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The Promise of Paleobiology as a Nomothetic, Evolutionary Discipline

Stephen Jay Gould
Paleobiology
Vol. 6, No. 1 (Winter, 1980), pp. 96-118
Published by: Paleontological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2400239
Page Count: 23
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The Promise of Paleobiology as a Nomothetic, Evolutionary Discipline
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Abstract

During the past 20 years, paleobiology has established the foundations of a nomothetic science based upon evolutionary theory. This radical break with a past philosophy based on irreducible historical uniqueness is still impeded by (1) overreliance upon the inductivist methodology that embodied this previous philosophy, and (2) an unadventurous approach to biology that attempts passively to transfer the orthodoxies of microevolutionary theory across vast stretches of time and several levels of a hierarchy into the domain of macroevolution. I analyze the major trends of recent invertebrate paleobiology in the light of these two impediments. The formulation, by paleobiologists and with paleobiological data, of new macroevolutionary theories should end the subservience of passive transfer and contribute, in turn, to the formulation of a new, general theory of evolution that recognizes hierarchy and permits a set of unifying principles to work differently at various levels.

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