Jason Rosenhouse posted Entry 1609 on October 25, 2005 05:57 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1604

Over at EvolutionBlog, I have posted this follow-up to Andrea’s post below. At issue is the ludicrous charge, posted at Denyse O’Leary’s pro-ID blog, that Stephen Jay Gould had such a low opinion of natural selection that he would not have signed the NCSE’s Steves statement. It wasn’t hard to find quotes from Gould’s writing that should really put this question to rest. For example, from Essay 12 of his book Ever Since Darwin, we find this:

Modern evolutionists cite the same plays and players; only the rules have changed. We are now told, with equal wonder and admiration, that natural selection is the agent of exquisite design. As an intellectual descendant of Darwin, I do not doubt this attribution.

Stephen Jay Gould was one of the most prolific writers in the history of science. If you want to know what Gould thought about evolution, the solution is to go to the library, retrieve one of his books, and read it. But in the shameless, value-free, twilit world of ID hucksters, such initiative is frowned upon.

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Comment #53858

Posted by Kaptain Kobold on October 26, 2005 4:10 AM (e)

Give it a few years and we’ll have creationist/ID sites claiming that Gould recanted evolution on his death-bed.

Comment #53864

Posted by Steven Thomas Smith on October 26, 2005 5:51 AM (e)

Stuart Pivar quoted on O’Leary’s blog:

“Is this colossal misunderstanding innocent incompetence, or a soviet style paradigm takeover?”

Whenever an intelligent design creationist invokes the Soviet Union, it’s appropriate recall the many similarities between ID proponents and Lysenkoists. From David Joravsky’s history The Lysenko Affair (Harvard University Press, 1970, Chapter 3 titled “Harmless Cranks”):

Lysenko … had the benefit of education, but the peasant style of thought survived the years he spent at the Kiev Agricultural Institute. What he did learn very well—unless it was the gift of his genes—was the art of self-advertisement.

… [T]he young man’s masterful way with journalists, his skill at using newspapers to make scientific discoveries of great practical importance, this was not ephemeral. It would be a constant feature of Lysenko’s entire career …

The reporter of 1927 confessed that he stared at Lysenko’s notebook with ignorant awe. He did not understand the “scientific laws” by which the barefoot scientist had quickly solved his problem, without trial and error. … He made a primitive error in statistical reasoning, and he paid almost no attention to the lessons learned by previous investigators of this problem. …

Lysenko then revealed another of his chief and lasting characteristics: a total, angry refusal to give any thoughtful consideration to criticism.

O’Leary’s now says that Pivar is a chemical engineer—originally she said that he was an art collector. Is this another example supporting the Salem Hypothesis?

Comment #53866

Posted by Ed Darrell on October 26, 2005 6:38 AM (e)

Has anyone bothered to see whether this guy “Pivar” exists?

Remember, it’s not easy to tell hoaxes from creationism; nor is there much difference, most of the time.

Comment #53868

Posted by Eugene Lai on October 26, 2005 7:04 AM (e)

EVEN IF Steven J. Gould did recant evolution, so what? Since when is science about appeal to authority? O’Leary is barking up the wrong tree.

Comment #53877

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on October 26, 2005 8:18 AM (e)

I have solid evidence that if Issac Newton had lived to hear of Darwin’s theory of natural selection instead of dying in 1727, he would have abandoned creationism and signed on as an evolution supporter. My evidence is that I think he should have done so, and I once ate a fig newton.

Comment #53878

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on October 26, 2005 8:48 AM (e)

I am sorry, Bayesian Bouffant, but your claim is preposterous. In order to be credible, you must prove you spent week-ends at the beach with Newton, or went skinny-dipping with him at least once.

Comment #53881

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on October 26, 2005 9:15 AM (e)

I am sorry, Bayesian Bouffant, but your claim is preposterous. In order to be credible, you must prove you spent week-ends at the beach with Newton, or went skinny-dipping with him at least once.

Au contraire. All I have to prove is that the original fig flavor of Newton is superior to the more recently introduced flavors, a fact which is intuitively obvious, even to babies.

Comment #53883

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on October 26, 2005 9:24 AM (e)

Coincidentally, I recently read Gould’s Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, which contains several essays on the ‘creation science’ battles of the 1980s, including Gould’s essay, “Evolution as fact and theory”. He remarked at how little had changed between the Scopes trial of 1925 and the then current confrontation. Deja vu all over again.

Comment #53884

Posted by Stephen Elliott on October 26, 2005 9:36 AM (e)

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on October 26, 2005 09:24 AM (e) (s)

Coincidentally, I recently read Gould’s Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, which contains several essays on the ‘creation science’ battles of the 1980s, including Gould’s essay, “Evolution as fact and theory”. He remarked at how little had changed between the Scopes trial of 1925 and the then current confrontation. Deja vu all over again

That last comment made me giggle.
I must try and use it in future.

Comment #53888

Posted by PaulP on October 26, 2005 10:27 AM (e)

“Deja vu all over again”.

Coined by “Yogi” Berra I think

Comment #53892

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on October 26, 2005 10:48 AM (e)

I note that the “ID the Future” blog is trying to spin this by claiming that Gould argued all sides of the question in his later years. It’s sad and rather pathetic to see them try to implicate Gould as irrational, rather than accept the fact that he never would have accepted Pivar’s nonsensical statement.

Comment #53895

Posted by hessal on October 26, 2005 11:11 AM (e)

I just read somewhere that Gould recanted evolution on his death-bed.

I certainly believe it, because I once saw Elliott Gould in Hollywood, and he created some great characters (some of them were very intelligent, too).

