Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


If the theory of evolution is a true account of the origin and

development of life on the Earth, it is obvious that the record of

gradual development of plants and animals to higher forms should be

embedded in the crust of the Earth in successive layers. This record

should then directly correspond to the evolutionary development of the

various species up to the present time. Dr. LeGros Clark, the famed

evolutionist, stated exactly that, in fact, when he noted:

That evolution actually did occur can only be scien-

tifically established by the discovery of the fossil-

ized remains of representative samples of those inter-

mediate types which have been postulated on the basis

of the indirect evidence. In other words, the really

crucial evidence for evolution must be provided by the

paleontologist whose business it is to study the evi-

dence of the fossil record (1955, p 7).

From the publication in 1859 of Darwin's `The Origin of Species' to

the present day, evolutionists have sought in vain for those ever-

elusive "missing links" which evolutionary theory demanded. Darwin

himself said in the `Origin' that "the number of intermediate and

transitional links between all living and extinct species must have

been inconceivably great" (1859, p 293). We were taught for years that

evolution proceeds as the result of the slow, gradual accumulation of

small changes in plants and animals, and that evidence for such change

would eventually be found in the fossil record. But the search has been

in vain. Where there should be transitional forms in "inconceivably

great" numbers, there is none. George G. Simpson of Harvard

recognized this fact as early as 1944 and wrote:

...continuous transitional sequences are not merely rare,

but are virtually absent...their absence is so nearly uni-

versal that it cannot, offhand, be imputed entirely to

chance, and does require some attempt at `special explana-

tion', as has long been felt by most paleontologists (1944,

p 105, emp. added).

In 1977, Stephen J. Gould of Harvard commented that "all

paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in

the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are

characteristically abrupt" (1977, p 24). David G. Kitts of the

University of Oklahoma also offered his assessment of the fossil

record. He observed:

Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides

a means of "seeing" evolution, it has presented some

nasty difficulties for evolutionists, the most notorious

of which is the presence of "gaps" in the fossil record.

Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and

paleontology does not provide them (1974, p 467).

Such statements as these could be multiplied many times over.

Darwin attempted to explain the lack of transitional forms by blaming

their absence on what he termed the "imperfection of the fossil

record." But, as Simpson (1944) and others have noted, it is no longer

possible to blame the absence of the transitional forms on the

imperfection or poverty of the fossil record. Geologist T.N. George of

England has stated that "there is no need to apologize any longer for

the poverty of the fossil record. In some ways it has become almost

unmanageably rich and discovery is outpacing integration" (1960, p 1).

The transitional forms are not there, as the evidence clearly


As early as 1944, Dr. Simpson noted that a "special explanation"

was needed. He was not the only one, or the first, to suggest such.

Earlier (in the 1930's) Europe's top paleontologist, O.H. Schindewolf,

had proposed just such a "special" explanation, and in 1940 was joined

in his proposal by geneticist Richard Goldschmidt of the University of

California at Berkeley. Goldschmidt was frustrated in his failure to

account for the development of many structures in higher organisms on

the basis of the alleged mechanisms of neo-Darwinian evolution alone.

He believed that the neo-Darwinian mechanism then in vogue (the

accumulation of mutations plus the influence of natural selection) was

restricted to small changes `within' species, and had little or nothing

to do with changes `between' species. Goldschmidt postulated that the

larger, more important changes which caused macroevolution were the

result of "systemic mutations." In 1940 he published his famous work,

`The Material Basis for Evolution', in which he explained his "hopeful

monster" concept. Here, in abbreviated form, is how he believed

systemic mutations worked. Goldschmidt suggested that it was not just

one or two mutations, but many mutations that affected the entire

"system" of the growing embryo. Somehow, said Goldschmidt, a "rate

gene" was affected. This "rate gene" in turn affected (increased) rates

of growth, rates of differentiation, rates of production of materials

that would eventually benefit certain physical or chemical development,

etc. If the systemic mutations occurred early in growth, a small change

of genetic instruction would result in large-scale change in what would

ultimately become the adult form. Yes, noted Goldschmidt, every now and

then a sheep was born with only two legs, or a calf was born with two

heads. Both were monstrosities that could not survive. But hopefully,

said Goldschmidt, if you found enough of them, all produced by systemic

mutations, you might get a "hopeful monster." He then called upon this

concept to bridge each of the gaps between all the major kinds of

organisms. If Goldschmidt could convince evolutionists to accept his

new theory, then they could explain why gaps in the fossil record

`ought' to exist.

