In the opening sentence of the Origin's final chapter (1859, p. 459), Darwin famously wrote that "this whole volume is one long argument." The present book, on "the structure of evolutionary theory," despite its extravagant length, is also a brief for an explicit interpretation that may be portrayed as a single extended argument. Although I feel that our best current formulation of evolutionary theory includes modes of reasoning and a set of mechanisms substantially at variance with strict Darwinian natural selection, the logical structure of the Darwinian foundation remains remarkably intact—a fascinating historical observation in itself, and a stunning tribute to the intellectual power of our profession's founder. Thus, and not only to indulge my personal propensities for historical analysis, I believe that the best way to exemplify our modern understanding lies in an extensive analysis of Darwin's basic logical commitments, the reasons for his choices, and the subsequent manner in which these aspects of "the structure of evolutionary theory" have established and motivated all our major debates and substantial changes since Darwin's original publication in 1859.1 regard such analysis not as an antiquarian indulgence, but as an optimal path to proper understanding of our current commitments, and the underlying reasons for our decisions about them.
As a primary theme for this one long argument, I claim that an "essence" of Darwinian logic can be defined by the practical strategy defended in the first section of this chapter: by specifying a set of minimal commitments, or broad statements so essential to the central logic of the enterprise that disproof of any item will effectively destroy the theory, whereas a substantial change to any item will convert the theory into something still recognizable as within the Bauplan of descent from its forebear, but as something sufficiently different to identify, if I may use the obvious taxonomic metaphor, as a new subclade within the monophyletic group. Using this premise, the long argument of this book then proceeds according to three sequential claims that set the structure and order of my subsequent chapters:
1. Darwin himself formulated his central argument under these three basic premises. He understood their necessity within his system, and the difficulty that he would experience in convincing his contemporaries about such unfamiliar and radical notions. He therefore presented careful and explicit defenses of all three propositions in the Origin. I devote the first substantive chapter (number 2) to an exegesis of the Origin of Species as an embodiment of Darwin's defense for this central logic.
2. As evolutionary theory experienced its growing pains and pursued its founding arguments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (and also in its pre-Darwinian struggles with more inchoate formulations before 1859), these three principles of central logic defined the themes of deepest and most persistent debate—as, in a sense, they must because they constitute the most interesting intellectual questions that any theory for causes of descent with modification must address. The historical chapters of this book's first half then treat the history of evolutionary theory as responses to the three central issues of Darwinian logic (Chapters 3-7).
3. As the strict Darwinism of the Modern Synthesis prevailed and "hardened," culminating in the overconfidences of the centennial celebrations of 1959, a new wave of discoveries and theoretical reformulations began to challenge aspects of the three central principles anew—thus leading to another fascinating round of development in basic evolutionary theory, extending throughout the last three decades of the 20th century and continuing today. But this second round has been pursued in an entirely different and more fruitful manner than the 19th century debates. The earlier questioning of Darwin's three central principles tried to disprove natural selection by offering alternative theories based on confutations of the three items of central logic. The modern versions accept the validity of the central logic as a foundation, and introduce their critiques as helpful auxiliaries or additions that enrich, or substantially alter, the original Darwinian formulation, but that leave the kernel of natural selection intact. Thus, the modern reformulations are helpful rather than destructive. For this reason, I regard our modern understanding of evolutionary theory as closer to Falconer's metaphor, than to Darwin's, for the Duomo of Milan—a structure with a firm foundation and a fascinatingly different superstructure. (Chapters 8-12, the second half of this book on modern developments in evolutionary theory, treat this third theme.)
Thus, one might say, this book cycles through the three central themes of Darwinian logic at three scales—by brief mention of a framework in this chapter, by full exegesis of Darwin's presentation in Chapter 2, and by lengthy analysis of the major differences and effects in historical (Part 1) and modern critiques (Part 2) of these three themes in the rest of the volume.
