Is punctuated equilibrium compatible with the Bible? What is the theory of punctuated equilibrium?
The term "punctuated equilibrium" comes from an evolutionary theory that was postulated as a way to explain "gaps" in the fossil record. According to Darwinism, all known species evolved slowly over millions of years, from a single-celled organism to the more complex forms we see today. In this way, gradual changes resulted in all the species of mammals, fish, birds, and reptiles that now exist. However, the fossil record does not prove this theory. There are many different species represented in fossils, some still living and some extinct, but there is a glaring absence of the transitional forms one would expect to see if species were evolving gradually over time.
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It is important to note that species are always evolving gradually over time in one sense: there are many clear examples of microevolution, that is, small changes occurring in a species to make it adapt to its environment. But macroevolution, which is the kind of evolution proposed by Darwin, is when one species morphs into another. For example, when fish become reptiles, or reptiles become birds. The fossil record does not give us the fossils of any creatures which appear to be changing from one species to another.
In an attempt to explain this, punctuated equilibrium was theorized. Punctuated equilibrium is the idea that instead of species evolving gradually, as was originally postulated, the changes occurred sporadically and much more rapidly. This is a controversial idea within the scientific community. Some see it as a refutation of gradualism, and others see it as a refinement of the theory. Whether or not punctuated equilibrium is in agreement with original Darwinism, as a theory it has its own problems.
Here is the way punctuated equilibrium is supposed to have gone: a small number of creatures in a generation (at least one male and one female) within a larger herd experience a mutation that is significant enough to ostracize them from the herd, and consistent enough between them so that reproduction is possible. They then split off and produce offspring. At this point, they have become a new species. What is unclear is how, from such a small population, a new, healthy population is created, despite the necessary inbreeding that would occur. Inbreeding always produces offspring that are less healthy. Well, what if that rule did not apply millions of years ago? You still have the probability problem. In order to produce the wide variety of species that we now see, these random yet consistent mutations would have to occur over and over again in almost every species. It would have to be a common occurrence.
The fossil record also speaks against punctuated equilibrium. The "Cambrian Explosion" is a nickname given to a span of time during which most of the biological forms we are familiar with first appear in the fossil record. Did all these mutations happen at once? And if this was such a common thing, why doesn't it happen anymore? If this is just how species behave, what made nature stop doing what it was doing for millions of years?
The Bible is clear that creatures did not evolve, whether gradually, or by punctuated equilibrium, but instead they were created by God (Genesis 1:20–27). Scientific discoveries pose questions that are not answered by the Bible. That doesn't mean there isn't a good, perfectly rational answer, just that God has chosen not to share it with us. Clearly, evolutionary theory is also somewhat unsure of itself. Whether you believe the Word of God, or the conclusions drawn by evolutionary scientists, a leap of faith is required.
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