The title of Richard Bateman's upcoming lecture is "Gradualism: Darwin's big mistake?".Kevin Padian has pounded this myth before, too.
I may be jumping the gun, the question mark hints at a lecture debunking this myth (though the abstract suggests something else), but I can't help but express some frustration over the habit of evolutionary biologists of enhancing their research programs (or presidential lectures) by claiming to address mistakes or solve difficulties in the Origin of Species.
Darwin had no problem with rapid evolution.
Page 148: ".... a new and improved variety might be quickly formed on any one spot, ...."
Page 310: "I may here recall a remark formerly made, namely that it might require a long succession of ages to adapt an organism to some new and peculiar line of life, for instance to fly through the air; but when this had been effected, and a few species had thus acquired a great advantage over other organisms, a comparatively short time would be necessary to produce many divergent forms, which would be able to spread rapidly and widely throughout the world."
Page 318: "There is some reason to believe that organisms, considered high in the scale of nature, change more quickly than those that are low: ...."
And then there's the first chapter, Variation under domestication. It sets up the whole argument and it is a discussion about variation between different sheep herds and about dog breeds. Darwin remarks (page 93) that "King Charles's spaniel has been unconsciously modified to a large extent since the time of that monarch".
Let's give the man a little rope. The common view in 1859, according to Darwin, was the immutability of species. That gradualism was emphasized shouldn't be surprising in this context.
9 December 2009 - 6.00pm
The President's Talk
Professor Richard Bateman, RBG Kew
Gradualism: Darwin's greatest mistake?
The Linnean Society, Burlington House, London, UK