Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould
Born September 10, 1941
Bayside, New York, United States
Died May 20, 2002(2002-05-20) (aged 60)
Manhattan, New York, United States
Nationality American
Fields Paleontology, Evolutionary biology History of Science
Institutions Harvard University,
American Museum of Natural History,
New York University
Alma mater Antioch College,
Columbia University
Thesis Pleistocene and Recent History of the Subgenus Poecilozonites (Poecilozonites) (Gastropoda: Pulmonata) in Bermuda: An Evolutionary Microcosm (1967)
Doctoral advisor R. L. Batten
J. Imbrie
Norman D. Newell
Known for Punctuated equilibrium, Non-overlapping magisteria
Notable awards Linnean Society of London's Darwin–Wallace Medal (2008)
Paleontological Society Medal (2002)
Sue Tyler Friedman Medal (1989)
Charles Schuchert Award (1975)
Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science (twice – 1983, 1990)
MacArthur Fellowship
National Book Award
National Book Critics Circle Award
Spouse Deborah Lee (1965–?; divorced; 2 children)
Rhonda Roland Shearer (1995–2002; his death; 2 stepchildren)

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.[1] Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In the later years of his life, Gould also taught biology and evolution at New York University.

Gould's most significant contribution to evolutionary biology was the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which he developed with Niles Eldredge in 1972.[2] 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 snail genera 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.[3]

Gould was known by the general public mainly from his 300 popular essays in the magazine Natural History,[4] and his books written for a non-specialist audience. In April 2000, the US Library of Congress named him a "Living Legend".[5]


  • Biography 1
    • Marriage and family 1.1
    • First bout with cancer 1.2
    • Final illness and death 1.3
  • Scientific career 2
    • Punctuated equilibrium 2.1
    • Evolutionary developmental biology 2.2
    • Selectionism and sociobiology 2.3
      • Against "Sociobiology" 2.3.1
      • Spandrels and the Panglossian Paradigm 2.3.2
    • Evolutionary progress 2.4
    • Cladistics 2.5
    • Technical work on land snails 2.6
    • Influence 2.7
    • The Structure of Evolutionary Theory 2.8
  • As a public figure 3
  • Controversy 4
    • Cambrian fauna 4.1
    • Opposition to sociobiology and evolutionary psychology 4.2
    • The Mismeasure of Man 4.3
  • Non-overlapping magisteria 5
  • Publications 6
  • Notes and references 7
  • External links 8


Stephen Jay Gould was born and raised in the community of Bayside, a neighborhood of the northeastern section of Queens in New York City. His father, Leonard, was a court stenographer, and his mother, Eleanor, was an artist whose parents were Jewish immigrants living and working in the city's Garment District.[6] 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.[7] 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.[3] Though he "had been brought up by a Marxist father", he stated that his father's politics were "very different" from his own.[8] In describing his own political views, he has said they "tend to the left of center".[9] According to Gould the most influential political books he read were C. Wright Mills' The Power Elite and the political writings of Noam Chomsky.[9]

While attending Bradford dance hall which refused to admit Blacks. Gould continued these demonstrations until the policy was revoked.[10] 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.[11]

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 a New York Yankees fan throughout his life. As an adult he was fond of science fiction movies, but often lamented their mediocrity (not just in their presentation of science, but in their storytelling as well).[12] His other interests included singing in the Boston Cecilia, and he was a great aficionado of Gilbert and Sullivan operas.[13] 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.[14]

Marriage and family

Gould was married twice. His first marriage was to artist Deborah Lee on October 3, 1965. Gould met Lee while they were students together at Antioch College.[7] They had two sons, Jesse and Ethan.[15] His second marriage, in 1995, was to artist and sculptor Rhonda Roland Shearer, who is the mother of two children, Jade and London Allen, stepchildren of Gould.[15]

First bout with cancer

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 or rock dust. After a difficult two-year recovery, Gould published a column for Discover magazine, entitled, "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.[16] 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 eight 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 of medical marijuana. During his 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.[17] In 1998, he testified in the case of Jim Wakeford, a Canadian medical-marijuana user and activist.

Final illness and death

Gould survived for 20 years until another cancer ended his life. Gould died on May 20, 2002, from a metastatic adenocarcinoma of the lung, a form of cancer which had spread to his brain.[18] This cancer was unrelated to his abdominal cancer. 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."[19]

Scientific career

Gould began his higher education at Antioch College, graduating with a double major in geology and philosophy in 1963.[20] During this time, he also studied at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.[21] 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; he very often described himself as a taxonomist.

