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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Update: More on Stephen Jay Gould as non-Darwinist

Well, Stuart Pivar stands by his insistence that Steve Gould did not really believe that Darwinian natural selection was a creative or even a very important force in the history of life - whatever he may have been persuaded to assent to, in order to fight off the ID types and/or creationists.

Meanwhile, I have also run into another Gould friend who reports substantially the same thing.

I think a conference is certainly needed to explore this whole area honestly and without prejudice.
============== original story ==============

Stuart Pivar, a friend of the late Stephen Jay Gould, recently asked NCSE to change the wording of the statement for the Steve list - downplaying the role of natural selection in evolution, and spazzed out a lot of Darwinists. Pivar’s book advocating structuralism (biophysics) is to be reviewed in a science journal.

============== original story ==============

According to Pivar, the angry and sometimes obscene messages I have received as this story develops should not be a surprise. To the people who ask

What are you saying, that the great Stephen Jay Gould had something to fear about what he said?

his response is

Damn right. Every single word he said he felt he was under tremendous censorship by his colleagues, by everybody, so long as he doesn't go against the Darwinian synthesis. That was the point that shut him up constantly to the point where Ontogeny and Phylogeny became an embarrassment to him.

Not because he didn't believe what he had written, I gather. Based on the experience of the ID guys - with which I have considerable acquaintance - I certainly cannot discount Pivar's version.

Pivar also told me something else that gave me pause for thought. He says that he sent a copy of his book advocating a structuralist/biophysics theory of the origin of life to an important American science journalist, for review in a magazine.

According to Pivar, he was asked to contribute US$5000 to the magazine, during the course of the negotiations around the review.

I know a bit about the fortunes of specialty magazines and cannot simply discount Pivar's oral account of this affair ...

For what it is worth, the reason I don't think Pivar is lying is that he stands to lose so much by his testimony. Why should Pivar make so many enemies who may respond by giving his own brainchild unfavorable reviews - unless he feels convicted to tell the truth, even to his hurt?

That said, if Pivar's claims are correct, Gould essentially made the proverbial deal with Mr. Pitchfork: He was, on Pivar's view, willing to allow his own judgement about the history of life to be misrepresented by the Darwinist majority, simply to avoid giving credence to the ID guys or the creationists.

As for claims about bullying, frankly, I am not sure whether some Darwinists would know whether they were bullying people or not. Awkwardly, their very denials must be accepted at a heavy discount.

It is worth remembering that people who do not themselves require intellectual freedom may not know what intellectual freedom would be like. For example, it would mean that it is OKAY to think, as Pivar does, that Darwin set biology back by 150 years. Like, don't bother calling the thought police because that is no longer a crime.

So as far as I am concerned, this story is still developing. I am happy to talk to anyone who really knows Gould's private views, on or off the record.

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