The basic formulation, or bare-bones mechanics, of natural selection is a disarmingly simple argument, based on three undeniable facts (overproduction of offspring, variation, and heritability)*' and one syllogistic inference (natural selection, or the claim that organisms enjoying differential reproductive success will, on average, be those variants that are fortuitously better adapted to changing local environments, and that these variants will then pass their favored traits to offspring by inheritance). As Huxley famously, and ruefully, remarked (in self-reproach for failing to devise the theory himself), this argument must be deemed elementary (and had often been formu-
*Two of these three ranked as "folk wisdom" in Darwin's day and needed no further justification—variation and inheritance (the mechanism of inheritance remained unknown, but its factuality could scarcely be doubted). Only the principle that all organisms produce more offspring than can possibly survive—superfecundity, in Darwin's lovely term—ran counter to popular assumptions about nature's benevolence, and required Darwin's specific defense in the Origin.
lated before, but in negative contexts, and with no appreciation of its power — see p. 137), and can only specify the guts of the operating machine, not the three principles that established the range and power of Darwin's revolution in human thought. Rather, these three larger principles, in defining the Darwinian essence, take the guts of the machine, and declare its simple operation sufficient to generate the entire history of life in a philosophical manner that could not have been more contrary to all previous, and cherished, assumptions of Western life and science.
The three principles that elevated natural selection from the guts of a working machine to a radical explanation of the mechanism of life's history can best be exemplified under the general categories of agency, efficacy, and scope. I treat them in this specific order because the logic of Darwin's own development so proceeds (as I shall illustrate in Chapter 2), for the most radical claim comes first, with assertions of complete power and full range of applicability then following.
Agency. The abstract mechanism requires a locus of action in a hierarchical world, and Darwin insisted that the apparently intentional "benevolence" of nature (as embodied in the good design of organisms and the harmony of ecosystems) flowed entirely as side-consequences of this single causal locus, the most "reductionistic" account available to the biology of Darwin's time. Darwin insisted upon a virtually exceptionless, single-level theory, with organisms acting as the locus of selection, and all "higher" order emerging, by the analog of Adam Smith's invisible hand, from the (unconscious) "struggles" of organisms for their own personal advantages as expressed in differential reproductive success. One can hardly imagine a more radical reformulation of a domain that had unhesitatingly been viewed as the primary manifestation for action of higher power in nature— and Darwin's brave and single-minded insistence on the exclusivity of the organismic level, although rarely appreciated by his contemporaries, ranks as the most radical and most distinctive feature of his theory.
Efficacy. Any reasonably honest and intelligent biologist could easily understand that Darwin had identified a vera causa (or true cause) in natural selection. Thus, the debate in his time (and, to some extent, in ours as well) never centered upon the existence of natural selection as a genuine causal force in nature. Virtually all anti-Darwinian biologists accepted the reality and action of natural selection, but branded Darwin's force as a minor and negative mechanism, capable only of the headsman's or executioner's role of removing the unfit, once the fit had arisen by some other route, as yet unidentified. This other route, they believed, would provide the centerpiece of a "real" evolutionary theory, capable of explaining the origin of novelties. Darwin insisted that his admittedly weak and negative force of natural selection could, nonetheless, under certain assumptions (later proved valid) about the nature of variation, act as the positive mechanism of evolutionary novelty— that is, could "create the fit" as well as eliminate the unfit—by slowly accumulating the positive effects of favorable variations through innumerable generations.
Scope. Even the most favorably minded of contemporaries often admitted that Darwin had developed a theory capable of building up small changes (of an admittedly and locally "positive" nature as adaptations to changing environments) within a "basic type"—the equivalent, for example, of making dogs from wolves or developing edible corn from teosinte. But these critics could not grasp how such a genuine microevolutionary process coukl be extended to produce the full panoply of taxonomic diversity and apparent "progress" in complexification of morphology through geological time. Darwin insisted on full sufficiency in extrapolation, arguing that his micro-evolutionary mechanism, extended through the immensity of geological time, would be fully capable of generating the entire pageant of life's history, both in anatomical complexity and taxonomic diversity—and that no further causal principles would be required.