In 1982 Harvard awarded him the title of Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology. The following year, 1983, he was awarded fellowship of 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.[22])

Punctuated equilibrium

Early in his career, Gould and Niles Eldredge developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium, according to which evolutionary change occurs relatively rapidly, alternating with longer periods of relative evolutionary stability.[2] Although Gould coined the term "punctuated equilibria", the idea was first presented in Eldredge's doctoral dissertation on Devonian trilobites and in an article published the previous year on allopatric speciation.[23] According to Gould, punctuated equilibrium revised a key pillar "in the central logic of Darwinian theory".[8]

Some evolutionary biologists have argued that while punctuated equilibrium was "of great interest to biology",[24] it merely modified Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1941), described evolutionary history as being characterized by long periods of stasis (bradytely) or gradual change (horotely), punctuated by short bursts of rapid change (tachytely), he offered no explanation of the processes that produce it. Others have emphasized 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".[26] Some critics jokingly referred to the theory of punctuated equilibrium as "evolution by jerks",[27] which elicited Gould to respond in kind by describing phyletic gradualism as "evolution by creeps".[28]

Evolutionary developmental biology

Gould made significant contributions to [38] Gould also wrote on this topic in his essay "Male Nipples and Clitoral Ripples",[39] prompted by Lloyd's earlier work.

Evolutionary progress

Gould favored the argument that evolution has no inherent drive towards long-term "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.[40]

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."[41]


Gould never embraced polymerase chain reaction techniques made it possible to apply cladistic methods of analysis to biochemical and genetic features as well.[43]

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."[44]

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 about which island Columbus had first set foot on in America.[45]


Gould is one of the most frequently cited scientists in the field of evolutionary theory. His 1979 "spandrels" paper has been cited more than 4,000 times.[46] In

External links

  • Dawkins, Richard (1998). Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  
  • Richard C. Lewontin sums up Gould's career in an obituary from
  • "Darwinian Fundamentalism" – Gould's response to Daniel Dennett and other critics, from the The New York Review of Books

General references:

