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Answer 1

Although Gould was often quote-mined by creationists suggesting that Gould thought that the fossil evidence did not support common descent, none of this relates in any way to natural selection, the proposed mechanism for evolution.

Answer 2

No. Stephen Jay Gould said that natural selection was the best explanation for the evolution of species. However, he differed from Charles Darwin in his understanding of the process.

Whereas Darwin appears to have expected that evolution would be a gradual, continuous process, Gould suggested a process of punctuated equilibrium. He said that species were more likely to have remained relatively unchanged for long periods until a period of rapid evolution resulted in the evolution of new species. He felt that this was more consistent with the fossil record.

Answer 3

As a palaeontologist by profession this was Gould's area of expertise. Although revered as a great scientist Gould has received some attention from creationists for parts of his comments on the nature of the fossil record. He is quote-mined as referring to the fossil record in relation to evolution in the following way:

"The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution."

Stephen Jay Gould (Professor of Geology and Paleontology, Harvard University), 'Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging?' Paleobiology, vol.6(1), January 1980,p. 127.

"All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between the major groups are characteristically abrupt."

Stephen Jay Gould 'The return of hopeful monsters'. Natural History, vol. LXXXVI(6), June-July 1977, p. 24.

"The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils. Yet Darwin was so wedded to gradualism that he wagered his entire theory on a denial of this literal record:

The geological record is (here Gould is quoting Darwin) extremely imperfect and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find intermediate varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record will rightly reject my whole theory. (end of quote)

Darwin's argument still persists as the favored escape of most paleontologists from the embarrassment of a record that seems to show so little of evolution. In exposing its cultural and methodological roots, I wish in no way to impugn the potential validity of gradualism (for all general views have similar roots). I wish only to point out that it was never "seen" in the rocks.

Paleontologists have paid an exorbitant price for Darwin's argument. We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life's history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study."

Stephen Jay Gould 'Evolution's erratic pace'. Natural History, vol. LXXXVI95), May 1977, p.14.

Gould's commitment to Darwinian evolution followed from an understanding and knowledge of the fossil record that belies the literal text of the quotes lifted out of context by creationists. What the evidence shows is clear from the completestatements of Gould and many other palaeontologists in their proper context, no matter what creationists make of them.

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Q: Did Stephen Jay Gould say that fossil evidence completely contradicts natural selection?
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