Gould, Stephen Jay
Gould, Stephen Jay 1941-2002
Stephen Jay Gould was a paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, essayist, and public intellectual. He lived a rich life achieving heights of academic success as a professor at Harvard University as well as attaining public recognition as an erudite, literate scientific essayist. Gould’s importance stems from his distinctive and important contributions as an evolutionary biologist and paleontologist, as well as his participation in public debates bringing his humanist and scientific commitments to bear on important social and scientific issues.
As a biologist Gould is best known for the theory of “punctuated equilibria” which he formulated jointly with the American paleontologist Niles Eldredge. The fossil record is an imprint of the past providing researchers with extensive evidence not only for the fact of evolution but a detailed map of the branching pathways connecting the diversity of life. The evolutionary paths emanating from different life forms can be traced through the chronological ordering of this fossil record. In standard Darwinian explanation the pace of evolutionary change is assumed to be slow. Accordingly, small incremental changes are accumulated to amount eventually to the grand differences that scientists associate with distinct species. The fossil record, however, does not show continuous change between life forms; rather there seem to be gaps. These discontinuities in the record could reflect scientists’ incomplete knowledge or simply gaps in the fossil record itself. Gould and Eldredge attempted to explain the “gaps” in the fossil record by questioning the assumptions made about the pace of evolutionary change. They argued that for long periods species enjoy stability, giving way to rapid and drastic change over short periods of time. Thus, the so-called gaps in the fossil record actually reflect a fact about the pace of evolutionary change rather than representing missing evidence.
Gould viewed evolutionary biology as a historical science. To him evolution was not a deterministic unfolding of events but a process highly contingent on the vicissitudes of circumstance. His views brought him into conflict with some of his peers who tried to veer evolutionary biology toward a more mechanical paradigm in which the evolutionary process was reduced to natural selection operating at the genetic level. Perhaps his most visible sparring partner in this debate was Richard Dawkins, who had presented arguably the strongest version of the mechanical paradigm. Dawkins envisioned organisms as “lumbering robots” carrying out instructions encoded in the organism’s DNA. Dawkins departed from orthodox Darwinism in placing the gene as opposed to the organism as the unit of selection. Gould’s opposition to this view found expression in a number of interesting ways.
First, he argued that natural selection, while an important and perhaps even dominant motor of evolution, was not the only driving force. He derided the pans-electionism of his opponents as a “panglossian paradigm” in which every feature of the organism was furnished with an adaptationist “Just So” story—a reference to Rudyard Kipling’s humorous children’s stories, particularly the ones about the origin of features of animals. Gould considered a multiplicity of mechanisms as important in evolution. These mechanisms included random reproductive success of some features due to the dynamics of finite populations, as well as structurally inevitable correlates of selected features where these correlates provide no reproductive advantage.
Second, Gould opposed reduction of evolution to the level of genes. He accepted as a fact that genes are responsible for the heritability of traits, but argued that selection occurs at the level of the organism per the Darwinian paradigm. Evolution to Gould could not be understood unless one allowed for different hierarchical levels of study; this hierarchy included the genetic level, the organism, and the species—each one important for a different set of evolutionary questions.
Third, Gould argued that the reduction of the organism to its genotype led ineluctably to a whole set of mistaken ideas which he collectively termed biological determinism. Biological determinism, as expressed in the ideas of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, is the belief that complex behavior of organisms can be understood as following from the organism’s genetic make up, and are thus permanent features of the organism. As an example, a determinist might argue that a person’s genes determine her or his level of intelligence.
Gould went on to understand the questions that biological determinists tried to answer as historically conditioned. He saw in the determinist program a program that justified the stratification of our present-day society along gender, racial, and economic lines by providing these social realities a biological justification.
Gould’s scientific interests intersected significantly with his social commitments. He participated in public debates arguing against creationism and the genetic basis for behavioral differences between racial, gender, and class groupings. He wrote prolifically for the lay public on science, history, and society and achieved a considerable amount of fame and influence as a writer of popular science.
