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Eternal EphemeraAdaptation and the Origin of Species from the Nineteenth Century Through Punctuated Equilibria and Beyond$
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Niles Eldredge

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153164

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153164.001.0001

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Enter Adaptation and the Conflict Between Isolation and Gradual Adaptive Change, 1836–1859

Enter Adaptation and the Conflict Between Isolation and Gradual Adaptive Change, 1836–1859

Chapter:
(p.151) 3 Enter Adaptation and the Conflict Between Isolation and Gradual Adaptive Change, 1836–1859
Source:
Eternal Ephemera
Author(s):

Niles Eldredge

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231153164.003.0004

This chapter explores the emergence of adaptation within the evolutionary domain. Charles Darwin, convinced of an impending rise of a natural law of adaptation, relates adaptation with two scenarios: progressive change and speciation in isolation. After formulating natural selection and recognizing the fact that paleontologists have failed to find any convincing evidence of gradual progressive change, Darwin acknowledges a conflict wherein adaptation becomes a problem. As a result, he feels obliged to choose between adaptive change associated with the origin of species in isolation, or an image of gradual wholesale transformation of species. Darwin resolves the conflict by insisting that gradual evolutionary change must be the general rule, since there is a lack of evidence to the contrary. The chapter closes with an examination of why Darwin saw the two scenarios as opposing forces in evolutionary history.

Keywords:   adaptation, Charles Darwin, progressive change, speciation in isolation, evolutionary history

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