Wesley R. Elsberry
Visit to Woods Hole
The library of the Marine Biological Laboratory at the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution represents almost an embarrassment of riches
for the student interested in the historical side of evolutionary
science. Many of the most referenced book titles are physically
present here, as well as a variety of lesser known, but intriguing,
I'll delve into a few that I looked at during my visit. Some I have
comments sprinkled in quotes, others are mostly just quotes I found
Richard Goldschmidt. 1940. The material basis of evolution. New Haven,
Yale University Press.
"The problem of evolution as a whole consists of a number of
subproblems, with some of which we are not concerned here at all.
There is, first, evolution as a historical fact. With all biologists
we assume that evolution as such is a fact."
Goldschmidt is a popular whipping boy of SciCre obscurantists, mainly
for his phrase, "the hopeful monster." However, as the quoted text
above indicates, Goldschmidt was not sympathetic to the creationist
This term has been used by Dobzhansky (1937) for evolutionary
processes observable within the span of a human lifetime as opposed to
macroevolution, on a geological scale. It will be one of the major
contentions of this book to show that the facts of microevolution do
not suffice for an understanding of macroevolution. The latter term
will be used here for the evolution of the good species and all the
higher taxonomic categories."
Goldschmidt's definition of microevolution and macroevolution is, so
far as I know, unique. At least, I was not able to locate the Dobz
hansky reference to microevolution, and no other definition that I
have seen (and I have seen quite a few) relate microevolution to
observation time. Goldschmidt's definition of macroevolution has
definite problems, since species have been observed to arise within
Goldschmidt's hypothesis was that the fossil record demonstrates a
pattern of speciation which gives the appearance of "bridgeless gaps."
This, he contends, also demonstrates that microevolutionary change was
incapable of explaining speciation events.
Goldschmidt notes that nematodes, among other metazoans, display
eutely. That is, the number of cells for particular organs is
invariable in each species. This is offered as another evidence that
speciation is not accomplished by the insensible accumulation of
minute variation, but rather is due to abrupt large-scale
"Good species" is not clearly defined, by my skimming of Goldschmidt's
work. My inference is that the term applies to well characterized species.
"Subspecies are actually, therefore, neither incipient species nor
models for the origin of species. They are more or less diversified
blind alleys within the species. The decisive step in evolution, the
first step toward macroevolution, the step from one species to
another, requires another evolutionary method than that of sheer
accumulation of micromutations."
"At the lower level of macroevolution, evolution of species, genera,
and even families, there is still available some information based
upon collaboration of genetics and taxonomy."
"We frequently encounter the idea that life phenomena are infinitely
more complicated than those of inorganic nature and that they
therefore cannot be understood on the same basis. Applied to
evolution, this outlook would mean that one has to look for very
complicated features, preferably such as require a metaphysical
interpretation. I cannot agree with this. If life phenomena were not
based on very simple principles, no organism could exist; if embryonic
development were not controlled by a few simple basic properties and
laws of matter, an organiqsm could never be developed in a series of
processes unrolling with the precision of clockwork. If evolution had
not been made possible by relatively simple features inherent in the
material basis of organization, it would never have occurred."
Goldschmidt was convinced that small genetic changes in developmental
pathways would be sufficient to generate new species. This mode of
change would explain the paucity of fossils demonstrating the
speciation process nicely.
SciCre boosters often equate Goldschmidt's hypothesis with the
Eldredge/Gould punctuated equilibrium hypothesis. There are some
major differences. Goldschmidt proposed a mechanism to describe how
macroevolutionary change could come about, but left alone trying to
pin down the pattern and rate of change. Punctuated equilibrium, on
the other hand, does not describe a mechanism, but does describe the
expected and observed pattern and rate of macroevolutionary change.
Goldschmidt may well be considered the more daring theorist, since he
proposed his mechanism well before the definitive characterization of
DNA as the main chemical basis of heredity. Therefore, his mechanism
was formulated in the absence of biochemical data on the properties of
inheritance. This also meant that our neat characterizations of the
transcription of mRNA and protein synthesis were not available.
