Tempo and mode in evolution: Punctuated equilibria and the modern synthetic theory

Philosophy of Science 50 (3):432-452 (1983)
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Several paleontologists have recently challenged the explanatory adequacy of the modern synthetic theory of evolution. Their position is that, contrary to the prevailing view that evolutionary change is gradual, the fossil record manifests long periods of species stasis punctuated by periods of rapid species formation. And, they argue, this punctuated equilibria pattern challenges the gradualist, adaptationist and extrapolationist assumptions of the modern synthetic theory of evolution and supports a hierarchical, non-extrapolationist view of evolution. In this paper I argue that the challenge rests on an inadequate characterization of the modern synthetic theory and that, even accepting punctuated equilibria and an irreducible evolutionary hierarchy, the modern synthetic theory is adequate to explain evolutionary change at all levels of the hierarchy



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