Navigation Links
Darwin's theory of gradual evolution not supported by geological history, NYU scientist concludes
Date:11/9/2010

Charles Darwin's theory of gradual evolution is not supported by geological history, New York University Geologist Michael Rampino concludes in an essay in the journal Historical Biology. In fact, Rampino notes that a more accurate theory of gradual evolution, positing that long periods of evolutionary stability are disrupted by catastrophic mass extinctions of life, was put forth by Scottish horticulturalist Patrick Matthew prior to Darwin's published work on the topic.

"Matthew discovered and clearly stated the idea of natural selection, applied it to the origin of species, and placed it in the context of a geologic record marked by catastrophic mass extinctions followed by relatively rapid adaptations," says Rampino, whose research on catastrophic events includes studies on volcano eruptions and asteroid impacts. "In light of the recent acceptance of the importance of catastrophic mass extinctions in the history of life, it may be time to reconsider the evolutionary views of Patrick Matthew as much more in line with present ideas regarding biological evolution than the Darwin view."

Matthew (1790-1874), Rampino notes, published a statement of the law of natural selection in a little-read Appendix to his 1831 book Naval Timber and Arboriculture. Even though both Darwin and his colleague Alfred Russel Wallace acknowledged that Matthew was the first to put forth the theory of natural selection, historians have attributed the unveiling of the theory to Darwin and Wallace. Darwin's notebooks show that he arrived at the idea in 1838, and he composed an essay on natural selection as early as 1842years after Matthew's work appeared. Darwin and Wallace's theory was formally presented in 1858 at a science society meeting in London. Darwin's Origin of Species appeared a year later.

In the Appendix of Naval Timber and Arboriculture, Matthew described the theory of natural selection in a way that Darwin later echoed: "There is a natural law universal in nature, tending to render every reproductive being the best possibly suited to its conditionAs the field of existence is limited and pre-occupied, it is only the hardier, more robust, better suited to circumstance individuals, who are able to struggle forward to maturity"

However, in explaining the forces that influenced this process, Matthew saw catastrophic events as a prime factor, maintaining that mass extinctions were crucial to the process of evolution: "...all living things must have reduced existence so much, that an unoccupied field would be formed for new diverging ramifications of life... these remnants, in the course of time moulding and accommodating ... to the change in circumstances."

When Darwin published his Origin of Species nearly three decades later, he explicitly rejected the role of catastrophic change in natural selection: "The old notion of all the inhabitants of the Earth having been swept away by catastrophes at successive periods is very generally given up," he wrote. Instead, Darwin outlined a theory of evolution based on the ongoing struggle for survival among individuals within populations of existing species. This process of natural selection, he argued, should lead to gradual changes in the characteristics of surviving organisms.

However, as Rampino notes, geological history is now commonly understood to be marked by long periods of stability punctuated by major ecological changes that occur both episodically and rapidly, casting doubt on Darwin's theory that "most evolutionary change was accomplished very gradually by competition between organisms and by becoming better adapted to a relatively stable environment."

"Matthew's contribution was largely ignored at the time, and, with few exceptions, generally merits only a footnote in modern discussions of the discovery of natural selection," Rampino concludes. "Others have said that Matthew's thesis was published in too obscure a place to be noticed by the scientific community, or that the idea was so far ahead of its time that it could not be connected to generally accepted knowledge. As a result, his discovery was consigned to the dustbin of premature and unappreciated scientific ideas."


'/>"/>

Contact: James Devitt
james.devitt@nyu.edu
212-998-6808
New York University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Revised theory suggests carbon dioxide levels already in danger zone
2. Scientists present moving theory behind bacterial decision-making
3. No place like home: New theory for how salmon, sea turtles find their birthplace
4. Nearly a century later, new findings support Warburg theory of cancer
5. Rethinking the genetic theory of inheritance
6. Researchers disprove 15-year-old theory about the nervous system
7. Clarke clarifies pattern recognition theory
8. Rumbaughs theory links positions of Wilson, Skinner
9. MS study offers theory for why repair of brains wiring fails
10. New theory gives more precise estimates of large-scale biodiversity
11. New theory on why male, female lemurs same size
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:1/4/2017)... the thousands of attendees at this year,s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), ... measurement devices and services, will be featuring its new line of ULTRA ... special CES Exhibit Suite , the new upper arm and wrist ... WellnessConnected product platform.  Continue Reading ... ...
(Date:12/20/2016)... , Dec. 20, 2016 The ... sharing, rental and leasing is stoking significant interest ... radio frequency technology, Bluetooth low energy (BLE), biometrics ... as the next wave of wireless technologies in ... access system to advanced access systems opens the ...
(Date:12/16/2016)... The global wearable medical device market, in terms of value, is ... billion in 2016, at a CAGR of 18.0% during the forecast ... Growth ... devices, launch of a growing number of smartphone-based healthcare apps compatible ... and increasing focus on physical fitness. Furthermore, growing ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:1/19/2017)... -- Market Research Future has a half cooked research report on Global ... rapidly and expected to reach USD 450 Million by the end ... ... been assessed as a swiftly growing market and expected that the ... future. There has been a tremendous growth in the prevalence of ...
(Date:1/19/2017)... -- WuXi AppTec, a leading global pharmaceutical, biotechnology ... today announced that it has acquired HD Biosciences ... contract research organization (CRO). After completion of acquisition, ... WuXi, and will continue to focus on growing ... acquisition will further strengthen WuXi,s R&D capability from ...
(Date:1/19/2017)... ... January 19, 2017 , ... ... solutions for pharmaceutical research and development (R&D), today announced the launch of ... analysis and interpretation for the rapidly evolving field of precision medicine. ...
(Date:1/19/2017)... and GAITHERSBURG, Md. ... MKT: PIP) and Altimmune, Inc., a privately-held immunotherapeutics ... of a definitive agreement for the merger of ... current investors include Novartis Venture Fund, HealthCap, Truffle ... be a fully-integrated and diversified immunotherapeutics company with ...
Breaking Biology Technology: