Punctuated Equilibrium

If evolution is true, then why don't we see it still happening today?

This is a common question that I get, but actually is a question that should be directed at the evolutionist.  The most popular answer given by them is called "punctuated equilibrium."  Here is how that term is defined in the biology book used at Rockdale High School: "speciation occurs quickly in rapid bursts, with long periods of stability in between."  That is, for long periods of time a species exists in a state of "equilibrium," or stasis, where there is no change.  Then, for some unknown reason, a "punctuated" event of evolution occurs like a large series of favorable mutations. 

This is an amazing explanation since evolution, which by definition means "change" is characterized mainly by stasis or stability.  This idea is not without its evolutionist critics.  Classical evolutionists still maintain that gradualism, that is, slow gradual changes, best explains evolution.  "Punctuationists," on the other hand, admit that the fossil record does not support gradualism.  Stephen J. Gould confesses, "The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology…"  Gould, along with Niles Eldredge resurrected an idea proposed by Richard Goldschmidt of the University of California.  In the 1940's Goldschmidt also recognized the lack of evidence for evolution in the fossil record so he proposed what became known as the "hopeful monster theory."  For example, a reptile would lay an egg and out of it would come a "brown furry thing."  Over time, with the help of chance, the "brown furry thing" would find a mate.  This idea was never accepted in scientific circles until 1971 when Gould and Eldredge, by the power of their influence and peer pressure gave it a new twist with the name "punctuated equilibrium." 

Responding to punctuationists, Richard Dawkins, an orthodox evolutionist nervously admits, "Darwin's own bulldog, Huxley, as Eldredge reminds us again, warned him against his insistent gradualism, but Darwin had a good reason.  His theory was largely aimed at replacing creationism as an explanation of how living complexity could arise out of simplicity…Gradualism is of the essence.  In the context of the fight against creationism, gradualism is more or less synonymous with evolution itself.  If you throw out gradualism you throw out the very thing that makes evolution more plausible than creation."  (Nature, vol. 316, pg. 683)

What must be understood is that evolution has no mechanism to work.  It is like a beautiful, polished car with no engine; nothing is under the hood.  It cannot work because nothing powers it.  Darwin believed natural selection caused evolution but natural selection only allows for horizontal variation and never vertical evolution.  So, the idea of neo-Darwinism was developed that said that mutations cause evolution.  This can never happen since mutations almost always cause a decrease of information and never an increase.  Mutations are the enemy of evolution.  So punctuated equilibrium is a desperate attempt to salvage evolution.  It's really the perfect explanation because lack of evidence is the actual evidence that proves it!

The most logical and scientifically defendable explanation for the large gaps between phyla, classes, orders and families is that they did not evolve at all, that they were created instantaneously.   Of course creation implies a Creator and accountability to that Creator.  Thus, such an incredulous idea as punctuated equilibrium survives not because of any evidence in science but due to a religious obligation to evolution.

So, to answer your question, for the evolutionist who is a gradualist we do not see evolution now because it happened too slow and for the punctuationalist we do not see evolution because it happened too fast.  Some evolutionists claim that evolution has stopped altogether.  The most reasonable explanation remains--evolution did not happen at all.

When a scientist tries to explain an unobserved event he builds a model.  Since the study of origins is a reconstruction of unobserved history two models are proposed to explain what happened, evolution and creation.  The model that explains the greatest number of facts with the fewest number of modifications is the one most likely to be true.  It is obvious from this examination of punctuated equilibrium that the evolution model itself has to evolve in order to work.  The creation model, on the other hand, continues to explain the facts without changing.  In order to accept it however, one is faced with the fact that if there is a Creator then we are accountable to Him.  That is why creation is so vehemently opposed.


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©Tom Carpenter
Originally published in the Rockdale/Newton Citizen