Sure. But the more obscure the data, the more disagreements. There is (according to Eldrid

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>Sure. But the more obscure the data, the more disagreements. There >is (according to Eldridge) virtually as many theories as their are >evolutionary biologists. What does that tell you about the clarity >of the data? It tells me that *you* haven't a clue about how research works. People seek out their specializations *precisely* to beome "the world's expert" in something-or-other, and use what data they can find to advance *their* guesses/hypotheses/theories. All of them start from a no-longer-controversial (and generally expanding) base of agreement. That agreement, in the case of evolutionary theory, includes: the near omnipresence of "descent with modification" (so that the extremely rare exceptions are exciting) adaptation of populations to selection pressures constant genetic variation in populations (with a vast and rigorous mathematical literature on the consequences of this, together with selection) near universal agreement (in all lines of evidence, genetic morphological, embryological, geographic, paleontological) on the descent trees of current (and most extinct) species and the relatedness of all current life forms. the time scale of geology and the proliferation of life in geological time. Active areas of *dis*agreement (which is exactly what Eldridge is concerned with -- he has his own axes to grind with regard to the "large scale" features of the paleontological record) are (to name a few obvious ones) the relative prominence of selection and drift in establishing distinct popuplations the "level" or levels at which selection operates (individual genes, the phenotype, species or even larger taxonomic levels. Since Eldridge is, in fact, advocating selection (and possibly other mechanisms) at a level "above" that of the species, he has an interest in describing the field as more "open" to his kind of explanation than you will find most practicing evolutionary biologists asserting. On the opposite extreme, you will get people like Dawkins who exaggerate how definitive *their* answers are (to similar questions, but with a base of data generally very distinct from the paleontological data that are Eldridge's concern). What people like you, Jack, can't seem to get through your heads is that there is OVERWHELMING agreement (amongst biologists, and between data and theory) on the essential lines that make Creationism such a crock of shit: all life on earth appears to be closely related, with overwhelmingly the most common relationship being modified descent that separates species into discrete breeding populations, and that in some, if not all instances, the mechanism for the separation is selection. This is Darwinism, plain and simple -- and it is the return to this Darwinist basis some 50+ years ago (from dalliance with other notions that didn't pan out) that makes current biology "neo-Darwinist." There is also a hell of a lot learned since Darwin that enables criticism of Darwin's magisterial tome -- and it is precisely the new data and our understanding of it that LEADS to disagreements on the exact working out of genetic/population principles in the "interesting" cases that so fascinate people that they spend their lives trying to establish a fully convincing (to others, as well as themselves :-)) explanation. Your "quotation" from Eldridge is out of context because you are trying to make him say something he is NOT saying. He would be among the last to toss out ANY of those points of agreement I noted above (I have seen him deal with most of them, in total approbation, in various of his books.) Evolutionary theory is NOT a "dead letter" -- it like any live science continually reworks its understanding of the basic principles and how they apply in specific cases -- sometimes to the point of major advances in theory (as, in competing ways, both Dawkin's theories and the Pun.Eq. of Eldridge and Gould, would like to consider themselves -- *all* researchers tend to hope that their work proves significant!) But the basic Darwinist principles, worked out in the "neo" context of a sound molecular genetics, are as well-established (and agreed on) as the principle of the conservation of energy is in physics. -- Michael L. Siemon "Stand, stand at the window mls@panix.com As the tears scald and start. mls@ulysses.att.com You shall love your crooked neighbor -standard disclaimer- With your crooked heart."

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