Stephen Jay Gould

United States paleontologist and popularizer of science (1941-2002)

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... each with its own beauty, and each with a story to tell.
... many folks take them seriously because they just ‘know’ that evolution can never be seen in the immediate here and now. In fact, a precisely opposite situation prevails: biologists have documented a veritable glut of cases for rapid and eminently measurable evolution on timescales of years and decades.”
... objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and then subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny...
Human consciousness arose but a minute before midnight on the geological clock. Yet we mayflies try to bend an ancient world to our purposes, ignorant perhaps of the messages buried in its long history. Let us hope that we are still in the early morning of our April day.
In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
Sigmund Freud often remarked that great revolutions in the history of science have but one common, and ironic, feature: they knock human arrogance off one pedestal after another of our previous conviction about our own self-importance.
The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best - and therefore never scrutinize or question.
The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos.
The true beauty of nature is her amplitude she exists neither for nor because of us, and possesses a staying power that all our nuclear arsenals cannot threaten (much as we can easily destroy our puny selves).
[L]ife shows no trend to complexity in the usual sense—only an asymmetrical expansion of diversity around a starting point constrained to be simple.”
“I emphatically do not assert the general ‘truth’ of this philosophy of punctuational change. Any attempt to support the exclusive validity of such a grandiose notion would border on the nonsensical.”
“If evolution almost always occurs by rapid speciation in small, peripheral isolates, then what should the fossil record look like? We are not likely to detect the event of speciation itself. It happens too fast, in too small a group, isolated too far from the ancestral range ...
“Speciation does not necessarily promote evolutionary change; rather, speciation 'gathers in' and guards evolutionary change by locking and stabilization for sufficient geological time within a Darwinian individual of the appropriate scale. If a change in a local population does not gain such protection, it becomes—to borrow Dawkins's metaphor at a macroevolutionary scale—a transient duststorm in the desert of time, a passing cloud without borders, integrity, or even the capacity to act as a unit of selection, in the panorama of life's phylogeny.”
“The literal record was not a hopelessly and imperfect fraction of truly insensible gradation within large populations but an accurate reflection of the actual process identified by evolutionists as the chief motor of biological change. The theory of punctuated equilibrium was, in its initial formulation, little more than this insight adumbrated.”
“The modern theory of evolution does not require gradual change. It in fact, the operation of Darwinian processes should yield exactly what we see in the fossil record. It is gradualism that we must reject, not Darwinism.

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