Goldschmidt's hypothesis, as stated by Goldschmidt, is exclusive. The
gradualist perspective was held by Goldschmidt to be incapable of
producing change at the species level or above. Punctuated
equilibrium, on the other hand, does not exclude the possibility of
gradual accumulation of variation leading to speciation, but rather
states that this mode of speciation is rare.
Peter J. Bowler. 1984. Evolution: the history of an idea. University of
"The philosopher Karl Popper has gained his reputation through his efforts
to find a criterion for distinguishing science from pseudoscience.
Realizing that no generalization can be proved by collecting positive
examples, Popper has argued that science must must be based not so much
on the search for truth as on the detection of error (1959). A true
science exposes all its hypotheses to the test of experiment by
formulating them in such a way that any inconsistency with nature will be
exposed as soon as possible. Scientific hypotheses are "falsifiable" --
while the pseudosciences deliberately make their statements so vague that
no counter-instance can ever be found. Measured by this standard,
Popper insists (1974), Darwinism turns out to be untestable and hence
unscientific. At best it constitutes a 'metaphysical framework' for
formulating properly testable theories."
"This latest source of opposition comes from a new approach to
taxonomy or systematics known as cladism. The term "clade" was introduced
by Julian Huxley in 1957 to denote a branch of the evolutionary tree. The
new technique of classification was pioneered by Willi Hennig (translation
1966), who insisted that the attempt to represent evolutionary
relationships should concentrate on the process of branching, ignoring any
changes that were not associated with an act of splitting. The name
"cladism" was introduced by one of the movement's critics, Ernst Mayr, and
reluctantly was accepted by Hennig's followers."
"Hennig argued that arrangement of living forms into groups should take
into account only the order of branching in the evolutionary process.
Clearly, orthodox evolutionary classification itself takes this into
consideration, and all evolutionists recognize that the cladistic method
offers a more precise way of representing some of the relationships that
interest them. An evolutionist, however, also takes into account other
factors, principally the degree of change that a line of development
"The opponents of Darwinism have always dismissed the theory as a blindly
accepted dogma, its weaknesses ignored by a brainwashed biological
profession. Yet we have seen (chapter 9) that Darwinism has been
challenged seriously before. The wealth of alternatives being
considered both inside and outside science today shows quite clearly
that there is no academic conspiracy to protect modern evolutionism."
"Finally, in response to the modern accusation that evolution is
unfalsifiable, it can be pointed out that even Popper has recanted many
of his earlier claims, while the cladists represent only a handful of
biologists with a very narrow definition of science."
Challenges to Darwinism:
Germ plasm concept -- August Weismann. 1880's This pretty much kills
pangenesis, which had been adopted by Darwin.
"Weismann's theory had a crucial implication for evolution: it made
Lamarckism impossible. The parent's body does not *produce* its germ
plasm; it merely transmits it. Changes in the body due to use or
disuse are not reflected in the germ plasm and therefore cannot be
It was Weismann, by the way, who performed those experiments which
trimmed the tails off mice, and demonstrated that the young of
de-tailed mice still had tails, even after many generations.
Lamarckists criticized these experiments since Weismann was imposing
change upon the mice, rather than allowing the naturally occurring
directionality of change to arise on its own. This was generally held
not to be a very good counter-argument.
Biometry -- Francis Galton. Galton introduced the concept of "regression"
as a process which would limit the effect of selection.
SciCre-ists really like the idea of regression, or "reversion to type."
This is still a major part of SciCre argumentation found in ICR sponsored
or published apologetics.