Comment #53897

Posted by Arden Chatfield on October 26, 2005 11:26 AM (e)

I would say this is another example of the IDC crowd not being able to distinguish religion and science. Once again they’re looking for the ‘silver bullet’ that will slay Darwinism, and since in religion it’s an accepted debating tactic to attack a belief by attacking its founder or a prominent follower of it, then if you can cobble together a case that somehow a prominent ‘evolutionist’ didn’t really believe evolution, then you can sink evolution this way. Further proof that these people well and truly do not have a clue how science proceeds.

And it’s all the more pathetic that the IDC folks are reduced here to an argument in the form of “this guy I knew said, like, Gould stayed at his beach house, and he, like, totally didn’t believe in natural selection”.

What’s ever more pathetic is that they’ll be exhuming this as ‘evidence’ against evolution for the next ten years.

Comment #53899

Posted by rubble on October 26, 2005 11:27 AM (e)

It’s been over two years since Project Steve was first announced. I find it rather convenient for Pivar’s statements, particularly his suggested rewording, to see the light of day NOW rather than soon after the project’s announcement.

We also see Pivar misreading the project’s statement, where the phrase “a major mechanism” becomes “the primary cause” and “the mechanical process” under Pivar’s perception.

Finally, we should note Pivar is not suggesting that Gould would not sign the statement, based upon its labelling of intelligent design as “pseudoscience.” This may be the most important point, given the nature of O’Leary’s position in the cultural debate.

Comment #53900

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on October 26, 2005 11:30 AM (e)

I note that the “ID the Future” blog is trying to spin this by claiming that Gould argued all sides of the question in his later years. It’s sad and rather pathetic to see them try to implicate Gould as irrational, rather than accept the fact that he never would have accepted Pivar’s nonsensical statement.

Actually, it would seem that Paul agrees with us that Gould was in favor of a major, though certainly not exclusive role of natural selection in evolution (just like the Steves’ statement), and adds yet another unambiguous quote to the list.

As for “arguing both sides of the issue”, as I said in the other PT entry Gould was famously argumentative and often got carried away in his stark description of debate positions. Still, I haven’t seen a single quote from Gould that actually argues the opposite - that selection is not a creative force, and that its role in evolution is null or minimal. Does anyone know of any? Mr. Pivar, are you reading this?

Comment #53901

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on October 26, 2005 11:33 AM (e)

BTW, the Project Steve Steve-o-Meter is now at 649. Steve #649 is not only a Steve, he is also a Bright.

Comment #53905

Posted by Skip on October 26, 2005 12:11 PM (e)

Well, here is an interesting little piece by Pivar, Shopping with Andy [Warhol].

Hmm… Does Denise know her new pal, Stuey, used to hang with that rascal Warhol?

Is the anti-evolution/family values crowd going to hug Stuey to their collective bosom?

Comment #53908

Posted by Russell on October 26, 2005 12:59 PM (e)

Andrea wrote:

Actually, it would seem that Paul agrees with us…

I guess. But Paul makes no sense. If he entertained feedback on his blog, I might ask him how he can reconcile this:

Paul Nelson wrote:

Stuart Pivar… says that his old friend Steve would not have signed the NCSE’s Project Steve statement, because he doubted the efficacy of natural selection as a mechanism.
That may be – indeed, I’m quite sure Pivar… is right.

With his subsequent documentation that Gould did recognize the importance of natural selection. Paul?

Comment #53909

Posted by Paul Nelson on October 26, 2005 1:22 PM (e)

Russell asked:

With his subsequent documentation that Gould did recognize the importance of natural selection. Paul?

Sorry for the murkiness. Pivar and Gould were close friends, and I think it’s entirely possible that Gould privately said very skeptical things about natural selection to Pivar, which he [SJG] would never repeat in public, and might actually contradict in his published writings. My personal experience with Gould taught me that he could be like quicksilver on a topic: here, there, everywhere.

So Pivar can be telling the gospel truth about what Gould told him, in person, and yet that testimony of personal interactions can be (indeed, is) contradicted by Gould’s published statements.

Pivar is one interesting dude. Expect to hear more from him.

Comment #53910

Posted by MrDarwin on October 26, 2005 1:25 PM (e)

Although this whole argument borders on the surreal I don’t think it’s possible to know whether or not Gould would have signed the list; maybe he would have, maybe not. The poor guy is dead, for goodness’ sake. But regarding natural selection and the importance of its role in evolution, I wonder if anybody is in touch with Gould’s wife? She might be interested in knowing how her husband is being misrepresented, and may be able to set the record straight.

Comment #53912

Posted by bill on October 26, 2005 1:30 PM (e)

When asked to name a supporter of ID who did not believe in the Christian God, Mark Ryland of the Discovery Institute cited Aristotle and Plato!

What is it with the DI that the only supporters of ID they can dig up are dead? Now, Steve Gould?

Will the DI start a petition “Dead People who Support ID?”

(reference for Ryland remark - 3rd segment, very near the end.)

Comment #53914

Posted by K.E. on October 26, 2005 1:33 PM (e)

What ….is…. this??

Change the wording?
Oh I get it change the meaning… stupid me.

A new divide and conquer strategy ???
Is that from the Bible or “The Art of War”

What is the the problem with these people??

Are they so bent on using science to prove the unprovable god/creator that in the end all they are going to do is destroy god/creator and their own belief??

PSSSST… its in the Bible and every other religious text
“Do not Question My Existence.” “Take Joy in My Creation” Means just what it says yes “Literally”. (That includes science(knowledge,revelations) and scientists” don’t take my word for it? Check out what Pope Benedict says and if you look, every other faith as well.
-No ticking off from Buddhist’s either please…I get it:)

As Dr Phil says (according to my kids)
“I know I’m never going to get a call from the shampoo corporations…get over it”.

