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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

UPDATED!! Steve Gould would NOT have supported NCSE's "Steve" list: Eugenie Scott replies, but Pivar stands by accusation

Yesterday, I blogged on the fact that a friend of the late Stephen Jay Gould now says that Gould would never have signed the celebrated Steve list - a list of scientists named Steve who oppose creationism (and, presumably, intelligent design theory?). (If you were directed to this link, see Wednesday's post as well.)

Eugenie Scott, well-known lobbyist at Darwin lobby National Center for Science Education, has replied to my query as follows:

I'm trying to figure out how the parody "Project Steve" is making claims about the creative abilities of natural selection.... I think Steve would have gotten a chuckle out of it. He certainly did not support the creationists, either of the traditional form of the nouveau ID variety.
Scott seems determined to miss the point - and you really can't blame her, as the scandal develops. Essentially,

1) Gould did not credit natural selection with the ability to do very much at all, according to his chemical engineer friend Pivar. Is it at ALL likely then that he would have signed NCSE's statement, which reads in part, "Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence."?

That natural selection is a "major mechanism" may be Scott's view, NCSE's view, and the view of whatever US courts can be got to rule in its favour. And it is certainly Richard Dawkins's view from across the Pond .... but was it Gould's view? His friend says no. The list is named after Steve Gould, not Richard Dawkins.

2) If Scott's list, named after Steve Gould precisely for its political effect, was intended only as a parody, it is hard to see how a misrepresentation of the man's actual views would be any more appropriate.

3) It is irrelevant whether Gould opposed the creationists, if - as Pivar insists - his name is now being used to support a position that he would not have supported himself in his lifetime.

For his part, Pivar communicated with me this morning as well. He is standing by his insistence that Gould would never have signed NCSE's "Steve" list. Indeed, he repeats his contention that Gould opposed the idea that natural selection creates more than minor changes - such as changes in the shapes of the beaks of finches - throughout his life.

Here is what he said:

Steve Goulds life work featured the debunking of natural selection as the cause of anything more important than the differences in the beaks of finches, in his investigation of the causes of evolution. The Steve List is the appropriation of his name in the propagation of a theory which he opposed his entire life long. Every statement SJG ever made rejects natural selection, and none can be found in its support. Is this colossal misunderstanding innocent incompetence, or a soviet style paradigm takeover?

In the categorization of schools of thought in evolutionary biology Steve Gould is considered a Structuralist. Eugenie Scott is a Darwin Fundamentalist like Richard Dawkins, Steve Gould's lifelong foe.

If the Steve list myth enters history, then his life work was for naught.
Well, I will keep you posted. I commend Pivar for raising this issue. The dead are helpless when it comes to their reputation. Their friends must speak for them.
If you like this blog, check out my award-winning book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.
Are you looking for the following stories?

"Academic Freedom Watch : Here's the real, ugly story behind the claim that 'intelligent design isn't science'?".

Roseville, California, lawyer Larry Caldwell is suing over the use of tax money by Darwin lobby groups to promote religious views that accept Darwinian evolution (as opposed to ones that don’t). I’m pegging this one as the next big story. It will be interesting to see the line that the “separation of church and state” people take.
How to freak out your bio prof? What happened when a student bypassed the usual route of getting frogs drunk and dropping them down the chancellor’s robes, and tried questioning Darwinism instead.

Christoph, Cardinal Schonborn is not backing down from his contention that Darwinism is incompatible with Catholic faith, and Pope Benedict XVI probably thinks that’s just fine. Major US media have been trying to reach rewrite for months, with no success.

Museum tour guides to be trained to "respond" to those who question Darwinism. Read this item for an example of what at least one museum hopes to have them say.
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