Because primates are visual animals, complex arguments are best portrayed or epitomized in pictorial form. The search for an optimal icon to play such a role is therefore no trivial matter (although scholars rarely grant this issue the serious attention so richly merited)—especially since the dangers of confusion, misplaced metaphor, and replacement of rigor with misleading "intuition" stand so high. I knew from the beginning of this work that I needed a suitable image for conveying the central logic of Darwinian theory. As one of my humanistic conceits, I hoped to find a historically important scientific image, drawn for a different reason, that might fortuitously capture the argument in pictorial form. But I had no expectation of success, and assumed that I would need to commission an expressly designed figure drawn to a long list of specifications.
The specific form of the image—its central metaphorical content, if you will—plays an important role in channeling or misdirecting our thoughts, and therefore also requires careful consideration. In the text of this book, I speak most often of a "tripod" since central Darwinian logic embodies three major propositions that I have always visualized as supports—perhaps because I have never been utterly confident about this entire project, and I needed some pictorial encouragement to keep me going for twenty years. (And I much prefer tripods, which can hold up elegant objects, to buttresses, which may fly as they preserve great Gothic buildings, but which more often shore up crumbling edifices. Moreover, the image of a tripod suits my major claim particularly well—for I have argued, just above, that we should define the "essence" of a theory by an absolutely minimal set of truly necessary propositions. No structure, either of human building or of abstract form, captures this principle better than a tripod, based on its absolute minimum of three points for fully stable support in the dimensional world of our physical experience.)
But organic images have always appealed more strongly, and I preferred a biological icon. If the minimal logic can be represented by a tripod pointing downward, then the same topology can be inverted into a structure growing upward. Darwin's own favorite image of the tree of life immediately suggested itself, and I long assumed that I would eventually settle on a botanical icon. But I also remembered Darwin's first choice for an organic metaphor or picture of branching to capture his developing views about descent with modification and the causes of life's diversity—the "coral of life" of his "B Notebook" on transmutation, kept during the 1830's as he became an evolutionist and struggled towards the theory of natural selection (see Barrett et al., 1987).
As I began to write this summary chapter, I therefore aimlessly searched through images of Cnidaria from my collection of antiquarian books in paleontology. I claim no general significance whatsoever for my good fortune, but after a lifetime of failure in similar quirky quests, I was simply stunned to find a preexisting image—not altered one iota from its original form, I promise you, to suit my metaphorical purposes—that so stunningly embodied my needs, not only for a general form (an easy task), but down to the smallest details of placement and potential excision of branches (the feature that I had no right or expectation to discover and then to exapt from so different an original intent).
The following figure comes from the 1747 Latin version of one of the seminal works in the history of paleontology—the 1670 Italian treatise of the Sicilian savant and painter Agostino Scilla, ha vana speculazione disingan-nata dal senso ("Vain speculation undeceived by the senses"— Scilla's defense, at the outset of "the scientific revolution" of Newton's generation, for empirical methods in the study of nature, and specifically, in this treatise, for a scientific paleontology and the need to recognize fossils as remains of ancient organisms, not as independent products of the mineral kingdom). This work, famous not only for an incisive text, but also for its beautiful plates (see Fig. 1-3), engraved by an author known primarily as an artist of substantial eminence, includes this figure, labeled Coralium articulatum quod copio-sissimum in rupibus et collibus Messanae reperitur ("'Articulated coral, found in great abundance in the cliffs and hills of Messina").
This model, and its organic features, work uncommonly well as a metaphor for the Goldilockean position of definition by a barest minimum of truly fundamental postulates. For Scilla's coral, with its branching structure (see Fig. 1-4)—particularly as expressed in the lessening consequences of excising branches at ever higher levels nearer the top (the analogs of disconfirming theoretical features of ever more specialized and less fundamental import)— so beautifully captures the nature and operation of the intellectual structure that I defended above for specifying the essences of theories. The uncanny appropriateness of Scilla's coral lies in the fortuity that this particular specimen (accurately drawn from nature by Scilla, I assume, and not altered to assert any general point) just happens to include exactly the same number of branches (three) as my Darwinian essential structure. (They terminate at the same upper level, so I could even turn the specimen over into a tolerably unwobbly tripod!) Moreover, since this particular genus of corals grows in discrete segments, the joining points correspond ideally with my metaphor of chopping planes for excising parts of structures at various levels of importance in an intellectual entity. But, most incredibly, the segmental junctions of
1-3. The famous frontispiece from Scilla's treatise of 1670 defending the organic nature of fossils. The solid young man, representing the truth of sensory experience, shows a fossil sea urchin in his right hand to a wraithlike figure representing the former style of speculative thinking. With his left hand, the solid figure points to other fossils found in Sicily. The text proclaims: "Vain speculation undeceived by the senses."