Froth,Froth,Froth rant rant

Comment #53915

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on October 26, 2005 1:37 PM (e)

Paul Nelson wrote:

I think it’s entirely possible that Gould privately said very skeptical things about natural selection to Pivar, which he [SJG] would never repeat in public, and might actually contradict in his published writings.

It’s also entirely possible that invisible pink unicorns are flying out of your **** right now.

Comment #53916

Posted by Flint on October 26, 2005 1:39 PM (e)

So Pivar can be telling the gospel truth about what Gould told him, in person, and yet that testimony of personal interactions can be (indeed, is) contradicted by Gould’s published statements.

Maybe, but I offer what I consider something more plausible: Pivar himself does not accept natural selection, in favor of divine providence or some other formulation. Gould was engaged for years in his argument with Dawkins and Maynard Smith, whom Gould considered too narrowly mechanistic, assigning what Gould considered more responsibility for evolutionary trends than Gould felt the evidence warranted.

So Gould would dwell, as part of his ongoing debate, on the inadequacy of natural selection to account for all observed biological evidence. And Pivar would HEAR, based on his personal rejection of selection altogether, a kindred spirit voicing shared doubts, which Pivar would attribute to shared models. In short, Gould was leaving out the big picture in favor of his specific objections to Smith and Dawkins, and Pivar was filling in the holes based on HIS notion of the big picture, so that it sounded like Gould was saying what Pivar wanted to hear.

My understanding is that the Steve List was in fact named after Gould in the first place. If Pivar thought Gould wouldn’t have signed it, Pivar was very definitely hearing Gould very selectively.

Comment #53917

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on October 26, 2005 1:40 PM (e)

Paul:

As I mentioned in a note on O’Leary’s blog, to suggest that Gould would privately express very different scientific opinions than those he expressed in public is simply ridiculous.

To suggest that he would do so out of fear of professional damage is not only ludicrous, since Gould was pretty much professionally and financially untouchable, but it truly sullies Gould’s professional and scientific integrity.

I understand that unscrupulous anti-evolutionists would want nothing better than tarnish Gould’s reputation, but that someone who claims to have been Gould’s friend would do so in order to push their own personal agenda seems simply unconscionable. I hope O’Leary is misrepresenting Pivar’s position on this.

Comment #53918

Posted by Erik on October 26, 2005 1:43 PM (e)

It must be a publicity stunt in order to boost the sale of the book.
As a friend of Andy Warhol Stuart Pivar might have learnt something about that.

yahoo.com as e-mail adress, and a
distributor/publisher
that … “represents over 400 Small Presses, publishing over 1500
titles…We allow you to focus on writing and marketing-promotion.
You are responsible for creating the sale of your title(s) through
your marketing efforts.”

But the most telling sign is the description of the book. Not a
word about S.J. Gould, and the final conclusion in
description.

By this new view of biology, the forms of plants
and animals were not selected from random mutations
as Darwin believed, but rather that living nature is
a perfect platonic universe where all species are
related through a common geometric ancestor. An important
corollary of this theory is that life elsewhere must be
like ours. The large brained vertebrate is a biological
inevitability
.

(my emphasis)

Even though Paul Nelson finally has a theory about the designer
of the book, there is no way that this quote can be
in agreement with Gould,

Erik

Comment #53920

Posted by Henry J on October 26, 2005 1:57 PM (e)

Re “a common geometric ancestor.”

geometric?? Is that plane or solid geometry?

Henry

Comment #53922

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on October 26, 2005 2:15 PM (e)

In addition, Pivar appears to lack any real understanding of what Gould was saying. Consider this, fairly trivial example: Gould (in an interview)

But it’s not really correct, because the chance part is not natural selection. Natural selection is actually a locally deterministic force.

If you want to say the Darwinian evolution has a component of chance, and a component of local necessity, that’s quite accurate. But the basic argument goes like this: Because natural selection doesn’t make anything, natural selection is an eliminative force. Natural selection can only differentially preserve certain variations in a spectrum of variation within a species. Now some other process produces that variation; ultimately it’s mutation. And mutation is spread around through recombination and sexual organisms.

Pivar interprets this to mean that Natural Selection is unimportant, merely a

“local” phenomenon

Pivar has missed the point completely. Mr. Nelson, I presume that the only reason we should watch Pivar is as an example of the scientifically illiterate appropriating the work of someone who actually knew what he was talking about?

And of course, it still doesn’t help your egregious example of double-think - excused only by speculating about completely undocumented sayings of someone who is conveniently dead.

Aren’t you even slightly worried about your intellectual credibility?

Comment #53924

Posted by qetzal on October 26, 2005 2:33 PM (e)

Also from the description of Pivar’s book, via Erik’s link:

Many biologists have long suggested that the origin of organic form lies in the self-assembly of unseen patterns or structures in the egg cell. Until now, no model system with actual form-predictive power has been proposed.

This book presents such a model system. It makes the hypothesis that: The animal and plant body is formed by the expansion of the membrane that encloses the egg cell, shaped by an ingrained, self-organized pattern.

And from Amazon:

This lavishly illustrated text represents the publication of a theory of biological self-organization based on the discovery of a unique geometric configuration with the property to generate the shape of all animal and plant form.

The theory of biological self-organization maintains that body form results from patterns arising in living tissue due to simple mechanical forces rather than by genomic code; the genes are responsible only for individual traits.

Wow. Buy two, and get a free healing energy crystal.

How can you doubt the author of a book like that? On anything? We might as well give up and admit the creos were right all along.

