Stephen Jay Gould
|Stephen Jay Gould|
|Born||September 10, 1941
Queens, New York City, New York
|Died||May 20, 2002 (aged 60)
|Fields||Paleontology, Evolutionary biology, History of Science|
American Museum of Natural History,
New York University
|Alma mater||Antioch College, Columbia University|
|Notable awards||Linnean Society of London's Darwin-Wallace Medal (2008)
Paleontological Society Medal (2002)
Charles Schuchert Award (1975)
Stephen Jay Gould (September 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002) was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation. Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In the latter years of his life, Gould also taught biology and evolution at New York University near his home in SoHo.
Gould's greatest contribution to science was the theory of punctuated equilibrium which he developed with Niles Eldredge in 1972. The theory proposes that most evolution is marked by long periods of evolutionary stability, which is punctuated by rare instances of branching evolution. The theory was contrasted against phyletic gradualism, the popular idea that evolutionary change is marked by a pattern of smooth and continuous change in the fossil record.
Most of Gould's empirical research was based on the land snails Poecilozonites and Cerion. He also contributed to evolutionary developmental biology, and has received wide praise for his book Ontogeny and Phylogeny. In evolutionary theory he opposed strict selectionism, sociobiology as applied to humans, and evolutionary psychology. He campaigned against creationism and proposed that science and religion should be considered two distinct fields, or "magisteria", whose authorities do not overlap.
Many of Gould's Natural History essays were reprinted in collected volumes, such as Ever Since Darwin and The Panda's Thumb, while his popular treatises included books such as The Mismeasure of Man, Wonderful Life and Full House.
Gould was born and raised in the community of Bayside, a quiet suburb located in the Queens borough of New York City. His father Leonard was a court stenographer, and his mother Eleanor was an artist. When Gould was five years old, his father took him to the Hall of Dinosaurs in the American Museum of Natural History, where he first encountered Tyrannosaurus rex. "I had no idea there were such things–I was awestruck," Gould once recalled. It was in that moment that he decided to become a paleontologist.
Raised in a secular Jewish home, Gould did not formally practice religion and preferred to be called an agnostic. Though he "had been brought up by a Marxist father," he has stated that his father's politics were "very different" from his own. In describing his own political views he has said they "tend to the left of center." According to Gould the most influential political books he read were C. Wright Mills' The Power Elite and the political writings of Noam Chomsky.
While attending Antioch College in the early 1960s, Gould was active in the civil rights movement and often campaigned for social justice. When he attended the University of Leeds as a visiting undergraduate, he organized weekly demonstrations outside a Bedford dance hall which refused to admit Blacks. Gould continued these demonstrations until the policy was revoked. Throughout his career and writings he spoke out against cultural oppression in all its forms, especially what he saw as pseudoscience used in the service of racism and sexism.
Gould was twice married. His first marriage was to artist Deborah Lee on October 3, 1965. Gould met Lee while they were students together at Antioch College. They had two sons, Jesse and Ethan. His second marriage was in 1995 to artist and sculptor Rhonda Roland Shearer who was the mother of two sons, Jade and London, and are stepsons of Gould.
In July 1982, Gould was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer affecting the abdominal lining and frequently found in people who have been exposed to asbestos. After a difficult two-year recovery, Gould published a column for Discover magazine, titled "The Median Isn't the Message", which discusses his reaction to discovering that mesothelioma patients had a median lifespan of only eight months after diagnosis. He then describes the true significance behind this number, and his relief upon realizing that statistical averages are just useful abstractions, and do not encompass the full range of variation.
The median is the halfway point, which means that 50% of patients will die before 8 months, but the other half will live longer, potentially much longer. He then needed to determine where his personal characteristics placed him within this range. Considering that the cancer was detected early, the fact he was young, optimistic, and had the best treatments available, Gould figured that he should be in the favorable half of the upper statistical range. After an experimental treatment of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, Gould made a full recovery, and his column became a source of comfort for many cancer patients.
Gould was also an advocate for medical marijuana. During this bout with cancer, he smoked the illegal drug to alleviate the nausea associated with his medical treatments. According to Gould, his use of marijuana had a "most important effect" on his eventual recovery. In 1998 he testified in the case of Jim Wakeford, a Canadian medical-marijuana user and activist.
