Science in Christian Perspective
Having Your Cake and Eating it Too
The Christian Academy, Media, PA
From: PSCF 50 (June 1998): 84
Steven J. Gould is always an engaging writer who likes to play the "devil's advocate" within the evolutionary community (I believe that the only thing they fully agree on is the enemyˇcreationists of any flavor!). In the Dec 97˝Jan 98 issue of Natural History, Gould takes an interesting tack on the popular notion that "... evolution may well be the way of the world, but one has to accept the idea with a dose of faith because the process occurs far too slowly to yield any observable result in a human lifetime."1 To counter this, Gould cites several examples of "evolution" in action: guppy maturity rates,2 lizard leg lengths,3 and snail shell variations.4
Then Gould performs his patented double twist: he proposes that these examples cannot provide the correct mechanism for evolution because they are far too fast to be right! The authors of the guppy study had recognized that their observed rates were 10,000 to 10,000,000 times the rate inferred from evolution of most fossil ancestries.5 Gould states: "Evolutionary rates of a moment, as measured for guppies and lizards, are vastly too rapid to represent the general modes of change that build life's history through geological ages."6
Gould uses these rates to reinforce his punctuated equilibrium model of species formation. This model explains the sudden appearance of new forms (impling rapid evolution) and the lack of transitional forms.
Most evolutionary transitions between species are trapped in a no man's land of invisibility. Such events generally require too much time for direct observation, but occupy too short an interval for preservation in the fossil record.7
This study thus indicates that not only can populations rapidly respond to new environmental conditions, but also that the response is in some ways qualitatively similar to large scale patterns manifest on macroevolutionary timescales.8
I still find the use of beneficial adaptations and hybridizations as proof for macroevolution to be weak. God has invested his creatures with a robustness to survive changing environments, including the formation of new species. Few now hold the opinion that God created each species uniquely (Darwin's opponent). "[That] macroevolution may just be microevolution writ large"9 still does not wash with me.
1Steven J. Gould, "The Paradox of the Visibly Irrelevant," Natural History 106, no. 11 (Dec97˝Jan98): 12˝66, p.12.
2D.N. Reznick, et. al., "Evaluation of the Rate of Evolution in Natural Populations of Guppies," Science 275 (28 March 97): 1934˝37.
3J.B. Losos, et. al., "Adaptive Differentiation Following Experimental Island Colonization in Anolis Lizards," Nature 387 (1 May 97): 70˝3.
4G.A. Goodfriend and S.J. Gould, "Paleontology and Chronology of Two Evolutionary Transitions by Hybridization in the Bahamian Land Snail Cerion," Science 274 (13 Dec 97): 1894˝7.
7Goodfriend and Gould, 1894.
8Losos, et. al., 72.