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Tempo and Mode in Evolution (The Columbia Classics in Evolution) Paperback – October 15, 1984

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Product Details

  • Series: The Columbia Classics in Evolution
  • Paperback: 237 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Columbia Classics edition edition (October 15, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231058470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231058476
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,414,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984) was one of the most influential American paleontologists of the twentieth century. In the new introduction he wrote for this edition of his 1944 book, Simpson states, "My main aim was to explore and in a way to exploit the fact that paleontology is the only four-dimensional biological science: time, 'tempo,' is inherent in it. Thus the aim of this book, which I think it accomplished, was to bring this dimension squarely, methodologically, into the study of evolutionary theory." (Interestingly, he also criticizes as a "straw man" Stephen Jay Gould's interpretation of what "gradualism" in evolution means.)

Simpson argues that "Segregation or selection of intragroup variability can give rise to new groups at a potentiallly rapid evolutionary rate.... this process is important and typical in speciation and in lower levels of differentiation." He adds that "Theoretically saltation might result from a single large mutation ... or from the sudden segregation or recombination of pre-existing genetic characters."

Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge (architects of "punctuated equilibrium") were attracted to this aspect of Simpson's book: "Size of population is one of the dominant factors in determining tempo and mode in evolution," and "Thus the most rapid possible evolution must occur in populations of minimum size. Such evolution will usually lead to extinction, but in a large number of trials it will not always do so."

Such creative ideas are needed because "This regular absence of transitional forms is not confined to mammals, but is an almost universal phenomenon, as has long been noted by paleontologists.
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A must-read for everyone studying evolution at all levels, from an undergrad student to a full professor. Many of the ideas may appear obvious to a modern reader, yet the insight of this book is tremendous.
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