/sarcasm

Comment #53926

Posted by Paul Nelson on October 26, 2005 2:57 PM (e)

Flint wrote:

Maybe, but I offer what I consider something more plausible: Pivar himself does not accept natural selection, in favor of divine providence or some other formulation.

Definitely not “divine providence.” Pivar is a structuralist who disagrees root-and-branch with any form of intelligent design theory.

Andrea wrote:

As I mentioned in a note on O’Leary’s blog, to suggest that Gould would privately express very different scientific opinions than those he expressed in public is simply ridiculous.

Not at all. In March 1990, I visited Gould at Harvard (I had a day free while my wife was interviewing there for a fellowship), having been advised to do so by Elliott Sober, Kevin Padian, and others, to whom I had sent a MS critically evaluating Gould’s “panda’s thumb” argument. The MS readers had told me that I was taking Gould’s Natural History articles far too seriously: some of his NH articles, they said, are rhetoric intended to pull down the pants of creationists. But he doesn’t really mean for them to be read as serious science.

So we met, and the first question I asked Gould was just that: is your panda’s thumb article rhetoric [in the tweak-the-creationists sense], as others have suggested, or serious science?

His response? “First of all, there’s nothing wrong with rhetoric.” That’s a yes-it-is, but-then-no-it-isn’t, maybe/maybe not answer. And, over the next half-hour, Gould proceeded to argue almost all sides imaginable of the question – in a fashion intended, I think, to keep any interlocutor off-balance. Gould was renowned, or notorious, for his dialectical subtlety. John Horgan, the Scientific American writer, describes his conversations with Gould as being “lost in a cloud of ink” (or words to that effect).

Try reading The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, and you’ll see what I mean. Not exactly limpid argumentation. I found a passage strongly endorsing the centrality of selection, but I’ll bet in a few minutes, I can find another denigrating it as an overblown mechanism.

[Side note: lots of scientists trim or censor what they say in public, if they worry that it could be misunderstood or misused. One of my Chicago advisors told me about a conversation he had with a famous geneticist, who told him that the evidence supported a very high heritability for human intelligence [as opposed to environmental factors]. ‘But I could never say that in public,’ said the geneticist, ‘because evil people would exploit the information for bad ends.’]

Andrea said:

To suggest that he would do so out of fear of professional damage is not only ludicrous, since Gould was pretty much professionally and financially untouchable, but it truly sullies Gould’s professional and scientific integrity.

Oh baloney. Gould’s reputation is quite secure, and will be unaffected by these trivial blog dust-ups. What will be interesting to see is if Pivar has private documentation or materials (from his friendship with Gould) that support the former’s understanding of Gould’s skepticism about natural selection. Maybe. He’s a shrewd cat and doesn’t give a damn about what anyone says about him, least of all the people who post here.

Comment #53927

Posted by Russell on October 26, 2005 3:00 PM (e)

Paul Nelson is “quite sure that Pivar is right” because

Pivar and Gould were close friends, and I think it’s entirely possible that Gould privately said very skeptical things about natural selection to Pivar, which he [SJG] would never repeat in public, and might actually contradict in his published writings.

I have lots of “close friends” who are not scientists. When I’m gone, please do me the favor of assuming that what I’ve written in scientific publications is my honest scientific opinion. Meaning no disrespect, of course, I think you can pretty much count on my non-science friends to get it wrong.

Comment #53928

Posted by roger tang on October 26, 2005 3:09 PM (e)

Oh baloney. Gould’s reputation is quite secure, and will be unaffected by these trivial blog dust-ups. What will be interesting to see is if Pivar has private documentation or materials (from his friendship with Gould) that support the former’s understanding of Gould’s skepticism about natural selection. Maybe. He’s a shrewd cat and doesn’t give a damn about what anyone says about him, least of all the people who post here.

He may not give a damn what anyone says about him, but his prounouncements about Gould are directly contrary to what Gould writes. Why should he be given any credibility given his apparent lack of reading comprehension?

Comment #53929

Posted by Flint on October 26, 2005 3:13 PM (e)

Gould does indeed make an effort to consider issues from all angles. In any sincere disagreement, there’s always a good deal to be said for all sides; it’s never a matter of right/wrong, especially in the messy world of biology. Those attempting to project or impose a dichotomy are going to perceive Gould as being all over the map. Genuinely nuanced understandings are damn near impossible to communicate effectively to the nonspecialist. They are even MORE impossible to communicate to someone pre-equipped with a simplistic model and thus inclined to be highly selective of what material gets through the filter. We’re all quite accomplished at hearing what we expect to hear and what we know is the case beforehand.

Can something be central to a process, and overblown at the same time? Absolutely, if one can imagine any difference between some phenomenon explaining 30% of variation (more than any other factor) being different from something explaining 90%. Gould was able to think in these terms. Perhaps Paul Nelson is not.

Comment #53930

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on October 26, 2005 3:15 PM (e)

I finally figured out who he reminds me of. Pivar, I mean. Chris Lagnan. Self-proclaimed smartest guy in the world. General nutcase. Nutcases normally don’t care what people think about them, so I guess it fits…

Comment #53932

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on October 26, 2005 3:21 PM (e)

Mr. Nelson said

[Side note: lots of scientists trim or censor what they say in public, if they worry that it could be misunderstood or misused. One of my Chicago advisors told me about a conversation he had with a famous geneticist, who told him that the evidence supported a very high heritability for human intelligence [as opposed to environmental factors]. ‘But I could never say that in public,’ said the geneticist, ‘because evil people would exploit the information for bad ends.’]