Goldschmidt's evolutionary colleagues, however, were incredulous

upon hearing his suggestions. Theodosius Dobzhansky, the renowned

evolutionary geneticist of the Rockefeller University (and a

contemporary of Goldschmidt) released his fury at such a suggestion as

"hopeful monsters" through his pungent pen. He wrote:

Another theorist proposes that the marvelous gifts of

evolution to the living world came to birth through

sudden and drastic "systemic mutations," which created

"hopeful monsters" that were later polished down to the

final product by evolutionary selection. But these

theories amount only to giving more or less fancy names

to imaginary phenomena; no one has ever observed the

occurrence of a "systemic mutation" for instance (1957, p 131).

In fact, for more than forty years Goldschmidt and Schindewolf were

held in utter contempt, and their theories considered little more than

heresy. Evolutionists Stebbins and Ayala fairly well summed up the

matter when they wrote: "The specific solution postulated by

Goldschmidt, that is, the occurrence of systemic mutations, yielding

hopeful monsters, can be excluded in view of current genetic knowledge"

(1981, p 969). As valiant as their attempts were to elicit change among

their colleagues, the efforts of men like Goldschmidt and Schindewolf

were doomed. No one was ready to opt for "hopeful monsters."

Surprisingly, however, Goldschmidt's scheme has now been salvaged

from the relic heaps of the past. In 1972, Stephen J. Gould and Niles

Eldredge proposed the concept of "punctuated equilibrium" (1972, pp 82-

115). The essence of this theory is that during evolutionary periods,

individual species change very little. Speciation occurs only when

long periods of little change ("equilibrium") are "punctuated" by

abrupt events, at which time a descendant species arises from the

ancestral stock. This scenario may have involved intermediate steps,

say its proponents, but each stage involved only organisms so unfit to

survive that ultimately they left no fossil remains, and therefore we

find no transitional forms in the record of the rocks.

Shortly after the Gould/Eldredge punctuated equilibrium theory was

published, it attracted supporters in the evolutionary camp. Only one

year after its publication, punctuated equilibrium drew strong support

from Derek Ager, past-president of the British Geological Association.

He wrote: "I am now coming more and more to the opinion that most

evolution proceeds by sudden short steps or `quanta' and I was pleased

to see the same views recently expressed by S.J. Gould in America"

(1973, emp. in orig.). Dr. Ager gave his own description of how he

viewed the geological history of the Earth: "In other words, the

history of any one part of the earth, like the life of a soldier,

consists of long periods of boredom and short periods of terror" (1973,

p 100). Steven Stanley, paleontologist of Johns Hopkins University,

wrote in 1979 that "the known fossil record fails to document a single

example of phyletic evolution accomplishing a major morphologic

transition and hence offers no evidence that the gradualistic model can

be valid" (1979, p 39). Two years later, Dr. Stanley would pen the book

that would become a sort of "layman's guide to punctuated equilibrium,"

`The New Evolutionary Timetable: Fossils, Genes, and the Origin of

Species' (1981).

Probably the two most important events affecting the ultimate

acceptance of punctuated equilibrium centered around the publication of

an article in 1977 by Dr. Gould, and a major conference on

macroevolution held in Chicago in 1980. The effect of neither of these

events can be overestimated. In the June/July, 1977 issue of `Natural

History', Dr. Gould penned an article entitled, "The Return of Hopeful

Monsters," in which he linked punctuated equilibrium with the

Goldschmidt postulate of almost four decades earlier. Gould reminded

his readers that "the fossil record with its abrupt transitions offers

no support for gradual change...," and then proposed that

"macroevolution proceeds by the rare success of these hopeful monsters,

not by continuous small changes within populations." He stated:

As a Darwinian, I wish to defend Goldschmidt's postulate

that macroevolution is not simply microevolution extra-

polated and that major structural transitions can occur

rapidly without a smooth series of intermediate stages....

