Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould (born September 10, 1941 in New York ; † May 20, 2002 ibid) was an American paleontologist , geologist and evolutionary biologist . He taught at Harvard University and was also known as the author of popular science books and essays. His essayistic style is occasionally compared to Montaigne . Among other things, he also criticized the traditional concept of intelligence .
Gould was politically active at a young age, for example against racially segregated restaurants or against the Vietnam War . He attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs , Ohio and studied paleontology and evolutionary biology at Columbia University , where he received his PhD in 1967. He was then Assistant Professor, from 1971 Associate Professor and since 1973 Professor of Geology at Harvard University . In 1981 he was a MacArthur Fellow . In 1989 he received the Sue Tyler Friedman Medal . In 1987 he was President of the Paleontological Society . In 2008 he received the Darwin Wallace Medal of the Linnean Society of London , in 1975 the Charles Schuchert Award and in 2002 the Paleontological Society Medal. He has also been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1983 and of the National Academy of Sciences since 1989 . In 1990 he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh .
A macroevolutionary approach, which he has repeatedly published in technical articles and monographs, is just as fundamental to his thinking. As a paradigmatic example, the theory of "punctuated equilibrium" ( punctuated equilibrium or punctualism ) can be used, which he developed together with Niles Eldredge . According to this, evolution does not take place in constant small steps with constant speed (phyletic gradualism ). Rather - in geological terms - relatively short phases of rapid change should alternate with longer periods of time without change ( stasis ). This theory was controversial among colleagues as it was often misunderstood as a modern version of Richard Goldschmidt's hypothesis of the hopeful monster . Today it is widely recognized that evolution takes place at different speeds, depending on the ecological context - a view that is compatible with a gradualism with a variable speed of development. Criticism today is more directed towards the importance of the theory of punctualism. Gould draws a "catastrophic" picture of evolution, which only happened to take this course and not a completely different course, primarily on the basis of a revision of the results of the investigation of the Burgess slate about the Cambrian explosion . The theory is called the contingency theory of evolution.
Punctualism shows another fundamental characteristic of Gould's thinking: a deep-seated skepticism about the omnipotence of natural selection. The postulation of a long phase of stasis in the life of the species makes it clear that organisms can undergo massive environmental changes without change.
In two other specialist publications (Stephen J. Gould / Richard C. Lewontin , 1979 and Stephen J. Gould / Elisabeth Vrba , 1982) he advocated that properties of an organism can have survived even without a direct function reference. He points out that natural selection characterizes a negative selection and does not select certain properties positively thanks to their function in an adaptationistic manner. The concept of exaptation also fits into this train of thought , the idea that a feature was initially selected and adapted for a different function than that which is usually seen as the dominant one. Gould's and Lewontin's attack on excessive adaptation is carried under the catchphrase adaptationist program as an open debate that continues to this day about the extent to which organisms in their populations are actually adapted. In their influential paper, Gould and Lewontin opposed what they saw as excessive individual consideration ("atomization") of characteristics that are individually subject to selection and are adapted. In fact, numerous characteristics are non-selected by-products of other, adapted characteristics. Ernst Mayr took a critical stance on this attack on evolutionary adaptation. However, he admitted that adaptation does not lead to a perfectly optimized process, since "stochastic processes and other constraints", including pleiotropy , prevent perfect adaptation. Already Darwin had pointed out that there is no perfect match.
According to Daniel Dennett , Gould's contributions in no way shook the very foundations of Darwinism ; rather, Gould found the core of the theory of evolution unpleasant. Evidence of this can be seen, for example, in Gould's essay The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm (1979).
Stephen Jay Gould contracted mesothelioma in July 1982 . In both his column entitled The Median isn't the Message and Illusion Progress , he described his reaction when he learned that the median life expectancy of mesothelioma sufferers is 8 months and what the median really means for him in this context means. He said in these writings that he was probably in the right range of variation in the chances of this disease. However, his illness could be cured with experimental methods at the time. Gould died of lung cancer on May 20, 2002 in New York .
Throughout his life, Gould advocated considering the entire range of variation in a system: be it when analyzing his cancer in the 1980s (50% of those affected live longer than eight months; median mortality of eight months does not mean death after eight Months), or be it when looking at the history of life (see evolution and progress ).
Evolution and progress
Gould often opposed the idea that evolution should be equated with progress. He made seven points:
- Life arises from areas of low complexity , Gould speaks of a "left wall" here: There is no life below a certain simplicity, and the origin of life is based on a certain simplicity: " No lion can arise from the primordial soup ."
- Stability of the original bacteria as a form of life: Even if the “average complexity of life” has increased, the so-called simple forms of life (bacteria) have successfully survived to this day.
- In order for life forms to spread, they had to become more and more complex, because there is no life below a certain simplicity. Gould speaks of an “increasingly right skewed distribution” away from the “left wall of least complexity”.
- Judging the overall distribution by its complex part is myopic.
