Famed for both brilliance and arrogance, Dr. Gould was the object of admiration and jealousy, both revered and reviled by colleagues.
Outside of academia, Dr. Gould was almost universally adored by those familiar with his work. In his column in Natural History magazine, he wrote in a voice that combined a learned Harvard professor and a baseball-loving everyman. The Cal Ripken Jr. of essayists, he produced a meditation for each of 300 consecutive issues starting in 1974 and ending in 2001. Many were collected into best-selling books like ''Bully for Brontosaurus.''
Other popular books by Dr. Gould include ''Wonderful Life,'' which examines the evolution of early life as recorded in the fossils of the Burgess Shale, and ''The Mismeasure of Man,'' a rebuttal to what Dr. Gould described as pseudoscientific theories used to defend racist ideologies.
Dr. Gould was born on Sept. 10, 1941, in Queens, the son of Leonard Gould, a court stenographer, and Eleanor Gould, an artist and entrepreneur. Dr. Gould took his first steps toward a career in paleontology as a 5-year-old when he visited the American Museum of Natural History with his father.
''I dreamed of becoming a scientist, in general, and a paleontologist, in particular, ever since the Tyrannosaurus skeleton awed and scared me,'' he once wrote. In an upbringing filled with fossils and the Yankees, he attended P.S. 26 and Jamaica High School. He then enrolled at Antioch College in Ohio, where he received a bachelor's degree in geology in 1963.
In 1967, he received a doctorate in paleontology from Columbia University and went on to teach at Harvard, where he would spend the rest of his career. But it was in graduate school that Dr. Gould and a fellow graduate student, Dr. Eldredge, now a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, began sowing the seeds for the most famous of the still-roiling debates that he is credited with helping to start.
Studying the fossil record, the two students could not find the gradual, continuous change in fossil forms that they were taught was the stuff of evolution. Instead they found sudden appearances of new fossil forms (sudden, that is, on the achingly slow geological time scale) followed by long periods in which these organisms changed little.
Evolutionary biologists had always ascribed such difficulties to the famous incompleteness of the fossil record. But in 1972, the two proposed the theory of punctuated equilibrium, a revolutionary suggestion that the sudden appearances and lack of change were, in fact, real. According to the theory, there are long periods of time, sometimes millions of years, during which species change little, if at all.
Intermittently, new species arise and there is rapid evolutionary change on a geological time scale (still interminably slow on human time scales) resulting in the sudden appearance of new forms in the fossil record. This creates punctuations of rapid change against a backdrop of steady equilibrium, hence the name.
Thirty years later, scientists are still arguing over how often the fossil record shows a punctuated pattern and how such a pattern might arise. Many credit punctuated equilibrium with promoting the flowering of the field of macroevolution, in which researchers study large-scale evolutionary changes, often in a geological time frame.
In 1977, Dr. Gould's book ''Ontogeny and Phylogeny'' drew biologists' attention to the long-ignored relationship between how organisms develop -- that is, how an adult gets built from the starting plans of an egg -- and how they evolve.
''Gould has given biologists a new way to see the organisms they study,'' wrote Dr. Stan Rachootin, an evolutionary biologist at Mount Holyoke College. Many credit the book with helping to inspire the new field of evo-devo, or the study of evolution and development.
Dr. Gould and Dr. Richard Lewontin, also at Harvard, soon elaborated on the importance of how organisms are built, or their architecture, in a famous paper about a feature of buildings known as a spandrel. Spandrels, the spaces above an arch, exist as a necessary outcome of building with arches. In the same way, they argued, some features of organisms exist simply as the result of how an organism develops or is built. Thus researchers, they warned, should refrain from assuming that every feature exists for some adaptive purpose.
In March, Harvard University Press published what Dr. Gould described as his magnum opus, ''The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.'' The book, on which he toiled for decades, lays out his vision for synthesizing Darwin's original ideas and his own major contributions to macroevolutionary theory.