I do, however, predict that during the next decade Gold-

schmidt will be largely vindicated in the world of evolu-

tionary biology (1977, pp 24,22).

Little did anyone understand at the time that Goldschmidt's

"vindication" was being prophesied by the very man who would attempt to

vindicate him. Dr. Gould himself has spoken eloquently to the point

that there are two important factors from the fossil record that

brought about the hypothesis of punctuated equilibrium.

The history of most fossil species includes two features

particularly inconsistent with gradualism: 1. Stasis. Most

species exhibit no directional change during their tenure

on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much

the same as when they disappear; morphological change is

usually limited and directionless. 2. Sudden appearance.

In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by

the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all

at once and "fully formed" (1980, p 1 82).

Dr. Gould, in a later article, carefully emphasized that of these

two factors, by far the most important is `stasis' (1982, pp 83-104).

In fact, he even went so far as to say that "the potential validation

of punctuated equilibrium will rely primarily upon the documentation of

stasis" (1982, p 86).

What response(s) should be made to the concept of punctuated

equilibrium? There is little doubt that it is becoming the most

widespread attempt to describe, at face value, the evidence of the

fossil record. While it has met with some resistance from the "old-

guard" evolutionists who still cling doggedly to neo-Darwinism, it is

growing stronger every day as the mainstream explanation of how

evolution works. The following observations, therefore, are in order.

(1) Evolutionists have so strongly promoted gradualism by

saturating their course outlines, textbooks, and audio-visuals with it,

that to admit to an abandonment of it is nothing less than a candid

admission of error. Students will no doubt question why a theory which

has been around since the late 1930's has been kept wrapped in secrecy

until the majority of the "experts" finally accepted it. If it was

right, why has it been kept so hidden?

(2) If evolution-related materials are now changed to include the

punctuated equilibrium concept, it amounts to nothing less than a tacit

admission that creationists have been right all along in stating that

there is no fossil evidence supporting the theory that all life is

connected to a common ancestor. Michael Denton, himself an

evolutionist, has commented on that very point in his classic work,

`Evolution: A Theory in Crisis'. He first notes that it would require

nothing short of "miracles" to bridge the discontinuities in the fossil

record, and then adds that "the punctuational model of Eldredge and

Gould has been widely publicized but, ironically, while the theory was

developed specifically to account for the absence of transitional v

arieties between species, its major effect seems to have been to draw

wide<->spread attention to the gaps in the fossil record" (1986, p

194). Evidence for punctuated equilibrium is identical to the evidence

for creation, namely, the abrupt appearance of all major categories of

organisms, with nothing connecting them directly to any other groups.

Alan Hayward also addresses these important points. He suggests that:

The controversy is likely to go on for a long time, since

both sides have at least one short suit. Orthodox Darwin-

ism offers a plausible biological explanation for what

might have happened, but is in conflict with the evidence

of geology. And the alternative theory accepts the geol-

gical record, but cannot explain how species could arise

so suddenly. To the outside observer it seems that both

these versions of Darwinism are on shaky ground (1985, p 19).

(3) When Dr. Hayward mentions, concerning punctuated equilibrium,

that it "cannot explain how species could arise so suddenly," he

provides us with a kernel of truth that should be explored further. If

the main thrust of punctuated equilibrium is to explain how species

"arise suddenly," why then, does he state that it cannot do exactly

that? The answer lies in an examination of the genetic basis of

punctuated equilibrium. Hayward notes that:

...mutations do not appear to bring progressive changes.