SEE ALSO Darwin, Charles; Punctuated Equilibrium
Gould, Stephen Jay. 1992. The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History. New York: Norton.
Gould, Stephen Jay. 1996. The Mismeasure of Man. New York: Norton.
Gould, Stephen Jay
Gould, Stephen Jay
Stephen Jay Gould was born on September 10, 1941, in New York City. He was educated at Antioch College in Ohio and then trained as a paleontologist, doing his doctoral work at Columbia University in New York. His first academic position was at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he remained for the rest of his life, later adding to his responsibilities a curatorship in paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Gould received many honors, including numerous honorary doctoral degrees, and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Gould's early scientific work focused on land snails in Bermuda, and at first he worked in a fairly conventional Darwinian fashion, seeing natural selection as the main cause of evolutionary change. But soon, he and paleontologist Niles Eldredge began trying to break the paradigm of conventional Darwinism, which sees the fossil record as essentially flowing from one form to another, with all gaps due to inadequacies in the record. Gould and Eldredge forwarded a theory of punctuated equilibrium, arguing that the fossil record shows stasis (no appreciable change, for periods of time, in some particular line of organisms), followed by very rapid change. The gaps in the record therefore reflect real gaps in the fossilization process.
Gould held to the theory of punctuated equilibrium throughout his life, although the causal mechanism for the process was often in flux and not entirely clear. For a while, Gould floated the idea of saltations (real macromutations that jump from one species to another), but this theory was criticized by population geneticists, causing Gould to look for other non-Darwinian, nonselective mechanisms. Together with molecular evolutionist Richard Lewontin, Gould argued that many aspects of organic nature are nonadaptive and could not have been produced by selection. Lewontin and Gould argued that many features of plants and animals are like spandrels (the tops of columns in medieval churches); they are simply byproducts of the building process and thus without any great biological significance.
Much of Gould's work was not presented directly to his fellow professionals. He was a master at writing for a general audience, especially in essay form. For thirty years he wrote a monthly column called "This View of Life" in the magazine Natural History. In this column, Gould explored hundreds of different topics, not all of them related to biology. The essays were collected in several very successful volumes, beginning with Ever Since Darwin (1977). Gould also wrote books on general topics, including the history of brain science in The Mismeasure of Man (1981) and the fossils of the Burgess Shale in Canada in Wonderful Life (1989). At the scholarly level, Gould published numerous articles on the nature of the fossil record, usually in the journal Paleobiology, and the book Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977) on the importance of development. Just before he died, Gould completed The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (2002), a comprehensive book covering all of his thoughts about evolution. In this last book, Gould turned to the history of science, as he had often done earlier, not merely to develop his ideas but to demonstrate that he was part of a respectable tradition, while his opponents were not.
Gould was admired by the general public, but many of his fellow evolutionists were less open in their praise, perhaps because of professional jealousy combined with discomfort at Gould's arrogant nature. Some critics felt that Gould's ideas were, scientifically speaking, somewhat shallow: Detailed examination did not always bear them out. By the time of Gould's death, consensus on the Eldredge-Gould claim about the nature of the fossil record was that it probably has merit, although there are many exceptions. The lack of a convincing causal hypothesis for punctuated equilibrium certainly counts against it. However, Gould's early stress on the importance of development for a full understanding of the evolutionary process seems fully borne out as molecular biologists turn their interests to questions of history.
Gould admitted that he always wrote with a concern for the morality beneath the surface of his science. A nonpracticing Jew with a Marxist background (the lasting influence of which was a matter of debate), he felt strongly about all matters of prejudice. In the 1970s, Gould was one of the leaders against sociobiology's attempts to explain human nature in terms of biology. Gould argued that sociobiology was not real science, but simply conservative ideology in fancy dress. For him, culture is essentially a spandrel, with no real biological importance. Undoubtedly the Lewontin-Gould attack on adaptation was motivated in part by this continued critique. Sociobiologists argued strongly that human nature is directly adaptive, such that men and women, for example, are psychologically as well as physically different because of their biology. Gould was determined to counter such views.
