Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould
  • Born: September 10, 1941
  • Died: May 20, 2002
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Scientist









Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read authors of popular science of his generation. Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1996, Gould was hired as the Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University, where he divided his time teaching there and at Harvard.

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An understandable prejudice of intellectual life leads us to view tilters at orthodoxy as courageous front-line innovators. Civil Disorder, Riots, Protests & Demonstrations
Failures mire us in dogmatism and tunnel vision Human Nature
In science, "fact" can only mean confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Mainstream science starts as heresy. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution—paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
One cannot always be right in our complex world; no dishonor attends an incorrect choice among plausible outcomes drawn from a properly constructed argument. Policy & Policy Making
Our creationist detractors charge that evolution is an unproved and unprovable charade-- a secular religion masquerading as science. They claim, above all, that evolution generates no predictions, never exposes itself to test, and therefore stands as dogma rather than disprovable science. This claim is nonsense. We make and test risky predictions all the time; our success is not dogma, but a highly probable indication of evolution's basic truth. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Results rarely specify their causes unambiguously…. If we are forced to infer a process only from its … results, then we are usually stymied or reduced to speculation about probabilities. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Science and religion are non-overlapping magisteria. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Science thrives on self-correction …. refutation almost always contains positive lessons that overwhelm disappointment. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
We don’t usually know how to see beyond our presuppositions (the reason, of course, why so many false views of indubitable past geniuses seem so strange to us today.) Human Nature
Work of intellectual daring carries the danger of increased error, in both frequency and consequence.... Intrusive regulation by nonscientists is most frightening for this reason: innovation and chanciness will die. Regulation & Deregulation
A lot of scientists hate writing. Most scientists love being in the lab and doing the work and when the work is done, they are finished. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
All evolutionary biologists know that variation itself is nature's only irreducible essence... I had to place myself amidst the variation. Nature
At a minimum, in explaining evolutionary pathways through time, the constraints imposed by history rise to equal prominence with the immediate advantages of adaptation. Time ;History
Contrary to current cynicism about past golden ages, the abstraction known as 'the intelligent layperson' does exist - in the form of millions of folks with a passionate commitment to continuous learning. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Creationist critics often charge that evolution cannot be tested, and therefore cannot be viewed as a properly scientific subject at all. This claim is rhetorical nonsense.
Death is the ultimate enemy - and I find nothing reproachable in those who rage mightily against the dying of the light. Death
Evolution is a process of constant branching and expansion.
Evolution is one of the two or three most primally fascinating subjects in all the sciences.
Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within. Life ;Hope ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Goethe died in 1832. As you know, Goethe was very active in science. In fact, he did some very good scientific work in plant morphology and mineralogy. But he was quite bitter at the way in which many scientists refused to grant him a hearing because he was a poet and therefore, they felt, he couldn't be serious. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I don't think academic writing ever was wonderful. However, science used to be much less specialized. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
I dreamed of becoming a scientist, in general, and a paleontologist, in particular, ever since the Tyrannosaurus skeleton awed and scared me.
I love the wry motto of the Paleontological Society, meant both literally and figuratively, for hammers are the main tool of our trade: Frango ut patefaciam - I break in order to reveal. Society ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I think there have to be Bachs and Beethovens. We may have - there are so many more people. Musical training is available to so many more, but it may be that we've hit a right wall in terms of accessible styles and since we demand innovation as a criterion of genius, there may not be more innovative styles to be found.
If I don't make it, I'll be very sad that there are things I didn't do, but I'm happy that I've done what I have.
I'm not a great deductive thinker, but I will admit to having competence in a very wide range of things - not being afraid to try to write about baseball, choral music and dinosaurs in the same week and see connections among them. Music, Chants & Rapps
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. Time ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Life began three and a half billion years ago, necessarily about as simple as it could be, because life arose spontaneously from the organic compounds in the primeval oceans. Life
Look in the mirror, and don't be tempted to equate transient domination with either intrinsic superiority or prospects for extended survival.
My own field of paleontology has strongly challenged the Darwinian premise that life's major transformations can be explained by adding up, through the immensity of geological time, the successive tiny changes produced generation after generation by natural selection. Life ;Time
Nothing is more dangerous than a dogmatic worldview - nothing more constraining, more blinding to innovation, more destructive of openness to novelty.
People perceive me as a commodity. They just don't think anything of asking for five minutes of my time. It never occurs to them that if they're asking for it and another thousand people are asking, I don't have 1,000 five minutes to give. Time
Science is an integral part of culture. It's not this foreign thing, done by an arcane priesthood. It's one of the glories of the human intellectual tradition. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Science is not a heartless pursuit of objective information. It is a creative human activity, its geniuses acting more as artists than as information processors. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The more important the subject and the closer it cuts to the bone of our hopes and needs, the more we are likely to err in establishing a framework for analysis.
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 proof of evolution lies in those adaptations that arise from improbable foundations.
There wasn't much technical terminology, and then, most academics are not trained in writing. And there is what is probably worse than ever before, the growing use of professional jargon.
We are glorious accidents of an unpredictable process with no drive to complexity, not the expected results of evolutionary principles that yearn to produce a creature capable of understanding the mode of its own necessary construction.
We pass through this world but once. Life
What an odd time to be a fundamentalist about adaptation and natural selection - when each major subdiscipline of evolutionary biology has been discovering other mechanisms as adjuncts to selection's centrality. Time
What you see is that the most outstanding feature of life's history is a constant domination by bacteria. Life ;History
When people learn no tools of judgment and merely follow their hopes, the seeds of political manipulation are sown.
With copious evidence ranging from Plato's haughtiness to Beethoven's tirades, we may conclude that the most brilliant people of history tend to be a prickly lot. History

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