Re: Gould vs Darwin question

Rod Hagen (
1 Oct 1995 01:15:29 GMT

In article <4482ks$>, (eric
strayer) wrote:

> I'm a socy grad student. In one of my core
> courses there is an (ex?) anthro major who
> got all over my case when I commented on S.J. Gould's
> discussion of Darwin's possible reasons for
> postponing his publishing of "Origin" until
> Russell was about to release a similar finding/study.
> (BTW, the reason Gould speculates is that of
> social pressures, loss of status etc. I thought
> a good argument and not particularly hostile either.
> Just a very probable condition of the time.)
> What this student said was something like "Well,
> everyone knows that Gould has it in for Darwin . . ."
> And s/he wouldn't back down or open up on the topic.
> I subsequently looked into Gould's book "Ever Since
> Darwin" (the usual collection of easy reading but
> eloquent essays from N. History) in which he seems to
> have nothing bad at all to say of Darwin.
> Does something come up later in Gould's career to
> sour his opinion? I mean, the book I cited is kind
> of old -- 1976 I think.

I'm not an expert on such matters, but I've read most of Gould's "easy"
publications and a fair bit of other general material in the field. It
seems to me that some "Darwinians" approach his (Darwin's) words with
something akin to religious fervour. Any departure from "the word" is seen
as something tantamount to heresy. Which is funny in this case given
Gould's massive role in promulgating Darwinian evolution, particularly in
the US, the one western country where fundamentalist christian views on
creation seem to still be seen as having some validity by a significant
hunk of the population.

If you want to have a look at some of Gould's negative comments about
Darwin's work, especially of "factual" errors, have a look at "Full of Hot
Air", in "Eight Little Piggies" (1993), and, on a more theoretical level,
the essay "The Wheel of Fortune and the Wedge of Progress", in the same

Gould critiscises Darwin's gradualism in many places,and prefers
interpretations in terms of "punctuated equilibrium". He also criticises
some of Darwin's views on human differences, within a framework of
interpretation which emphasises the dominant social values of the day.

But by and large his work is a tribute to the power and depth of Darwin's
work. If Darwin could read Gould's work from the grave, he'd see him as a
worthy ally rather than en enemy.


Rod Hagen
Hurstbridge, Victoria, Australia