Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould

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John Maynard Smith, an eminent British evolutionary biologist, was among Gould's strongest critics. Maynard Smith thought that Gould misjudged the vital role of adaptation in biology, and was also critical of Gould's acceptance of species selection as a major component of biological evolution. [John Maynard Smith, 1981. "Did Darwin get it right?" "The London Review of Books." 3 (11): 10-11; Also reprinted in "Did Darwin Get it Right?" New York: Chapman and Hall, 1989, pp. 148-156.] In a review of Daniel Dennett's book "Darwin's Dangerous Idea", Maynard Smith wrote that Gould "is giving non-biologists a largely false picture of the state of evolutionary theory." [cite journal | first = John Maynard | last = Smith | year = 1995 | url = | title = Genes, Memes, & Minds | journal = The New York Review of Books | volume = 42 | pages = 46–48] But Maynard Smith has not been consistently negative, writing in a review of "The Panda's Thumb" that "Stephen Gould is the best writer of popular science now active. . . . Often he infuriates me, but I hope he will go right on writing essays like these." [cite journal | first = John Maynard | last = Smith | year = 1981 | title = Review of "The Panda's Thumb | publisher = The London Review of Books | pages = 17–30; reprinted as "Tinkering" cite book |author=Smith, John Bernhard |title=Did Darwin Get It Right?: Essays on Games, Sex and Evolution |publisher=Springer |location=Berlin |year= |pages= |isbn=0-412-03821-8 |oclc= |doi=, p. 94, 97.] Maynard Smith was also among those who welcomed Gould's reinvigoration of evolutionary paleontology.

One reason for such criticism was that Gould appeared to be presenting his ideas as a revolutionary way of understanding evolution, and he argued for the importance of mechanisms other than natural selection, mechanisms which he believed had been sidelined by other researchers. As a result, many non-specialists sometimes inferred from his early writings that Darwinian explanations had been proven to be unscientific (which Gould never tried to imply). Along with many other researchers in the field, Gould's works were sometimes deliberately taken out of context by creationists as a "proof" that scientists no longer understood how organisms evolved. Wright, Robert. 1999. [ "The Accidental Creationist: Why Stephen J. Gould is bad for evolution."] "The New Yorker" 13. Dec: 56-65.] Gould himself corrected some of these misinterpretations and distortions of his writings in later works. [Stephen Jay Gould, [ "Evolution as fact and theory"] "Discover" 2 (May 1981): 34-37.] .

Opposition to sociobiology and evolutionary psychology

Gould also had a long-running public feud with E. O. Wilson and other evolutionary biologists over human sociobiology and its descendant evolutionary psychology, which Gould, Lewontin, and Maynard Smith opposed, but which Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Steven Pinker advocated. Gould and Dawkins also disagreed over the importance of gene selection in evolution. Dawkins argued that evolution is best understood as competition among genes (or replicators), while Gould advocated the importance of multi-level competition, including selection amongst genes, cell lineages, organisms, demes, species, and clades. Criticism of Gould can be found in chapter 9 of Dawkins' "The Blind Watchmaker" and chapter 10 of Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea". Dennett's criticism has tended to be harsher, while Dawkins praises Gould in evolutionary topics other than those of contention. Pinker accuses Gould, Lewontin and other opponents of evolutionary psychology of being "radical scientists", whose stance on human nature is influenced by politics rather than science. [ cite book |author=Pinker, Steven |title=The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature |publisher=Penguin Books |location=New York |year= |pages= |isbn=0142003344 |oclc= |doi= | authorlink = Steven Pinker] Gould contended that sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists are often heavily influenced, perhaps unconsciously, by their own prejudices and interests. cite journal | author = Gould, S.J. | year = 1997 | title = Evolution: The pleasures of pluralism | journal = The New York Review of Books | volume = 44 | issue = 11 | pages = 47–52 | url = | accessdate = 2007-11-16] He wrote:

Cambrian fauna

Gould's interpretation of the Cambrian Burgess Shale fossils in his book "Wonderful Life" emphasized the striking morphological disparity (or "weirdness") of the Burgess Shale fauna, and the role of chance in determining which members of this fauna survived and flourished. He used the Cambrian fauna as an example of the role of contingency in the broader pattern of evolution.