''It is a heavyweight work,'' wrote Dr. Mark Ridley, an evolutionary biologist at University of Oxford in England. And despite sometimes ''almost pathological logorrhea'' at 1,433 pages, Dr. Ridley went on, ''it is still a magnificent summary of a quarter-century of influential thinking and a major publishing event in evolutionary biology.''
Dr. Gould was dogged by vociferous, often high-profile critics. Some argued that his theories, like punctuated equilibrium, were so malleable and difficult to pin down that they were essentially untestable.
After once proclaiming that Dr. Gould had brought paleontology back to the high table of evolutionary theory, Dr. John Maynard Smith, an evolutionary biologist at University of Sussex in England, wrote that other evolutionary biologists ''tend to see him as a man whose ideas are so confused as to be hardly worth bothering with.'' Sometimes these criticisms descended into accusations that were as personal as intellectual. Punctuated equilibrium, for example, has been called ''evolution by jerks.''
Some who study smaller-scale evolution within species, called microevolutionists, reject Dr. Gould's arguments that there are unique features to large-scale evolution, or macroevolution. Instead, they say that macroevolution is nothing more than microevolution played out over long periods. Dr. Gould also had heated battles with sociobiologists, researchers using a particular method of studying animal behavior, and there are many there who reject his ideas as well.
Others criticized him for championing theories that challenge parts of the modern Darwinian framework, an act some see as aiding and abetting creationists. Yet Dr. Gould was a visible opponent of efforts to get evolution out of the classroom.
An entertaining writer credited with saving the dying art form of the scientific essay, Dr. Gould often pulled together unrelated ideas or things. (He began one essay by noting that Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day.) A champion of the underdog (except in his support of the Yankees), he favored theories and scientists that had been forgotten or whose reputations were in disrepair.
Dr. Gould also popularized evolutionary ideas at Harvard, sometimes finding his lecture halls filled to standing-room only. But while his adventures typically took place in the library, colleagues said that Dr. Gould, whose specialty was Cerion land snails in the Bahamas, was also impressive in the field.
Noting that in graduate school Dr. Gould dodged bullets and drug runners to collect specimens of Cerion and their fossils, Dr. Sally Walker, who studies Cerion at the University of Georgia, once said, ''That guy can drive down the left side of the road,'' which is required in the Bahamas, ''then jump out the door and find Cerion when we can't even see it.'' Then, she recalled, this multilingual student of classical music and astronomy and countless other eclectia might joyously break out into Gilbert and Sullivan song.
Dr. Gould is survived by his wife; his mother; his two sons from a previous marriage, Jesse Gould of Cambridge, Mass., and Ethan Gould of Boston; his stepson, Jade Allen of Gainesville, Fla.; and his stepdaughter, London Allen of Manhattan. His previous marriage, to Deborah Lee of Cambridge, ended in divorce.
Dr. Gould had an earlier battle with cancer in 1982. When abdominal mesothelioma was diagnosed, he reacted by dragging himself to Harvard's medical library as soon as he could walk.
In a well-known essay titled, ''The Median is not the Message,'' he described discovering that the median survival time after diagnosis was a mere eight months. Rather than giving up hope, he wrote that he used his knowledge of statistics to translate an apparent death sentence into the hopeful realization that half those in whom the disease was diagnosed survived longer than eight months, perhaps much longer, giving him the strength to fight on.
''When my skein runs out, I hope to face the end calmly and in my own way,'' he wrote. However, ''death is the ultimate enemy -- and I find nothing reproachable in those who rage mightily against the dying of the light.'' He survived the illness through experimental treatment, but died of an unrelated cancer, in a bed in his library among his beloved books.
Dr. Gould received innumerable awards and honors, including a MacArthur ''genius'' grant the first year they were awarded. He served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard and the Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University.
Whether eloquently and forcefully championing new or forgotten ideas or dismantling what he saw as misconceptions, Dr. Gould spent a career trying to shed light on an impossibly wide variety of subjects.