Gould also saw claims about biological progress as being part and parcel of the offensive ideology against which he fought, which set humans at the top of the animal hierarchy, with white gentiles at the top of the human chain. Gould saw Darwinism, with its emphasis on the success of the fittest, as badly bound up with claims about progress, and this was another reason to attack adaptationism. Many of Gould's popular works, especially The Mismeasure of Man and Wonderful Life, were explicit critiques on progressionism. Whether or not Gould was correct, such views brought him into conflict with many of his fellow evolutionists. British science writer Richard Dawkins, an ardent Darwinian and progressionist, took strong offence at Gould's thinking, which Dawkins felt distorted and belittled the opposition. In one of his essays, Gould accused the Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin of being responsible for the Piltdown hoax. Many critics, particularly many Catholics, took umbrage at this accusation, since Gould's evidence was slim. Careful examination of the essay, however, shows that Gould's real intent may have been to read Teilhard out of science. As the twentieth century's most ardent progressionist, Teilhard had to be exposed as a man without moral or scientific authority.
Despite this attack on Teilhard, Gould's attitude toward religion was far more complex than that of a typical atheist. Although a nonbeliever, Gould had a passion for singing oratorio, which was equaled by his passion for baseball. He was, in a sense, a deeply religious man, despite the absence of any formal theology. He knew the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, very well, and he frequently used biblical stories or allusions to illustrate points in his science writing. As an ardent evolutionist, Gould stood firmly against biblical literalists and creationists, and in 1981 he served as an expert witness for the American Civil Liberties Union in its successful litigation against a creationist law that had been passed in Arkansas. One of his last books, Rocks of Ages (1999), deals explicitly with issues of science and religion. Gould takes the position of the neo-orthodox (like Langdon Gilkey), arguing that science and religion are different dimensions for understanding and feeling—he calls them magisteria —and hence can not come into conflict if properly understood.
Unfortunately, Gould never really explored the ways in which conflict is avoided, and one is left with the impression that any compromise is going to favor religion. Gould's worldview would not allow miracles, for instance, and hence it would be necessary to interpret the resurrection symbolically or metaphorically. Such an approach may be acceptable to some Christians, but not to all, or indeed to most. In a way, therefore, Gould comes across as a logical positivist who is prepared to allow a role for religion as long as it is confined to sentiment, feeling, and morality, but makes no claims about matters of fact.
Gould died on May 20, 2002, in New York City. It is difficult to make long-term predictions about his lasting influence, although he will surely always be celebrated as a brilliant popular writer. It is less likely that he will be remembered as a significant scientist or as a major player in the debate about science and religion.
See also Adaptation; Creationism; Darwin, Charles; Evolution, Biological; Positivism, Logical; Sociobiology; Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre
eldredge, niles, and gould, stephen jay. "punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism." in models in paleobiology, ed. thomas. j. m. schopf. san francisco: freeman cooper, 1972.
gould, stephen jay. ever since darwin: reflections in natural history. new york: norton, 1977.
gould, stephen jay. ontogeny and phylogeny. cambridge, mass.: belknap, 1977.
gould, stephen jay. "the piltdown conspiracy." natural history 89 (1980): 8–28.
gould, stephen jay. the mismeasure of man. new york: norton, 1981.
gould, stephen jay. wonderful life: the burgess shale and the nature of history. new york: norton, 1989.
gould, stephen jay. rocks of ages: science and religion in the fullness of life. new york: norton, 1999.
gould, stephen jay. the structure of evolutionary theory. cambridge, mass.: harvard university press, 2002.
ruse, michael. the darwinian paradigm: essays on its history, philosophy, and religious implications. london: routledge, 1989.
ruse, michael. monad to man: the concept of progress in evolutionary biology. cambridge, mass.: harvard university press, 1996.
ruse, michael. mystery of mysteries: is evolution a social construction? cambridge, mass.: harvard university press, 1999.
ruse, michael. darwin and design: science, philosophy, religion. cambridge, mass.: harvard university press, 2003.