His scientific essays for Natural History frequently refer to his nonscientific interests and pastimes. As a boy he collected baseball cards and remained a fiercely avid baseball fan throughout his life. As an adult he was fond of science fiction movies but often lamented about their mediocrity (not just in their presentation of science, but in their storytelling as well). His other interests included singing in the Boston Cecilia (a madrigal choir), and he was a great aficionado of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. He collected rare antiquarian books and textbooks. He often traveled to Europe, and spoke French, German, Russian, and Italian. He admired Renaissance architecture. When discussing the Judeo-Christian tradition, he usually referred to it simply as "Moses". He sometimes alluded ruefully to his tendency to put on weight.
Gould died on May 20, 2002 from a metastatic adenocarcinoma of the lung, a form of cancer which had spread to his brain. This cancer was unrelated to his abdominal cancer, from which he had fully recovered twenty years earlier. He died in his home "in a bed set up in the library of his SoHo loft, surrounded by his wife Rhonda, his mother Eleanor, and the many books he loved."
Gould began his higher education at Antioch College, graduating with double major in geology and philosophy in 1963. During this time, he also studied abroad at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. After completing his graduate work at Columbia University in 1967 under the guidance of Norman Newell, he was immediately hired by Harvard University where he worked until the end of his life (1967–2002). In 1973, Harvard promoted him to Professor of Geology and Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology at the institution's Museum of Comparative Zoology.
In 1982, Harvard awarded him with the title of Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology. The following year, in 1983, he was awarded fellowship into the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where he later served as president (1999–2001). The AAAS news release cited his "numerous contributions to both scientific progress and the public understanding of science." He also served as president of the Paleontological Society (1985–1986) and the Society for the Study of Evolution (1990–1991).
In 1989 Gould was elected into the body of the National Academy of Sciences. Through 1996–2002 Gould was Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University. In 2001 the American Humanist Association named him the Humanist of the Year for his lifetime of work. In 2008, he was posthumously awarded the Darwin-Wallace Medal, along with 12 other recipients. Until 2008, this medal had been awarded every 50 years by the Linnean Society of London.
Early in his career, Gould and Niles Eldredge developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium, in which evolutionary change occurs relatively rapidly, as compared to longer periods of relative evolutionary stability. According to Gould, punctuated equilibrium revised a key pillar "in the central logic of Darwinian theory." Some evolutionary biologists have argued that while punctuated equilibrium was "of great interest to biology," it merely modified neo-Darwinism in a manner that was fully compatible with what had been known before. Others however emphasized its theoretical novelty, and argued that evolutionary stasis had been "unexpected by most evolutionary biologists" and "had a major impact on paleontology and evolutionary biology."
Some critics jokingly referred to the theory as "evolution by jerks," which elicited Gould to respond in kind by describing gradualism as "evolution by creeps."
Gould made significant contributions to evolutionary developmental biology, especially in his work Ontogeny and Phylogeny. In this book he emphasized the process of heterochrony, which encompasses two distinct processes: pedomorphosis and terminal additions. Pedomorphosis is the process where ontogeny is slowed down and the organism does not reach the end of its development. Terminal addition is the process by which an organism adds to its development by speeding and shortening earlier stages in the developmental process. Gould's influence in the field of evolutionary developmental biology continues to be seen, such areas as the evolution of feathers.
Gould championed biological constraints such as the limitations of developmental pathways on evolutionary outcomes, as well as other non-selectionist forces in evolution. In particular, he considered many higher functions of the human brain to be the unintended side consequence or by-product of natural selection, rather than direct adaptations. To describe such co-opted features he coined the term exaptation with Elisabeth Vrba. Gould believed this understanding undermines an essential premise of human sociobiology and evolutionary psychology.
In 1975, E. O. Wilson introduced his analysis of human behavior based on a sociobiological framework. In response, Gould, Richard Lewontin and others from the Boston area wrote the subsequently well referenced letter to The New York Review of Books titled "Against 'Sociobiology'". This open letter criticised Wilson's notion of a "deterministic view of human society and human action."
But Gould did not rule out sociobiological explanations for many aspects of animal behavior, writing: "Sociobiologists have broadened their range of selective stories by invoking concepts of inclusive fitness and kin selection to solve (successfully I think) the vexatious problem of altruism–previously the greatest stumbling block to a Darwinian theory of social behavior. . . . Here sociobiology has had and will continue to have success. And here I wish it well. For it represents an extension of basic Darwinism to a realm where it should apply."
