For a change of pace this week away from world news, especially the gruesome self-inflicted holocaust in Guyana, I thought I'd comment on a new theory of evolution as presented in an article in the Los Angeles Times on November 19.

After decades of futily probing the geologic strata, scientists are now talking of abandoning their fruitless search for evolutionary "missing links" between living creatures. The reason? According to Dr. Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, such creatures probably never existed as distinctive, transitional types!

Evolutionists have long held to a school of thought known as "gradualism" or "transformationalism, " which states that each species evolved as a result of a slow accumulation of small changes in its genetic makeup. Throughout the course of tens or hundreds of millions of years, the theory went; enough of these changes became incorporated into a given number of creatures to justify their classification as separate species.

Dr. Eldredge observed recently at a science writer's conference called "New Horizons in Science" that if this long- standing paleontological view of the evolution of life was correct, one would naturally expect to find such intermediate forms. In other words, if such a gradual, "little-by-little" evolutionary process had really been in effect, there should logically be some fossil evidence of t hose changes ; that is, one should find transitional creatures that were a little bit like what went before them and a little bit like what came after them. But no such creatures have ever been found.

Up until now, scientists confidently held that the fossil record was simply "inadequate" — that someday the "gaps" would be filled in when rock strata of the proper antiquity were located. But faced with the growing realization that no such in-between creatures have been discovered in the hard evidence of the fossil record, many scientists are coming to believe that the gradualist view of evolution is an inaccurate portrayal of how life developed. According to Dr. Eldredge, "The old explanation that the fossil record was inadequate is in itself inadequate to explain what is actually known."

Instead, an alternate theory has now arisen to explain the so-called "gaps" in fossil records. This theory is called "punctuated equilibrium" or "punctuationalism. " According to this idea, today's tremendous diversity of life has come about through sporadic leaps forward — brief bursts of evolutionary activity — by small, well-defined groups of creatures, interspersed with long periods of little or no change.

Such a theory is much easier to support based on the observed facts of paleontology. Far from finding examples of a species in which small, gradual changes can be noted continuously down through time, Dr. Eldredge notes that "what you really see is a fossil with no significant change over periods of up to 10 million years." And the new theory is also seemingly compatible with the rather abrupt emergence of species throughout time as observed in the fossil record.

What is interesting in the entire story of this changing attitude among scientists is that none of them has as yet come forward suggesting that it may have, after all, been creationism — God's Hand — at work in the geologic record. Perish the thought! Instead, since one theory of evolution has been found wanting, another theory of evolution has been substituted in its place — a theory that will require no less "faith" in the "creative powers" of evolution to believe in than the old one.

The Los Angeles Times writer, George Alexander, stated in his article that "it is an accepted premise in science that if observed facts do not fit accepted theory, then the theory must be changed." But, of course the "theory" of divine creation must not be looked at again. Perhaps the Apostle Paul said it best in his letter to the Romans: "Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge...."

— Gene H. Hogberg, News Bureau

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Pastor General's ReportNovember 29, 1978Vol 2 No. 44