Darwin, Evolution Theory, Creationism, Stasis or Punctuated Equilibrium?

Gould Helped Explain Darwin's Great Theory of Evolution

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Stephen Jay Gould who propounded the theory of Punctuated EquilibriumCharles Darwin who is the father of the evolution theory.
Stephen Jay Gould who propounded the theory of Punctuated Equilibrium
Stephen Jay Gould who propounded the theory of Punctuated Equilibrium
Charles Darwin who is the father of the evolution theory.
Charles Darwin who is the father of the evolution theory.

It seems things don't change so much as they stay the same.

In researching my recent articles on arachnids and so on, I have been bothered by a nagging thought at the back of my mind. It is, “Here we have a scorpion, spider or centipede. It looks no different from the fossils of the same creatures in the fossil record. Why?” Many of these fossils are more than 200 million years old and they appear to be the same as the creatures scurrying about the planet today. If this is so, what has happened to evolution? Shouldn’t they have evolved into more complex animals, perhaps dressed in suits and walking along our streets to some business…working on their “web sites“ on the Internet?.

In looking around, I found (as usual) better minds than mine had already addressed the problem, and that this argument is far from new and it is the theory of “Stasis,” that many creatures hardly evolve at all and stay the same from the day they “suddenly” arrived in the fossil record. The theory that acts as the biggest contradiction of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution; the saving mantra of the Creationists, and the main reason Darwin’s Theory of Evolution has remained a theory and is not taught as, ahem, gospel truth in our schools.

Creationists, of course, have seized on this contradiction, saying it proves their assertion that a creator was responsible for all life and adds to, or detracts from the sum total of animals and plants as he sees fit. But hold your heavenly horses a mo.

Let’s come at this from another angle while I expound one of my clumsy and amateuristic theories on the subject. A bicycle is little different in appearance today from one made 100 years ago. It has a frame, two wheels, brakes and perhaps a carrier and a bell. Ting! But now it is made from tough carbon fibre or exotic metals, it has a complex set of 16 or more gears; its tyres are pneumatic and it is a fraction of the weight of early machines. In short, the bicycle has changed almost completely, but it still looks basically the same. If there was a geological time differential between bikes first being invented, and we had found the carcass preserved somehow, stuffed with rock, and dating back a million years instead of just 100, we might say, “How curious, bikes are the same now as they were when they were first invented one million years ago. “

Because the fossil record of living creatures shows only the form and frame of a creature as well. If I am right, it is impossible to accurately see how the organs have changed and adapted, if at all, or, more importantly, how the brain has changed and evolved to deal with, among much more, the changing climatic conditions through the ages. And the change in the creatures diet, its prey and all the changes it faces in life in 2009, in contrast to life in the Silurian or Carboniferous when these creatures first appeared.

I am not Stephen Jay Gould, the proponent of the Punctuated Equilibrium theory. or any other famed palaeontologist who have focussed the beam of his intellect, knowledge and education on this dilemma. But could it be just that simple? The exoskeletons, etc., of our “living fossils” have not changed radically, but maybe the organs and mind within have evolved to adapt the creature to the radical changes around it through the abyss of geological time.

It also occurs to me that we can hardly say what a 200 million year old fossil might have become had it lived and continued evolving. This really puts our argument in reverse: we cannot know what the creatures we have here in 2009 will have become in another 200 million years if they are allowed to evolve.

It seems that creatures begin to adapt and change as soon as climatic conditions around them change. Perhaps modern man would still be much hairier; still be able to run around on four limbs and still have his tail if the planet was colder and had more trees as it was thousands of years previously.

So the discussion is still healthy and rages on between Stasis, Evolution and Creationism, with the esoteric theory of “Punctuated Equilibrium” thrown in for good measure .

Punctuated Equilibrium, according to Wikipedia, states that most sexually producing species show little evolutionary change for most of their lives (Stasis). Evolution, when it happens, occurs in rapid, “Branching Specializations,” this is known as “Cladogenesis,” which has a species splitting into two distinct species, rather than the original species gradually transforming into another (Anagenesis, and Darwin’s original theory of “Phylectic Gradualism.”). This conveniently allows for the fact that many, if not most, species show little change in geological time, but protects Darwin's theory to a great extent. More importantly, perhaps, it does explain why so many new species suddenly show up in the fossil record like rabbits from the hat with no apparant evidence of them having evolved from anywhere.

It also seems no one can discuss the various “options” without getting rude and even violent about the subject. Perhaps we need to evolve a bit further before we are able to peacefully and constructively discuss evolution or the other options.

This has all muddied the waters for me. I was a happy and complacent follower of Darwin and his theories of evolution and survival of the fittest. They had long ago metamorphosed in my mind into fact, not mere theories. I still don’t doubt evolution, it just needs explaining better these days where many creatures are concerned, now we know more about DNA and genetics. I apologise to any readers of this probably silly article that I don’t know more about my subject, which takes a fully qualified scientist to explain - if it can be done at all. Truth is so hard to pin down. I am going to stay on the trail of this and may do another hub.

