Tuesday, March 14, 2006


[evomech] The Return of Hopeful Monsters (Stephen Jay Gould)

"The Return of Hopeful Monsters" Natural History magazine 86 (June 1976): 24, 30.

Big Brother, the tyrant of George Orwell's 1984, directed his daily Two Minutes Hate against Emmanuel Goldstein, enemy of the people. When I studied evolutionary biology in graduate school during the mid-1960s, official rebuke and derision focused upon Richard Goldschmidt, a famous geneticist who, we were told, had gone astray. Although 1984 creeps up on us, I trust that the world will not be in Big Brother's grip by then. I do, however, predict that during this decade Goldschmidt will be largely vindicated in the world of evolutionary biology.

Goldschmidt, a Jewish refugee from Hitler's decimation of German science, spent the remainder of his career at Berkeley, where he died in 1958. His views on evolution ran afoul of the great neo-Darwinian synthesis forged during the 1930s and 1940s and continuing today as a reigning, if insecure, orthodoxy. Contemporary neo-Darwinism is often called the "synthetic theory of evolution" because it united the theories of population genetics with the classical observations of morphology, systematics, embryology, biogeography, and paleontology.

The core of this synthetic theory restates the two most characteristic assertions of Darwin himself: first, that evolution is a two-stage process (random variation as raw material, natural selection as a directing force); secondly, that evolutionary change is generally slow, steady, gradual, and continuous.

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John Latter

Model of an Internal Evolutionary Mechanism:

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