Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Channeling Gould

Yesterday, RSR posted twice on Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary's new found ability to channel Harvard Paleontologist and champion of evolutionary theory Stephen Jay Gould from beyond the grave.

Gould, writes O'Leary, was no fan of natural selection. She breathlessly calls this a developing "scandal."

RSR posted Gould's testimony in McLean v. Arkansas in a comment on O'Leary's blog Post-Darwinist demonstrating his strong support for natural selection as a major cause of evolution. Others have followed our example with more quotes from Gould.

Then we received this e-mail from O'Leary (BTW, even Ms. O'Leary's e-mails carry an ad for her book):

Well, Pat, Gould's friend is making the noise. Right? Wrong? Either way, it's a story. But my money's on the friend. I don't make this up. I couldn't. Incidentally, the peppered moth example you cited is just the sort of minor change that Pivar said Gould WOULD allow to natural selection, but he denied that it could do the huge things that, for example, Dawkins would credit it with.

Her money is on the friend.

Gould wrote a popular monthly column in Natural History magazine for many years. Off the top or our head, we can think of at least 15 books published by Gould -- we know there are more -- including a number of best sellers. He lectured widely, and taught a number of generations of Harvard students. RSR watched him fill the Lied Center in Lawrence in 1999 and heard him speak in New York several times in the 80s.

But now, only now, do we learn that America's greatest defender of Darwin opposed the theory he was famous for.

Her money is on the friend.

In the journalism game, this is a called a judgement question. The reporter hears different stories. How does she or he sort them out? What is the route to the truth? Wise journalists are very careful when making these judgements, because they know their readers will hold them responsible if they guess wrong.

So, in this case, we have the life work of the most famous evolutionary biologist since Charles Darwin. A man who has left a voluminous written record of his thoughts on the matter of evolutionary theory. He was a widely admired and popular public figure -- so much so that he was transformed into a cartoon character on one episode of the Simpsons. And then, of course, there is the "friend."

And, O'Leary's money is on the friend.

There is in all this, the mad-eyed glint of flat earth lunacy, but then, isn't that really the operating definition of intelligent design, anyway?


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