Gould's view was criticized by Simon Conway Morris in his 1998 book "The Crucible Of Creation". cite journal | author = Conway Morris, S. | year = 1998 | title = Showdown on the Burgess Shale | journal = Natural History | volume = 107 | pages = 48–55 | url = ] Conway Morris stressed those members of the Cambrian fauna that resemble modern taxa. He also promoted convergent evolution as a mechanism producing similar forms to similar environmental circumstances, and argued in a subsequent book that the appearance of human-like animals is likely. Paleontologists Derek Briggs and Richard Fortey have also argued that much of the Cambrian fauna may be regarded as stem groups of living taxa [cite journal | author = Briggs, D. & Fortey, R. | year = 2005 | title = Wonderful strife: systematics, stem groups, and the phylogenetic signal of the Cambrian radiation | journal = Paleobiology | pages = 94–112 | doi = 10.1666/0094-8373(2005)031 [0094:WSSSGA] 2.0.CO;2 | volume = 31 | issue = 2 (suppl.).] , though this is still a subject of intense research and debate, and the relationship of many Cambrian taxa to modern phyla has not been established in the eyes of many palaeontologists.

Paleontologist Richard Fortey noted that prior to the release of "Wonderful Life", Conway Morris shared many of Gould's sentiments and views. It was only after publication of "Wonderful Life" that Conway Morris revised his interpretation and adopted a more progressive stance towards the history of life. [cite journal | author = Fortey, R. | year = 1998 | url = | title = Shock Lobsters | journal = London Review of Books | volume = 20 ] .

"Mismeasure of Man"

Stephen Jay Gould was also the author of "The Mismeasure of Man" (1981), a history and skeptical inquiry of psychometrics and intelligence testing. Gould investigated nineteenth century craniometry, as well as modern-day psychological testing, and claimed that they developed from an unfounded faith in biological determinism. It was reprinted in 1996 with the addition of a new foreword, plus a review and critique of "The Bell Curve".

"The Mismeasure of Man" has generated perhaps the greatest controversy of all of Gould's books, and has received both widespread praise (by skeptics) and extensive criticism (by certain psychologists), including claims of misrepresentation by some scientists.cite journal | author = Jensen, A. | year = 1982 | title = The Debunking of Scientific Fossils and Straw Persons | journal = Contemporary Education | volume = 1 | issue = 2 | pages = 121–135 | url = | accessdate = 2008-09-11]

Nonoverlapping Magisteria (NOMA)

In his book "Rocks of Ages" (1999), Gould put forward what he described as "a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution to ... the supposed conflict between science and religion." cite book |author=Gould, Stephen Jay |title=Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life |publisher=Ballantine Books |location= [New York |year= |pages= |isbn=034545040X |oclc= |doi=] He defines the term "magisterium" as "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution" and the NOMA principle is "the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty)."

In his view, "Science and religion do not glower at each other... [but] interdigitate in patterns of complex fingering, and at every fractal scale of self-similarity." He suggests, with examples, that "NOMA enjoys strong and fully explicit support, even from the primary cultural stereotypes of hard-line traditionalism" and that it is "a sound position of general consensus, established by long struggle among people of goodwill in both magisteria."

Also in 1999, the National Academy of Sciences adopted a similar stance. Its publication "Science and Creationism" stated that "Scientists, like many others, are touched with awe at the order and complexity of nature. Indeed, many scientists are deeply religious. But science and religion occupy two separate realms of human experience. Demanding that they be combined detracts from the glory of each." [cite web | publisher = NAS | year = 1999 | url = | title = Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences | author = Steering Committee on Science and Creationism, National Academy of Sciences |accessdate = 2007-11-16]

Richard Dawkins has criticized the NOMA principle on the grounds that religion does not, and cannot, steer clear of the material scientific matters that Gould considers outside religion's scope. Dawkins argues that " [a] universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. [...] Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims." These "existence claims" include miracles such as the Catholic Assumption of Mary: whether Mary's body decayed when she died or was physically lifted to Heaven is a material fact, and thus outside the moral magisterium to which NOMA would limit religion. [cite web | publisher = Free Inquiry | year = 1998 | url = | title = When Religion Steps on Science's Turf | author = Richard Dawkins | accessdate = 2008-09-13]



External links

* [ The Unofficial Stephen Jay Gould Archive]
* [ Excerpts from Gould Lectures at Stanford University]
* [ Richard C. Lewontin sums up Gould's career in an obituary]
* [ "Darwinian Fundamentalism"] - Gould's response to Daniel Dennett and other critics
* [ McLean v. Arkansas Creationism Trial] - Plaintiff's transcript of Gould's testimony
* [ Stephen Jay Gould] "Charlie Rose" interviews

NAME= Gould, Stephen Jay
SHORT DESCRIPTION=American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science
DATE OF BIRTH=September 10, 1941
PLACE OF BIRTH=New York City, New York
DATE OF DEATH=May 20, 2002

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