Gould, Stephen Jay
Stephen Jay Gould
The American paleontologist (a scientist who studies fossil remains of life from long ago) Stephen Jay Gould was awarded the 1975 Schuchert Award by the Paleontological Society for his work in evolutionary (study of the process of change in the growth of a life group) theory. His work gave answers to the missing pieces in Charles Darwin's (1809–1882) transitional questions. He was also the author of several books popularizing current scientific issues.
Stephen Jay Gould was born on September 10, 1941, in New York City, the son of Leonard and Eleanor (Rosenberg) Gould. His father was a court reporter and part-time, unpaid naturalist (student of nature). Leonard Gould was a self-taught man who took his son to the American Museum of Natural History when the boy was five years old. It was here that the young Gould saw his first dinosaur, a Tyrannosaurus rex, and decided that he was going to devote his life to the study of geologic (the history of the earth based on the record of rocks) periods. With the support of his mother, an artist, and three well-remembered elementary school teachers, Gould was reading about evolution by age eleven. In high school he encountered the ongoing battle between creationism (a Biblical explanation of how life forms developed) and evolution as Darwin explained it. Darwin remained one of Gould's personal heroes.
After a summer at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Gould received his education at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, graduating in 1963. He then moved on to graduate school in evolutionary biology and paleontology at Columbia University, where he remained for two years. He married Deborah Lee, an artist, on October 3, 1965, then left to take a job in 1966 at Antioch College as professor of geology. The following year he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to take an assistant professorship at Harvard University. In that same year he finished his doctoral work, completing his degree program from Columbia. In 1971 he was promoted to associate professor, and in 1973 to full professor of geology. He also became curator (a person who oversees an exhibit or show) of invertebrate (species without a backbone) paleontology at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. At Harvard he widened his study of the speciation (the development of a new species) and evolution of land snails in the West Indies.
Gould was one of the founders of the school of evolution called "punctuated equilibrium." He argued that evolution proceeds quite rapidly at crucial points, with speciation occurring almost immediately. This could be due to quite sudden genetic changes. His favorite example was the panda's "thumb," a modification (adjustment) of the wrist bone that allows pandas to strip leaves from bamboo shoots. Such a transformation must have occurred all at once, he reasoned, or it would not have been preserved by natural selection (Darwin's explanation of how a species changes to meet its needs over centuries) since it had no useful function in a basic stage. This process would account for the lack of transitional (middle) forms throughout the fossil record, a problem Darwin grieved over but expected to be corrected by future paleontologists. Gould's scientific research and conclusions offer that solution.
In addition to Gould's work as a serious professional paleontologist, he spent much time trying to make science understandable to untrained readers as well as to scholars (trained students). As a popular writer and amateur historian of science, Gould concentrated upon the issues of science and culture.
In The Mismeasure of Man Gould gave an explanation of the misuse of intelligence testing. Gould admitted that human intelligence has a specific location in the brain and that it can be measured by a standard number score. He argued, however, that any efforts to label groups as having inferior or superior intelligence based upon these measurements mark a misuse of scientific data and an abuse of the scientific process.
In 1981 Gould served as an expert witness at a trial in Little Rock, Arkansas, which challenged a state law ordering the teaching of creation science as well as evolution. Gould's testimony argued that the theories of creationism are contradicted by all available scientific evidence and therefore should not be considered scientific. Due to this testimony, creationism was recognized as a religion and not a science. During that same year, Gould was awarded a prose fellows award from the MacArthur Foundation.
In July 1982 Gould was told he had mesothelioma, a particularly deadly form of cancer. He recovered from his illness and the treatment, but found that he had to continue his work with a new sense of urgency.
