Eldredge, Niles

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The well-known evolutionist paleontologist Niles Eldredge is one of the most prominent adherents of the neo-Darwinist model known as punctuated equilibrium—in other words, the punctuated model of evolution, first put forward in the 1970s. (See Punctuated equilibrium.) According to this theory, evolution takes place not gradually, through small changes, but through very large and sudden ones.

The reason behind such a scenario (which actually contradicts the most basic claim of evolution) is that living species appear suddenly in the layers of the Earth in the same perfect forms they possess today.

For that reason, Eldredge—who shares the same views—claimed that evolution happened by way of large sudden changes, a claim that was entirely the product of the imagination.

Actually, this theory was a different version of the “Hopeful Monster” theory proposed by the German paleontologist Otto Schindewolf back in the 1930s. According to that theory, the first bird emerged from a reptile egg through an enormous change caused by a random mutation. Certain land-dwelling animals might also have turned into giant whales through a similarly sudden and wide-ranging change. But this theory was swiftly abandoned.

In order to impart a scientific character to their theory, Eldredge and Gould sought to develop a mechanism for these sudden evolutionary leaps. But the inconsistencies in this claim soon gave its authors reason for concern. Niles Eldredge stated, by way of a question, that the idea of living things progressing through evolution was logically flawed: Do plant and animal species really improve and develop into the more complex? If so, then should we consider the simple and unchanged life forms, such as the sponge, as evolutionary failures? He then added that the evolutionary motto “Progress is inevitable” should be replaced with “Why apes succeeded.” 136

136 Niles Eldredge, “Is Evolution Progress?” Science Digest, September 1983, pp. 40, 160. 2009-08-15 12:04:06

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