Do All Evolutionary Theorists Agree that Macroevolution Is Just Repeated Rounds of Microevolution?

Yes, but your meaning wasn’t entirely clear. To clarify, perhaps you could suggest what part of macroevolution isn’t merely microevolution.

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But I agreed to this. See the relevant quotes:

Like I said macroevolution is microevolution plus microevolution plus microevolution plus microevolution plus plenty time with or without other processes.

You are wrong here. No evolutionary biologists doubts the role of microevolution in macroevolution. Some think that there extra mechanisms in addition to it.

You obviously started this thread on the wrong foot.


Exactly. Look at the increase in brain size as we progress from older hominin skulls to more recent ones. That’s microevolution happening many times over millions of years. The mechanisms of microevolution may not be the only players, but one or more are certainly involved.

isnt the original idea of ​​evolution about a common decent? After all, Darwin knew nothing about genetics.

It’s also about common descent. But Darwin also wrote on variation subject to natural selection and the long-term effects of this kind of descent with modification on the changes to populations of organisms, that is species.

I wasn’t defining evolution; I was defining microevolution. It’s often used as a definition of evolution, but I wouldn’t. What Darwin knew is hardly relevant in any case.

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(conversation has moved well beyond my naive initial contribution and I’m happy to sit back and learn)

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Stop living in the past. Evolutionary biology has advanced way beyond Darwin.

I didn’t address the question of how or why these terms are used in any culture war. I simply challenged an unqualified statement by Michael Okoko as an accurate characterization of what all evolutionary theorists would claim. My challenge consisted of quoting some evolutionary theorists who differed. I had no other point to make than that.

Thanks for your understanding.

Yes, that was my point. I thought that the first quotation in my column above, from Michael Okoko, was directly claiming, or strongly implying, that all macroevolutionary process is simply prolonged microevolutionary process. My points was that not all evolutionary theorists would agree with that. But when I made that point, Michael Okoko rebuked me, saying, in effect, “Yes, they would.” And that was my protest, not that Michael Okoke’s opinion on micro and macro was wrong, but that he was denying the existence of evolutionary theorists who disagreed with him.

Thanks. I’ll take even left-handed compliments here, when I can get them. :smile:

Yes, I agree.

Yes, thank you. I was merely reporting that some theorists deem this an open question, whereas Michael Okoko conveyed the impression that none did.

Agreed; thank you. I have noticed a tendency of some writers to speak as if the phrase “evolutionary theory” is copyrighted by population geneticists, and that they are the final arbiters of what counts as evolutionary theory.

I’m glad you think the distinction is real; it would be interesting if you would explain the term “neontology” as you use it. It’s a new term to me, and I suspect to some other readers here.

Yes, but note that Erwin and Valentine, in the passage quoted, indicate their view that such linear, additive processes do not seem to explain the Cambrian explosion.

It’s quite obvious that some long-term evolutionary change can be seen as small evolutionary change added up. I did not contest that. So, if you had written, “In many cases, macroevolutionary change is simply the result of microevolutionary change sustained for a long time,” I wouldn’t have objected. But you didn’t have the qualifier, “In many cases.” You had:

“Macroevolution is microevolution plus microevolution plus microevolution plus plenty time.”

Full stop. No qualifications. See your Post 1034 out of 1043 at:

It was that unqualified statement that I have been protesting. This should have been clear from the fact that it is the very first statement quoted from you in my column above.

Do you now agree that your statement:

“Macroevolution is microevolution plus microevolution plus microevolution plus plenty time”

lacks necessary qualifications, and would not be agreed to by all evolutionary biologists?

If you agree with that, then we have solved the problem raised by my column above, and can end the discussion peacefully.

It’s a term paleontologists use to describe biologists who aren’t paleontologists. People who work not with fossils but with extant organisms.

This is not entirely accurate. Evolution is not always linear, neither is it always additive.

In addition, Erwin and Valentine are not saying mechanisms of microevolution do not explain events of the Cambrian, they argue that it is inadequate which is different from what you wrote.

Oh, I see it now. Paleo vs. neo. Thanks.

