Talk:Stephen Jay Gould

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In editing this article, I have tried to select quotations that best epitomize Gould's ideas and writing, rather than representing him with little epigrams shorn of context as in many other Wikiquote pages. (His verbose, if not logorrheic, writing style makes the latter alternative difficult in any case, if one is committed to quoting at least whole sentences.) I only have Gould's more recent books; I would appreciate it if someone with the older books can go back and properly formalize the citations (noting edition and page number as I have done).

I'd also appreciate it if someone can find some better contra citations for the "About" section; his most famous rhetorical kerfluffles were with Dawkins, Dennett, and Pinker, so I'm a bit surprised surprised that the only quotations here are from Maynard Smith and someone who appears (checking the cited source) to have learned all he knows about evolution from Maynard Smith's famous textbook. 06:12, 20 Mar 2005 (UTC)

"Evolution's Erratic Pace"[edit]

Moved here from the main page until a proper citation is forthcoming. I believe from a quick Web search that this is an article, not a book, and therefore doesn't belong as a second-level section. I now have nearly all of Gould's published books, so I'll probably track this down eventually, but if you want to see it moved back sooner, please provide a citation. 05:32, 7 May 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Found it and moved the quote back to the main page. 121a0012 04:09, May 12, 2005 (UTC)

Current tally[edit]

As of right now, there are 89 quotations from Gould and three about him, with half a dozen books left to go. At this rate we should hit 100. 121a0012 05:53, May 31, 2005 (UTC)

"Sample size"[edit]

I recognize this quotation as being from Gould, but I am unable to find it in the cited essay:

  • "We should study the past for the simplest of reasons—to increase our "sample size" in modes of thought, for we need all the help we can get."
    • "Literary bias on the slippery slope"

Any help in verification would be appreciated.

Status update[edit]

I have now completed my scan of Gould's essays (or rather, those of his essays he chose to anthologize). Of course, any editor is welcome to add her own selections from Gould's voluminous work (which in hardcover occupies nearly all of a 42-inch bookshelf). Here's what still remains to be read for this project:

  1. Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville—the only remaining volume that I personally own.
  2. Ontogeny and Phylogeny—Gould's first technical book (unfortunately quite rare and very expensive on the used market, so I'll have to get it from the library)
  3. The Mismeasure of Man—there are two editions, and I'd like to compare both. We have one quote from the second edition already; I'd like to take it back to the first edition, if it appears there, and of course add any more quotable passages.
  4. The first half of The Structure of Evolutionary Theory—when I started down this road, I skipped all the "boring" historical bits and went directly to the second half of the book, where Gould lays his version of evolution on the line. Now that I have more of the background, I will consider returning to this massive tome in search of more goodies.

I'll probably take a break after Mudville, as I've read nearly nothing but Gould for the past eight months. I believe what we have here is more than "a good start", as it were. You may legitimately criticize my selections as emphasizing, in the main, Gould the philosopher over Gould the paleontologist. As I noted here on a previous occasion, Gould could at best be described as loquacious (not to mention sesquipedalian in voccabulary). Gould's natural history essays, which form the bulk of his written work, rarely touch directly on the specific evolutionary theories with which he is personally connected, and his technical work, as represented in The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, rarely condenses down to quotable form. I believe that these philosophical epitomes, frequently taken from the introductions and conclusions of his essays, best represent Gould's writing as it is most familiar outside the profession.

121a0012 04:49, August 30, 2005 (UTC)
Mudville is now done (at least for me) and with it the principal phase of my reading project. I'm going to take some time away from Gould and read some mindless fiction for a month or two before I come back to this. Other editors should feel free to add any additional gems they may come across. 121a0012 05:24, September 4, 2005 (UTC)

"Rarity of Transitional Forms"[edit]

The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology...Paleontologists have paid an exorbitant price for Darwin's argument. We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life's history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study.

—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 18:39, 24 April 2006 (UTC) (UTC)Reply[reply]

See for a more complete passage that includes this quote. The section included above is often used by creationists to misrepresent Gould's ideas.—The preceding unsigned comment was added by Augray (talkcontribs) 00:54, April 9, 2007 (UTC)


Another editor added the following:

  • The fundamentalists, by knowing the answers before they start [examining evolution], and then forcing nature into the straitjacket of their discredited preconceptions, lie outside the domain of science -- or of any honest intellectual inquiry.

I asked him for a proper citation, or at least the name of the essay in which it appeared. He replied that he found it on a Web site which gave no more attribution than the book in which, whatever essay it was, it appeared: Bully for Brontosaurus. A Web search revealed many copies of this particular text (including the specific editorial substitution in brackets), mostly on atheist and humanist sites, but no actual, verifiable citations. (It certainly sounds like something Gould might have written, but to find the original text would take some effort.) I am moving this quotation to "Unsourced" purgatory until someone can provide more of a citation. (If someone out there can at least tell me which essay this was in, I will happily do the rest of the work.) 121a0012 05:56, 14 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It is findable online -,+by+knowing+the+answers+before+they+start&source=bl&ots=iWu3vba3Wd&sig=lq6cenICcXGdAPSQrNYZiug0Sxs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAGoVChMIzdqRgc33xgIVSjM-Ch0BZg3y#v=onepage&q=stephen%20jay%20gould%20bully%20for%20brontosaurus%20The%20fundamentalists%2C%20by%20knowing%20the%20answers%20before%20they%20start&f=false

Kamin commentary[edit]

The quotation from Leon J. Kamin on the back cover of The Mismeasure of Man is clearly an excerpt from a longer commentary. Most books of this nature are not published with blurbs in first form, which makes me believe that the quotation is from a review written by Kamin when the book came out (unless Kamin wrote an introduction to the book which was ultimately never published). The fact that the publisher misspells his given name suggests that they did not have direct contact with him. However, I am unable to find the original review, if such a thing there was. If any other editors are able to find a citation for it, or even better the actual text (before processing through the publisher's publicity meat-grinder), I would appreciate it. 121a0012 18:33, 24 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Quote added[edit]

Added the quote concerning causation under The Mismeasure of Man. Timothyjwood 19:42, 31 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

File:Freud quote remind from William Glen to Stephen Jay Gould - Scientific revolutions.jpg
Sigmund Freud quote remind from William Glen as mentioned to Stephen Jay Gould, on Scientific Revolutions


  • "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." ~ Stephen Jay Gould.
    • "But [William] Glen [a distinguished geologist and historian of science at the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, CA...] reminded me of the famous statement by Freud that I have often quoted in these essays: 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."
    • As mentioned by Stephen Jay Gould, in the essay collection book: "Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History, Part Three: 'Origin, Stability, And Extinction', Chapter 13: 'Jove's Thunderbolts', p. 164-165 - Three Rivers Press. New York. 1996 -- ISBN-10: 0517888246 ISBN-13: 978-0517888247 (original edition) -- Available: Belknap Press; Reprint edition (2011) -- ISBN-10: 0674061608 ISBN-13: 978-0674061606 (reprint)
      • attribution should be added to Sigmund Freud quotes page and check, if there is a page on William Glen quotes, that it isn't misattributed, and same on topic "revolutions" where there was an erroneous attribution to S.J. Gould regarding this phrase.


  • I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops. New Scientist, March 8, 1979, p. 777.