For quite some time, the rediscovery of Mendel's work was considered to
be the conclusive nail in the Darwinian coffin, killing off the idea of
natural selection as Darwin proposed it. Since by the publication of
the sixth edition of Darwin's "Origin of Species," Darwin had almost
inextricably bound natural selection with his hypothesis on the mechanism
of heredity, "pangenesis," this view was quite understandable. However,
by the early 1940's, the neo-Darwinian synthesis had met and addressed
the criticisms of the Mendelists.
Neo-Lamarckism. Supported by natural theology, popular in America at
the turn of the century. Spencer supported neo-Lamarckism.
"Against selection itself Spencer  used an argument that had
considerable force when measured against the pregenetical selection
theory (Ridley, 1982a). He pointed out that when a new structure evolved,
all the rest of the body would have to accommodate the new development.
Thus a series of variations would be required to adjust the overall
structure in a manner correlated to the new organ. What would be the chance
of all these variations appearing together at the right time, if the species
had to depend on random variation? Selection might explain the changes in
a single organ, but not an integrated transmutation of the whole body."
Lamarckism, as Spencer pointed out, could provide an explanation for the
integrated development or elimination of organs. This was seen to be a
weakness of natural selection.
"The law of "acceleration of growth" was first published in Cope's
"On the origin of genera" of 1867 (reprinted in Cope, 1887) and in
Hyatt (1868). According to this law, evolution progresses by a series of
sudden additions to the growth of the individual. At certain points in
time, every individual in a species begins to exhibit a new phase of
growth that advances all to the form of a new species. To make room
for this addition, the old adult form is compressed back to an earlier
phase of growth, hence the "acceleration" of growth to accommodate an
extra stage before maturity. Cope denied that evolution on a small scale
is a branching process, claiming instead that each genus represents
a group of species that have reached the same point in the historical
development of their group. Their close relationship is not a sign of
common descent but of identical position in the scheme of development."
"Cope postulated a growth-force named "bathmism;" concentrated in those
parts of the body most in use, it developed them at the expense of other
areas. By the last decade of the century, this Lamarckism had been
developed to considerable depth (Cope, 1887, 1896; Hyatt, 1880, 1884, 1889)."
Referring to the case of the midwife toad: "Was the india ink added by
someone wishing to preserve the original marks, or was it deliberate
sabotage, perhaps a Nazi plot to discredit evidence hostile to their
racial theories? Koestler certainly has suggested that Kammerer's
experiments may have been genuinely successful, although others think he
was simply dishonest. (Aronson, 1975)."
Orthogenesis -- a conjecture related to Lamarckism. "The crucial difference
is that the trends of orthogenesis are not adaptive. Far from being a
positive response to the environment, they represent a nonutilitarian
force that can in some cases drive the species to extinction. In this there
is a similarity to Hyatt's concept of racial senility."
"A famous case was that of the recently extinct "Irish elk", thought to
have died out because its antlers became too large as a result of an
internal trend (Gould, 1974b). It seemed as though the trend that
produced the antlers, perhaps originally for some useful purpose, had
acquired a momentum of its own that had carried it far beyond the point
of utility. This "overdevelopment" theory of extinction became widely
popular among non-Darwiniam paleontologists in the early twentieth
"Strong support for orthogenesis came from the Russian biologist Leo S.
Berg (translation 1926), but perhaps its best known exponent was the
American paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn."
aristogenesis -- Osborn's own term for orthogenesis.
Mendelism was originally viewed as an alternative to selection.
Theodosius Dobzhansky, Francisco J. Ayala, G. Ledyard Stebbins, & James W.
Valentine. 1977. Evolution. W.H. Freeman & Company.
"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
"As Mayr (1942, 1963) has pointed out, the title of Darwin's epoch-making
book is mistaken; although he entitled it _Origin of Species_, Darwin
wrote about organic evolution as a whole. Similarly, definition of evolution
that emphasize the transsecific aspect are also misleading, since they draw
attention away from those phases of subspecific evolution that can most
easily be studied experimentally and quantitatively. (Equally inadequate,
but for the opposite reason that they neglect the transspecific aspects of
evolution, are definitions such as that of Wright (1942): "Evolution is the
statistical transformation of populations.")"