  1. ^ Shermer, Michael (2002), "This View of Science", Social Studies of Science 32 (4): 489–525,  
  2. ^ a b Eldredge, Niles, and S. J. Gould (1972). "Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism." In T.J.M. Schopf, ed., Models in Paleobiology. San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper and Company, pp. 82–115.
  3. ^ a b Gould, S. J. (1997). "Nonoverlapping magisteria". Natural History 106 (March): 16–22.
  4. ^ a b Tattersall I. "Remembering Stephen Jay Gould". Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  5. ^ Library of Congress. "Living Legend: Stephen Jay Gould". Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  6. ^ a b Gould, Stephen Jay (December 2000 – January 2001). "In the final essay of this twenty-seven-year series, the author reflects on continuity—from family history to the branching lineage of terrestrial life". This View of Life.  
  7. ^ a b Green, Michelle (1986). "Stephen Jay Gould: driven by a hunger to learn and to write". People 25 (June 2): 109–114.
  8. ^ a b Gould, S. J. (2002). The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
  9. ^ a b Gould, S. J. (1981). "Official Transcript for Gould’s deposition in McLean v. Arkansas". (Nov. 27). Under oath Gould stated: "My political views tend to the left of center. Q. Could you be more specific about your political views? A. I don't know how to be. I am not a joiner, so I am not a member of any organization. So I have always resisted labeling. But if you read my other book, The Mismeasure of Man, which is not included because it is not about evolution, you will get a sense of my political views." p. 153.
  10. ^ Gasper, Phil (2002). "Stephen Jay Gould: Dialectical Biologist". International Socialist Review 24 (July–August).
  11. ^ Lewontin, Richard and Richard Levins (2002). "Stephen Jay Gould—what does it mean to be a radical?" Monthly Review 54 (Nov. 1). "The public intellectual and political life of Steve Gould was extraordinary, if not unique. First, he was an evolutionary biologist and historian of science whose intellectual work had a major impact on our views of the process of evolution. Second, he was, by far, the most widely known and influential expositor of science who has ever written for a lay public. Third, he was a consistent political activist in support of socialism and in opposition to all forms of colonialism and oppression. The figure he most closely resembled in these respects was the British biologist of the 1930s, J. B. S. Haldane, a founder of the modern genetical theory of evolution, a wonderful essayist on science for the general public, and an idiosyncratic Marxist and columnist for the Daily Worker who finally split with the Communist Party over its demand that scientific claims follow Party doctrine."
  12. ^ Gould, S. J. (1993). "Dinomania". New York Review of Books 40 (August 12): 51–56.
  13. ^ Gould's writings include "The True Embodiment of Everything That’s Excellent: The Strange Adventure of Gilbert and Sullivan". The American Scholar. Washington: Spring 2000. Vol. 69, Issue. 2; pp. 35–49
  14. ^ Gould, S. J. (1983). Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. .
  15. ^ a b Carol Kaesuk Yoon (2002). "Stephen Jay Gould, 60, Is Dead; Enlivened Evolutionary Theory," New York Times May 21, 2002.
  16. ^ Gould, S. J. (1985). "The Median Isn't the Message". Discover 6 (June): 40–42.
  17. ^ Bakalar, James and Lester Grinspoon (1997). Marihuana, the Forbidden Medicine. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 39–41.
  18. ^ a b Harvard News Office (2002). "Paleontologist, author Gould dies at 60". The Harvard Gazette. (May 20). Retrieved on June 4, 2009.
  19. ^ Krementz, Jill (2002). "Jill Krementz Photo Journal". New York Social Diary. Retrieved on June 4, 2009.
  20. ^ a b Allen, Warren (2008). "The Structure of Gould". In Warren Allen et al. Stephen Jay Gould: Reflections on His View of Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 24, 59.
  21. ^ Masha, Etkin (2002). "A Tribute to Stephen Jay Gould '63". Antiochian (Winter ed.). Retrieved on June 4, 2009.
  22. ^ Linnean Society of London (2008). "The Darwin–Wallace Medal". Retrieved on June 4, 2009.
  23. ^ Eldredge, Niles (1971). "The Allopatric Model and Phylogeny in Paleozoic Invertebrates." Evolution Vol. 25, No. 1 (Mar. 1971), pp. 156–167.
  24. ^ Dawkins, Richard (1999). The Extended Phenotype. Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press. p. 101. .
  25. ^ a b  
  26. ^ Mayr, Ernst (1992). "Speciational Evolution or Punctuated Equilibria". In Steven Peterson and Albert Somit. The Dynamics of Evolution. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 21–48. ISBN 0-8014-9763-9.
  27. ^ Turner, John (1984). "Why we need evolution by jerks." New Scientist 101 (Feb. 9): 34–35.
  28. ^ Gould, S. J. and Steven Rose, ed. (2007). The Richness of Life: The Essential Stephen Jay Gould. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., p. 6.
  29. ^ Thomas, R.D.K. (2009). "Gould, Stephen Jay (1941–2002)". in M. Ruse and J. Travis (eds). Evolution: The First Four Billion Years. Cambridge MA: Belknap Press. pp. 611–615.
  30. ^ Prum, R.O., & Brush, A.H. (March 2003). "Which Came First, the Feather or the Bird?" Scientific American, vol.288, no.3, pp. 84–93
  31. ^ Gould, S. J.; Vrba, E. (1982), "Exaptation—a missing term in the science of form", Paleobiology 8 (1): 4–15. 