“Well, I heard it from a guy who knew a guy who said he couldn’t talk for fear that evil people would pervert his wisdom to bad ends.”

I repeat: don’t you care at all about your intellectual integrity? Sloppy innuendo, hearsay, and soap-opera melodrama are the best you can do?

How disappointing.

Comment #53935

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on October 26, 2005 3:33 PM (e)

Mr. Nelson’s comment,

Try reading The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, and you’ll see what I mean. Not exactly limpid argumentation. I found a passage strongly endorsing the centrality of selection, but I’ll bet in a few minutes, I can find another denigrating it as an overblown mechanism.

does quite clearly point something out: whatever other information Pivar may have, he is a liar. He claimed that no statment of Gould’s supported Natural Selection.

How can we trust that someone who lies so readily might actually have undocumented ‘evidence’ of something Gould said?

Comment #53940

Posted by Ed Darrell on October 26, 2005 3:59 PM (e)

Paul,

What evidence have you that Pivar ever met Gould? Just curious.

Comment #53942

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on October 26, 2005 4:09 PM (e)

Paul Nelson wrote:

Andrea wrote:
As I mentioned in a note on O’Leary’s blog, to suggest that Gould would privately express very different scientific opinions than those he expressed in public is simply ridiculous.

Not at all. In March 1990, I visited Gould at Harvard (I had a day free while my wife was interviewing there for a fellowship), having been advised to do so by Elliott Sober, Kevin Padian, and others, to whom I had sent a MS critically evaluating Gould’s “panda’s thumb” argument. The MS readers had told me that I was taking Gould’s Natural History articles far too seriously: some of his NH articles, they said, are rhetoric intended to pull down the pants of creationists. But he doesn’t really mean for them to be read as serious science.

I am not necessarily referring to his essays for the general public. See what he said in his professional, scientific production: Ontogeny and Phylogeny, The Structure, and all his papers.

Try reading The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, and you’ll see what I mean. Not exactly limpid argumentation. I found a passage strongly endorsing the centrality of selection, but I’ll bet in a few minutes, I can find another denigrating it as an overblown mechanism.

I read the Structure, and certainly agree that it is not always transparently written, but I challenge you to find a passage that says that selection is NOT a significant mechanism in evolutionary change (which is what Pivar claims) in the same unequivocal terms as the passages we have shown that claim the opposite. I certainly may be mistaken, but I think I would have noticed if there was one. So, go ahead Paul, it’s just a quick read anyway ;-) .

[Side note: lots of scientists trim or censor what they say in public, if they worry that it could be misunderstood or misused. One of my Chicago advisors told me about a conversation he had with a famous geneticist, who told him that the evidence supported a very high heritability for human intelligence [as opposed to environmental factors]. ‘But I could never say that in public,’ said the geneticist, ‘because evil people would exploit the information for bad ends.’]

Even assuming the anecdote is factual, there is a big difference between NOT stating in public something one believes is true, for fear it may be seriously misused (e.g. that one can cook up an effective bioweapon in their garage), and stating the opposite of one’s best scientific judgement for purely political reasons (as, according to Pivar’s claims, Gould did, and you seem to accept he may have). The latter is called lying, and coming from a scientist talking about science, is professionally unethical.

Oh baloney. Gould’s reputation is quite secure, and will be unaffected by these trivial blog dust-ups. What will be interesting to see is if Pivar has private documentation or materials (from his friendship with Gould) that support the former’s understanding of Gould’s skepticism about natural selection. Maybe. He’s a shrewd cat and doesn’t give a damn about what anyone says about him, least of all the people who post here.

Yes, well, he clearly doesn’t give a damn about going from saying:

Every statement SJG ever made rejects natural selection, and none can be found in its support

to

Steve could not shoot his mouth off with the public hearing that there is no explanation for design. you could not and still cannot speak against natural selection in the academic situation without censorship

in a single day, so it doesn’t seem that he’s particularly sensitive to personal embarassment.

As for Gould, I am well aware that his scientific reputation is solid enough to withstand Pivar’s silliness. What I am appalled about, though, is that someone who was his personal friend would work so hard to publicly sully it.

Comment #53943

Posted by JohnK on October 26, 2005 4:17 PM (e)

Under the Nelson assumption that Gould held numerous self-contradictory/confused beliefs, wouldn’t the intellectually honest approach be to ignore Gould rather than make or take seriously appeals to his authority?

Comment #53944

Posted by Flint on October 26, 2005 4:19 PM (e)

[quote]What I am appalled about, though, is that someone who was his personal friend would work so hard to publicly sully it.[/quote]You must be appalled a lot, then. I think the majority would trash an obsolete friendship to get paid to support a belief.

Comment #53945

Posted by Flint on October 26, 2005 4:21 PM (e)

What I am appalled about, though, is that someone who was his personal friend would work so hard to publicly sully it.

For better or worse, I think most people would trash an obsolete friendship if they get paid to say what they believe.

Comment #53946

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on October 26, 2005 4:34 PM (e)

Flint:
I don’t think Pivar is doing this for money. First of all, he’s already rich. Second, I doubt any of the Creationist cheerleaders for his revisionist campaign would read, let alone buy or promote, his book, which apparently is openly atheistic.

Comment #53947

Posted by Flint on October 26, 2005 4:43 PM (e)

Andrea Bottaro:

I’m fresh out of viable motivations, then. Any suggestions?

Comment #53948

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 26, 2005 4:45 PM (e)

vanity:

didn’t someone mention something about a book Pivar was pushing?

Comment #53951

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 26, 2005 5:55 PM (e)

I think it’s entirely possible that Gould privately said very skeptical things about natural selection to Pivar, which he [SJG] would never repeat in public, and might actually contradict in his published writings.