- The alleged progress is not directed, but accidental and undirected. As a metaphor, he cited: The drunken man's undirected path between the inn on the left and the street on the right leads sooner or later into the trickle. The left limit is to be equated with the complexity of a living organism, below this limit no life is possible, so sooner or later the sum of all random movements leads to the “right”, i.e. H. in the direction of increasing complexity, but this is just random and undirected. Furthermore, he regards the complex living beings as a “stumbling” of very different forms: bacteria , eukaryotic cells , marine algae , jellyfish , trilobites , nautilus , armored fish , dinosaurs , saber-toothed tigers and Homo sapiens .
- A combination of random movement and a tendency to the right away from the “left wall” appears to him possible, but unlikely: he knows no evidence of a preferred movement in the direction of greater complexity.
- Is man (already through his existence) the crowning glory of creation? Says Gould: “If we could play the game of life all over again, it would be completely unpredictable which life forms would be the most complex; it would be unlikely that a creature with a consciousness (like us) would arise. "
Gould was also a dedicated member of the Skeptics Society and was committed to popularizing the theory of evolution and defending it against creationism widespread in the United States . In 2000, the Skeptics Society held a commemorative publication for Stephen Jay Gould in honor of Gould . A detailed account of his life has been published by the Skeptics Society: Michael Shermer : This View of Science - Stephen Jay Gould as Historian of Science and Scientific Historian. In: Skeptic 9 # 4, pp. 36-55 (2002).
In The Mismeasure of Man (1981) Gould criticized the general concept of intelligence and its application to different ethnic groups, genders and population groups in a mathematical and methodical way .
Gould, as a biologist, sees no tension between Christianity and evolution:
“A lot of people think there's an intrinsic conflict between Christianity and evolution, but there isn't. Religion is about ethics and values, and science is about facts. You need both of them, but they don't interact very much. "
“A lot of people think there is a major conflict between Christianity and evolution, but that's not true. Religion is about ethics and values and science is about facts. You need both, but they don't particularly overlap. "
Because of this relationship, Gould called religion and science the Nonoverlapping Magisteria . The critic of religion Richard Dawkins rejects this concept and regards, for example, the existence of God as a purely (natural) scientific question: "Either he exists or he does not exist". The fact that there is no evidence for either side does not mean that the question cannot be resolved forever.
- Ontogeny and Phylogeny. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA et al. 1977, ISBN 0-674-63940-5 .
- with Niles Eldredge: Punctuated Equilibria - The Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered. in: Paleobiology 3/1977, p. 115ff
- Ever Since Darwin. Reflections in Natural History. Norton, New York NY 1977, ISBN 0-393-06425-5 (In German: Darwin after Darwin. Naturgeschichtliche Reflexionen. (= Ullstein. 35207). Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1984, ISBN 3-548-35207-3 ).
- with Richard C. Lewontin: The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm. A Critique of the Adaptionist Program. In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences. Vol. 205, No. 1161, 1979, pp. 581-598, doi : 10.1098 / rspb.1979.0086 .
- The Panda's Thumb. More Reflections in Natural History. Norton, New York NY 1980, ISBN 0-393-01380-4 (In German: The panda's thumb. Considerations on natural history. Birkhäuser, Basel et al. 1987, ISBN 3-7643-1839-2 ).
- The Mismeasure of Man . Norton, New York NY 1981, ISBN 0-393-01489-4 (In German: The wrongly measured man. Birkhäuser, Basel et al. 1983, ISBN 3-7643-1515-6 ).
- with Elisabeth S. Vrba: Exaptation. A missing term in the science of form. In: Paleobiology. Vol. 8, No. 1, 1982, pp. 4-15, doi : 10.1017 / S0094837300004310 .
- Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes. Norton, New York NY 1983, ISBN 0-393-01716-8 (In German: How the zebra gets its stripes. Essays on natural history. Birkhäuser, Basel et al. 1986, ISBN 3-7643-1553-9 ).
- The Flamingo's Smile. Reflections in Natural History. Norton, New York NY 1985, ISBN 0-393-02228-5 (In German: The smile of the flamingo. Considerations on natural history. Birkhäuser, Basel et al. 1989, ISBN 3-7643-1882-1 ; therein the story of Sarah Baartman ).
- Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle. Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA et al. 1987, ISBN 0-674-89198-8 (In German: The discovery of deep time. Time arrow and time cycle in the history of our earth. Carl Hanser, Munich 1990, ISBN 3-446-15376-4 ).
- To Urchin in the Storm. Essays about Books and Ideas. Norton, New York NY et al. 1987, ISBN 0-393-02492-X .
- Wonderful life. The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. Norton, New York NY et al. 1989, ISBN 0-393-02705-8 (In German: Zufall Mensch. The miracle of life as a game of nature. Carl Hanser, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-446-15951-7 ).
- Bully for Brontosaurus. Reflections in Natural History. Norton, New York NY et al. 1991, ISBN 0-393-02961-1 (In German: Bravo, Brontosaurus. The winding paths of natural history. Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1994, ISBN 3-455-08555-5 ).
- Finders, Keepers. Eight Collectors. Norton, New York NY et al. 1992, ISBN 0-393-03054-7 .