He once wrote, ''I love the wry motto of the Paleontological Society (meant both literally and figuratively, for hammers are the main tool of our trade): Frango ut patefaciam -- I break in order to reveal.''Continue reading the main story
This article is about the paleontologist and science writer. For the science fiction writer, see Steven Gould. For the 19th-century businessman, see Jay Gould.
|Stephen Jay Gould|
|Born||September 10, 1941|
Queens, New York
|Died||May 20, 2002(2002-05-20) (aged 60)|
Manhattan, New York
|Alma mater||Antioch College(BA),|
University of Leeds,
|Known for||Punctuated equilibrium|
|Spouse(s)||Deborah Lee (1965–1995; divorced; 2 children)|
Rhonda Roland Shearer (1995–2002; his death; 2 stepchildren)
|Awards||Linnean Society of London's Darwin–Wallace Medal (2008)|
Paleontological Society Medal (2002)
St. Louis Literary Award (1994)
Sue Tyler Friedman Medal (1989)
Charles Schuchert Award (1975)
Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science (twice – 1983, 1990)
National Book Award
National Book Critics Circle Award
|Fields||Paleontology, evolutionary biology, history of science|
American Museum of Natural History,
New York University
|Thesis||Pleistocene and Recent History of the Subgenus Poecilozonites (Poecilozonites) (Gastropoda: Pulmonata) in Bermuda: An Evolutionary Microcosm (1967)|
|Doctoral advisor||R. L. Batten|
Norman D. Newell
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 1996 Gould was hired as the Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University, where he divided his time teaching there and at Harvard.
Gould's most significant contribution to evolutionary biology was the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which he developed with Niles Eldredge in 1972. The theory proposes that most evolution is characterized by long periods of evolutionary stability, which is infrequently punctuated by swift periods of branching speciation. 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 snail genera Poecilozonites and Cerion. He also made important contributions to evolutionary developmental biology, receiving professional recognition 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 "non-overlapping magisteria") whose authorities do not overlap.
Gould was known by the general public mainly for his 300 popular essays in Natural History magazine, and his numerous books written for both the specialist and non-specialist. In April 2000, the US Library of Congress named him a "Living Legend".
Stephen Jay Gould was born and raised in the community of Bayside, a neighborhood in the northeastern section of Queens in New York City. His father Leonard was a court stenographer and a World War II veteran in the United States Navy. His mother Eleanor was an artist, whose parents were Jewish immigrants living and working in the city's Garment District. 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. When asked directly if he was an agnostic in Skeptic magazine, he responded:
If you absolutely forced me to bet on the existence of a conventional anthropomorphic deity, of course I'd bet no. But, basically, Huxley was right when he said that agnosticism is the only honorable position because we really cannot know. And that's right. I'd be real surprised if there turned out to be a conventional God.
Though he "had been brought up by a Marxist father" he 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 Bradford dance hall which refused to admit black people. 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 the pseudoscience used in the service of racism and sexism.
Interspersed throughout his scientific essays for Natural History magazine, Gould frequently referred to his nonscientific interests and pastimes. As a boy he collected baseball cards and remained an avid New York Yankees fan throughout his life. As an adult he was fond of science fiction movies, but often deplored their poor storytelling and presentation of science. His other interests included singing baritone in the Boston Cecilia, and he was a great aficionado of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. He collected rare antiquarian books, possessed an enthusiasm for architecture, and delighted in city walks. He often traveled to Europe, and spoke French, German, Russian, and Italian. He sometimes alluded ruefully to his tendency to put on weight.
Marriage and family
Gould married 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, and were married for 30 years. His second marriage in 1995 was to artist and sculptor Rhonda Roland Shearer.
First bout of cancer
In July 1982 Gould was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer affecting the abdominal lining (the peritoneum). This cancer is frequently found in people who have ingested or inhaled asbestos fibers, a mineral which was used in the construction of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. After a difficult two-year recovery, Gould published a column for Discover magazine titled "The Median Isn't the Message", which discusses his stunned reaction to discovering that, "mesothelioma is incurable, with a median mortality of only eight months after discovery." He then describes the actual significance behind this number, and his relief upon recognizing that statistical averages are merely useful abstractions, and by themselves do not encompass "our actual world of variation, shadings, and continua."