Even if true, so what?

Is anyone seriously suggesting that Gould would have thought ID to be anything other than a big fat stinking pile of cow cakes?

If so, then IDers are even nuttier than I thought. And I already thought they were pretty nutty.

Comment #53952

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 26, 2005 5:57 PM (e)

By the way, Paul, I’m still waiting for you to answer some questions for me.

Since I’m tired of continually retyping them, you can refresh your memory at:

http://www.geocities.com/lflank/nelson.html

Comment #53954

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on October 26, 2005 6:31 PM (e)

Andrea,

How about this (from Structure, p. 582)?

“But I must confess that a stronger and more focused form of this argument [microevolution + time = macroevolution, which Gould rejects; PN] has long evoked my deep distress, and has served, in substantial measure, as the impetus for personal career choices in research, and for my eventual decision to write this book. I refer to the claim, repeated almost as a catechism, and obviously copied from textbook to textbook, that macroevolution poses no problem not resolvable by a further understanding of allelic substitutions directed by natural selection in contemporary populations. We may move smoothly from one gene to an entire Bauplan, and extrapolate upwards from a few generations to a geological era. No additional problems arise in temporal vastness. Macroevolution becomes little more than industrial melanism writ large….Can the smallest scales really provide an entirely sufficient model for the largest? Can a uniformitarianism this rigid truly be sustained?…Most standard textbooks make this confident assertion based on little beyond hope and tradition – thus making macroevolution a nonsubject.”

This occurs in a long section where Gould is heaping scorn on the textbook equivalency of microevolution and macroevolution, with natural selection as the main (if not the exclusive) process at work bridging the two levels. If one reads the passages he cites, and condemns, between pages 569 and 584, they sound like material that would be right at home in the talk.origins archive. The main target of his critique in this section is the sufficiency of natural selection.

I apologize for not being able to give the details about the geneticist & my Chicago advisor story, but for obvious reasons, I can’t. Anyway: it’s a true story, and very revealing to me about the cultural constraints obtaining on the freedom of scientists to speak as they might like in public.

Ed – it’s a long story (i.e., about how I know about Pivar and Gould), and again, I can’t say. Sorry.

Comment #53956

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 26, 2005 6:49 PM (e)

This occurs in a long section where Gould is heaping scorn on the textbook equivalency of microevolution and macroevolution, with natural selection as the main (if not the exclusive) process at work bridging the two levels. If one reads the passages he cites, and condemns, between pages 569 and 584, they sound like material that would be right at home in the talk.origins archive. The main target of his critique in this section is the sufficiency of natural selection.

And once again, the question is “So what?” I’m a bit puzzled why anyone would think that any of this would either (1) damage evolution or (2) help ID.

I *do*, of course, understand that ID/creationists are too dumb to tell the difference between an argument over HOW evolution happens and an argument over WHETHER evolution happens …. . After all, a number of people who have singed the DI’s much-vaunted list of “scientifivc dissenters from darwinism” have already stated publicly that they think ID is a big steaming pile of cow crap.

Oddly, DI doesn’t like to advertise that fact. Mostly, I think, because DI wants to dishonestly present its “dissent” fluff as somehow being support for ID.

Kind of like calling itself the “ID movement” when there really isn’t any such thing as a theory of ID.

Or claiming that a commercial book was “more rigorous than peer review” when (1) one of the reviewers never even read it, and (2) at least two of the reviewers DID read it, and concluded it was crap.

Or claiming that ID doesn’t have the goal of replacing science with theism when the DI’s own Wedge Document lists this as a key goal.

Apparently, dishonesty is second nature for IDers. (shrug)

Comment #53957

Posted by qetzal on October 26, 2005 6:51 PM (e)

What I find amusing about this whole ‘controversy’ is that IDers seem to think, if they can only show that RM+NS is insufficient, then ID must be true!

I guess it’s somewhat interesting to discuss what Gould did or didn’t say, in public or in private. To a point. But even if Pivar’s spin on Gould’s beliefs is correct, does he (or O’Leary) honestly think Gould believed in ID? As a scientific hypothesis?!

If the ID crowd really did want to advance their ideas scientifically, they’d get out of the high school classrooms and into the lab and try to generate some actual scientific evidence to support their position.

Of course, we all know that’s not what interests them at all….

Comment #53959

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on October 26, 2005 6:57 PM (e)

Paul:
That paragraph has nothing to do with whether natural selection is a major force in evolution or not. Even if “further understanding allelic substitutions directed by natural selection in contemporary populations” could not satisfactorily explain macroevolution, it does not necessarily follow that natural selection is NOT acting at the level of whatever other macroevolutionary processes Gould envisioned. Somehow, however, I think you already knew that.

Indeed, Gould had a sweet spot for the role of some sort of macro-mutational, developmentally-channeled events in large evolutionary transitions (to some extent, and much more modestly, I also don’t mind that idea). Still, I would count this as an example of Gould over-simplifying his opponents’ position, since I would say that the “rigid uniforitarianism” Gould talks about here may have been prevalent in the ’50s and ’60s, but certainly was not the consensus of the field (or even of a sizeable minority of it) in 2002. Somehow, however, I think he too already knew that: I guess that is why he railed against textbooks, instead of actual scientists.

Comment #53963

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 26, 2005 7:14 PM (e)

Indeed, Gould had a sweet spot for the role of some sort of macro-mutational, developmentally-channeled events in large evolutionary transitions (to some extent, and much more modestly, I also don’t mind that idea).

As neither do I.

But once again, I am puzzled as to why the IDers think any of this helps them in any way shape or form …. ?