- Eight Little Piggies. Reflections in Natural History. Norton, New York NY et al. 1993, ISBN 0-393-03416-X .
- as editor: The Book of Life. vgs, Cologne 1993, ISBN 3-8025-1269-3 .
- Dinosaur in a Haystack. Reflections in Natural History. Harmony Books, New York NY 1995, ISBN 0-517-70393-9 (In German: A dinosaur in a haystack. Forays through natural history. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-10-027808-9 ).
- Full house. The Spread of Excellence From Plato to Darwin. Harmony Books, New York NY 1996, ISBN 0-517-70394-7 (In German: Illusion progress. The diverse ways of evolution. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-10-027807-0 ).
- Questioning the Millennium. A Rationalist's Guide to a Precisely Arbitrary Countdown. Harmony Books, New York NY 1997, ISBN 0-609-60076-1 (In German: The magic of the millennium. Through the illusory world of numerical orders. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-10-027810-0 ) .
- Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms. Essays on Natural History. Harmony Books, New York NY 1998, ISBN 0-609-60141-5 .
- Rocks of Ages. Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. Ballantine Books, New York NY 1999, ISBN 0-345-43009-3 .
- The Lying Stones of Marrakech. Penultimate Reflections in Natural History. Harmony Books, New York NY 2000, ISBN 0-609-60142-3 (In German: Die Lügensteine von Marrakesch. Penultimate explorations of natural history. Essays. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-10-027813-5 ).
- with Rosamond Wolff Purcell: Crossing Over. Where Art and Science Meet. Three Rivers Press, New York NY et al. 2000, ISBN 0-609-80586-X .
- The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA et al. 2002, ISBN 0-674-00613-5 .
- I have landed. The End of a Beginning in Natural History. Harmony Books, New York 2002, ISBN 0-609-60143-1 , ISBN 0-609-60143-1 (In German: The end of the beginning of natural history. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-10- 027814-3 ).
- The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox. Mending the gap between science and the humanities. Harmony Books, New York NY 2003, ISBN 0-609-60140-7 .
- Richard York, Brett Clark : The Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould. Monthly Review Press, New York NY 2011, ISBN 978-1-58367-216-7 ( (Introduction) ).
- Literature by and about Stephen Jay Gould in the catalog of the German National Library
- Literature by and about Stephen Jay Gould in the catalog of the Virtual Library of Biology (vifabio)
- www.stephenjaygould.org An extensive collection of texts and links (English)
- The Median Isn't the Message Gould on his cancer
- Stephen Jay Gould on stanford.edu (English)
- On the death of paleontologist Stephen J. Gould
- Stephen Jay Gould in the database of Find a Grave (English)
- Fellows Directory. Biographical Index: Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002. (PDF) Royal Society of Edinburgh, accessed December 10, 2019 .
- Pet J. Bowler: Evolution: The History of an Idea . Univ. of California Press, Berkeley 2003, pp. 362-363 .
- Richard Dawkins (in The Blind Watchmaker. Longman Scientific & Technical, Harlow et al. 1986, ISBN 0-582-44694-5 ) criticizes the theory as trivial and especially the attention it has received from journalists rather than exaggerated. Goulds and Eldredges' assertion that the synthetic theory of evolution originally assumed a constant rate of development is also a myth .
- Gould: Chance Man. The miracle of life as a game of nature. (= dtv. 30389 dtv non-fiction book ). Unabridged edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-423-30389-1 .
- Stephen J. Gould, Richard C. Lewontin: The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm. A Critique of the Adaptionist Program. In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences. Vol. 205, No. 1161, 1979, pp. 581-598, doi : 10.1098 / rspb.1979.0086 , PMID 42062 ; for background see Gould's The Pattern of Life's History. In: John Brockman : The Third Culture . 1st Touchstone edition. Simon & Schuster, New York NY et al. 1996, ISBN 0-684-82344-6 , pp. 52-64.
- SJ Gould, ES Vrba: Exaptation. A missing term in the science of form. In: Paleobiology. Vol. 8, No. 1, 1982, pp. 4-15.
- Ernst Mayr: How to Carry Out the Adaptationist Program? In: The American Naturalist. Vol. 121, No. 3, 1983, pp. 324-334, JSTOR 2461153 .
- Charles Darwin: On the Origin of Species. 1st edition. John Murray, London 1859, pp. 199-201 .
- Daniel Dennett : Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Evolution and the Meanings of Life. Simon & Schuster, New York NY et al. 1995, ISBN 0-684-80290-2 , chapter 10.
- From: Jeremy Manier: Stephen Jay Gould Takes a New Swing at Explaining Evolution. In: Chicago Tribune , December 2, 1996.
|SURNAME||Gould, Stephen Jay|
|BRIEF DESCRIPTION||American paleontologist, geologist, and evolutionary biologist|
|DATE OF BIRTH||September 10, 1941|
|PLACE OF BIRTH||new York|
|DATE OF DEATH||May 20, 2002|
|Place of death||new York|