While Dobzhansky et alia decry Wright's definition, his viewpoint seems to
hold the largest sway among biologists as a group. The recently posted
primer withh text from both Chris Colby and Larry Moran reflect viewpoints
closer to Wright's than to Dobzhansky et al.
"Organic evolution is a series of partial or complete and irreversible
transformations of the genetic composition of populations, based
principally upon altered interactions with their environment. It consists
chiefly of adaptive radiations into new environments, adjustments to
environmental changes that take place in a particular habitat, and the
origin of new ways for exploiting existing habitats. These adaptive changes
occasionally give rise to greater complexity of developmental pattern, of
physiological reactions, and of interactions between populations and their
"This being the case, the history of evolutionary theory during the three
decades that followed the rediscovery of Mendel's laws is one of the most
extraordinary paradoxes in the history of science. Far from lending
strength to Darwin's theory of natural selection, the first decades of
Mendelian genetics were largely responsible for a temporary decline in
Darwin's reputation among biologists. Anti-selectionist works, such as
A.F. Shull's textbook on evolution (1936) and _The Variations of Animals
in Nature_ by G.C. Robson and O.W. Richards (1936), became standard reading
for many undergraduate and graduate students in biology, and many professors
told their students that "Darwinism is dead," by which they meant that
natural selection could not be regarded as a major agent of evolutionary
"Fisher's book _The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection_ (1930) was the
first systematic attempt in the English language to harmonize Darwin's
observations on natural variation with Mendelian particulate genetics."
"The modern synthetic theory as a generally accepted way of approaching
problems of evolution was born in 1937 with the pblication of Dobzhansky's
_Genetics and the Origin of Species_."
"There is an asymmetry between falsifiability and verifiability of
universal statements that derives from the logical nature of such
statements. A universal statement can be shown to be false if it is found
inconsistent with even one singular statement, i.e., a statement about a
particular event. But, as was pointed out in the discussion of induction,
a universal statement can never be proven true by virtue of the truth of
particular statements, no matter how numerous these may be."
Colin Patterson. 1978. Evolution. Trustees of the British Museum (Natural
History), Publication Number 783.
"No doubt other revolutions are in store, and whether we choose to
follow Popper's or Kuhn's understanding of science, the one lesson we
can learn from both these thinkers is that today's theory of evolution
is unlikely to be the whole truth. Yet today's neo-Darwinian theory,
with all its faults, is still the best that we have. It is a fruitful
theory, a stimulus to thought and research, and we should accept it
until someone thinks of a better one."
Patterson happens to be a transformed cladist. This group believes that
paleontological inference is pretty worthless for determining relationships
involving questions of ancestry.
Daniel R. Brooks & E.O. Wiley. 1986. Evolution as Entropy: toward a
unified theory of biology. The University of Chicago Press.
From the preface:
"That organisms have evolved rather than having been created is the
single most important and unifying principle of modern biology.
Theories regarding the causal mechanisms of evolution are not so important
in "proving" its reality. The fact that scientists put forward theories
means that they accept this reality. Confused creationists frequently
think that if they can "disprove" Darwin's theory of natural selection
they can "disprove" evolution. But of course this is untrue -- even if
they succeeded they would only be disproving *a theory* and not *the
process*. Thus, any theory of importance should be closely scrutinized
because it affects the way evolutionary biologists conduct their research."
"In this book we will develop the idea that evolution is an axiomatic
consequence of organismic information and cohesion systems obeying the
second law of thermodynamics in a manner analogous to, but not identical
with, the consequences of the second law's usual application in physical
and chemical systems. By "axiomatic" we mean that the results are
necessary consequences or outcomes."
"If evolution is an axiomatic consequence of certain biological processes
following the second law, then current theories of the evolutionary process
must necessarily be incomplete because they are theories of proximal cause."