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Comments 9 comments

paul_gibsons profile image

paul_gibsons 7 years ago from Gibsons, BC, Canada

the elegance of Gould's "punctuated equilibrium" is that it leads us away from the trap implicit in the idea of gradual evoluton, that of reaching a higher state, even ultimately perfection, conditio sine qua non... Gould's "there isnt much change, but when it does come it comes rapidly" fits much better with the climatic and geological fits and starts we know have occurred and are still occurring, which is one of the reasons why I feel much more comfortable with punctuated equilibrium.

That doesn't mean that gradual change does not occur, it does. whether we call it evolution, natural selection or something else. And that can also be rapid; read and think about my story on Shad in the Pacific, a prime example of rapid change (adaptation to quite different conditions in the Pacific compared to their places of origin)which is not "external" but internal and not visible (by conventional means)and may even now not yet be substantially reflected in the genetics of the beast, other than some minute "preference" for certain small characteristic changes being selected for and not yet leading to a wholescale evaluation of the Pacific Shad as a different species (another can of worms... what is...).

So Eldredge and Gould's punctuated equilibrium is not necessarily the whole story, but then, what is in biology or science...?


diogenes 7 years ago

A thoughtful and informative comment about a subject with which you are obviously better informed than I am. I will enjoy reading your hub re the Chad and anything else you have written.

Regards, Bob


opinion duck 7 years ago

Whether it is Creationism or some form of Evolution, the survival of the fittest is still valid. All but man abides by the survival of the fittest. The predator and the prey rely on the fittest.

While religion attacks evolutionists for their lack of physical proof, they themselves quote the bible for their proof. The bible(s) are not self authenticating and therefore should not be put on the same level as proof.

The universe with all of its vastness and mystery is still a work in progress. It is imperfect with debris and useless object cluttering it up. It is an overkill for human life and it looks more like an experiment rather than a creation.

If you were going to build paradise, the Earth wouldn't be the place. Yet, according to the bible, that is exactly what the Garden of Eden was intended to be according to God. Just because we got thrown out of the Garden doesn't mean that the infrastructure of the universe and the Earth changed any.

Man while having some good attributes is nowhere near being a perfect creature. While the humand mind and body is very complex and compared to the other creatures man is the most intelligent. This doesn't mean man is perfect, it is just the best of the lot, at least for intelligence.

The world is not perfect, nor is the universe. They look more like they were cobbled, rather than created by an all perfect God.


diogenes 7 years ago

Sparkling comments. And, I suppose, what is "perfection?" Rather abstract and very subjective. I often feel rather insulted that anyone would think I was blind and mindless enough to believe in a "Supreme Being," while living in an uncaring universe full of suffering and pain.

Bob


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 6 years ago from The English Midlands

Very thought-provoking!

I think that it is easier to come to terms with this, if we say 'survival of the most fitting', rather than 'survival of the fittest'.

As you say, Diogenes, 'It seems that creatures begin to adapt and change as soon as climatic conditions around them change.'

I think that this is the crux of the matter. Living creatures will evolve, I believe, as they adapt to cope with ever-changing environments.

If they can cope without evolving, either because their environment doesn't change very much, or because their coping mechanisms can deal with a variety of environments, then there is no need for change to occur.

But, if they really need to change, in order to survive, then they will. Sometimes change will be almost imperceptible; sometimes it will be very obvious.

It appears that change ~ evolution ~ happens because only creatures that have certain required qualities will be able to cope in certain situations.

The necessary qualities will survive ~ and their owners will survive with them ~ because of them. Those without these vital qualities will not be able to cope and will die out ~ and certain traits will disappear with them.

I have actually heard the suggestion, from some Creationists, that evolution means that an ape one day woke up and found himself to be a human. This is an idea that is both confusing and incorrect, but it affects people's ideas on the theory of evolution.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Trish. I don't expect you will read this as the hub is ancient now. I am sorry I missed your comment earlier, it was because I hadn't checked the box to get emails sent when hubbers commented. I enjoyed your thoughtful comments and agree with your conclusions...Bob


Mark Knowles profile image

Mark Knowles 6 years ago

A basic lack of understanding of the evolutionary process seems to be at the heart of this hub. Without a catalyst, nothing will evolve because it does not need to. Sharks for example are extremely successful, and have not needed to change a great deal since reaching their current stage of development. In fact - some of them have been around in their current form for 150 million years or so.

So - how does this throw doubt on the theory of evolution for you? The fact that creatures evolved - and still do - is well documented.


diogenes 6 years ago

Hi Mark: Interesting comment. I have never had any doubt about the "theory" of evolution, I believe I made that clear in concluding paragraphs. And I was an atheist before I had even heard of Darwin. I think perhaps the problem is dabbling in complex subjects like this in a trite hub page article...anyhow, I did my best. Thanks for commenting...Bob


gingersmaltese profile image

gingersmaltese 5 years ago from 27597

Its humorous to me when someone claims categorically that the evolution of creatures is well documented. Especially looking at the fact that EVERY link is still missing in the fossil record. The excuse that there has not been enough time or enough fossils to find the missing links is getting very old. How many millions of fossils need to be found before evolutionists give up on finding the links. In addition to this lack of links, Macro-evolution takes to long to see. The only kind of "evolution" that we can see is adaptations within a species, never speciation.

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