Gould used his earned place in biology to argue against one of its central ideas—biological determinism (the belief that individual differences are biologically caused and therefore unchangeable)—and he used his literary skills to make the debate popular. He received important recognition for his work in both areas. In 1975 he was given the Schuchert Award by the Paleontological Society for his original work in evolutionary theory. For his book, The Panda's Thumb, he received two awards: the Notable Book citation from the American Library Association in 1980 and the American Book Award in Science for 1981. Likewise, he received two awards for his other major work, The Mismeasure of Man: the National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction in 1981 and the American Book Award nomination in science for 1982.
Gould was also a National Science Foundation grantee. He was a member of several scientific societies—American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society of Naturalists, Paleontological Society, Society for the Study of Evolution, Society of Systematic Zoology, and Sigma Xi. In 1999 he assumed the presidency of the American Association of the Advancement of Science. His essay collection, The Lying Stones of Marrakech, was published by Harmony Books in April 2000.
As the author of more than two hundred evolutionary essays collected in eight volumes Gould was a publishing phenomenon, with topics such as evolution, his battle with cancer, Edgar Allan Poe, shells, why there are no .400 hitters in baseball, and the millennium (period of a thousand years). In an easy-to-read way Gould explained complex ideas in simple, understandable language that bridged the gap between scholars and nonscholars alike. After thirty years of writing for Natural History Gould said he was closing his writing career with his essay collection, I Have Landed: The End of Beginning in Natural History.
Gould lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children, Jesse and Ethan. He was a talented singer, with a love for Gilbert and Sullivan operettas (romantic, comic operas). His love of life was evident in The Flamingo's Smile: "I could not dent the richness in a hundred lifetimes, but I simply must have a look at a few more of those pretty pebbles." Stephen Jay Gould died of cancer in New York City on May 20, 2002.
For More Information
Gould, Stephen Jay. Ever Since Darwin. New York: Norton, 1977.
Gould, Stephen, Jay. Ontogeny and Phylogeny. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1977.
Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould
The American paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (born 1941) was awarded the Schuchert Award for 1975 by the Paleontological Society for his work in evolutionary theory. He was also the author of several books popularizing current scientific issues.
Stephen Jay Gould was born on September 10, 1941, in New York City, the son of Leonard and Eleanor (Rosenberg) Gould. His father was a court reporter and amateur naturalist. Leonard Gould was a self taught man and a Marxist who took his son to the American Museum of Natural History when the boy was five years old. It was here that the young Gould saw his first dinosaur, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and decided that he was going to devote his life to the study of geologic periods. Gould's his mother was an artist. After a summer at the University of Colorado, Gould received his education at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, graduating with an A.B. in 1963. He then moved on to graduate school in evolutionary biology and paleontology at Columbia University, where he remained for two years. He married Deborah Lee, an artist, on October 3, 1965, then left to take a job in 1966 at Antioch College as professor of geology. The following year he moved on to Harvard to take an assistant professorship, and in that same year he finished his doctoral work, completing his degree program from Columbia. In 1971 he was promoted to associate professor, and in 1973 to full professor of geology. He also became curator of invertebrate paleontology at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. At Harvard he expanded his study of land snails to the West Indies and other parts of the world.
Gould was one of the founders of the punctuated equilibrium school of evolution. The gradualism promoted by Charles Darwin and propounded in the neo-Darwinian synthesis of the 1930s stressed gradual modification of organic structures over long periods of geologic time. Gould argued that evolution proceeds quite rapidly at crucial points, with speciation occurring almost instantaneously. This could be due to quite sudden genetic mutations—his favorite example is the panda's "thumb," a modification of the wrist bone allowing the panda to strip leaves from bamboo shoots. Such a transformation must have occurred all at once, he reasoned, or it would not have been preserved by natural selection, having no useful function in a rudimentary stage. This process would account for the lack of transitional forms throughout the fossil record, a problem Darwin lamented but expected to be resolved by future paleontologists.
