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Stephen Jay Gould — Master of Equivocation

Denyse O’Leary on her blog is arguing that Stephen Jay Gould would never have signed on with the National Center for Science Education’s Selling Evolution’s Project Steve, whose signatories agree that “there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence” (go here for the NCSE’s announcement of Project Steve, and go here for O’Leary’s blog entry disputing that Stephen Jay would ever have signed on to this project).

In particular, O’Leary cites a friend of Stephen Jay’s, Stuart Pivar, who is urging the NCSE to remove from its Project Steve statement an overemphasis on the role of natural selection in biological evolution. Pivar writes: “A main point in Goulds message to us regarding how evolution works is that natural selection is not responsible for form, playing only a minor, eliminative role in the selection among a choice of forms produced by other means. You might consider installing the words ‘or that natural structural processes and heterochony are the major mechanisms in its occurence.’”

Compare this to Stephen Jay Gould’s claim in his 1999 Rocks of Ages (pp. 56-57): “My colleagues in evolutionary theory are presently engaged in a healthy debate about whether a limited amount of Lamarckian evolution may be occurring for restricted phenomena in bacteria. Yet the fascination and intensity of this question does not change the well-documented conclusion that Darwinian processes dominate in the general run of evolutionary matters.” Does it need to be added that natural selection is the central mechanism in any Darwinian process?

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8 Responses to Stephen Jay Gould — Master of Equivocation

  1. So, you disagree with O’Leary and Pivar, then?

  2. I’m saying Gould played the staunch Darwinian when it suited him. –WmAD

  3. The link to Denyse’s article seems to be broken.

    Go here http://post-darwinist.blogspot.com and it is the topmost article (at the moment).

    [Curious: Doing a refresh on my browser indicates a broken link, but placing the cursor on the URL and punching "enter" brings it up. --WmAD]

  4. ” – go here for O’Leary’s blog entry disputing that Stephen Jay would ever have signed on to this project). ”

    For the record, I am not personally disputing it. My source Pivar is disputing it.

    Pivar told me – and gave me permission to publish it – that Gould did not admit what he really thought because he did not want to acknowledge how weak the evidence for Darwinism is, in from of creatinists and ID people.

    Is Pivar right? Wrong? He knew the guy, so I can’t discount it. I figured, run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.

    My preferred outcome would be a conference examining structuralism vs. Darwinism vs. ID.

    – Denyse O’Leary
    Toronto

  5. Note: I have just heard from someone at the University of Manitoba who IS looking at organizing a structuralism conference. Maybe we can start sorting out what Gould really thought now:

    Dear Denyse,

    [...]

    I’m at [email protected].

    Since you suggested that a conference on structuralism is a vague rumor, let me just say that Stuart and I are indeed considering organizing such, perhaps under my suggested title:

    Digital Burgess II, Workshop on Structuralism & Emergence: What Causes Complex Design in Life?

    I did not know Gould personally, though while he was still alive I critiqued some of his ideas in:

    Gordon, R. (1999). The Hierarchical Genome and Differentiation Waves: Novel Unification of Development, Genetics and Evolution, Singapore: World Scientific and London: Imperial College Press, 2 vols., 1836p. http://www.wspc.com.sg/books/lifesci/2755.html

    where I put forward my own ideas on the origin of form. However, I am open to other hypotheses. Thanks.
    Yours, -Dick Gordon
    Note: This was placed in the comments box on my blog, so I assume it’s public knowledge. -d.

  6. Hey Bill, thanks for correcting my misspelling of Denyse’s name. I noticed I’d misspelled it too late to do anything about it.

  7. Me being confrontational about articles of faith (with a mention of SJ Gould in the second link that makes it sort of related to the topic here).

    http://www.outsidethebeltway.c.....ment-62185

    http://www.outsidethebeltway.c.....ment-62189

  8. Well now. I’ve been banned at outsidethebeltway.com from posting comments.

    That was fast.

    ROFLMAO

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