If you absolutely forced me to bet on the existence of a conventional anthropomorphic deity, of course I'd bet no. But, basically, Huxley was right when he said that agnosticism is the only honorable position because we really cannot know. And that's right. I'd be real surprised if there turned out to be a conventional God.
Comparisons were made to George Gaylord Simpson's work in Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1941). However Simpson describes the paleontological record as being characterized by predominantly gradual change (which he termed horotely), though he also documented examples of slow (bradytely), and rapid (tachytely) rates of evolution. Both punctuated equilibrium and phyletic gradualism are not mutually exclusive, and examples of each have been documented in different lineages. The debate between these two Models is often misunderstood by non-scientists, and according to Richard Dawkins has been oversold by the media. Some critics jokingly referred to the theory of punctuated equilibrium as "evolution by jerks", which prompted Gould to describe phyletic gradualism as "evolution by creeps."
While attending Antioch College in the early 1960s, Gould was active in the civil rights movement and often campaigned for social justice. When he attended the University of Leeds as a visiting undergraduate, he organized weekly demonstrations outside a Bradford dance hall which refused to admit black people. Gould continued these demonstrations until the policy was revoked. Throughout his career and writings, he spoke out against cultural oppression in all its forms, especially what he saw as the pseudoscience used in the Service of racism and sexism.
Gould began his higher education at Antioch College, graduating with a double major in geology and philosophy in 1963. During this time, he also studied at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. After completing graduate work at Columbia University in 1967 under the guidance of Norman Newell, he was immediately hired by Harvard University where he worked until the end of his life (1967–2002). In 1973, Harvard promoted him to professor of geology and curator of invertebrate paleontology at the institution's Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Gould's publications were numerous. One review of his publications between 1965 and 2000 noted 479 peer-reviewed papers, 22 books, 300 essays, and 101 "major" book reviews. A selected number of his papers are listed online.
Gould also had a long-running public feud with E. O. Wilson and other evolutionary biologists concerning the disciplines of human sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, both of which Gould and Lewontin opposed, but which Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Steven Pinker advocated. These debates reached their climax in the 1970s, and included strong opposition from groups such as the Sociobiology Study Group and Science for the People. Pinker accuses Gould, Lewontin, and other opponents of evolutionary psychology of being "radical scientists", whose stance on human nature is influenced by politics rather than science. Gould stated that he made "no attribution of motive in Wilson's or anyone else's case" but cautioned that all human beings are influenced, especially unconsciously, by our personal expectations and biases. He wrote:
Gould's most significant contribution to evolutionary biology was the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which he developed with Niles Eldredge in 1972. The theory proposes that most evolution is characterized by long periods of evolutionary stability, which is infrequently punctuated by swift periods of branching speciation. The theory was contrasted against phyletic gradualism, the popular idea that evolutionary change is marked by a pattern of smooth and continuous change in the fossil record.
Gould became widely known through his popular essays on evolution in the Natural History magazine. His essays were published in a series entitled This View of Life (a phrase from the concluding paragraph of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species) from January 1974 to January 2001, amounting to a continuous publication of 300 essays. Many of his essays were reprinted in collected volumes that became bestselling books such as Ever Since Darwin and The Panda's Thumb, Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, and The Flamingo's Smile.
In 1975, Gould's Harvard colleague E. O. Wilson introduced his analysis of animal behavior (including human behavior) based on a sociobiological framework that suggested that many social behaviors have a strong evolutionary basis. In response, Gould, Richard Lewontin, and others from the Boston area wrote the subsequently well-referenced letter to The New York Review of Books entitled, "Against 'Sociobiology'". This open letter criticized Wilson's notion of a "deterministic view of human society and human action."
When visiting Venice in 1978, Gould noted that the spandrels of the San Marco cathedral, while quite beautiful, were not spaces planned by the Architect. Rather the spaces arise as "necessary architectural byproducts of mounting a dome on rounded arches." Gould and Lewontin thus defined "spandrels" in the evolutionary biology context to mean any biological feature of an organism that arises as a necessary side consequence of other features, which is not directly selected for by natural selection. Proposed examples include the "masculinized genitalia in female hyenas, exaptive use of an umbilicus as a brooding chamber by Snails, the shoulder hump of the giant Irish deer, and several key features of human mentality."
Gould is one of the most frequently cited Scientists in the field of evolutionary theory. His 1979 "spandrels" paper has been cited more than 5,000 times. In Paleobiology—the flagship journal of his own speciality—only Charles Darwin and George Gaylord Simpson have been cited more often. Gould was also a considerably respected Historian of science. Historian Ronald Numbers has been quoted as saying: "I can't say much about Gould's strengths as a scientist, but for a long time I've regarded him as the second most influential Historian of science (next to Thomas Kuhn)."
Gould was the author of The Mismeasure of Man (1981), a history and inquiry of psychometrics and intelligence testing, generating perhaps the greatest controversy of all his books and receiving both widespread praise and extensive criticism, including claims of misrepresentation. Gould investigated the methods of nineteenth century craniometry, as well as the history of psychological testing. Gould claimed that both theories developed from an unfounded belief in biological determinism, the view that "social and economic differences between human groups—primarily races, classes, and sexes—arise from inherited, inborn distinctions and that society, in this sense, is an accurate reflection of biology." The book was reprinted in 1996 with the addition of a new foreword and a critical review of The Bell Curve.