With Richard Lewontin, Gould wrote an influential 1979 paper entitled "The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm", which introduced the architectural term "spandrel" into evolutionary biology. In architecture, a spandrel is a curved area of masonry which exists between arches supporting a dome. Spandrels, also called pendentives in this context, are found particularly in gothic churches.
When visiting Venice in 1978, Gould noted that the spandrels of the San Marco cathedral, while quite beautiful, were not spaces planned by the architect. Rather the spaces arise as "necessary architectural byproducts of mounting a dome on rounded arches." Gould and Lewontin thus defined spandrels in evolutionary biology to mean any biological feature of an organism that arises as a necessary side consequence of other features, which is not directly selected for by natural selection. Examples include the "masculinized genitalia in female hyenas, exaptive use of an umbilicus as a brooding chamber by snails, the shoulder hump of the giant Irish deer, and several key features of human mentality."
In Voltaire's Candide, Dr. Pangloss is portrayed as a clueless scholar who, despite the evidence, says that "all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds." Gould and Lewontin asserted that it is Panglossian for evolutionary biologists to view all traits as atomized things that had been naturally selected for, and criticised biologists for not granting theoretical space to other causes, such as phyletic and developmental constraints. The relative frequency of spandrels, so defined, versus adaptive features in nature, remains a controversial topic in evolutionary biology. An illustrative example of Gould's approach can be found in Elisabeth Lloyd's case study of the female orgasm as a by-product of shared developmental pathways. Gould also wrote on this topic in his essay "Male Nipples and Clitoral Ripples", prompted by Lloyd's earlier work.
Gould favored the argument that evolution has no inherent drive towards long-term progress. Uncritical commentaries often portray evolution as a ladder of progress, leading towards bigger, faster, and smarter organisms, the assumption being that evolution is somehow driving organisms to get more complex and ultimately more like humankind. Gould argued that evolution's drive was not towards complexity, but towards diversification. Because life is constrained to begin with a simple starting point, any diversity resulting from this left wall will be perceived to move in the direction of higher complexity. But life, Gould argued, can easily adapt towards simplification, as is often the case with parasites.
In a review of Full House, Richard Dawkins approved of Gould's general argument, but suggested that he saw evidence of a "tendency for lineages to improve cumulatively their adaptive fit to their particular way of life, by increasing the numbers of features which combine together in adaptive complexes. ... By this definition, adaptive evolution is not just incidentally progressive, it is deeply, dyed-in-the wool, indispensably progressive."
Gould never embraced cladistics as a method of investigating evolutionary lineages and process, possibly because he was concerned that such investigations would lead to neglect of the details in historical biology, which he considered all-important. In the early 1990s this led him into a debate with Derek Briggs, who had begun to apply quantitative cladistic techniques to the Burgess Shale fossils, about the methods to be used in interpreting these fossils. Around this time cladistics rapidly became the dominant method of classification in evolutionary biology. Cheap but increasingly powerful personal computers made it possible to process large quantities of data about organisms and their characteristics. Around the same time the development of effective polymerase chain reaction techniques made it possible to apply cladistic methods of analysis to biochemical features as well.
Most of Gould's empirical research pertained to land snails. He focused his early work on the Bermudian genus Poecilozonites, while his later work concentrated on the West Indian genus Cerion. According to Gould "Cerion is the land snail of maximal diversity in form throughout the entire world. There are 600 described species of this single genus. In fact, they're not really species, they all interbreed, but the names exist to express a real phenomenon which is this incredible morphological diversity. Some are shaped like golf balls, some are shaped like pencils.–Now my main subject is the evolution of form, and the problem of how it is that you can get this diversity amid so little genetic difference, so far as we can tell, is a very interesting one. And if we could solve this we'd learn something general about the evolution of form."
Given Cerion's extensive geographic diversity, Gould later lamented that if Christopher Columbus had only cataloged a single Cerion it would have ended the scholarly debate over which island Columbus had first set foot on America.
