CBC Digital Archives

Evolution alternatives

The year 1809 was remarkable for producing figures of great historical importance, including Lincoln, Chopin, Poe, Braille, Tennyson and many others. But no other figure produced as dramatic an effect on society as the English naturalist Charles Darwin. His groundbreaking theory of evolution had a major impact on religion, education, history and our conception of humankind. Now, 200 years after his birth and 150 years since the publication of The Origin of Species, the CBC Digital Archives looks at the history of Darwin, his controversial theory and the ways in which his thoughts still affect the world.

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Secular scientists generally agree that humankind reached its current state through a process of evolution. What is not readily agreed upon is exactly how that evolution took place. This 1981 episode of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks gives air to the arguments for "gradualism" versus "punctuated equilibrium," two of the prevailing theories of how evolution occurred.
• The theory of evolution by punctuated equilibrium - meaning that humans evolved in uneven and dramatic changes - led opponents to brand it with the derisive double entendre of "evolution by jerks."

• In response, the opposing theory of gradualism - being that humans evolved smoothly and steadily over time - has been dubbed "evolution by creeps."

• Harvard scientist Stephen Jay Gould, a guest in this clip, was among the best-known and most widely read scientists of the 20th century. He wrote 20 books and received 44 honorary degrees from universities in England, Canada and the U.S. His fame was such that he also made a guest appearance on a 1997 episode of The Simpsons, one of just two scientists to ever appear on the show (the other being Stephen Hawking).

Medium: Radio
Program: Quirks & Quarks
Broadcast Date: Dec. 19, 1981
Guest(s): Niles Eldridge, Stephen Jay Gould, Michael Ruse, Chris Stringer
Host: Jay Ingram
Duration: 16:10

Last updated: February 8, 2012

Page consulted on July 7, 2014

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