Anthropology Lessons from Metal Magazines: A Variation in a Series
Perusing Metal Maniacs, I happened upon the band Wino’s new release, Punctuated Equilibrium (check them out on myspace)! My minor in college was in anthropology and it really should have been my major, but I was too lazy and cheap to go back and take all the pre-requisite stuff. In my evolutionary theory class, punctuated equilibrium was well discussed. Stephen Jay Gould and the lesser known Niles Eldredge (good link to Gould’s work here), beyond coining the phrase, developed largely the most radical variation on Darwin’s theory of natural selection and specifically, the idea of gradualism (although since then, I think other stuff has come about in the field. I was in college, um, 20 years ago). I read so many xeroxed papers that Gould wrote in obscure academic anthropology journals! He was supposed to come speak once to our class- he didn’t, though. I thought he was rad. And I think Wino is rad. Here’s a brief description of the theory of punctuated equilibrium, taken from Wikipedia, but it explains the theory well enough:
Punctuated equilibrium is a theory in evolutionary biology which states that most sexually reproducing species experience little change for most of their geological history, and that when phenotypic evolution does occur, it is localized in rare, rapid events of branching speciation (called cladogenesis).
Punctuated equilibrium is commonly contrasted against the theory of phyletic gradualism, which states that evolution generally occurs uniformly and by the steady and gradual transformation of whole lineages (anagenesis). In this view, evolution is seen as generally smooth and continuous.
In 1972 paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould published a landmark paper developing this idea. Their paper was built upon Ernst Mayr’s theory of geographic speciation, I. Michael Lerner‘s theories of developmental and genetic homeostasis, as well as their own empirical research. Eldredge and Gould proposed that the degree of gradualism championed by Charles Darwin was virtually nonexistent in the fossil record, and that stasis dominates the history of most fossil species.