There is no scientific controversy over evolution. There is scholarly debate over things like the importance of allopatric versus sympatric speciation, gradualism versus punctuated evolution. But there is no scientific uncertainty over the reality of evolution, just a political and social one.
Let's make this clearer.There is no scientific uncertainty over the reality of MICRO-evolution. There is NO CONVINCING EVIDENCE of MACRO-evolution. This is exactly what the book wants to address.
DiogenesTheDog is correct. There is no scientific controversy over whether evolution occurs or not. The questions are instead, How is it best explained? or What mechanism is responsible for it?
DiogenesTheDog brings up two of the main competing theories of macroevolution, namely, Darwins gradualism and the more recent punctuated equilibrium. Neither of these theories claims that macroevolution is false. They differ on how this macroevolution occurs. SirLinksalot seems to be ignoring the fossil record when he says that there is no "convincing" evidence of macroevolution. One needs only to take a look at how the modern horse, Equus, evolved from ancestral horse-like animals or how the modern elephants evolved from ancestral elephant-like animals. You can find other examples in any introductory biology textbook (e.g. Campbells).
You are forgetting, however, that one of the main arguments for punctuated equilibrium has been the absence in the fossil record of evidence of gradual change. The supporters of punctuated equalibrium and the supporters of gradual change both believe “evolution” took place. However, they both argue that the other sides mechanism for evolution cannot work. We Creationists simply agree with both of them and argue that neither proposed mechanism for macro evolution is capable of creating the complexity of life.
Stephen Goulds theory (at least the punctuated part of Punctuated Equilibrium) is one of the few actually based on a LACK of data rather than affirmative data.
Gould and Schwartz should both be applauded for proposing theories that fit better with the actual historical record, but can be justly faulted for their equally problematic reliance on assumed, unobserved and unexplained phenomena such as recessive mutations and resulting saltations.
Is there any reason to believe that an environmental stressor would produce recessive mutations that hang around until poof a new organism appears? Probably not, but it is good to see Schwartz challenge Darwins slight, successive orthodoxy.
John Davidson ( an agnostic biologist ) says :
Gould and Eldredge never had a theory of any description. They dreamed up this abuse of two words that used to have real meanings until they got a hold of them. Those words were punctuated and equilbrium. They sound wonderful dont they but they mean nothing more than the recognition that evolution always occurred in spurts (sort of like sex). It was all pure hype. It explained nothing and only emphasized that which had been known by paleontologists for over a century. Of course it occurred in spurts. So what? What has that got to do with the price of hog bellies anyway? Gould was just another atheist Darwinian mystic like his senile buddy down the hall, Ernst Mayr and the one across the pond, Richard Dawkins. They were all three losers if you ask me so dont ask.
Also please dont dignify punctuated equilibrium by calling it a theory. It makes me irritable and that is not a good idea. Theories are hypotheses that have predicted specific results. Since when has Darwinism predicted anything?”
Using lack of evidence as proof for an argument is rarely convincing (such as Punctuated Equilibrium being true due to the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record).
So is punctuated equilibrium testable? Gould says that a series of fossils showing gradual development of an adaptation would refute punctuated equilibrium. Walter ReMine points out the no lose situation that Gould and company have created here: if the fossils show systematic gaps, then the punctuated equilibrium model of evolution is proven, but if the fossils show gradualism, then the standard Neo-Darwinian model of evolution is proven. In other words, evolution itself is no longer falsifiable! Punctuated equilibrium and Neo-Darwinism are both now part of the evolutionists grab-bag of conflicting theories as Gould and Eldredge now view punctuated equilibrium as an addition to evolutionary theory rather than an alternative.
So, the debate over Punctuated Equilibrium has given publicity to STATIS on the fossil record as a serious problem for evolution (how can you believe in evolution, or change, when the fossils testify to stasis, or lack of change?). The recognition of the reality of abrupt appearance and stasis corroborates what doubters have been saying.
RE : EQUUS
Many Evolutionists themselves long ago abandoned horse evolution as an example of transitional forms, since they no longer believe the fossil record represents anything like a straightforward progression, but instead a bush with many varying branches. As Heribert Nilsson correctly pointed out as long ago as 1954:
“The family tree of the horse is beautiful and continuous only in the textbooks. In the reality provided by the results of research it is put together from three parts, of which only the last can be described as including horses. The forms of the first part are just as much little horses as the present day damans are horses. The construction of the horse is therefore a very artificial one, since it is put together from non-equivalent parts, and cannot therefore be a continuous transformation series.
As far back as the 1950s, scientists already had cast aside the false notion of horse evolution via classic Darwinian changes. [In fact, the vast majority of textbooks (including ones published by National Geographic!) have abandoned the horse in favor of the camela species they believe can paint the same picture but that has not been so publicly ridiculed.] David Raup of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, acknowledged:
“Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin, and knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded.... Ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwins time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed informationwhat appeared to be a nice, simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic”
The late eminent paleontologist of Harvard, George Gaylord Simpson, summed it up well when he wrote:
The uniform, continuous transformation of Hyracotherium into Equus, so dear to the hearts of generations of textbook writers, never happened in nature).
Another scientist from Harvardand a man for whom Dr. Simpson served as mentorStephen J. Gould, bemoaned the continued use of what he termed misinformation such as horse evolution. He wrote.
Once ensconced in textbooks, misinformation becomes cocooned and effectively permanent, because, as stated above, textbooks copy from previous texts.