Comment #53964

Posted by PvM on October 26, 2005 7:15 PM (e)

Now Denyse is reporting Pivar stating that Gould was somehow ‘censored’ by his peers.

Pivar wrote:

he was a victim of the anti-antidarwinist forces engaged in genetics which depends on natural selection. Steve could not shoot his mouth off with the public hearing that there is no explanation for design. you could not and still cannot speak against natural selection in the academic situation without censorship, having nothing to do with intelligent design, having to do with the Darwinian synthesis which keeps the research infrastructure funded. no natural selection, no developmental genetics.

undermines even further the already weak claims of Pivar, which were quickly accepted by Denyse as being a ‘scandal’…
She may have been right but for the wrong reasons.

Funny how Denyse now takes on a new spin

It should feature a serious examination of Gould’s uncensored views, rather than a useless quote war.

In other words, lets focus on what Gould did not say rather than what he did say? Did Denyse jump the gun with her claims of scandal? I guess that’s why newspapers require two independent sources before
publishing such hearsay…

Comment #53966

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on October 26, 2005 7:19 PM (e)

Lenny et al:
I don’t think Paul, or O’Leary, or even less Pivar is trying to make the point that Gould’s ideas favored ID in any way, shape or form.

This is simply an argument about what Gould said in his published record about natural selection and evolution, vs. what a friend of his claims he said, so far without any supporting evidence.

Of course, unscrupulous Creationists may try to make some hay out of this, as if it impinged on Gould’s credibility as a scientist. Quite comically, for instance, Dembski is claiming on his site that Gould was a “master of equivocation” because of the discepancy between what Gould actually said and what Pivar claims he thought (I know, logical consistency does not generally seem to be an issue of concern at Uncommon Descent).

Still, the issue here is whether Gould ever denied that natural selection is a major mechanism of evolution, and therefore could not in good conscience have signed the Steves’ statement, or whether the opposite is true.

Comment #53968

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 26, 2005 7:27 PM (e)

I don’t think Paul, or O’Leary, or even less Pivar is trying to make the point that Gould’s ideas favored ID in any way, shape or form.

I wouldn’t be so certain of that. After all, is that not precisely the aim of DI’s silly “list of scientific dissenters from darwinism”?

I note with curiosity that Gould has long been a favorite of the creationist quote-miners. No surprise if ID, creationism’s bastard child, tags along.

Comment #53970

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 26, 2005 7:36 PM (e)

relate this whole discussion back to what Behe said about ID NOT being about mechanisms.

isn’t the whole “issue” raised by Gould exactly about mechanism? why would IDers be focusing on it when they say that ID is not about mechanisms?

man, they seem more confused about what they’re on about each and every day.

Remember what we have learned since Gould was in his “prime”. so much has been learned about phenotypic variation scales based on minor genetic changes that i doubt even ol stevie would have bothered to question the mechanism any longer.

and, finally, i completely and utterly agree with those who mentioned that this is all an argument from authority to begin with, and certainly will not convince any scientists, but then the DI is not really trying to convince scientists as much as they are a public that is totally obsessed with arguments from authority. In fact, the general public must rely on arguments from authority, or else actually go out and learn about every subject under the sun; not terribly realistic.

so… if the DI can somehow spin Gould to be not only an “authority” on the issues (which, funny enough, he was not considered to be when i studied evolutionary theory as a grad student), but to be a “defector” as well, that would fit quite nicely with all the rest of their shady tactics.

Remember that to DI, the ends justifies the means, every time, and they do not view such methods as being hypocritical in any way, shape or form.

Paul can defend their actions through obscure passages all he wants here. It makes no difference. All they have to do is convince the public that there is a nugget of truth to an “authority” on evolutionary theory rejecting the primary mechanism of that theory, and they have accomplished their goal.

It’s already too late to stop it. all we can do is re-spin it back to something more realistic.

Comment #53973

Posted by Dave Cerutti on October 26, 2005 7:47 PM (e)

The muddled and inept argument by Paul Nelson

(analogy)
“Keynesian economics has been so thoroughly disproven, that one only needs to look at this quote from Robert Rubin, suggesting that while Keynesian economics doesn’t exactly describe the low inflation during the Regan era unless one considers the high unemployment. Ergo, as I said, Keynesian economics is very hard to understand.”)

notwithstanding, this whole thing about taking the words of a scientist and twisting them in just such a fashion has a long tradition in creationism. Jonathan Wells, for example, is a master of doing this on topics such as Haeckel’s embryos. Fundamentally, the (flawed) argument goes

Authority A says ‘Not X exactly, but X and to some extent Y.’ Therefore, QED, not X but Z!

Comment #53974

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on October 26, 2005 7:47 PM (e)

isn’t the whole “issue” raised by Gould exactly about mechanism? why would IDers be focusing on it when they say that ID is not about mechanisms?

Well, Behe said that ID is not about mechanism, but also uniquely focused on mechanism. And he was being exactly consistent. So it may or may not. It depends.

Talk about “master equivocators”… :-)

Comment #53975

Posted by the pro from dover on October 26, 2005 7:50 PM (e)

I was always under the impression that Gould’s “dissention” from Darwin was one of tempo not mechanism. His theory of punctuated equillibrium only challenged Darwin’s commitment to uniformitarianism which really reflected Darwin’s commitment to Lyell. T.H.Huxley famously cautioned Darwin not to “overburden himself” with uniformitarianism because even though the “hopelessly inadequate fossil record” seemed to indicate stasis and not gradual change that was most likely because speciation was relatively more rapid and isolated than the long periods of stability during which a large stable and more-likely-to-be-fossilized population was in existance. Migration was most likely the cause of the “abrupt” appearance of new forms and that was why countless minutely changed intermediates were never seen. Ernst Mayr also had a lot to say on this issue and nobody says that he “disagrees with Darwin.”