Genes seem to be built so as to allow changes to occur

`within certain narrow limits', and to prevent those

limits from being crossed. To oversimplify a little:

mutations very easily produce new varieties within a

species, and might occasionally produce a new (though

similar) species, but---despite enormous efforts by

experimenters and breeders---mutations seem unable to

produce entirely new forms of life (1985, p 55, emp.

in orig.).

Punctuated equilibrium is ultimately dependent upon genetic

changes---changes derived from mutations. The exact mechanism which

accomplishes these genetic changes is still unknown. Even advocates of

punctuated equilibrium do not profess to know the exact genetic

mechanism. Dr. Gould himself, of all people, provides weighty testimony

on this subject. In a public speech at Hobart College on February 14,

1980 he went on record as stating, "A mutation doesn't produce major

new raw material. You don't make a new species by mutating the species

.... That's a common idea people have; that evolution is due to random

mutations. A mutation is not the cause of evolutionary change" (Gould,

1984, p 106).

We are being asked to believe that evolution occurred speedily as

the result of drastic genetic changes that produced rapid species

formation along with immediate morphologic divergence. Yet we are told

that the mechanisms for these changes are for the most part, "unknown."

What we `do' know is that (to use Dr. Gould's words) "a mutation is

not the cause of evolutionary change."

(4) Surely one of the points which bears on this entire issue is

Dr. Gould's insistence that species stasis is the single most

important feature of macroevolution. Doesn't this sound a bit odd? If

"stasis" means anything, it means staying the same. If evolution means

anything, it means change. We are discussing `macroevolution' (i.e.,

large and sudden changes). Yet we are being asked to believe that the

"most important feature of macroevolution" is `no change' (stasis).

Does it not seem that we are being asked to accept the following: the

most fundamental fact of the evolutionists' theory of change is that

everything stays the same?! Evolutionists have not missed this point.

In fact, they have now begun to write so as to convince us that

evolution really does not mean "change" at all. Instead, we are told:

Expectation colored perception to such an extent that

`the most obvious single fact about biological evolution

---nonchange---'has seldom, if ever, been incorporated

into anyone's scientific notions of how life actually

evolves. If ever there was a myth, it is that evolution

is a process of constant change (Eldredge and Tattersall,

1982, p 8, emp. in orig.).

Compare that statement to this now-famous and practically universal

definition of evolution from the pen of renowned evolutionist Sir

Julian Huxley:

Evolution in the extended sense can be defined as a

directional and essentially irreversible process oc-

curring in time, which in its course gives rise to an

increase of variety and an increasingly high level of

organization in its products. Our present knowledge

indeed forces us to the view that the whole of reality

is evolution---a single process of self-transformation

(1955, p 278).

Which are we to believe? Do we accept that evolution is, in fact,

"an increasingly high level of organization" and a "process of self-

transformation" [`increasing the level of organization' and `engaging

in self-transformation' can most assuredly be called "change"]? Or, do

we accept Eldredge's "new" definition that evolution really means

"nonchange?" Interesting, isn't it, how the rules suddenly are being

rewritten in the middle of the game?

(5) There are other major problems with the concept of punctuated

equilibrium as well. Dr. Goldschmidt asked us to believe that such

hopeful monsters would be born, given enough time. That being the case,

the obvious question remains: `"with what would such a `monster'

mate?"' The probabilities of getting even `one' viable "monster" are so

ridiculous as to be almost laughable. But now we are being asked to

believe that the system produced `two' such "monsters" in the same

geographic region, during the same time span, with one being a male,

one being a female, and both being fertile. Then, of course, we are

being asked to believe that these two somehow found each other, mated,

and produced fertile offspring. This problem has not been overlooked by

evolutionists. Stanley discusses it in these words:

...there has recently been renewed expression of support

for the importance in macroevolution of what Goldschmidt

(1940) termed the hopeful monster.... At least in principle,

Goldschmidt accepted Schindewolf's extreme example of the

first bird hatching from a reptile egg. The problem with

Goldschmidt's radical concept is the low probability that a

totally monstrous form will find a mate and produce fertile

offspring (1979, p 159).

