ARTICLE: Darwin and palaeontology: a re-evaluation of his interpretation of the fossil record

In the journal Historical Biology (online first):

Darwin and palaeontology: a re-evaluation of his interpretation of the fossil record

Warren D. Allmon

Abstract Charles Darwin’s empirical research in palaeontology, especially on fossil invertebrates, has been relatively neglected as a source of insight into his thinking, other than to note that he viewed the fossil record as very incomplete. During the Beagle voyage, Darwin gained extensive experience with a wide diversity of fossil taxa, and he thought deeply about the nature of the fossil record. That record was, for him, a major source of evidence for large-scale transmutation, but much less so for natural selection or single lineages. Darwin’s interpretation of the fossil record has been criticised for its focus on incompleteness, but the record as he knew it was extremely incomplete. He was compelled to address this in arguing for descent with modification, which was likely his primary goal. Darwin’s gradualism has been both misrepresented and exaggerated, and has distracted us from the importance of the fossil record in his thinking, which should be viewed in the context of the multiple, sometimes competing demands of the multifaceted argument he presented in the Origin of Species.

4 thoughts on “ARTICLE: Darwin and palaeontology: a re-evaluation of his interpretation of the fossil record

  1. I’ve always been so impressed by how much Darwin got right about the fossils he discovered in South America and other places on his voyage in the Beagle. He was also quite an accomplished geologist. Given the state of knowledge of the time he did remarkably well, but did yield to others who he knew were more expert in him in fields of anatomy and so on once he got back to England. http://darwinskidneys.blogspot.com/

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