Comment #53978

Posted by Flint on October 26, 2005 7:58 PM (e)

Gould has also championed the notion that other mechanisms are at work at higher levels. He speaks of “species selection” and even speculated that selection may take place at the level of the clade, but at higher levels entirely distinct mechanisms are at work than relative reproductive rates of individual organisms.

I’m not sure whether recent developments in genetics, molecular methods, evo-devo etc. have provided better explanations for the sorts of things Gould was talking about – that some clades throw off species with great abandon while others do so very rarely, and why is this?

Comment #53979

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 26, 2005 7:59 PM (e)

Ernst Mayr also had a lot to say on this issue and nobody says that he “disagrees with Darwin.”

SHHHH! we don’t want to give the IDiots their next victim :)

Comment #53981

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 26, 2005 8:08 PM (e)

He speaks of “species selection” and even speculated that selection may take place at the level of the clade…

This is the primary reason Gould is no longer considered an authority on evolutionary theory by most evolutionary biologists (and hasn’t been for many years).

It’s very easy to show that every case Gould cited for selection operating at levels higher than the individual, is just as (or more) easily explained by individual selection instead.

it’s that old Occam’s Razor thing again ;)

It’s not to say Gould wasn’t admired and respected, especially for some very good writing skills and some major theoretical and evidentiary contributions, but many of his hypotheses were based on a lack of data, which we now have.

Hell, reading “The Panda’s Thumb”, of all things, was one of the main reasons i got interested in paleontology, and then ended up studying zoology.

I rank him right up there with Jacques Cousteau as influencing my decision to go into zoology, and I’m sure most would agree that ‘ol Jacques was pretty far from being a serious scientist.

Comment #53984

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 26, 2005 8:21 PM (e)

Hell, reading “The Panda’s Thumb”, of all things, was one of the main reasons i got interested in paleontology, and then ended up studying zoology.

Although I had ALWAYS been interested in bugs and snakes and such as a kid, my real interest in things scientific began at age ten, when I found (what I now know was) a fossilized horn coral (from the Devonian) alongside a road near my grandmother’s house. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen, and the very idea that it had once lived in an ocean a long long time ago, was utterly fascinating to me.

I rank him right up there with Jacques Cousteau as influencing my decision to go into zoology, and I’m sure most would agree that ‘ol Jacques was pretty far from being a serious scientist.

No one will ever accuse Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter) of being a serious scientist either (although he has done some good research on various monitor lizard species). Nevertheless, the next generation of herpetologists will without a doubt be people who watched Steve on TV as a kid.

Comment #53987

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 26, 2005 8:29 PM (e)

lol.

can you imagine 20 years from now an equivalent site to this one being named:

“The Crocodile Hunter”

now that would be funny.

Comment #53989

Posted by shiva on October 26, 2005 8:31 PM (e)

Problem: There was this smart biologist who pretty much walked over cranks and crackpots of the IDC kind. He wrote very well and was much beloved and worst of all wrote that obligatory essay on baseball. As expert witness his testimony helped throw out Old Creo and continues to be an endless source of amusement to us. The NeoCreos quake in their boots to when they even hear his name. And the pompous NeoCreo type who is generally busy making an ass of himself is miffed that the great one didn’t bother to even trash him choosing to ignore him entirely.

Now read Paul and Bill you get the idea. There’s only so many times you can sell a bridge.

Comment #53991

Posted by K.E. on October 26, 2005 8:38 PM (e)

The perfect irony is they leave a trail of evidence against themselves wherever they go

Comment #54116

Posted by Ian Gibson on October 27, 2005 4:31 PM (e)

Also, see Goulds introduction to Carl Zimmers book ‘Evolution’, where Gould quite unequivically states his acceptance of natural selection.

Comment #54207

Posted by Francione on October 28, 2005 8:49 AM (e)

Gould believed the “hopeful monster”. Get over it.

Comment #54245

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 28, 2005 5:39 PM (e)

Gould believed the “hopeful monster”. Get over it.

No, Blast. He didn’t.

Comment #54914

Posted by morbius on November 3, 2005 5:34 AM (e)

As I mentioned in a note on O’Leary’s blog, to suggest that Gould would privately express very different scientific opinions than those he expressed in public is simply ridiculous.

Not at all. In March 1990, I visited Gould at Harvard (I had a day free while my wife was interviewing there for a fellowship), having been advised to do so by Elliott Sober, Kevin Padian, and others, to whom I had sent a MS critically evaluating Gould’s “panda’s thumb” argument. The MS readers had told me that I was taking Gould’s Natural History articles far too seriously: some of his NH articles, they said, are rhetoric intended to pull down the pants of creationists. But he doesn’t really mean for them to be read as serious science.

Is Paul Nelson just plain stupid? Not intending something to be read as serious science is not at all the same as expressing very different scientific opinions from those one holds privately.

Comment #54915

Posted by morbius on November 3, 2005 5:43 AM (e)

BTW, that was a rhetorical question. Nelson argues that Pivar’s claim about Gould not signing the Project Steve statement because of privately expressed doubts about natural selection is probably right despite his public statements in support of it, but the Project Steve statement is public.

Comment #54923

Posted by Jim Wynne on November 3, 2005 7:55 AM (e)

morbius wrote:

Is Paul Nelson just plain stupid?

Recall the quote from Saul Bellow that describes Nelson, et al to a T:

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.