“Radical” or “Conservative”? The Origin and Early Reception of Punctuated Equilibrium

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter investigates the origin and early history of the theory of punctuated equilibrium, from its first articulation in 1971 through subsequent revision and reaction into the early 1980s. It argues that punctuated equilibrium cannot be separated from the broader development of theoretical paleobiology promoted during the mid-1970s by a group of paleontologists dedicated to revising the goals, agenda, and status of paleontology. This chapter also suggests that punctuated equilibrium is part of a larger movement that involved not just Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, but his colleagues David Raup, Thomas Schopf, Steven Stanley, and others who sought to redefine paleontological evolutionary theory largely without the directional causes central to traditional Darwinian evolution via natural selection.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Paleobiological Revolution
Subtitle of host publicationEssays on the Growth of Modern Paleontology
EditorsDavid Sepkoski, Michael Ruse
Place of PublicationChicago
PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780226748597
ISBN (Print)9780226275710, 9780226748610
StatePublished - 2009


  • punctuated equilibrium
  • theoretical paleobiology
  • paleontologists
  • Stephen Jay Gould
  • Niles Eldredge
  • David Raup
  • Thomas Schopf
  • Steven Stanley
  • Darwinian evolution
  • natural selection


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