How does Stanley "solve" this problem? He simply allows for several

monsters to evolve within a single population, and avers that "evidence

is also mounting that quantum speciation events themselves may span

rather few generations. ...it is generally agreed that quantum

speciation takes place within very small populations---some would say

populations involving fewer than 10 individuals" (1979, p 145).

So there you have it! In a very small population you will have

macromutations present which produce not one, but two "monsters"---one

male, and one female---both of which "just happen" to undergo the same

transformation so that both are fertile and able to interbreed. The

renowned evolutionary anthropologist, Ernest Hooton, commented in 1937

on the very topics we are discussing. He observed:

Saltatory evolution by way of mutation is a very con-

venient way of bridging over gaps between animal forms....

Now I am afraid that many anthropologists (including myself)

have sinned against genetic science and are leaning upon a

broken reed when we depend upon mutations (1937, p 118).

One cannot help but wonder why, after more than fifty years of

additional study, evolutionists cannot see how correct Hooton was. Dr.

Grass‚ stated the matter best:

Today our duty is to destroy the myth of evolution,

considered as a simple, understood, and explained

phenomenon which keeps rapidly unfolding before us.

Biologists must be encouraged to think about the

weaknesses and extrapolations that theoreticians put

forward or lay down as established truths. The deceit

is sometimes unconscious, but not always, since some

people, owing to their sectarianism, purposely overlook

reality and refuse to acknowledge the inadequacies and

falsity of their beliefs (1977, p 8).



Ager, Derek (1973), `The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record' (New

York: John Wiley & Sons).

Clark, W. LeGros (1955), `Discover,' January.

Darwin, Charles (1859), `The Origin of Species' (London; reprinted New

York: Penguin Books, 1976).

Denton, Michael (1986), `Evolution: A Theory in Crisis' (New York:

Adler and Adler).

Dobzhansky, Theodosius (1957), in `Plant Life,' ed. Dennis Flannagan

(New York: Simon & Schuster).

Eldredge, Niles and Ian Tattersall (1982), `The Myths of Human

Evolution' (New York: Columbia University Press).

George, T.N. (1960), `Science Progress'.

Gould, S.J. (1977), "The Return of Hopeful Monsters," `Natural History'

(New York: American Museum of Natural History).

Gould, S.J. (1980), `The Panda's Thumb' (New York: Norton).

Gould, S.J. (1982), "The Meaning of Punctuated Equilibrium and Its Role

in Validating a Hierarchical Approach to Macroevolution," in

`Perspectives on Evolution,' ed. R. Milkman (Sunderland, MA:


Gould, S.J. (1984), Quoted in: `Darwin's Enigma,' Luther Sunderland

(San Diego: Master Books).

Gould, S.J. and N. Eldredge (1972), "Punctuated Equilibria: An

Alternative to Phyletic Gradualism," in `Models in Paleobiology,'

ed. T.J.M. Schopf (San Francisco: Freeman & Cooper).

Grass‚, Pierre-Paul (1977), `Evolution of Living Organisms' (New York:

Academic Press).

Hayward, Alan (1985), `Creation or Evolution: The Facts and the

Fallacies' (London: Triangle Books).

Hooton, Ernest (1937), `Apes, Men and Morons' (New York: George Allen &


Huxley, Julian (1955), "Evolution and Genetics," in `What is Science?'

ed. J.R. Newman (New York: Simon & Schuster).

Kitts, David (1974), `Evolution,' September.

Simpson, George G. (1944), `Tempo and Mode in Evolution' (New York:

Columbia University Press).

Stanley, Steven (1979), `Macroevolution: Pattern and Process' (San

Francisco: Freeman).

Stanley, Steven (1981), `The New Evolutionary Timetable: Fossils,

Genes, and the Origin of Species' (New York: Basic Books).

Stebbins, G. and F. Ayala (1981), `Science', 213:969.

Apologetics Press

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Index - Evolution or Creation

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