Gould is one of the most frequently cited scientists in the field of evolutionary theory. His 1979 "spandrels" paper has been cited more than 3,000 times. In Palaeobiology–the flagship journal of his own speciality–only Charles Darwin and G.G. Simpson have been cited more often. Gould was also a considerably respected historian of science. Historian Ronald Numbers has been quoted as saying: "I can't say much about Gould's strengths as a scientist, but for a long time I've regarded him as the second most influential historian of science (next to Thomas Kuhn)."
Shortly before his death, Gould published a long treatise recapitulating his version of modern evolutionary theory: The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (2002).
Gould became widely known through his popular science essays in Natural History magazine and his best-selling books on evolution. Many of his essays were reprinted in collected volumes, such as Ever Since Darwin and The Panda's Thumb, while his popular treatises included books such as The Mismeasure of Man, Wonderful Life and Full House.
A passionate advocate of evolutionary theory, Gould wrote prolifically on the subject, trying to communicate his understanding of contemporary evolutionary biology to a wide audience. A recurring theme in his writings is the history and development of evolutionary, and pre-evolutionary, thought. He was also an enthusiastic baseball fan and made frequent references to the sport in his essays. Many of his baseball essays were anthologized in his posthumously published book Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville (2003).
Although a proud Darwinist, his emphasis was less gradualist and reductionist than most neo-Darwinists. He fiercely opposed many aspects of sociobiology and its intellectual descendant evolutionary psychology. He devoted considerable time to fighting against creationism (and the related constructs Creation science and Intelligent design). Most notably, Gould provided expert testimony against the equal-time creationism law in McLean v. Arkansas. Gould later developed the term "non-overlapping magisteria" (NOMA) to describe how, in his view, science and religion could not comment on each other's realm. Gould went on to develop this idea in some detail, particularly in the books Rocks of Ages (1999) and The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox (2003). In a 1982 essay for Natural History Gould wrote:
Our failure to discern a universal good does not record any lack of insight or ingenuity, but merely demonstrates that nature contains no moral messages framed in human terms. Morality is a subject for philosophers, theologians, students of the humanities, indeed for all thinking people. The answers will not be read passively from nature; they do not, and cannot, arise from the data of science. The factual state of the world does not teach us how we, with our powers for good and evil, should alter or preserve it in the most ethical manner.
Gould also became a noted public face of science, often appearing on television. In 1984 Gould received his own NOVA special on PBS. Other appearances included interviews on CNN's Crossfire, NBC's The Today Show, and regular appearances on the Charlie Rose show. Gould was also a guest in all seven episodes of the Dutch talk-series A Glorious Accident, which he appeared with his good friend Oliver Sacks.
Gould was featured prominently as a guest in Ken Burns' PBS documentary Baseball, as well as PBS's highly produced Evolution series. Gould was also on the Board of Advisers to the influential Children's Television Workshop television show, 3-2-1 Contact, where he made frequent guest appearances.
In 1997 he voiced a cartoon version of himself on the television series The Simpsons. In the episode "Lisa the Skeptic", Lisa finds a skeleton that many people believe is an apocalyptic angel. Lisa contacts Gould and asks him to test the skeleton's DNA. However the fossil is discovered to be a marketing gimmick for a new mall. During production the only phrase Gould objected to was a line in the script that introduced him as the "world's most brilliant paleontologist." In 2002 the show paid tribute to Gould after his death, dedicating the season 13 finale to his memory. Gould had died 2 days before the episode aired.
Gould received many accolades for his scholarly work and popular expositions of natural history, but was not immune from criticism by those in the biological community who felt his public presentations were, for various reasons, out of step with mainstream evolutionary theory. The public debates between Gould's proponents and detractors have been so quarrelsome that they have been dubbed "The Darwin Wars" by several commentators.
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. 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." 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." 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 argued for the importance of mechanisms other than natural selection, mechanisms which he believed had been ignored by many professional evolutionists. 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. Gould himself corrected some of these misinterpretations and distortions of his writings in later works.
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 and his theory of punctuated equilibrium can be found in chapter 9 of Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker and chapter 10 of Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Dawkins subsequently offered a concession via an endnote in a new edition of his book The Selfish Gene, where he states:
p.86 Progressive evolution may be not so much a steady upward climb as a series of discrete steps from stable plateau to stable plateau
This paragraph is a fair summary of one way of expressing the now well-known theory of punctuated equilibrium. I am ashamed to say that, when I wrote my conjecture, I, like many biologists in England at the time, was totally ignorant of that theory, although it had been published three years earlier. I have since, for instance in The Blind Watchmaker, become somewhat petulant - perhaps too much so - over the way the theory of punctuated equilibrium has been oversold. If this has hurt anybody's feelings, I regret it. They may like to note that, at least in 1976, my heart was in the right place.
