Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why the creationists love the 1980 Chicago meeting on macroevolution

A meeting on macroevolution was held at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago in October 1980. Normally these meetings would not attract much attention from the press but in this case there was an article published in Discover a month before the meeting took place that suggested something revolutionary was in the wind. Stephen Jay Gould discusses the episode in The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (pp. 981-986).

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.

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