As a follow up to the discussion of Gould (1980), and perhaps as a prelude to a similar post on Gould (1982) (if I get time and feel inclined), here is a convenient excerpt from Gould (2002) on this subject:
The “Urban Legend” of Punctuated Equilibrium’s Threefold History: The opponents of punctuated equilibrium have constructed a fictional history of the theory, primarily (I suppose) as a largely unconscious expression of their hope for its minor importance […] This supposed threefold history of punctuated equilibrium also ranks about as close to pure fiction as any recent commentary by scientists has ever generated. In stage one, the story goes, we were properly modest, obedient to the theoretical hegemony of the Modern Synthesis, and merely trying to bring paleontology into the fold. But the prospect of worldly fame beguiled us, so we broke our ties of fealty and tried, in stage two, to usurp power by painting punctuated equilibrium as a revolutionary doctrine that would dethrone the Synthesis, resurrect the memory of the exiled martyr (Richard Goldschmidt), and reign over a reconstructed realm of theory. But we were too big for our breeches, and the old guard still retained some life. They fought back mightily and effectively, exposing our bombast and emptiness. We began to hedge, retreat, and apologize, and have been doing so ever since in an effort to regain grace and, chastened in stage three, to sit again, in heaven or Valhalla, with the evolutionary elite.
In particular, and most offensive to me, the urban legend rests on the false belief that radical, “middle-period” punctuated equilibrium became a saltational theory wedded to Goldschmidt’s hopeful monsters as a mechanism. I have labored to refute this nonsensical charge from the day I first heard it. But my efforts are doomed within the self-affirming structure of the urban legend. We all know, for so the legend proclaims, that I once took the Goldschmidtian plunge. So if I ever deny the link, I can only be retreating from an embarrassing error. And if I, continue to deny the link with force and gusto, well, then I am only backtracking even harder (into stage 3) and apologizing (or obfuscating) all the more. How about the obvious (and accurate) alternative: that we never made the Goldschmidtian link; that this common error embodies a false construction; and that our efforts at correction have always represented an honorable attempt to relieve the confusion of others.
[Read the rest here].