Gould also had a long-running public feud with E. O. Wilson and other evolutionary biologists over human sociobiology and its later descendant evolutionary psychology (which Gould, Lewontin, and Maynard Smith opposed, but which Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Steven Pinker advocated). These debates reached their climax in the 1970s, and included strong opposition from groups like the Sociobiology Study Group and Science for the People. 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. Gould stated that he made "no attribution of motive in Wilson's or anyone else's case" but cautioned that all human beings are influenced, especially unconsciously, by our personal expectations and biases. He wrote:
I grew up in a family with a tradition of participation in campaigns for social justice, and I was active, as a student, in the civil rights movement at a time of great excitement and success in the early 1960s. Scholars are often wary of citing such commitments. – [but] it is dangerous for a scholar even to imagine that he might attain complete neutrality, for then one stops being vigilant about personal preferences and their influences–and then one truly falls victim to the dictates of prejudice. Objectivity must be operationally defined as fair treatment of data, not absence of preference.
Gould's primary criticism held that human sociobiological explanations lacked evidential support, and argued that adaptive behaviors are frequently assumed to be genetic for no other reason than their supposed universality, or their adaptive nature. Gould emphasized that adaptive behaviors can be passed on through culture as well, and either hypothesis is equally plausible. Gould did not deny the relevance of biology to human nature, but reframed the debate as "biological potentiality vs. biological determinism." Gould stated that the human brain allows for a wide range of behaviors. Its flexibility "permits us to be aggressive or peaceful, dominant or submissive, spiteful or generous– Violence, sexism, and general nastiness are biological since they represent one subset of a possible range of behaviors. But peacefulness, equality, and kindness are just as biological–and we may see their influence increase if we can create social structures that permit them to flourish."
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. Conway Morris stressed those members of the Cambrian fauna that resemble modern taxa. He also promoted convergent evolution as a mechanism producing similar forms in 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, 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.
Stephen Jay Gould was also the author of The Mismeasure of Man (1981), a history and inquiry of psychometrics and intelligence testing. Gould investigated the methods of nineteenth century craniometry, as well as the history of psychological testing. Gould claimed that both theories developed from an unfounded belief in biological determinism, the view that "social and economic differences between human groups–primarily races, classes, and sexes–arise from inherited, inborn distinctions and that society, in this sense, is an accurate reflection of biology."
It was reprinted in 1996 with the addition of a new foreword and a critical review of The Bell Curve. The Mismeasure of Man has generated perhaps the greatest controversy of all of Gould's books. It has received both widespread praise and extensive criticism (by a number of psychologists), which included claims of misrepresentation.
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." He defines the term magisterium as "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution." The non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) principle therefore divides the magisterium of science to cover "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." He suggests that "NOMA enjoys strong and fully explicit support, even from the primary cultural stereotypes of hard-line traditionalism" and that NOMA is "a sound position of general consensus, established by long struggle among people of goodwill in both magisteria." This view has not been without criticism, however. In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins argues that this division is not quite as simple as it seems, as few religions exist without miracles impinging on the scientific magisterium.
During his lifetime, Stephen Jay Gould's publications were numerous. One review of his publications between 1965 and 2000 noted 479 peer-reviewed papers, 22 books, 300 essays, and 101 major book reviews by him. A select number of his papers are listed online
The following is a list of books either written or edited by Stephen Jay Gould, including those published posthumously, after his death in 2002. While some books have been republished at later dates, by multiple publishers, the list below comprises the original publisher and publishing date.