Brooks and Wiley claim to be practitioners of "phylogenetic systematics,"
which appears to be another term for "cladistics".
"The founder of this approach, the late German entomologist Willi Hennig,
was interested in formulating a "general reference system" for classifying
organic diversity. His choice was a system based on genealogy. Hennig
reasoned that no matter what proximal changes organisms or species might
experience, the one thing that would never change is their genealogies."
"Our attention was progressively drawn to discussions of inherent order
in development (e.g., Lovtrup 1974) and comparative morphology
(e.g., Riedl 1978). An article by Farris (1979) concerning the information
content of phylogenetic systematic analyses led us to information theory.
When it was discovered that phylogenetic systematic techniques select the
minimum entropy configuration of information in a set of observations about
organisms (Brooks 1981a), our search focused on finding a connection among
history, information, and minimum entropy configurations."
"In chapter 2, we attempt to show that the expected outcome of historical
constraints on the action of the second law in biological systems is
self-organization. The axiomatic behavior of living systems should be
increasing complexity and self-organization *as a result of, not at the
expense of*, increasing entropy."
Brooks and Wiley sum up their opinion of the current state of the
neo-Darwinian synthesis (with the caveat that they believe no such
synthesis actually exists). In an enumerated point, they say:
"3. Heritable characters may be changed by a variety of mutational events.
The earlier in development a mutation occurs, the greater its effect but
the less its probability of being successful (i.e., of resulting in a
viable and fertile individual)."
I would definitely replace "occurs" in the above with "is expressed".
"Many of the controversies in evolutionary biology (neutralism vs.
selectionism, the relative importance of competition, gradualism vs.
punctuated equilibrium) concern the relative importance of phenomena
rather than whether the phenomena are real."
"We are dissatisfied with the current state of evolutionary theoriz
ing, not because we think it is all wrong, but because (1) we do not
believe that a truly integrated theoretical framework has been
developed and (2) there are certain aspects of the evolutionary
process that have yet to be integrated into any framework. We
recognize four major items of unfinished business.
1. Evolutionary theory has never fully come to grips with the
underlying causal laws of chemistry and physics.
2. Developmental biology has not been successfully integrated into the
3. Existing evolutionary theory has failed to provide a rationale for
the existence of higher taxa (groups of species produced by descent)
that is consistent with our knowledge of phylogeny and population
4. Existing evolutionary theory has failed to provide what we would
consider to be a robust explanation of the relationship between form
and function in evolution.
We do not believe these shortcomings are resolvable within the current
theoretical framework. We seek to provide a new framework, one that
will incorporate certain parts of the old framework and include those
aspects of evolution not now adequately explained. We will now
examine these shortcomings in some detail."
"Statistical entropy of a simple system may be given as:
S = k ln omega
where omega is the set of accessible microstates to the system (the
"We suggest an alternative theoretical framework for biological evolution,
based on four principles:
1. The principle of irreversibility.
2. The principle of individuality.
3. The principle of intrinsic constraints.
4. The principle of compensatory changes."
Theodosius Dobzhansky. 1937. Genetics and the origin of species. Columbia
"During the seventy-seven years that have elapsed since the
publication of the theory of natural selection, it has been the
subject of unceasing debate. The most serious objection that has been
raised against it is that it takes for granted the existence, and does
not explain the origin of the hereditary variations with which
selection can work. Those who advance this objection fail however to
notice that in doing so they commit an act of superogation: the origin
of variation is a problem entirely separate from that of the action of
selection. The theory of natural selection is concerned with the fate
of variations already present, and the merits and demerits of the
theory must be assessed accordingly."
"Skeptics may contend that if the change in the environment is wrought
directly or indirectly by man, the resulting selection is no longer
"natural." Anyone who is prepared to reject the evidence on these
grounds has no choice but to do so; a similar objection is applicable
to any experimental work."
Edward O. Dodson & Peter Dodson. 1976. Evolution: process and product.