The median is the halfway point, which means that 50% of people will die before eight months, but the other half will live longer, potentially much longer. He then needed to determine where his individual characteristics placed him within this range. Given that his cancer was detected early, he was young, optimistic, and had the best treatments available, Gould reasoned that he likely fell within the favorable tail of a right skewed distribution. 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 of medical cannabis. When undergoing his cancer treatments he smoked marijuana to help alleviate the long periods of intense and uncontrollable nausea. According to Gould, the drug had a "most important effect" on his eventual recovery. He later complained that he could not understand how "any humane person would withhold such a beneficial substance from people in such great need simply because others use it for different purposes." On August 5, 1998 Gould's testimony assisted in the successful lawsuit of HIV activist Jim Wakeford, who sued the Government of Canada for the right to cultivate, possess, and use marijuana for medical purposes.
Final illness and death
On February 2002 a 3-centimetre (1.2 in) lesion was found on Gould's chest radiograph, and oncologists diagnosed him with fourth-stage cancer. Gould died 10 weeks later on May 20, 2002 from a metastaticadenocarcinoma of the lung, an aggressive form of cancer which had already spread to his brain, liver, and spleen. This cancer was unrelated to his previous bout of abdominal cancer in 1982. 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 a double major in geology and philosophy in 1963. During this time, he also studied at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. After completing 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 the title of Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology. The following year, 1983, he was awarded a fellowship at 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 of 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.)
Main article: punctuated equilibrium
Early in his career, Gould and his colleague Niles Eldredge developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which describes the rate of speciation in the fossil record as occurring relatively rapidly, which then alternates to a longer period of evolutionary stability. It was Gould who coined the term "punctuated equilibria" though the theory was originally presented by Eldredge in his doctoral dissertation on Devoniantrilobites and his article published the previous year on allopatric speciation.
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 generally," it merely modified neo-Darwinism in a manner that was fully compatible with what had been known before. Other biologists emphasize the theoretical novelty of punctuated equilibrium, and argued that evolutionary stasis had been "unexpected by most evolutionary biologists" and "had a major impact on paleontology and evolutionary biology."
Comparisons were made to George Gaylord Simpson's work in Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1941). However Simpson describes the paleontological record as being characterized by predominantly gradual change (which he termed horotely), though he also documented examples of slow (bradytely), and rapid (tachytely) rates of evolution. Both punctuated equilibrium and phyletic gradualism are not mutually exclusive, and examples of each have been documented in different lineages. The debate between these two models is often misunderstood by non-scientists, and according to Richard Dawkins has been oversold by the media. Some critics jokingly referred to the theory of punctuated equilibrium as "evolution by jerks", which prompted Gould to describe phyletic gradualism as "evolution by creeps."
Evolutionary developmental biology
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: neoteny and terminal additions. Neoteny 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 today in areas such as the evolution of feathers.
Selectionism and sociobiology
Gould was a champion of biological constraints, internal limitations upon developmental pathways, as well as other non-selectionist forces in evolution. Rather than direct adaptations, he considered many higher functions of the human brain to be the unintended side consequence of natural selection. To describe such co-opted features, he coined the term exaptation with paleontologist Elisabeth Vrba. Gould believed this feature of human mentality undermines an essential premise of human sociobiology and evolutionary psychology.
In 1975, Gould's Harvard colleague E. O. Wilson introduced his analysis of animal behavior (including human behavior) based on a sociobiological framework that suggested that many social behaviors have a strong evolutionary basis. In response, Gould, Richard Lewontin, and others from the Boston area wrote the subsequently well-referenced letter to The New York Review of Books entitled, "Against 'Sociobiology'". This open letter criticized 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, and later wrote: "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."