this particular specimen just happen to occupy the exact places that I needed a priori to make my central point about lower choppings that destroy theories, middle choppings that change theories in a Falconerian way (major alterations in structure upon a preserved foundation), and upper choppings that change theories in the lesser manner of Darwin's Milanese metaphor (smaller excisions that leave the framework intact as well).
The central trunk (the theory of natural selection) cannot be severed, or the creature (the theory) dies. (The roots, if you will, represent sources of evidence; any one may be excised, if recognized as incorrect by later study, so long as enough remain to anchor the structure). This central trunk then divides into a limited number of major branches. These basic struts—the three
1-4. Agostino Scilla was also a celebrated painter as well as a scientist. The plates of his 1670 treatise are therefore particularly well done. This figure, representing a fossil coral that Scilla found near Messina, fortuitously (and without any alteration whatsoever), presents a detailed picture of the basic logic of Darwinian theory as recognized in this book.
1-4. Agostino Scilla was also a celebrated painter as well as a scientist. The plates of his 1670 treatise are therefore particularly well done. This figure, representing a fossil coral that Scilla found near Messina, fortuitously (and without any alteration whatsoever), presents a detailed picture of the basic logic of Darwinian theory as recognized in this book.
branches of the Darwinian essence in this particular picture—are also so essential that any severing of a complete branch either kills, or so seriously compromises, the entire theory that a new name and basic structure becomes essential.
We now reach the interesting point where excisions and regraftings preserve the essential nature of an intellectual structure, but with two quite different levels of change and revision, as characterized by Falconer's and Darwin's competing metaphors for the Duomo of Milan. I would argue that a severing low on any one of the three major branches corresponds with a revision profound enough to validate the more interesting Falconerian version of major revision upon a conserved foundation. (The Falconerian model is, in this sense, a Goldilockean solution itself, between the "too much" of full destruction and the "too little" of minor cosmetic revision.) On the other hand, the severing of a subbranch of one of the three branches symbolizes a less portentous change, closer to Darwinian models for the Milanese Duomo— an alteration of important visual elements, but without change in the basic framework.
My fascination with the current state of evolutionary theory, at least as I read current developments in both logic and empirics, lies in its close conformity to the Falconerian model—with enough continuity to make the past history of the field so informative (and so persistently, even emotionally, compelling), but with enough deep difference and intellectual fascination to stimulate anyone with a thirst for the intriguing mode of novelty that jars previous certainty, but does not throw a field into the total anarchy of complete rebuilding (not a bad thing either, but far from the actual circumstance in this case).
To summarize my views on the utility of such a model for the essence of Darwinian logic, I will designate three levels of potential cuts or excisions to this organic (and logical) coral of the structure of evolutionary theory, as originally formulated by Darwin in the Origin of Species, and as revised in a Falconerian way in recent decades. The most inclusive and most fundamental K-cuts (killing cuts) sever at least one of the three central principles of Darwinian logic and thereby destroy the theory tout court. The second level of R-cuts (revision cuts) removes enough of the original form on one of the three central branches to ensure that the new (and stronger or more arborescent) branch, in regrowing from the cut, will build a theory with an intact Darwinian foundation, but with a general form sufficiently expanded, revised or reconstructed to present an interestingly different structure of general explanation—the Falconerian model for the Duomo of Milan. Finally, the third level of S-cuts (subsidiary cuts) affects only a subbranch of one of the three major branches, and therefore reformulates the general theory in interesting ways, while leaving the basic structure of explanation intact—the Darwinian model for the Duomo of Milan.
