst of speciation until stasis is again reached"." - Zeffur
Yes, but you'd have to hang around for a while. Like maybe 500000 years. I dunno. Do you have that much time? I sure don't.
"Given that we have domesticated many species of animals & not seen such rapid change in speciation--one would think that such a hypothesis is just more rubbish." - Zeffur
Now, this is something I'm more sympathetic to. It does seem there are certain limits on what breeders can do. We can get a dog to the size of a Great Dane, but apparently not an elephant.
It's not my area of expertise. It does seem, though, that when the selective breeding stops, all these fancy pooches get atavistically back to the Muttley look. LOL.
"Also, according to info that BS has posted in the past about fruit fly torture tests, it's pretty well proven that no such new kind of creature was ever produced--no matter what they tried after thousands of iterations. All they were able to do at best was to isolate a final dumb-down version of the genome that was the last batch of fruit flies alive before causing complete extinction within their test set." - Zeffur
Again, I'm sympathetic, not to your crap, but a position of skepticism. It does seem drosophila, despite these meddling kids, have certain limits.
Ask Niles Eldredge
I'm out of my depth.
And so are you, pal.
AchillesSinatra: I agree, @ TheHating
Would you agree there appear to be certain constraints on what dog breeders can do?
Seems we can get so big or so small, then...... a limit is reached.
I might be wrong but seems worthy of consideration.
AchillesSinatra: Again, I'm on shaky ground. This is not my forte.
But hope to learn from those who know better.
AchillesSinatra: Well, same goes for pigeons
We've all seen minor changes.
But the Creationists do have a point.
The rest is inference, not direct observation.
zeffur: re: "AchillesHottie: Yes, but you'd have to hang around for a while. Like maybe 500000 years. I dunno. Do you have that much time? I sure don't."
Uh huh.. Looks like snake oil salesmanship. You just have to buy & take the snake oil for 6 months to a year to see improvements--but, be advised--it doesn't always work for every person..
Lol. Let's just toss in some random amount to time to pretend time is really the major factor. It's just charlatan con gamesmanship... nothing more.
re: "AchillesHottie: You're just a religious wacko, Zeffur, if you don't mind my being blunt."
Bahahaha! You have no clue. I'm about the least 'religious' person who believes in the alien origins of life on earth. Once again, you don't know what the tequila you are typing about.
re: "AchillesHottie: And not all that bright, either."
Dude.. stop playing with your mirror. You're far less intelligent than you pretend--it's so obvious.
AchillesSinatra: Among other reasons -- as if there weren't enough already -- to be wary of a fanatic who claims "my theory fits all the facts"...
Well, take the ontological status of the term "species", for example.
Under Darwinian gradualism, the idea of "fixity" of species should be a myth. Despite our pre-scientific intuitions, there ought to be no such thing. All we should see is one population merging insensibly into another.
Of course, thanks to the paleontologists, we see no such thing: What we see instead is species, by and large, remaining remarkably stable through the millennia.
So perhaps "species" can be maintained as a scientific reality, but only at the cost of them being treated as individuals...
... meaning you are part of a temporally and spatially restricted whole, as opposed to a member of an unworthy group.