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Darwin, Evolution Theory, Creationism, Stasis or Punctuated Equilibrium?
Gould Helped Explain Darwin's Great Theory of EvolutionClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.