What a Croc: Punk-Eek Invoked for Crocodile Evolution
Evolution is fast except when it is slow. It explains all, including why crocodiles are largely unchanged for 200 mya.
The theory of punctuated equilibrium (“punk eek”) was the Darwin-rescue device concocted by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge in 1972, when the paleontologists realized that evolution appears to change organisms rapidly between long periods of stasis (i.e., no evolution). The PBS Evolution site treats punk eek as a valid hypothesis still needing answers, but at the time, evolutionists revolted at the idea. They had been trained to think in Darwin’s terms of slow, gradual accumulation of small variations. With smile mask on, the PBS writer smooths over the controversy:
Punctuated equilibrium also generates interesting questions for further research. What, for example, are the processes that produce rapid evolution? Population genetic studies show us that small changes can accrue quickly in small populations. And evolutionary developmental biology is revealing new mechanisms that regulate the expression of small genetic changes in ways that can have a large effect on phenotype. Which evolutionary factors are primarily responsible for the periods of stasis — in which lineages persist without change — that can be observed in the fossil record? In seeking the answers to these questions, researchers will continue to advance our understanding of the evolutionary processes that produced the remarkable variety of life on Earth.
Punk eek sounded too much like the discredited “Hopeful Monster” idea of Richard Goldschmidt, who described it as a dinosaur laying an egg and a bird hopping out. Ideas of saltation (rapid leaps) run afoul of Darwin’s own words. He said in the Origin,
Natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a great and sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps.
Gould and Eldredge defended their idea, though, because they knew that gaps in the fossil record were the “trade secret of paleontology.” Those gaps are still there almost 50 years later, so evolutionists keep punctuated equilibria in their explanatory toolkit for emergencies.
Punk eek makes a comeback this week. Scientists can’t explain the crocodile fossil record without it.
Research explains why crocodiles have changed so little since the age of the dinosaurs (University of Bristol). With hidden crocodile tears for gradualism, evolutionists give a crocodile smile for new ideas of stasis in the lineage of crocs.
Crocodiles today look very similar to ones from the Jurassic period some 200 million years ago. There are also very few species alive today – just 25. Other animals such as lizards and birds have achieved a diversity of many thousands of species in the same amount of time or less….
In the new research, published today in the journal Nature Communications Biology, the scientists explain how crocodiles follow a pattern of evolution known as ‘punctuated equilibrium’.
Lead author Max Stockdale chimes in on The Conversation: “Crocodiles today look the same as they did 200 million years ago – our study explains why.” It explains why precisely because the Stuff Happens Law (natural selection) explains everything. It explains why evolution is fast sometimes, and slows to a halt other times. It explains why animals get bigger sometimes, and smaller sometimes. There is no observation in biology that cannot be explained by the two words, “stuff happens.” It’s the most useful theory ever devised by man.
“For our study we measured body size, which is important because it interacts with how fast animals grow, how much food they need, how big their populations are and how likely they are to become extinct.”
The findings show that the limited diversity of crocodiles and their apparent lack of evolution is a result of a slow evolutionary rate. It seems the crocodiles arrived at a body plan that was very efficient and versatile enough that they didn’t need to change it in order to survive.
This must have been a motion that passed at the crocodile board meeting. But didn’t the dinosaurs, with all their incredible diversity in sizes and habitats, all go extinct from the asteroid impact, as the popular story goes? Throw in a few perhapsimaybecouldness words to dodge the question:
This versatility could be one explanation why crocodiles survived the meteor impact at the end of the Cretaceous period, in which the dinosaurs perished. Crocodiles generally thrive better in warm conditions because they cannot control their body temperature and require warmth from the environment.
The climate during the age of dinosaurs was warmer than it is today, and that may explain why there were many more varieties of crocodile than we see now.
That sounds like special pleading. Surely some of the dinosaurs in similar environments would have survived. In his piece on The Conversation, Stockdale admits this can be a bit confusing. “It is not clear why some animals follow this model of punctuated equilibrium and others do not,” he says. With an appeal to futureware, he assures readers that Darwinism will survive all questions—because stuff happens. “This punctuated equilibrium model is certainly not peculiar to crocodiles, and a promising avenue of research would be to try and detect it in other groups of similar antiquity, such as turtles.”
One thing punk eek shares with gradualism is this: because stuff happens, there will always be job security for storytellers.
Are you mad at this croc of a theory? No matter what they look at, they can say “it evolved” because stuff happens. They can get the product (a Darwin idol figurine) out of the machine by just tweaking the dials. Speed up the rate of evolution; slow it down; insert an environmental scenario; bring in an asteroid; turn the temperature up or down (which has the benefit of scoring points for climate change); sprinkle fairy dust – whatever is needed to get the organism to appear on time and go extinct on time – that keeps one’s job secure, gives the university press office something to write about, and produces a fairy story that can be told in journals, textbooks and podcasts for years. Everybody is happy, except the critics outside the sound-proof walls.