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Basic Questions in Paleontology: Geologic Time, Organic Evolution, and Biological Systematics Hardcover – January 15, 1994

ISBN-13: 978-0226738345 ISBN-10: 0226738345 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 494 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (January 15, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226738345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226738345
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,510,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on October 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Basic Questions in Paleontology" is the magnum opus of Otto Schindewolf, an outspoken critic of Darwinian evolution but also one of the leading palaeontologists in West Germany during the immediate post-war decades. His book was published in 1950, but didn't become available in English until 1994. Unsurprisingly, Stephen Jay Gould has written the introduction to the American edition. To most laymen in the creation-evolution controversy, Schindewolf is only known from a supposed misquotation in one of Duane Gish's creationist books. I no longer remember the details, but it seems Schindewolf really did say that the first bird hatched from a reptilian egg. More disturbingly, at least from a Darwinian viewpoint, he seems to have meant it, too...

Schindewolf's book is super-scholarly and definitely not an introductory or popularized work (the "review" claiming otherwise was obviously posted by a troll). I haven't been able to digest this work myself, except in very small doses. However, if you have a degree in the natural sciences or want to take the evolution-creation controversy to a stunning new level, I suppose "Basic Questions in Paleontology" might be your kind of book. It does seem somewhat easier to digest than "The Material Basis of Evolution" by that other notorious anti-Darwinist heretic, Richard Goldschmidt. (Guess who wrote the introduction to the new edition?)

The main lines of argument in Schindewolf's book are roughly as follows. Evolution of entirely new structures is never gradual, but takes place in sudden leaps. These are caused by ontogenetic factors (presumably macro-mutations causing decisive genetic changes in the embryo). Evolution goes through several different phases.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Otto Schindewolf (1896-1971) was a German paleontologist, also famous as a "saltationist" (i.e., the idea that evolution can proceed in "leaps," and not only gradually, as Darwin had suggested). In this famous work (not translated until this 1993 edition), he states that "The gaps that exist in the continuity of forms, which we always encounter at those very points, are not to be blamed on the fossil record; they are not illusions but the expression of a natural, primary absence of transitional forms." He then adds, "in spite of tireless search, the hoped-for series of connecting forms---the 'missing links' of the cliche---have never been found ... the closed evolutionary lineages we have before us regularly break off as we near their roots. Nothing in the future will change this."

The "poverty of the fossil record" cannot be blamed for this; "there is no longer any reason to resign outselves to some perceived insufficiency of fossil material; rather, we see in the regularly recurring pattern of the fossil record a reflection, incomplete in detail yet on the whole faithful, of the actual situation: a natural lack of intermediate forms and the existence of real gaps between individual types."

The problem is greater than this: "there is no way that there could be transitional forms as they have often been envisaged and required, namely, forms that are intermediate in every aspect. A placenta cannot be absent and present simultaneously; the two circulatory systems leading from the heart cannot be both separate and non-separate ... Intermediate forms in the true sense cannot be expected in these cases; the most one will find are composite types, which combine features of one group with those of another...
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Molly n Britts Mom on October 24, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a great introduction to paleontology. My 14 year old daughter is reading it, but it is good for any person who is interested in learning more at the beginning level.
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