Second Edition, D. Van Nostrand COmpany. ISBN 0-442-22164-9
"Man does not even play so useful a role in the study of evolution as
might be wished, because he is not available for laboratory
experimentation to the extent that other animals are and because
primitve man was rarely fossilized, though apparently more frequently
fossilized than other primitive primates. However, the student of
evolution belongs to an egocentric species, so a chapter on the
evolution of man will be included in this book."
In recounting Darwin's autobiography, Dodson notes that during
Darwin's Cambridge years he was fond of Paley's work.
Under the heading "Macroevolution",
"A long controversial tenet of the modern synthesis was that the
processes of microevolution which produce subspecies also produce
species and higher groups when continued over long reaches of time."
This is pretty clearly demarcating micro-e as below species and
macro-e as species and above.
A figure lists some vestigial characters of man:
muscles to move ears
hair on body
segmental muscles on abdomen
Just bibliographic info for two books:
Steven M. Stanley. 1979. Macroevolution: Pattern and Process. W.H.
Freeman and Company. ISBN 0-7167-1092-7
Michael Ruse. 1979. The Darwinian revolution. University of Chicago Press.
Louis T. More. 1925. The dogma of evolution. Princeton University Press.
"It should be borne clearly in mind that the sentimental
humanitarianism of Rousseau was the seed from which grew our modern
scientific philosophy of brotherly love and eugenics, when fertilized
by the pleasant and altruistic doctrine of Malthus."
The sarcasm content of the above approaches unity.
"Unfortunately for Darwin's future reputation, his life was spent on
the problem of evolution which is deductive by nature. The enormous
and complicated phenomena of life do not admit of solution by
inductive reasoning; it is absurd to expect that many facts will not
always be irreconcilable with any theory of evolution and, today,
every one of his arguments is contradicted by facts."
Note the time of publication of More's diatribe: 1925. This is pretty
much coeval with the Scopes trial in Tennessee, and at the nadir of
Darwin's critical reputation due to the encroachments of the alternatives
previously mentioned by Bowler.
"It is but too evident that time is slowly justifying this opinion and
that ultimately Darwin's reputation will rest on his botanical work
rather than on his hypotheses of natural selection and pangenesis; the
value of the former is already fading and the latter is totally
More was premature in declaring Darwin's theory of natural selection to
be dead; Fisher's work which formed the beginning of the neo-Darwinian
synthesis would be published just about five years later.
"There are, perhaps, some cases where important scientific work is not
linked to metaphysics; but, certainly, the theory of natural selection
is not one of them; its failure is largely due to its foundation of
The philosophical component of the theory of natural selection is
pretty slim. The worth of an idea in science is not related to its
moral or ethical implications, whether those implications are rightly
or wrongly derived.
"Huxley immediately saw the futility of the idea [pangenesis] and
begged Darwin not to emphasize it, lest such an explanation of
evolution by natural selection would lower the probability of the
larger theory and retard the great work of its acceptance; but Darwin
clung to pangenesis with the blind affection of a parent for a
It is pretty clear that actually positing testable mechanisms is risky
business. It is also obvious that Darwin was unafraid to do so.
Would that Darwin's modern batch of critics had the same intellectual
courage as the man whose work, and sometimes character, they decry.
"It is almost incomprehensible that the world, and particularly the
biologist, has not taken into account this inherent inability of
Darwin to think on abstract questions and is still willing, because he
was a genius in one field, to follow him as a guide in all fields."
This may be perhaps the truest statement which More has generated.
By the test of generality of application, it certainly shows promise.
I tried it out on this set of names, replacing "Darwin" in the original
with each, and it held up just fine: Henry Morris, Duane Gish, Dmitri
Kousnetsov, John Morris, Ken Ham, Barry Setterfield, Thomas Barnes,
Harold Coffin, and Steve Austin.
This book appears to have been recently updated and republished as
_Darwin on Trial_. ;-)