I wrote this book because I believe that all three pillars, branches, or tripod legs, representing the three fundamental principles of Darwinian central logic, have been subjected to fascinating R-cuts that have given us at least the firm outlines—for the revised structure of evolutionary explanation remains a work vigorously in progress, as only befits the nature of its subject, after all!—of a far richer and fascinatingly different theory with a retained Darwinian core rooted in the principles of natural selection. In short, we live in the midst of a Falconerian remodeling of our growing and multiform, yet coherently grounded, intellectual mansion.
I will not, in this chapter, detail the nature of the K-cuts that failed (thus preserving the central logic of Darwinism), the R-cuts that have succeeded in changing the structure of evolutionary theory in such interesting ways, and the S-cuts that have refurbished major rooms in particular wings of the edifice—for these specifications set the subject matter of all following chapters. But to provide a better opening sense of this book's argument—and to clarify the nature of the three central claims of Darwinian logic—I shall at least distinguish, for each branch, the K-cuts that never prevailed (and therefore did not fell the structure) from the R-cuts that have affected each branch, and have therefore provoked our current process of building an enriched structure for evolutionary theory.
Returning to Scilla's coral (Fig. 1-4), consider the central branch as the first leg of the tripod (agency, or the claim for organismal selection as the causal locus of the basic mechanism), the left branch as the second leg (efficacy, or the claim that selection acts as the primary creative force in building evolutionary novelties), and the right branch as the third leg (scope, or the claim that these microevolutionary modes and processes can, by extrapolation through the vastness of geological time, explain the full panoply of life's changes in form and diversity).
The cut labeled Kl on Figure 1-4 would have severed the entire coral by disproving natural selection as an evolutionary force at all. The cut labeled K2 would have fully severed the second branch, leaving natural selection as a legitimate cause, but denying it any creative role, and thereby dethroning Darwinism as a major principle in explaining life's history. (We shall see, in Chapters 3-6, that such a denial of creativity underlay the most common anti-Darwinian argument in the first generations of debate.) The cut labeled K3 would have fully severed the third branch, allowing that natural selection might craft some minor changes legitimately called "creative" in a local sense, but denying that Darwin's mechanism could then be extended to explain the panoply of macroevolutionary processes, or the actual pageant of life's history. The success of any one of these K-cuts would have destroyed Darwinian theory, plain and simple. None of them succeeded, and the foundation of Darwinian central logic remains intact and strong.
In striking, and most positive, contrast, I believe that higher R-cuts—leaving the base of each major branch intact, but requiring a substantial regrowth and regrafting of an enlarged structure upon the retained foundation—have been successfully wielded against all three branches of Darwinian logic, as the structure of evolutionary theory developed in the last third of the 20th century (following too rigid a calcification of the original structure, a good adumbration of the coral metaphor!, in the hardening of the Modern Synthesis that culminated in the Darwinian centennial celebrations of 1959). On the first branch of agency, the cut labeled Rl (see Fig. 1-4) expanded Darwin's unilevel theory of organismal selection into a hierarchical model of selection acting simultaneously on several legitimate levels of Darwinian individuality (genes, cell-lineages, organisms, demes, species, and clades). I shall show in Chapters 3, 8, and 9 how the logic of this pronounced expansion builds a theory fascinatingly different from, and not just a smooth extension of, Darwin's single level mechanism of agency—my reason for portraying the hierarchical model as a deeply interesting R-cut rather than a more superficial S-cut.
On the second branch of efficacy, the cut labeled R2 accepts the validity of Darwin's argument for creativity (by leaving the base of the branch intact), but introduces a sufficient weight of formalist thinking—via renewed appreciation for the enormous importance of structural, historical, and developmental constraint in channeling the pathways of evolution, often in highly positive ways—that the pure functionalism of a strictly Darwinian (and externalist) approach to adaptation no longer suffices to explain the channeling of phyletic directions, and the clumping and inhomogeneous population of organic morphospace. The strict Darwinian form of explanation has thereby been greatly changed and enriched, but in no way defeated. I shall discuss the historical aspect of this branch in Chapters 4 and 5, and modern reformulations of this R2 cut in Chapters 10 and 11.
