Friday, May 20, 2005

Obituary for Stephen Jay Gould Evolutionist

The obituary is for Stephen Jay Gould, a well-known evolutionist. To my mind, Gould shall carry a mixed legacy when it comes to his work.

While he did much to explain evolution to a broad audience, he seemed to go off the tracks a bit later in his career. The following quote comes from Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Daniel C. Dennett, a book I would highly recommend.

As Robert Wright (1990, p. 30) puts it, Gould is "America's evolutionist laureate. If he has been systematically misleading Americans about what evolution is and what it means, that amounts to a lot of intellectual damage."
Has he done this? Consider the following. If you believe:

(1) that adaptationism has been refuted or relegated to a minor role in evolutionary biology, or
(2) that since adaptationism is "the central intellectual flaw of sociobiology" (Gould 1993a, p. 319), sociobiology has been utterly discredited as a scientific discipline, or
(3) that Gould and Eldredge's hypothesis of punctuated equilibrium overthrew orthodox neo-Darwinism, or
(4) that Gould has shown that the fact of mass extinction refutes the "extrapolationism" that is the Achilles' heel of orthodox neo-Darwinism,

then what you believe is a falsehood.

Update: I see that Jeff G at Protein Wisdom notes his passing as well. I'm happy that he mentioned he preferred Dawkin's positions or I would have started mercilessly calling him a "skyhooker."