In addition to his work as a serious professional paleontologist, Gould spent much time trying to make science accessible to lay readers as well as scholars As a popular writer and amateur historian of science, Gould concentrated upon the cultural "embeddedness" of science, seeing it as a creative human endeavor neither abstracted from society nor objectively pursuing un-interpreted data. Such embeddedness means that the science of a particular period shares the assumptions and prejudices of that period. This is as characteristic of modern science as it was of the science of antiquity—Arthur Jensen, who argued for the genetic inferiority of Blacks, for instance, is probably not more, and possibly much less, objective than Aristotle. Both tend to biologize human nature and intelligence. In his book The Mismeasure of Man, for which he won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Essays and Criticism in 1982, Gould features an explanation of the misuse of intelligence testing to assign value to human beings and to promote cultural prejudice. Although he concedes that human intelligence has a specific location in the brain and that it can be measured by a standard number score, he argues that any efforts to label groups as possessing inherently inferior or superior intelligence based upon these measurements represent a misuse of scientific data and a violation of the scientific process.
In 1981 Gould served as an expert witness at a trial in Little Rock Arkansas that challenged a state law mandating the teaching of creation science in tandem with evolution. Gould's testimony argued that the theories of creationism are belied by all available scientific evidence and therefore do not deserve scientific status. Due to this testimony, Creationism was recognized as a religion and not a science. During that same year, Gould was awarded a prose fellows award from the MacArthur Foundation.
In July of 1982 Gould was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a particularly deadly form of cancer. He recovered from his illness and the treatment, but found that he had to continue his work with a new sense of urgency. He further explored the misuse of standardized testing to label social groups rather than study the effects of social factors on intelligence.
Both of Gould's careers gave evidence of a firm commitment to the liberatory elements in science. He borrowed legitimately upon his earned prestige in biology to argue against one of its central paradigms—biological determinism—and he used his literary skills to popularize the debate, exposing the dangers inherent in all biologizations of human abilities. Gould received critical recognition for his work in both areas. In 1975 he was given the Schuchert Award by the Paleontological Society for his original work in evolutionary theory. For his book The Panda's Thumb, he received two awards: the Notable Book citation from the American Library Association in 1980 and the American Book Award in Science for 1981. Likewise, he received two awards for his other major work, The Mismeasure of Man: the National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction in 1981 and the American Book Award nomination in science for 1982. Gould was also a National Science Foundation grantee. He was a member of several scientific societies—American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society of Naturalists, Paleontological Society, Society for the Study of Evolution, Society of Systematic Zoology, and Sigma Xi. As the author of more than 200 evolutionary essays collect in eight volumes Gould was a publishing phenomenon, with topics ranging from evolution, to his successful battle with cancer, Edgar Allan Poe, shells, and why there are no. 400 hitters in baseball to name a few. Eminently readable, Gould explains complex ideas in simple understandable language that bridges the gap between scholars and lay persons alike. It is this that gives his work durability and credibility.
Gould resided in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children, Jesse and Ethan. He was an accomplished baritone with an undying love for Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, sang in the Boston Cecilia Society. In The Flaming's Smile he wrote "I could not dent the richness in a hundred lifetimes, but I simply must have a look at a few more of those pretty pebbles."
There is little biographical information on Stephen Jay Gould, though Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, vol. 10, provides a brief but intelligent sketch.
All of his popular works are worth reading. These are, chronologically: Even Since Darwin (1977); Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977); The Panda's Thumb (1980); contributor, Ernst Mayr, editor, The Evolutionary Synthesis (1980); A View of Life (1981); The Mismeasure of Man (1981); and Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes (1983). □
Gould, Stephen Jay
Gould, Stephen Jay
Evolutionary biologist, paleontologist, and science writer 1941-
Stephen Jay Gould (1941-) is an American evolutionary biologist, paleontologist, and science writer. Gould teaches at Harvard University and is known in the lay community for his essays in the Natural History journal. In the scientific community he is known for his ideas on evolutionary theory. He has been awarded many literary and academic honors, including the National Book Award and a MacArthur Prize.