  32. ^ Wilson, E. O. (1975). Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
  33. ^ Allen, Elizabeth, et al. (1975). "Against 'Sociobiology'". [letter] New York Review of Books 22 (Nov. 13): 182, 184–186.
  34. ^ Gould, S. J. (1980). "Sociobiology and the Theory of Natural Selection". In G. W. Barlow and J. Silverberg, eds., Sociobiology: Beyond Nature/Nurture? Boulder CO: Westview Press, pp. 257–269.
  35. ^ Gould, S. J. and Richard Lewontin (1979). "The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme". Proc. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci. 205 (1161): 581–98. DOI PMID; for background see Gould's "The Pattern of Life's History" in John Brockman The Third Culture. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1996, pp. 52–64. .
  36. ^ Gould, S. J. (1997). "The exaptive excellence of spandrels as a term and prototype". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 94 (20): 10750–5. DOI PMID
  37. ^ Maynard Smith, John (1995). "Genes, Memes, & Minds". The New York Review of Books 42 (Nov. 30): 46–48. "By and large, I think their [Spandrels] paper had a healthy effect. . . . Their critique forced us to clean up our act and to provide evidence for our stories. But adaptationism remains the core of biological thinking." A similar appraisal is reflected by George C. Williams, Natural Selection: Domains, Levels, and Challenges. New York: Oxford University Press. 1992.
  38. ^ Lloyd, E.A. (2005). The Case of The Female Orgasm: Bias in the science of evolution. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
  39. ^ Gould, S.J. (1992). "Male Nipples and Clitoral Ripples". In Bully for Brontosaurus: Further Reflections in Natural History. New York: W. W. Norton. pp. 124–138.
  40. ^ Gould, S. J. (1996). Full House: The Spread of Excellence From Plato to Darwin. New York: Harmony Books.
  41. ^ Dawkins, Richard; Gould, Stephen Jay (1997), "Human chauvinism", Evolution 51 (3): 1015–1020,  
  42. ^ Gould, S. J. (1991). "The disparity of the Burgess Shale arthropod fauna and the limits of cladistic analysis". Paleobiology 17 (October): 411–423.
  43. ^ Baron, Christian and J. T. Høeg (2005). "Gould, Scharm and the Paleontologocal Perspective in Evolutionary Biology". In S. Koenemann and R.A. Jenner, Crustacea and Arthropod Relationships. CRC Press. pp. 3–14. .
  44. ^ Wolpert, Lewis and Alison Richards (1998). A Passion For Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 139–152.
  45. ^ Gould, S. J. (1996). "A Cerion for Christopher". Natural History 105 (Oct.): 22–29, 78—79.
  46. ^ Google Scholar. Retrieved on 2011-6-12.
  47. ^ Prothero, Donald (2000). "Evolution Revolution: Paleontology, History, Biography". Skeptic Festschrift lecture for Stephen Jay Gould. October 7, 2000.
  48. ^ Shermer, Michael (2002), "This View of Science", Social Studies of Science 32 (4): 518,  
  49. ^ Gould, S. J. (2003). Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. See his essays: "The Streak of Streaks", "Thcience Studies", and "Baseball's reliquary: the oddly possible hybrid of shrine and university"
  50. ^ Gould, S. J. (1982). "Nonmoral Nature". Natural History 91 (Feb.): 19–26.
  51. ^ NCSE Project Steve official webpage, National Center for Science Education, February 16, 2003
  52. ^ PBS (1984). "Stephen Jay Gould: This View of Life". NOVA. December 18.
  53. ^ Sacks, Oliver (2007). Forward. In Steven Rose, ed. The Richness of Life. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, p. xi. Video on YouTube
  54. ^ Fox. The Simpsons. "Lisa the Skeptic", November 23, 1997. Audio here.
  55. ^ Scully, Mike (2006). The Simpsons. Season 9 DVD Commentary for "Lisa the Skeptic". DVD. 20th Century Fox.
  56. ^ Shermer, Michael (2002). "This View of Science". Social Studies of Science 32 (4): 518.
    • This is almost all of Schermer's note 10 (which cites "Gould's curriculum vitae, dated September 2000"):
    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 Muséum 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.
  57. ^ These are the first two of 25 paragraphs, with notes, from a "The New York Review of Books"Letter to the Editor of by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby (July 7, 1997). They wrote in comment on two recent NYRB articles by Gould (June 12 and 26). The source (, August 2002) does not say whether NYRB published the letter.
    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 pre-eminent 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, November 30, 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. If what was a stake was solely one man's self-regard, common decency would preclude comment.
    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."{1}. 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.{2} 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.
    {1} [Full reference provided by the writers.]
    {2} These include 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.
    It should be noted that where Tooby & Cosmides quote Ernst Mayr, he does not speak of Gould in particular, and does not mention him by name, but speaks generally of the critics of the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis.
    • The list of experts provided by Tooby and Cosmides is also questionable. For example, Mayr, Williams, Hamilton, Dawkins, Wilson, Coyne, and Trivers have shown great respect for Gould as a scientist.

