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Monday, July 16, 2007

Stephen Jay Gould and doubting Darwinism

Stuart Pivar, a friend of the late Stephen Jay Gould, about whom I wrote years ago (because he doubted that Gould would have signed the Darwin lobby's "Steve" list, named in Gould's honour), contacted me recently about the new site for his book LifeCode. He thus ended a minor mystery I hadn't had time to get to the bottom of - why so many people from Pharyngula were researching my old posts on Pivar and his friendship with Gould:
New York, NY: In the foreword to the new book Lifecode: From Egg to Embryo by Self-organization by Stuart Pivar (Ryland Press), Darwin scholar Richard Milner* directs attention to the recent landmark ENCODE report (June 14) in which Human Genome Project Director Francis Collins calls the long-accepted model of genetics “badly flawed.” A week later, in a NY Times Science Times report, scores of scientists concluded that, after fifty years of genetic research, they don’t really understand what genes do, or how they work.

Lifecode presents an alternative theory of evolution which contends that the embryo is formed by self-organization, as are crystals, rather than by a genetic code subject to natural selection. Accompanying illustrations depict hypothetical construction blueprints for the various body forms. Biological Self-organization has long been a contending alternate theory for the code of life; recent proponents include evolutionary biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Brian Goodwin.

Of course, the Darwin lobby has always maintained that Pivar was making Gould's opinion up as he went along.

I doubt that. Gould knew as well as anyone that his status depended on upholding the status quo. He disagreed when it was safe enough to do so.

For example, Gould's serious and well-written attack on social Darwinism, The mismeasure of man, was grudgingly tolerated among those who longed to replace evidence-based psychology with "evolutionary" psychology - he was allowed that much leeway, on account of his immense popularity in American culture. He had appeared on The Simpson's, after all ...

But to assault Darwinism with the evidence that can no longer be evaded, as Mike Behe has recently done? Behe is indifferent to the power of Darwinists to unleash persecutions. Gould was evidently not that indifferent - and he couldn't be, precisely because of his iconic status. He who would be an icon cannot get down from the iconostasis. But privately, I think, he knew what he had to know, what everyone knows, including the Darwinists - absent persecution and indoctrination, it all just isn't working for them any more.

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