Stephen Jay Gould Quotes

stephen jay gould quotes



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


At a minimum, in explaining evolutionary pathways through time, the constraints imposed by history rise to equal prominence with the immediate advantages of adaptation.


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.


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.


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.




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