    In the first of the two articles that provoked Tooby & Cosmides, Gould had commented on the November 1995 review of his work by Maynard Smith, which they quoted in support (quoted in this note).
    • Gould, "Darwinian Fundamentalism" (webpage 2), reprinted from New York Review of Books 44 (June 12, 1997): 34–37.
    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.
    [quotation of Smith's November 1995 NYRB quotation of Gould, later quoted by Tooby & Consides (above)]
    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. ...
    [multiple paragraphs]
    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. ...
  58. ^ Brown, Andrew (1999). The Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man. London: Simon & Schuster.
  59. ^ Rose, Steven (2002). "Obituaries: Stephen Jay Gould". The Guardian (May 22): 20.
  60. ^ Blume, Harvey (2002). "The Origin of Specious". The American Prospect (September 22): 41–43.
  61. ^ a b   Also ISBN 978-1-84046-780-2
  62. ^ Dawkins (1998), p. 195
  63. ^ Maynard Smith, John (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.
  64. ^ Maynard Smith, John (1995). "Genes, Memes, & Minds". The New York Review of Books 42 (Nov. 30): 46–48.
  65. ^ Maynard Smith, John (1981). "Review of The Panda's Thumb" The London Review of Books pp. 17–30; Reprinted as "Tinkering" in his Did Darwin Get It Right? New York: Chapman and Hall. 1989, pp. 94, 97.
  66. ^ Wright, Robert (1999). "The Accidental Creationist: Why Stephen J. Gould is bad for evolution". The New Yorker 75 (Dec. 13): 56–65.
  67. ^ Gould, S. J. (1981). "Evolution as fact and theory". Discover 2 (May): 34–37.
  68. ^ "It is when we ask what happens during the sudden bursts of species formation that the confusion... arises... Gould is aware of the difference between rapid gradualism and macromutation, but he treats the matter as though it were a minor detail, to be cleared up after we have taken on board the overarching question of whether evolution is episodic rather than gradual." As seen at: Dawkins, Richard (1998). Unweaving the Rainbow, pp. 196–197
  69. ^ Conway Morris, S.; Gould, S. J. (1998). "Showdown on the Burgess Shale". Natural History 107: 48–55. 
  70. ^   Abstract
  71. ^ Fortey, Richard (1998). "Shock Lobsters". London Review of Books 20 (Oct. 1).
  72. ^ Dawkins, Richard (1998). Unweaving the Rainbow, p. 202.
  73. ^ Gould, S. J. (1997). "Evolution: The pleasures of pluralism". The New York Review of Books 44 (June 26): 47–52.
  74. ^ Wilson, E. O. (2006). Naturalist New York: Island Press, p.337 .
  75. ^  
  76. ^ Gould S. J. (1996). The Mismeasure of Man: Revised and Expanded Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., p. 36.
  77. ^ a b Gould, S. J. (1992). "Biological potentiality vs. biological determinism". In Ever Since Darwin. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., pp. 251–259.
  78. ^ Gould, S. J. (1981). The Mismeasure of Man. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. p. 20.
  79. ^ In 1981 The Mismeasure of Man won the National Book Critics Circle Award for non-fiction. It was voted as the 17th greatest science book of all time by Discover magazine vol. 27 (December 8, 2006); 9th best skeptic book by The Skeptics Society (Frank Diller, "Scientists' Nightstand" American Scientist); and ranked 24th place for the best non-fiction book by the Modern Library.
  80. ^ Blinkhorn, Steve (1982). "What Skulduggery?" Nature 296 (April 8): 506.
  81. ^  
  82. ^ Gould, S. J. (1978). "Morton's Ranking of Races by Cranial Capacity." Science 200 (May 5): 503–509.
  83. ^ Lewis, J., E., DeGusta, D. Meyer, M.R., Monge, J.M., Mann, A.E. and Holloway, R.L. (2011). "The Mismeasure of Science: Stephen Jay Gould versus Samuel George Morton on Skulls and Bias." Public Library of Science Biology 9 (6): e1001071.
  84. ^ Wade, Nicholas (2011). "Scientists Measure the Accuracy of a Racism Claim." New York Times (June 14): D4.
  85. ^ a b Editorial (2011). "Mismeasure for mismeasure." Nature 474 (June 23): 419.
  86. ^ a b c d Gould, S. J. (2002). Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. New York: Ballantine Books.
  87. ^ a b Dawkins, R. (2006). The God Delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, p. 83.
  88. ^ p.81 (2006). The God Delusion, Black Swan.
  89. ^ Grothe, DJ (11 December 2005). "Paul Kurtz - Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?".  
  90. ^ Shermer, Michael (2002). "This View of Science" Social Studies of Science 32 (4): 496

