Thursday, April 4, 2013

Punctuated Political Equilibrium

Caption: Stephen Jay Gould. I'm not sure that he wanted his work applied to the sphere of politics, but it could be.

Image credit: Kathy Chapman/Wikimedia

Too bad Stephen Jay Gould didn't manage to live long enough to see this:

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson reversed his opposition to gay marriage on Thursday, joining a swell of moderate Democrats to do so recently as public support for gay marriage has grown.

Bill Nelson reverses opposition to gay marriage

Which, when you add it to the recent conversions of Republican Senators Rob Portman and Mark Kirk (IL), and Democratic Senators Tom Carper (DE), Bob Casey (PA), and Kay Hagan (NC), looks like there's a whole lot of evolution going on regarding this issue.

Back in the 1980s, Dr. Gould had proposed that evolution happens mostly in spurts, when something in the ecosystem changes. That idea was known as punctuated equilibrium. Many other biologists, Richard Dawkins being one of the more prominent, felt that this wasn't true, that evolution is just something that mostly happens gradually.

At least in the case of political ecosystems, it looks like Gould was right. Folks sure are evolving quickly, now that the ecosystem has changed.

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