Awards include a National Book Award for The Panda–s Thumb, a National Book Critics Circle Award for The Mismeasure of Man, the Phi Beta Kappa Book Award for Hen–s Teeth and Horse–s Toes, and a Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Wonderful Life, on which Gould commented `close but, as they say, no cigar–. Forty-four honorary degrees and 66 major fellowships, medals, and awards bear witness to the depth and scope of his accomplishments in both the sciences and humanities: Member of the National Academy of Sciences, President and Fellow of AAAS, MacArthur Foundation –genius– Fellowship (in the first group of awardees), Humanist Laureate from the Academy of Humanism, Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fellow of the European Union of Geosciences, Associate of the Musum National D–Histoire Naturelle Paris, the Schuchert Award for excellence in paleontological research, Scientist of the Year from Discover magazine, the Silver Medal from the Zoological Society of London, the Gold Medal for Service to Zoology from the Linnean Society of London, the Edinburgh Medal from the City of Edinburgh, the Britannica Award and Gold Medal for dissemination of public knowledge, Public Service Award from the Geological Society of America, Anthropology in Media Award from the American Anthropological Association, Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers, Distinguished Scientist Award from UCLA, the Randi Award for Skeptic of the Year from the Skeptics Society, and a Festschrift in his honour at Caltech.
It should be noted that Ernst Mayr in this quotation is not speaking of Gould in particular, and does not mention him by name, but is speaking generally of the critics of the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis. Some of the names Tooby and Cosmides cite are also questionable. For example, Mayr, Williams, Hamilton, Dawkins, Wilson, Coyne, and Trivers have shown great respect for Gould as a scientist. In reference to Maynard Smith's comments, Gould writes "Darwinian Fundamentalism" New York Review of Books 44 (June 12, 1997): 34-37:
John Maynard Smith, one of the world's leading evolutionary biologists, recently summarized in the NYRB the sharply conflicting assessments of Stephen Jay Gould: "Because of the excellence of his essays, he has come to be seen by non-biologists as the preeminent evolutionary theorist. In contrast, the evolutionary biologists with whom I have discussed his work tend to see him as a man whose ideas are so confused as to be hardly worth bothering with, but as one who should not be publicly criticized because he is at least on our side against the creationists." (NYRB, Nov. 30th 1995, p. 46). No one can take any pleasure in the evident pain Gould is experiencing now that his actual standing within the community of professional evolutionary biologists is finally becoming more widely known. . . But as Maynard Smith points out, more is at stake. Gould "is giving non-biologists a largely false picture of the state of evolutionary theory"–or as Ernst Mayr says of Gould and his small group of allies–they "quite conspicuously misrepresent the views of [biology's] leading spokesmen." Indeed, although Gould characterizes his critics as "anonymous" and "a tiny coterie," nearly every major evolutionary biologist of our era has weighed in a vain attempt to correct the tangle of confusions that the higher profile Gould has inundated the intellectual world with.* The point is not that Gould is the object of some criticism–so properly are we all–it is that his reputation as a credible and balanced authority about evolutionary biology is non-existent among those who are in a professional position to know. *These include Ernst Mayr, John Maynard Smith, George Williams, Bill Hamilton, Richard Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, Tim Clutton-Brock, Paul Harvey, Brian Charlesworth, Jerry Coyne, Robert Trivers, John Alcock, Randy Thornhill, and many others.
- A false fact can be refuted, a false argument exposed; but how can one respond to a purely ad hominem attack? This harder, and altogether more discouraging, task may best be achieved by exposing internal inconsistency and unfairness of rhetoric. . . . It seems futile to reply to an attack so empty of content, and based only on comments by anonymous critics . . . Instead of responding to Maynard Smith's attack against my integrity and scholarship, citing people unknown and with arguments unmentioned, let me, instead, merely remind him of the blatant inconsistency between his admirable past and lamentable present. Some sixteen years ago he wrote a highly critical but wonderfully supportive review of my early book of essays, The Panda's Thumb, stating: "I hope it will be obvious that my wish to argue with Gould is a compliment, not a criticism." He then attended my series of Tanner Lectures at Cambridge in 1984 and wrote in a report for Nature, and under the remarkable title "Paleontology at the High Table", the kindest and most supportive critical commentary I have ever received. He argued that the work of a small group of American paleobiologists had brought the entire subject back to theoretical centrality within the evolutionary sciences. . . . So we face the enigma of a man who has written numerous articles, amounting to tens of thousands of words, about my work–always strongly and incisively critical, always richly informed (and always, I might add, enormously appreciated by me). But now Maynard Smith needs to canvass unnamed colleagues to find out that my ideas are "hardly worth bothering with." He really ought to be asking himself why he has been bothering about my work so intensely, and for so many years.
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