Yeah. I was sloppy there. But you didn’t need to start a new thread on it, since I had later given the accurate qualifications. Maybe you didn’t read my later comments. Its cool though.


I did read all your later posts, but I must have missed the sentences where you qualified the original statements. Sorry about that. It would have been good if you had explicitly stated that you were modifying your statement, so that I’d have been less likely to miss the change.

If an explanation is inadequate, then it’s not a true explanation. If I say that the American Revolution was caused entirely by a tea tax, when in fact there were more causes, and deeper causes, then my explanation is not the true explanation. If what are normally called microevolutionary processes, the sort of processes studied by population geneticists, are, while necessary, yet not sufficient to explain the Cambrian explosion, and someone says that they are sufficient (if they carry on for a long enough time), that person is (according to the authors whose views I’m reporting) offering an inadequate and therefore incorrect explanation.

I don’t want to split hairs over mere words here, such as “adequate” or “explanation”, but the point is that, for people like Erwin and Valentine, Koonin, etc., the mode of evolutionary theorizing worked out by Mayr, Dobzhansky, etc. just is not adequate to explain the rise of major new organismal form. And the short form for saying this is that macroevolution is not just repeated rounds of microevolution, but involves higher-level activity of a type that traditional microevolutionary theory is not equipped to explain. That’s apparently the view of a number of theorists. I’m not asking you to agree with it. But it is their view. That’s all I wanted to point out. I think we now understand each other, so I’ll let this go.

This is not true. If an explanation is inadequate, then its inadequate, but it can be true or false and microevolution is true.

Mendel’s Law of Independent Assortment demonstrates this. The law beautifully explains how different alleles of a gene are independently allocated to gametes. However, it is inadequate to explain the transmission of linked genes. When this was discovered, no one said Mendel’s law was not a true explanation, but that it didn’t apply to all cases of heredity. That is, it was inadequate, but still correct.

The mechanisms of microevolution can explain some microevolutionary patterns, but it is not enough. Its an inadequate explanation, but its correct.


Are Erwin and Valentine and Koonin talking about species selection? If they are, your characterization of the inadequacy of microevolution to explain “the rise of major new organismal form” is simply false.

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Read the quotation I gave at the top of this page. Since they are trying to account for “the events of the Cambrian” (i.e., the sudden – in geological terms – appearance of most of the major phyla), I don’t think they are talking about “species selection.” But if in doubt, you can read their work for more details.

The point is not whether any of these people are right. I’m not undertaking to defend them. The point is that they do say what (at least initially) Michael Okoko told us that no evolutionary biologist has said. It was a very, very small point I was trying to make. It’s amazing how, on this site, very, very small points get blown up into major debates – when the person making the small point is perceived of as either an ID proponent or a creationist. If John Harshman had made the same point before I did, I suspect that it would have drawn very little conversation or dispute.

I said I didn’t want to quarrel over mere words. If you want to say that an inadequate explanation can be “partly true”, and therefore not “false,” I won’t get into a nit-picking fight about it. And of course the people I was referring to accept that microevolution operates, modifying creatures and adapting them to their environments. But they are unconvinced that those mechanisms have much to do with major changes. Your original statement – before you modified it – is regarded as false by a number of evolutionary theorists, who deny that macroevolution is just microevolution repeated many times. They would say that that statement is not even approximately true. If you doubt me, just read what they have written.

I was not picking on your statement for the joy of “catching you out.” I have seen the statement that you made – or words meaning exactly the same thing – many, many times on these sites where people debate over origins. It seems that a number of defenders of evolution – at least the defenders who post on blog sites – understand evolution solely in terms of classical population genetics, and haven’t yet become aware that a number of evolutionary theorists have suggested that classical population genetics, while excellent for understanding speciation and adaptation, may be seriously misleading as an explanation for major evolutionary change. I just wanted to make some readers here aware of the existence of this difference of opinion. I’ve accomplished this; the readers here now have some names (to which I can add the name of Ron Amundson) which they can follow up if they choose.

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You mean how alleles of different genes are independently allocated.

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