Born on September 10, 1941, in New York City, Gould grew up in Queens, New York. His father was a court stenographer and an accomplished amateur naturalist. At five years of age, while taking a trip with his father to the American Museum of Natural History, Gould saw a reconstruction of the dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex. From then on, he was intrigued by science.
During his high school years, Gould was disappointed in the way evolution was depicted in biology textbooks. As a consequence, he began to read the original works of Charles Darwin. Gould received a B.A. from Antioch College in 1963. He was awarded a Ph.D. in paleontology from Columbia University in 1967.
Gould then became assistant professor of geology at Harvard University. In addition, he was appointed curator of invertebrate paleontology at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. At around this time he expanded his study of land snails to the West Indies and other parts of the world.
In the early 1970s Gould introduced his most noted contribution to evolutionary theory, the concept of punctuated equilibrium. Along with Niles Eldridge, he proposed that new species are created by evolutionary changes that occur in rapid bursts over periods as short as a few thousand years, separated by periods of stability in which there is little further change. This contrasts with Darwin's classical theory in which species develop slowly over millions of years at fairly constant rates.
In 1981 Gould served as expert witness in a lawsuit in Little Rock, Arkansas, that challenged a state requirement that so-called creation science be taught. He challenged the literal interpretation of the Bible, stating that Noah's flood could not account for fossil remains around the world. Partly as a result of Gould's testimony, the State of Arkansas legally acknowledged that creationism was a religion and not a science and therefore could not take the place of a scientific curriculm taught in Arkansas public schools.
Gould is widely known for his many books on natural history, paleontology, and biological evolution, including The Mismeasure of Man (1981), Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes (1983), The Flamingo's Smile (1985), Wonderful Life (1989), and Eight Little Piggies (1993).
Holmes, Frederic L. Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 3. Edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie. New York: Scribner, 1982.
Murray, Mary. "Paean to a Leader in Evolutionary Theory." Science News 128, no. 67 (1986):16-26.
Gould, Stephen Jay
GOULD, STEPHEN JAY
GOULD, STEPHEN JAY (1941–2002), U.S. paleontologist and author. Born in New York City, Gould was educated at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio (A.B., 1963), and Columbia University (Ph.D., 1967). After a year of teaching geology at Antioch, Gould accepted an appointment at Harvard in 1967, where he remained for the rest of his life. At his death Gould was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, with a concurrent appointment in the Department of the History of Science.
Gould was a leading evolutionary biologist who developed (with Niles Eldredge) a theory of evolutionary development called "punctuated equilibrium," which states that species do not evolve at a steady, even rate, but in sudden bursts over relatively short (in evolutionary time) periods during speciation, after which they remain stable in form – that is, in a state of "equilibrium" – until they become extinct. While this theory has not been wholly accepted, much of it has, and was in the 1970s a fruitful focus of ongoing scientific debate.
Gould became widely known, however, less for his academic work than for his prolific writing for a popular audience. As a columnist for Natural History magazine for 24 years and the author of many books (including several bestsellers), he was an eloquent popularizer of scientific discourse, educating the public about biology, geology, and evolution as well as issues such as scientific racism and the social context of science generally. He was a tireless advocate for good science and education and testified in a number of public hearings regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools. Probably his best-known work for a general audience is the classic The Mismeasure of Man (1981; revised edition 1996), an account of the fraudulent science and racist assumptions that lay at the origins of iq testing. This instructive and realistic examination of how science is shaped by social values was a forceful intervention in an ongoing cultural and political debate in the 1980s that earned him the enmity of many on the political right. Gould's other works for general readers include collections of essays: Ever Since Darwin (1977), The Panda's Thumb (1980), Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes (1983), The Flamingo's Smile (1985), An Urchin in the Storm (1987), Bully for Brontosaurus (1991); and The Lying Stones of Marrakech (2000); and books such as Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle (1987), and Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (1989). His academic works, beside journal articles, include Ontogeny and Philogeny (1977) and his final, comprehensive statement of his understanding of evolution, published the year he died, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (2002).
[Drew Silver (2nd ed.)]