The Structure of Evolutionary Theory

The Structure of Evolutionary Theory

Stephen Jay Gould

Language: English

Pages: 1464

ISBN: 0674006135

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The world's most revered and eloquent interpreter of evolutionary ideas offers here a work of explanatory force unprecedented in our time--a landmark publication, both for its historical sweep and for its scientific vision.

With characteristic attention to detail, Stephen Jay Gould first describes the content and discusses the history and origins of the three core commitments of classical Darwinism: that natural selection works on organisms, not genes or species; that it is almost exclusively the mechanism of adaptive evolutionary change; and that these changes are incremental, not drastic. Next, he examines the three critiques that currently challenge this classic Darwinian edifice: that selection operates on multiple levels, from the gene to the group; that evolution proceeds by a variety of mechanisms, not just natural selection; and that causes operating at broader scales, including catastrophes, have figured prominently in the course of evolution.

Then, in a stunning tour de force that will likely stimulate discussion and debate for decades, Gould proposes his own system for integrating these classical commitments and contemporary critiques into a new structure of evolutionary thought.

In 2001 the Library of Congress named Stephen Jay Gould one of America's eighty-three Living Legends--people who embody the "quintessentially American ideal of individual creativity, conviction, dedication, and exuberance." Each of these qualities finds full expression in this peerless work, the likes of which the scientific world has not seen--and may not see again--for well over a century.

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structure that I defended above for specifying the essences of theories. The uncanny appropriateness of Scilla's coral lies in the fortuity that this particular specimen (accurately drawn from nature by Scilla, I assume, and not altered to assert any general point) just happens to include exactly the same number of branches (three) as my Darwinian essential structure. (They terminate at the same upper level, so I could even turn the specimen over into a tolerably unwobbly tripod!) Moreover, since

adaptationist scenarios) in my work on "covariance sets" in the growth, variation, and evolution of the West Indian pulmonate Cerion (Gould, 1984b and c), a snail that encompasses its maximal diversity in overt form among populations within a constraining set of pervasive allometries in growth. I discuss some of this work in my text on the empirical validation of positive constraint (see Chapter 10, pages 1045-1051). My doubts on the third branch of extrapolationism and uniformity began even

differences increase gradually as stratigraphic distance expands (p. 335). (2) When we find hints of the feather patterns of rock pigeon in highly modified breeds, we do not hesitate to interpret these designs as vestiges of an ancestral stock; therefore, the faint stripes that we sometimes observe in coats of young horses point to a common origin for all species in the clade of horses, asses and zebras (pp. 166-167). (3) Marine molluscs often exhibit brighter colors in warmer waters. We note

such widely divergent styles of life? Darwin writes, in the opening paragraph of his discussion on taxonomy: "The existence of groups would have been of simple signification, if one group had been exclusively fitted to inhabit the land, and another the water; one to feed on flesh, another on vegetable matter, and so on; but the case is widely different in nature; for it is notorious how commonly members of even the same subgroup have different habits" (p. 411). These arguments strike us as most

in their height or climate, or in the proportions in which the several classes are associated together, which resembles closely the conditions of the South American coast: in fact there is considerable dissimilarity in these respects. On the other hand, there is a considerable degree The Essence of Darwinism and the Basis of Modern Orthodoxy 115 of resemblance in the volcanic nature of the soil, in climate, height, and size of islands, between the Galapagos and Cape de Verde Archipelagos: but

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