The article in Discover referred to "growing dissent from the prevailing view of Darwinism" and mentioned that there would be a meeting in Chicago. As a result of this article, a bunch of journalists turned up at the Chicago Macroevolution meeting expecting fireworks.
There was a lot of talk about punctuated equilibria at the Chicago meeting and how the ideas of Eldredge and Gould conflicted with the gradualism that was part of traditional Darwinian evolution. This is complicated stuff so it's no wonder that many journalists misinterpreted the discussion as support for the idea that evolution was being challenged as the creationists claimed.
Here's What the NY Times Was Saying About Evolution in 1980. Here's what Sewell said on Feb. 24, 2014.
I recently re-read a November 5, 1980, New York Times News Service article, "Ideas on Evolution Going Through a Revolution Among Scientists," that I had clipped long ago from a Houston newspaper. I was struck by how similar the comments about the fossil record, about micro- and macroevolution, and about the limitations of Darwinism are to things you might read, oh, right here on Evolution News & Views. Sharing with students this type of mainstream scientific criticism of Darwinian theory is precisely the kind of speech that academic freedom laws seek to protect.You can read Rensberger's entire New York Times article by following the link at Evolution News & Views. I think you will agree with Gould that the article is quite reasonable once you understand punctuated equilibria. The headline on Rensberger's article is "Ideas on evolution going through a revolution among scientists" and this might be an exaggeration but, as Gould notes, Rensberger didn't write the headline.
According to the article, the fact that species always seem to appear suddenly in the fossil record, and the fact that more and more scientists realize natural selection cannot explain the major steps of evolution, does not mean that evolution itself is in doubt. Instead, it "reflects significant progress toward a much deeper understanding of the history of life on Earth."
Many of the reports in the popular press in 1980 were not as good as Rensberger's piece. The general public was left with the impression that evolution was in trouble.
That was 34 years ago. You would think that by now the creationists would have learned something about punctuated equilibria so they would understand that it's a possible extension of evolutionary theory and that it has nothing to do with the Cambrian explosion, saltation, or the major transitions observed in the fossil record. That's clearly not the case as Granville Sewell demonstrates. He is as ignorant today as he was in 1980.
Question for a Censor: Should a Teacher Be Punished for Telling Students What the New York Times Said About Evolution in 1980?. Here's what Klinghoffer said ...
I'm not sure I'd recommend trying this at home, but...what if a public-school biology teacher in a state where there's no academic freedom law gave her class the New York Times article that Granville Sewell brought to our attention yesterday? The point of such laws is to protect, from administrative retaliation or other censure, instructors who share mainstream scientific criticism of Darwinian theory with their students. Censors like Zack Kopplin oppose legislation like that, claiming they are protecting students from being indoctrinated in "creationism." He's been trying and luckily failing to roll back the Louisiana Science Education Act in his own home state.Here in Ontario, the high school biology curriculum requires that students learn about punctuated equilibria so any teacher who gives out the New York Times article would be just doing their job. That would probably come as a great shock to David Klinghoffer.
"This law allows creationism to be snuck into public school science classrooms," Mr. Kopplin told readers of Britain's Guardian newspaper recently, adding, "This legislation that allows 'critiques' to be snuck into public school classes is the modern day strategy of creationists." He noted also, "Tennessee has a law based off [sic] Louisiana's that allows creationism to be snuck into the classroom." All this is hogwash, of course -- the laws in question explicitly exclude teaching about religious doctrines like creationism from protection.
The article from the New York Times News Service, published in 1980, documents very mainstream doubts about Darwinism from distinguished scientists, of a sort that, as Dr. Sewell points out, would be routine today here at ENV. It's nothing to do with Zack's straw man, "creationism." The question someone should pose to Zack Kopplin is: If a teacher were to share that article with her class, should she be shielded from punishment, or subject to it?
Most Sandwalk readers understand creationist tactics and they understand that most creationists are either stupid or liars when they discuss punctuated equilibria. But for those few who don't get it, let's see what Stephen Gould has to say in "Structure" on page 986.
Creationist misappropriation of punctuated equilibriumThis was written in 2002—that's 12 years ago. This proves that Granville Sewell and David Klinghoffer are at least a dozen years behind in their readings about evolution. Either that or they are lying, but perhaps that "grants them too much acumen."
Since modern creationists, particularly the "young earth" dogmatists who must cram an entire geological record into the few thousand years of a literal Biblical chronology, can advance no conceivable argument in the domain of proper logic or accurate empirics, they have always relied, as a primary strategy, upon the misquotation of scientific sources. They have shamelessly distorted all major evolutionists in their behalf, including the most committed gradualists of the Modern Synthesis (their appropriations of Dobzhansky and Simpson make particularly amusing reading). Since punctuated equilibrium provides an even easier target for this form of intellectual dishonesty (or crass stupidity if a charge of dishonesty grants them too much acumen), no one should be surprised our views have become grist for their mills and skills of distortion. I have been told that Duane Gish, their leading propagandist, refers to his compendium of partial and distorted quotations from my work as his "Goulden file."
Standard creationist literature on punctuated equilibrium rarity goes beyond the continuous recycling of two false characterizations: the conflation of punctuated equilibrium with the true saltation of Goldschmidt's hopeful monsters, and the misscaling of punctuated equilibrium's genuine breaks between species to the claim that no intermediates exist for the largest morphological transitions between classes and phyla. I regard the latter distortion as particularly egregious because we formulated punctuated equilibrium as a positive theory about the nature of intermediacy in such large-scale structural trendsmdash;the "stairstep" rather than the "ball-up-the-inclined-plane" model, if you will. Moreover, I have written numerous essays in my popular series, spanning ten printed volumes, on the documentation of this style of intermediacy in a variety of lineages, including the transition turn to terrestriality in vertebrates, the origin of birds, and the evolution of mammals, whales and humans—the very cases that the usual creationist literature has proclaimed impossible.