May 2002


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John Landon <[log in to unmask]>
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Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 22 May 2002 09:19:04 EDT
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Gould and Eldredge are well-known for their pioneering proposal of the
various models of punctuated equilibria.
One thing however that has, in my view, stymied this legacy has been the
closure of the Darwin debate (Gould et al. vis a vis sociobiology) around a
basic Darwinian selectionism, and that has made the potential revolution in
theory still born. The leftist confusions of punctuated equilibrium and some
Engels-style 'dialectics' has further confused the issue.
The basic point: selectionism is the problem, and the real source of a
challenge. To close the debate around sociobiology versus 'something else'
(what else?) has obfuscated the issues, and a close look suggests that while
sociobiology has any number of weak spots, by and large it has proven
durable, if only as sound neo-liberal ideology. Let's face it, the nurture
group, due to their own Darwinian fundamentalism, lost the debate. There is a
genetics to behavior, so big deal. (I am only partially serious here, to be
sure). I think if the real problem is seen to be the basic theory of Darwin,
then the revolutionary insights of punctuated equilibria could be used--not
for some philosophical hype--but for a real debriefing of evolutionary
theories as such. I am afraid that in many ways Gould was himself a bit of a
Darwinian fundamentalist. His views of evolutionary progress, and much else,
simply don't wash, and his latest book, Structure of Evolutionary Theory, for
all its fascination, is a house falling apart in a hurricane. Gould is a
puzzle. He is adamant on Darwin and yet entering the dragon's lair of the
basic refutation of Darwin trying to save the day. His material on 'species
individuality' and the rest show, behind the basically acute committment to
detail, the unravelling of the whole Darwinian monism.
The point is simple, but not easily advanced to real knowledge: punctuated
equilibria are the sign and symptom of the existence of the missing component
in Darwin's Great Dogma. The question is confused by the fact that the
original example in the realm of trilobites can indeed be reannexed into
standard Darwinism. But the more general point is that there is a missing
sasquatch to the mix, and this 'higher naturalism' has been totally papered
over with naturalistic metaphysics, not science.

The discrepancy becomes stark in the accounts of the Descent of Man. A close
look should have suggested all along this is pure hogwash. And yet the entire
science establishment persists in this ideological myth of man's descent,
even the left.
So Gould's real legacy is--(I hope) apres moi, le deluge.

For everything to do with real 'punctuated equilibrium' in history cf.

John Landon
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