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Saturday, February 10, 2018

We live in the age of bacteria

I'm sad because we now have almost a whole generation of young people who know very little about Stephen Jay Gould. (He died of cancer in 2002.) I was thinking of this yesterday as I was preparing a post on bacteria. Gould's 1996 book, Full House, is about fundamental misconceptions of evolution and progress and it contains the following passage (p. 176) ...

We live now in the "Age of Bacteria." Our planet has always been in the "Age of Bacteria," ever since the first fossils—bacteria, of course—were entombed in rocks more than three and a half billion years ago.

On any possible, reasonable, or fair criterion, bacteria are—and always have been—the dominant forms of life on earth.
Listen to him make this point twenty years ago ...


  1. As a YEC creationist I also desire he was more remembered. i find he's forgotten everywhere where evolutionism is talked about.
    It suits creationists because Gould and others made a strong case, accepted by many in these circles, that the fossil record proved Darwin and company were wrong. The fossil record never showed all the changes/graduations that should of been there if Darwin's mechanism was true.
    Having proved this THEN he proposed Punctuated equilibrium .
    That in tiny populations evolutionary changes happened, this unlikely to be fossilized, and not in the great populations they became, these being fossilized, and so a new paradigm.
    This led, then and now, to hostile criticism from evolutionists.
    they realized, better then him, he was proving the fossil record showed NO evolution took place. he had a remedy but the cuure was less then the disaster he revealed.
    I find he is now rejected and unwelcome and PE hardly gets attention. evolutionists have all gone back to the claims that intermediates in the fossil record are in great supply and pE is not need even if true.
    i was surprised on Gould's wiki artice, as i read it, to see how he is dismissed.

    i note with interest his understanding that Darwins idea came from a general belief in small steps creating big results. First from corals making islands to the last of worms totally stirring up and creating soil. Nothing to do with heritage or Galapagos. i can't remember if I first read this by him.

    It was interesting what he said on this video about baseball and cancer.
    i would think the players are generally better including pitchers and so hitters. So harder to get better hitters. Another I would add if human ability is based on intelligence, in sports too, and this would happen in segregated circles even in the old days.
    So possible some were quite better then even today. its not about the body but the intelligence.
    In science you must accomplish things to be remembered. His accomplishment is defeasting a error in origin biology. Yet not having a better idea to replace it.
    I think that's why he is being forgotten. His correction is not welcome and his replacement is not accepted as a important thing.

    1. You don’t understand the fossil record and you don’t understand punctuated equilibria. This is not surprising because you are consistent.

    2. I do understand PE and PE is based on what Gould etc said about the fossil record.
      Remember as a creationist its all life/fossil deposition events and so we don't agree with the geology claims.
      Yet by their geology presumptions THEY found the fossils wanting.
      Thats why PE was the novel idea.
      The fossil record showed long surviving large populations and then suddenly a new long surviving , very different, population but seen in succession.
      The evolution was not captured by the fossil record, in its graduations/changes. AND SO they imagined GREAT punctuation events of evolution moving through very segregated populations from the parent and thus not likely to be found in the fossils.
      Too little and too quick. only later the resulting population that had exploded after the PE events.
      ut WAS their remedy to the problem.
      The fossil record, Gould insisted, showed no evolution as Darwin thought it should.
      Something was/is wrong. PE was to fix it.
      A creationist says it didn't AND evolutionists, it seems to me, say its not needed. not rejected but not needed.
      They see the fossil record showing intermediates enough.
      i don't see why my history is wrong.?!

    3. Thank-you for confirming that you don’t understand evolution and you don’t understand punctuated equilibria.

  2. You're simply neglecting to think about why the fossil record looks tge way it does from a population biology pov which is the real basis of PE; not superstitious Middle Eastern mythology.

  3. Thanks for posting this. I spent last evening watching several of Goud’s interviews. Brought back many memories about why I got into biology in the first place.

  4. I enjoyed this interview quite a bit. Thanks Larry.

  5. There has been a huge vacuum ever since he left, which has made the natural sciences noticeably less interesting. I'm still waiting for the next Stephen Gould. But like Nigel, the lonely New Zealand gannet, I probably wait in vain.

  6. Though his writing style was a little repetitive in this book, I've always liked in particular the image of evolution as a bush against a wall. The wall is non-life. Since life can't evolve to get simpler than that, some might see the fact that it spreads away from the wall as implying a direction in favor of progress or complexity. But parts of the bush spread along the wall, branches may grow closer to the wall.... The reality is that when life evolves it gets more complex, less complex, equally complex - it just evolves in all the ways it can.