On the final branch of scope, the cut labeled R3 accepts the Darwinian contention that microevolutionary modes and principles can build grand patterns by cumulation through geological immensity, but rejects the argument that such extrapolations can render the entire panoply of phenomena in life's history without adding explicitly macroevolutionary modes for distinctive expression of these processes at higher tiers of time—as in the explanation of cladal trends by species sorting under punctuated equilibrium, rather than by extended adaptive anagenesis of purely organismal selection, and in the necessity of titrating adaptive microevolutionary accumulation with occasional resetting of rules and patterns by catastrophically triggered mass extinctions at time's highest tier. Chapters 6 and 12 discuss historical and modern critiques of Darwinian extrapolationism.
For now, I will say little about the even higher and more superficial S-cuts of subbranches, but I will at least indicate how I construe this category by stating a hypothetical example for each branch: an SI cut, for example, might accept the selective basis of evolutionary change in a purely mechanical sense, but then deny full force to Darwin's deliciously radical philosophical claim that all apparent "higher level" harmony arises consequentially, through the invisible hand of lower levels acting for personal reproductive success. One might, in principle, propose such a revision by arguing that a higher force, operating by an overarching principle of order, "employs" natural selection as its mechanical agent. (I speak only hypothetically here, for no such defend-able scientific hypothesis now exists, although the concept certainly remains intelligible. Explicitly theological versions don't count as science, whatever their kind or form of potential validity.) An S2 cut might be assayed by a developmental saltationist who accepted the selectionist basis of adaptive change but felt that, at a sufficient relative frequency to be counted as important, the initial steps of such changes may be larger than the pure continuationism of Darwinian selection can admit. And an S3 cut might accept the full validity of microevolutionary extrapolationism, but deny the subsidiary defense of progress that Darwin grafted onto this apparatus (see Chapter 6) with ecological arguments about plenitude and the priority of biotic over abiotic competition.
As a paleontologist and part-time historian of science by profession, my reading of these important R-cuts arose from a macroevolutionary perspective framed largely in terms of longstanding difficulties faced by Darwinism in extending its successes for explaining small changes in palpable time into equally adequate causal accounts for broader patterns and processes in geological history. I have, in this effort, also benefited from my personal study of Darwin's life and times, and especially the late 19th century debates on mechanisms of evolution (as promulgated largely by professionals who could neither fully understand nor accept the radical philosophical commitments underlying Darwin's view). This historical study allowed me to grasp the continuity in basic themes from Darwin's own formulation, through these foundational debates, right down to the major theoretical struggles of our own time. An appreciation of this continuity allowed me to discern and define the distinctively Darwinian view of life.
But I recognize only too well that every strength comes paired with weaknesses. In my case, a paleontological focus leads me into relative ignorance for an equally important locus of reform in the structure of Darwinism—increasing knowledge of the nature of genomes and the mechanics of development. (I try to cover the outlines of important theoretical critiques from this "opposite" realm of the smallest, but the relative weightings in my text reflect my own varying competencies far more than the merits of the cases. For example, although I do discuss, and perhaps even adequately outline, the importance of Kimura and King's neutralist theory in questioning previous assumptions of adaptationist hegemony, I surely do not give an appropriate volume of attention to this enormously important subject.)
Nonetheless, I hope that I have managed to present an adequate account of the coordinating themes that grant such interest and coherence to modern reformulations of the structure of evolutionary theory. Such thematic consistency in revision becomes possible largely because Darwin himself, in his characteristically brilliant way, tied the diverse threads of his initiating argument into an overall view with a similarly tight structure—thus granting clear definition to his own commitments, and also permitting their revision in the form of an equally coherent "package." I would argue, moreover, and without wishing to become extravagantly hagiographical (for I wrote this book, after all, primarily to discuss a critique and revision of strict Darwinism), that our modern sense of limitations in the canonical version arises from decisions that Darwin made for tough and correct reasons in the context of his initiating times—reasons that made his account the first operational theory of evo lution in modern science. In particular, as Chapter 2 will discuss in detail, Darwin converted evolution from untestable speculation to doable science by breaking through the old paradox (as embedded most prominently in Lamarck's system) of contrasting a palpable force of small-scale change that could do little in extension, with a basically nonoperational (and orthogonal) mechanism of large-scale change putatively responsible for all the interesting patterns of life's history, but imperceptible and untestable from the uniformitarian study of modern organisms.