Spandrels and the Panglossian paradigm
Further information: Spandrel (biology)
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 triangular space which exists over the haunches of an arch. Spandrels—more often called pendentives in this context—are found particularly in classical architecture, especially Byzantine and Renaissance 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 the evolutionary biology context 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. Proposed 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, insists 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 suggesting that the female orgasm is 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 was criticized by philosopher Dan Dennett for using the term spandrel instead of pendentive, a spandrel that curves across a right angle to support a dome. Robert Mark, a professor of civil engineering at Princeton, offered his expertise in the pages of American Scientist, noting that these definitions are often misunderstood in architectural theory. Mark concluded, "Gould and Lewontin's misapplication of the term spandrel for pendentive perhaps implies a wider latitude of design choice than they intended for their analogy. But Dennett's critique of the architectural basis of the analogy goes even further astray because he slights the technical rationale of the architectural elements in question."
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 (like bacteria), any diversity resulting from this start, by random walk, will have a skewed distribution and therefore be perceived to move in the direction of higher complexity. But life, Gould argued, can also 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. Inexpensive 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 and genetic features as well.
Technical work on land snails
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 catalogued a single Cerion it would have ended the scholarly debate about which island Columbus had first set foot on in 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 5,000 times. In Paleobiology—the flagship journal of his own speciality—only Charles Darwin and George Gaylord 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)."
The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
Shortly before his death, Gould published The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (2002), a long treatise recapitulating his version of modern evolutionary theory. In an interview for the Dutch TV series Of Beauty and Consolation Gould remarked, "In a couple of years I will be able to gather in one volume my view of how evolution works. It is to me a great consolation because it represents the putting together of a lifetime of thinking into one source. That book will never be particularly widely read. It's going to be far too long, and it's only for a few thousand professionals—very different from my popular science writings—but it is of greater consolation to me because it is a chance to put into one place a whole way of thinking about evolution that I've struggled with all my life."
As a public figure
Gould became widely known through his popular essays on evolution in the Natural History magazine. His essays were published in a series entitled This View of Life (a phrase from the concluding paragraph of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species) from January 1974 to January 2001, amounting to a continuous publication of 300 essays. Many of his essays were reprinted in collected volumes that became bestselling books such as Ever Since Darwin and The Panda's Thumb, Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, and The Flamingo's Smile.
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 pre-evolutionary and evolutionary thought. He was also an enthusiastic baseball fan and sabermetrician (analyst of baseball statistics), and made frequent reference 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 self-described Darwinist, Gould's 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, 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 should 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.
An anti-evolution petition drafted by the Discovery Institute inspired the National Center for Science Education to create a pro-evolution counterpart called "Project Steve," which is named in Gould's honor. At a meeting of the executive council of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) in 2011 selected Gould for inclusion in CSI's "Pantheon of Skeptics" created to remember the legacy of deceased CSI fellows and their contributions to the cause of scientific skepticism.
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 and Talkback Live,NBC's The Today Show, and regular appearances on PBS's Charlie Rose show. Gould was also a guest in all seven episodes of the Dutch talk series A Glorious Accident, in which he appeared with his close friend Oliver Sacks.
Gould was featured prominently as a guest in Ken Burns's PBS documentary Baseball, as well as PBS'sEvolution 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. 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 two days before the episode aired.
The "Darwin Wars"
Gould received many accolades for his scholarly work and popular expositions of natural history, but a number of biologists felt his public presentations were out of step with mainstream evolutionary thinking. The public debates between Gould's supporters and detractors have been so quarrelsome that they have been dubbed "The Darwin Wars" by several commentators.
John Maynard Smith, the 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 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 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 "proof" that scientists no longer understood how organisms evolved. Gould himself corrected some of these misinterpretations and distortions of his writings in later works.
The conflicts between Richard Dawkins and Gould were popularized by philosopher Kim Sterelny in his 2001 book Dawkins vs. Gould. Sterelny documents their disagreements over theoretical issues, including the prominence of gene selection in evolution. Dawkins argues that natural selection is best understood as competition among genes (or replicators), while Gould advocated multi-level selection, which includes selection amongst genes, nucleic acid sequences, cell lineages, organisms, demes, species, and clades.
