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Stephen Jay Gould on Gradualism

"Evolution's Erratic Pace" Natural History (Vol. 86, May 1977)

In defending gradualism as a nearly universal tempo, Darwin had to use Lyell’s most characteristic method of argument — he had to reject literal appearance and common sense for an underlying “reality.” (Contrary to popular myths, Darwin and Lyell were not the heroes of true science, defending objectivity against the the theological fantasies of such “catastrophists” as Cuvier and Buckland. Catastrophists were as committed to science as any gradualist; in fact, they adopted the more “objective” view that one should believe what one sees and not interpolate missing bits of a gradual record into a literal tale of rapid change.