By claiming that the small-scale mechanics of modern change could, by extension, explain all of evolution, Darwin opened the entire field to empirical study. And yet, as Hegel and so many other students of change have noted, progress in human (and other) affairs tends to spiral upwards in cycles of proposal (thesis), then countered by opposition (antithesis), and finally leading to a new formulation combining the best aspects of both competitors (synthesis). Darwin's thesis established evolution as a science, but his essential commitments, as expressed in the three legs of his necessary logical tripod (or the three branches of his conceptual tree or coral, as in the alternate metaphor of Fig. 1-4), eventually proved too narrow and confining, thus requiring an antithesis of extension and reformulation on each branch, and leading—or so this book maintains as a central thesis of its own—to a still newer and richer synthesis expressing our best current understanding of the structure of evolutionary theory.
In fact, and to repeat my summary in this different form, one might encapsulate the long argument of this book in such a Hegelian format. Pre-Darwinian concepts of evolution remained speculative and essentially nonoperational, largely because (see Chapter 3) they fell into the disabling paradox of contrasting an effectively unknowable large-scale force of cosmic progress against an orthogonal, palpable and testable small-scale force that could generate local adaptation and diversity, but that couldn't, in principle, explain the macroevolutionary pattern of life. Then Darwin, in his thesis (also an antithesis to these earlier sterile constructions), brilliantly argued that the putative large-scale force did not exist, and that all evolution could be explained by upward extrapolation from the small-scale force, now properly understood as natural selection. In a first stage of debate during the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Chapters 3-6), most critiques of Darwinism— one might designate them as a first round of ultimately destructive antitheses—simply denied sufficient agency, efficacy and range to natural selection, and reasserted the old claim of duality, with selection relegated to triviality, and some truly contrary force sought as the explanation for major features of evolution. Strict Darwinism eventually fended off these destructive critiques, reasserted itself in the triumphant, and initially (and generously) pluralistic form of the Modern Synthesis, but eventually calcified into a "hardened" version (Chapter 7).
Then, in a strikingly different, and ultimately fruitful, second round of antitheses, a renewed debate about central theoretical issues arose during the last three decades of the 20th century, and reshaped the field by recognizing that selection needed to be amplified, reformulated and invigorated by other, noncontrary (and, at most, orthogonal) causes, not rejected as wrong, or scorned as trivial (Chapters 8-12). The one long argument of this book holds that a synthesis (still much in progress) has now sufficiently coagulated from this debate to designate our best current understanding of the structure of evolutionary theory as something rich and new, with a firmly retained basis in Darwinian logic—in other words, and following the organizing and opening metaphor of this chapter, as a validation of Falconer's, rather than Darwin's, concept of the historical growth and change of Milan's cathedral.
Ariel's telling verse in Shakespeare's The Tempest proclaims in dense metaphor:
Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange.
With the exception of one possible (and originally unintended) modern reading of these images, this famous and haunting verse provides a beautiful description of both the priceless worth and intriguing modern transformation of Darwin's original theory. (For the exception, several connotations of deep burial in the sea—full fathom five—might be viewed negatively, as in "deep sixing" or going to Davy Jones's locker. But, for natural historians who read this book, and coming from an invertebrate paleontologist as author, the seafloor could not represent a more positive resting place or point of origin— and I intend to evoke only these upbeat images in citing Ariel's lines.) Otherwise, Darwin's original structure has only yielded greater treasure in cascading implications and developments through the subsequent history of evolutionary thought—the conversion of the bones of an original outline into precious coral and pearls of current substance. Nothing of Darwin's central logic has faded or fully capsized, but his theory has been transformed, along his original lines, into something far different, far richer, and far more adequate to guide our understanding of nature.
The last three lines of Shakespeare's verse also appear on the tombstone of the great poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (also the author of the preface to his wife's novella, Frankenstein, which cites Erasmus Darwin in its first line of text). I believe that these words would suit, and honor, Charles Darwin just as well and just as rightly.
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