Dawkins accused Gould of deliberately underplaying the differences between rapid gradualism and macromutation in his published accounts of punctuated equilibrium. He also devoted entire chapters to critiquing Gould's account of evolution in his books The Blind Watchmaker and Unweaving the Rainbow, as did Daniel Dennett in his 1995 book Darwin's Dangerous Idea.
Gould's interpretation of the CambrianBurgess 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.
His 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. 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.
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.
Richard Dawkins also disagreed with Gould's view that new phyla suddenly appeared in the Cambrian fauna, arguing:
The extreme Gouldian view—certainly the view inspired by his rhetoric, though it is hard to tell from his own words whether he literally holds it himself—is radically different from and utterly incompatible with the standard neo-Darwinian model. ... For a new body plan—a new phylum—to spring into existence, what actually has to happen on the ground is that a child is born which suddenly, out of the blue, is as different from its parents as a snail is from an earthworm. No zoologist who thinks through the implications, not even the most ardent saltationist, has ever supported any such notion.
Opposition to sociobiology and evolutionary psychology
Gould also had a long-running public feud with E. O. Wilson and other evolutionary biologists concerning the disciplines of human sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, both of which Gould and Lewontin 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 such as 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."
The Mismeasure of Man
Main article: The Mismeasure of Man
Gould was the author of The Mismeasure of Man (1981), a history and inquiry of psychometrics and intelligence testing, generating perhaps the greatest controversy of all his books and receiving both widespread praise and extensive criticism, including claims of misrepresentation. 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." The book was reprinted in 1996 with the addition of a new foreword and a critical review of The Bell Curve.
In 2011, a study conducted by six anthropologists reanalyzed Gould's claim that Samuel Morton unconsciously manipulated his skull measurements, and concluded that Gould's analysis was poorly supported and incorrect. They praised Gould for his "staunch opposition to racism" but concluded, "we find that Morton's initial reputation as the objectivist of his era was well-deserved."Ralph Holloway, one of the co-authors of the study, commented, "I just didn't trust Gould. ... I had the feeling that his ideological stance was supreme. When the 1996 version of 'The Mismeasure of Man' came and he never even bothered to mention Michael's study, I just felt he was a charlatan."
The group's paper was reviewed in the journal Nature, which recommended a degree of caution, and notes that "because they couldn't measure all the skulls, they do not know whether the average cranial capacities that Morton reported represent his sample accurately." The journal stated that Gould's opposition to racism might have biased his interpretation of Morton's data, but also noted that "Lewis and his colleagues have their own motivations. Several in the group have an association with the University of Pennsylvania, and have an interest in seeing the valuable but understudied skull collection freed from the stigma of bias."
The group's paper was critically reviewed in the journal Evolution & Development by philosopher of science Michael Weisberg, also of the University of Pennsylvania. Weisberg argues that "most of Gould's arguments against Morton are sound. Although Gould made some errors and overstated his case in a number of places, he provided prima facia evidence, as yet unrefuted, that Morton did indeed mismeasure his skulls in ways that conformed to 19th century racial biases." Biologists and philosophers Jonathan Kaplan, Massimo Pigliucci, and Joshua Banta also published a critique of the groups's paper, arguing that many of its claims were misleading and the re-measurements were "completely irrelevant to an evaluation of Gould's published analysis." They also argue that both Morton and Gould's statistical methods on which skulls to include and which to exclude, and how they computed averages, "were both inappropriate."
Main article: Non-overlapping magisteria
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. For example, in his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins argues that the division between religion and science is not so simple as Gould claims, as few religions exist without claiming the existence of miracles, which "by definition, violate the principles of science." Dawkins also opposes the idea that religion has anything meaningful to say about ethics and values, and therefore has no authority to claim a magisterium of its own. He goes on to say that he believes Gould is disingenuous in much of what he says in Rocks of Ages. Similarly, humanist philosopher Paul Kurtz argues that Gould was wrong to posit that science has nothing to say about questions of ethics. In fact, Kurtz claims that science is a much better method than religion for determining moral principles.
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. A selected 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.