In 1982 Harvard awarded him the title of Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology. The following year, 1983, he was awarded a fellowship at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where he later served as President (1999–2001). The AAAS news release cited his "numerous contributions to both scientific progress and the public understanding of science." He also served as President of the Paleontological Society (1985–1986) and of the Society for the Study of Evolution (1990–1991).
Gould also became a noted public face of science, often appearing on television. In 1984 Gould received his own NOVA special on PBS. Other appearances included interviews on CNN's Crossfire and Talkback Live, NBC's The Today Show, and regular appearances on PBS's Charlie Rose show. Gould was also a guest in all seven episodes of the Dutch talk series A Glorious Accident, in which he appeared with his close friend Oliver Sacks.
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.)
Gould never embraced cladistics as a method of investigating evolutionary lineages and process, possibly because he was concerned that such investigations would lead to neglect of the details in historical biology, which he considered all-important. In the early 1990s this led him into a debate with Derek Briggs, who had begun to apply quantitative cladistic techniques to the Burgess Shale fossils, about the methods to be used in interpreting these fossils. Around this time cladistics rapidly became the dominant method of classification in evolutionary biology. Inexpensive but increasingly powerful personal computers made it possible to process large quantities of data about organisms and their characteristics. Around the same time the development of effective polymerase chain reaction techniques made it possible to apply cladistic methods of analysis to biochemical and genetic features as well.
Dawkins accused Gould of deliberately underplaying the differences between rapid gradualism and macromutation in his published accounts of punctuated equilibrium. He also devoted entire chapters to critiquing Gould's account of evolution in his books The Blind Watchmaker and Unweaving the Rainbow, as did Daniel Dennett in his 1995 book Darwin's Dangerous Idea.
In 1997 he voiced a cartoon version of himself on the television series The Simpsons. In the episode "Lisa the Skeptic", Lisa finds a skeleton that many people believe is an apocalyptic angel. Lisa contacts Gould and asks him to test the skeleton's DNA. The fossil is discovered to be a marketing gimmick for a new mall. During production the only phrase Gould objected to was a line in the script that introduced him as the "world's most brilliant paleontologist". In 2002 the show paid tribute to Gould after his death, dedicating the season 13 finale to his memory. Gould had died two days before the episode aired.
His view was criticized by Simon Conway Morris in his 1998 book The Crucible of Creation. Conway Morris stressed those members of the Cambrian fauna that resemble modern taxa. He also promoted convergent evolution as a mechanism producing similar forms in similar environmental circumstances, and argued in a subsequent book that the appearance of human-like animals is likely. Paleontologist Richard Fortey noted that prior to the release of Wonderful Life, Conway Morris shared many of Gould's sentiments and views. It was only after publication of Wonderful Life that Conway Morris revised his interpretation and adopted a more progressive stance towards the history of life.
In his book Rocks of Ages (1999), Gould put forward what he described as "a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution to ... the supposed conflict between science and religion." He defines the term magisterium as "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution." The non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) principle therefore divides the magisterium of science to cover "the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry." He suggests that "NOMA enjoys strong and fully explicit support, even from the primary cultural stereotypes of hard-line traditionalism" and that NOMA is "a sound position of general consensus, established by long struggle among people of goodwill in both magisteria."
Gould was known by the general public mainly for his 300 popular essays in Natural History magazine, and his numerous books written for both the specialist and non-specialist. In April 2000, the US Library of Congress named him a "Living Legend".
The conflicts between Richard Dawkins and Gould were popularized by Philosopher Kim Sterelny in his 2001 book Dawkins vs. Gould. Sterelny documents their disagreements over theoretical issues, including the prominence of gene selection in evolution. Dawkins argues that natural selection is best understood as competition among genes (or replicators), while Gould advocated multi-level selection, which includes selection amongst genes, nucleic acid sequences, cell lineages, organisms, demes, species, and clades.
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.
A passionate advocate of evolutionary theory, Gould wrote prolifically on the subject, trying to communicate his understanding of contemporary evolutionary biology to a wide audience. A recurring theme in his writings is the history and development of pre-evolutionary and evolutionary thought. He was also an enthusiastic baseball fan and sabermetrician (analyst of baseball statistics), and made frequent reference to the sport in his essays. Many of his baseball essays were anthologized in his posthumously published book Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville (2003).
In 2011, a study conducted by six anthropologists criticized Gould's claim that Samuel Morton unconsciously manipulated his skull measurements, arguing that his coverage of Morton was tainted by his opposition to racism. The group's paper was in turn reviewed in the journal Nature, which recommended a degree of caution, noting that while Gould's opposition to racism might have biased his interpretation of Morton's data, the paper's authors had biases of their own. The group's paper was also critically reviewed in the journal Evolution & Development by Philosopher of science Michael Weisberg, also of the University of Pennsylvania, who argued that Gould's arguments were sound and that Morton's measurements were indeed tainted by racial bias. Biologists and Philosophers Jonathan Kaplan, Massimo Pigliucci, and Joshua Banta also published a critique of the groups's paper, arguing that many of its claims were misleading and the re-measurements were irrelevant.
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."