Philosophy & Theory in Biology 1 (20130604) (2009)
In the seven years since Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould died, there have been only a few assessments of his role in paleobiology and evolutionary theory. Although non-paleontologists still do not realize it, the “punctuated equilibrium” model first proposed by Gould and Niles Eldredge in 1972 has widespread acceptance among paleontologists. Nearly all metazoans show stasis, with almost no good examples of gradual evolution. The most important implication is that fossil species are static over millions of years, even in the face of dramatic climate changes and other environmental selection factors. This widespread stasis cannot be explained by simplistic concepts like “stabilizing selection,” and remains a mystery that neontologists have not fully addressed or successfully explained. Despite the hope that paleontology would reach the “High Table” of evolutionary biology, the fact that most biologists largely do not understand or accept the implications of paleontological concepts such as species sorting and coordinated stasis suggests that paleontology still has not made the impact on evolutionary thinking that it deserves
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