Specific citations:

Notes and references

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.


Gould's publications were numerous. One review of his publications between 1965 and 2000 noted 479 peer-reviewed papers, 22 books, 300 essays,[6] and 101 "major" book reviews.[90] A select number of his papers are listed online.



However, this view has not been without criticism. For example, in his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins argues that the division between religion and science is not as simple as Gould claims, as few religions exist without claiming the existence of miracles, which "by definition, violate the principles of science".[87] 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.[87] He goes on to say that he believes Gould is disingenuous in much of what he says in Rocks of Ages.[88] 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.[89]

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."[86] He defines the term magisterium as "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution."[86] 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."[86] 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."[86]

Non-overlapping magisteria

In 2011, a study conducted by six Samuel Morton unconsciously manipulated his skull measurements,[82] 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."[83] 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."[84] The group's paper was reviewed in the journal Nature, which recommended a degree of caution, stating "the critique leaves the majority of Gould's work unscathed," 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."[85] The journal stated that Gould's opposition to racism may 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."[85]

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[79] and extensive criticism,[80] including claims of misrepresentation.[81]

Gould was 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."[78]

The Mismeasure of Man

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.[77] 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."[77]

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.[76]

Gould also had a long-running public feud with E. O. Wilson and other evolutionary biologists about human sociobiology and its later descendant evolutionary psychology (which Gould and Lewontin opposed, but, which Richard Dawkins, Maynard Smith, Daniel Dennett, and Steven Pinker advocated).[73] These debates reached their climax in the 1970s, and included strong opposition from groups like the Sociobiology Study Group and Science for the People.[74] 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.[75] 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:

Opposition to sociobiology and evolutionary psychology

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.[72]

Richard Dawkins also disagreed with Gould's interpretation of the Burgess Shale, arguing:

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.[71]

His view was criticized by Simon Conway Morris in his 1998 book The Crucible of Creation.[69] 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,[70] 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.

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.

Cambrian fauna

Dawkins also found that Gould deliberately played down the difference between rapid gradualism and macromutation in his theory of punctuated equilibrium.[68] Criticism of Gould and his theory of punctuated equilibrium can be found in Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker and Unweaving the Rainbow, as well as chapter 10 of Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea.

As demes, species, and clades.[61]

[67] Gould himself corrected some of these misinterpretations and distortions of his writings in later works.[66] 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

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 critical of Gould's acceptance of species selection as a major component of biological evolution.[63] 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."[64] 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."[65] Maynard Smith was also among those who welcomed Gould's reinvigoration of evolutionary paleontology.[25]

Gould received many accolades for his scholarly work and popular expositions of natural history,[18][56] but was not immune from criticism by biologists who felt his public presentations were out of step with mainstream evolutionary theory.[57] The public debates between Gould's supporters and detractors have been so quarrelsome that they have been dubbed "The Darwin Wars" by several commentators.[58][59][60][61][62]


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.[54] During production the only phrase Gould objected to was a line in the script that introduced him as the "world's most brilliant paleontologist".[55] 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.

Gould was featured prominently as a guest in Ken Burns's PBS documentary Baseball, as well as PBS's 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.

Gould also became a noted public face of science, often appearing on television. In 1984 Gould received his own NOVA special on PBS.[52] 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, in which he appeared with Oliver Sacks.[53]

The anti-evolution petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism spawned the National Center for Science Education's pro-evolution counterpart Project Steve, which is named in Gould's honor.[51]

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.[50]

Although a proud 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 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:

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, 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).[49]

Gould became widely known through his popular essays on evolution in the Natural History magazine. His essays were published in a series titled This View of Life (a phrase from the concluding paragraph of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species) starting from January 1974 and ended in January 2001, amounting to a continuous publication of 300 essays.[4] 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.

As a public figure

Shortly before his death, Gould published a long treatise recapitulating his version of modern evolutionary theory: The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (2002).

The Structure of Evolutionary Theory

[48])."Thomas Kuhn 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 Ronald Numbers Gould was also a considerably respected historian of science. Historian [47] In Voltaire's

When visiting 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."[36]

With Richard Lewontin, Gould wrote an influential 1979 paper entitled, "The Spandrels of San Marco and the panglossian paradigm",[35] 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.

A spandrel from the Holy Trinity Church in Fulnek, Czech Republic.

Spandrels and the Panglossian Paradigm

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."[34]

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.[32] 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".[33]

Against "Sociobiology"

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.[31] Gould believed this understanding undermines an essential premise of human sociobiology and evolutionary psychology.

Selectionism and sociobiology