Stephen Jay Gould Quotes

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.

I don't think academic writing ever was wonderful. However science used to be much less specialized.

Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level but they are abundant between larger groups.

Advocates for a single line of progress encounter their greatest stumbling block when they try to find a smooth link between the apparently disparate designs of the invertebrates and vertebrates.

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.

Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution - paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process constrained by history follows perforce.

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.

The proof of evolution lies in those adaptations that arise from improbable foundations.

We who revel in nature's diversity and feel instructed by every animal tend to brand Homo sapiens as the greatest catastrophe since the Cretaceous extinction.

If genius has any common denominator I would propose breadth of interest and the ability to construct fruitful analogies between fields.

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.

Human life is the result of a glorious evolutionary accident.

The only universal attribute of scientific statements resides in their potential fallibility. If a claim cannot be disproven it does not belong to the enterprise of science.

A man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must also be right.

Orchids were not made by an ideal engineer; they are jury-rigged from a limited set of available components.

What's important is that all human knowledge be made available to all intelligent people who want to learn it.

Nothing matches the holiness and fascination of accurate and intricate detail.

Something deep within us drives accurate messiness into the neat channels of canonical stories.

We are the accidental result of an unplanned process ... the fragile result of an enormous concatenation of improbabilities not the predictable product of any definite process.

The real tragedy of human existence is not that we are nasty by nature but that a cruel structural asymmetry grants to rare events of meanness such power to shape our history.

I emphatically do not assert the general 'truth' of this philosophy of punctuational change. Any attempt to support the exclusive validity of such a grandiose notion would border on the nonsensical.

History does include aspects of directionality and the present range of causes and phenomena does not exhaust the realm of past possibilities.

The invalid assumption that correlation implies cause is probably among the two or three most serious and common errors of human reasoning.

... For Dawkins evolution is a battle among genes each seeking to make more copies of itself. Bodies are merely the places where genes aggregate for a time ...

Skepticism is the agent of reason against organized irrationalism--and is therefore one of the keys to human social and civic decency.

... a fortuitous cosmic afterthought.

Most books after all are ephemeral; their specifics several years later inspire about as much interest as daily battle reports from the Hundred Years' War.

We are storytelling animals and cannot bear to acknowledge the ordinariness of our daily lives.

Everything comes to us in fifteen-second sound bites and photo opportunities. All possibility for ambiguity - the most precious trait of any adequate analysis - is erased.

Ordinary speciation remains fully adequate to explain the causes and phenomenology of punctuation.

Memory is a fascinating trickster. Words and images have enormous power and can easily displace actual experience over the years.

In what I like to call the Great Asymmetry every spectacular incident of evil will be balanced by 10 000 acts of kindness too often unnoted and invisible...

The center of human nature is rooted in ten thousand ordinary acts of kindness that define our days.

Eternal vigilance as they say is the price of freedom. Add intellectual integrity to the cost basis.

Natural selection is a theory of local adaptation to changing environments. It proposes no perfecting principles no guarantee of general improvement

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

Precise adaptation with each part finely honed to perform a definite function in an optimal way can only lead to blind alleys dead ends and extinction.

Some evolutionists will protest that we are caricaturing their view of adaptation. After all do they not admit genetic drift allometry and a variety of reasons for nonadaptive evolution?

Science is not a heartless pursuit of objective information; it is a creative human activity.

An old paleontological in joke proclaims that mammalian evolution is a tale told by teeth mating to produce slightly altered descendant teeth.

Nature is what she is - amoral and persistent.

All evolutionary biologists know that variation itself is nature's only irreducible essence... I had to place myself amidst the variation.

... a local indigenous American bizarre-ity.

Charles Darwin viewed the fossil record more as an embarrassment than as an aid to his theory ...

[Evolution is] one of the best documented most compelling and exciting concepts in all of science.

Evolution is one of the two or three most primally fascinating subjects in all the sciences.

Nothing is more dangerous than a dogmatic worldview - nothing more constraining more blinding to innovation more destructive of openness to novelty.

We must [it has been arued] go beyond reductionism to a holistic recognition that biology and culture interpenetrate in an inextricable manner.

I would rather label the whole enterprise of setting a biological value upon groups for what it is: irrelevant intellectually unsound and highly injurious.

History employs evolution to structure biological events in time.

The equation of evolution with progress represents our strongest cultural impediment to a proper understanding of this greatest biological revolution in the history of human thought.

We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well - for we will not fight to save what we do not love.

I picture several reviewers of my own books as passing a long future lodged between Brutus and Judas in the jaws of Satan.

Evolution is a process of constant branching and expansion.

Homo sapiens [are] a tiny twig on an improbable branch of a contingent limb on a fortunate tree.

...we must be wary of granting too much power to natural selection by viewing all basic capacities of our brain as direct adaptations.

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.

All science is intelligent inference; excessive literalism is delusion not a humble bowing to evidence.

Honorable errors do not count as failures in science but as seeds for progress in the quintessential activity of correction.

What you see is that the most outstanding feature of life's history is a constant domination by bacteria.

We must shed the old stereotype of anarchists as bearded bomb throwers furtively stalking about city streets at night.

A lot of scientists hate writing. Most scientists love being in the lab and doing the work and when the work is done they are finished.

The legends of fieldwork locate all important sites deep in inaccessible jungles inhabited by fierce beasts and restless natives and surrounded by miasmas of putrefaction and swarms of tsetse flies.

The world unfortunately rarely matches our hopes and consistently refuses to behave in a reasonable manner.

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.

Mass extinctions may not threaten distant futures but they are decidedly unpleasant for species caught up in the throes of their power.

The causes of life's history [cannot] resolve the riddle of life's meaning.

It is the things we think we know - because they are so elementary or because they surround us - that often present the greatest difficulties when we are actually challenged to explain them.

The world is too complex for subsumption under any general theory of change.

World views are social constructions and they channel the search for facts. But facts are found and knowledge progresses however fitfully.

Mary Anning [is] probably the most important unsung (or inadequately sung) collecting force in the history of paleontology.

Always be suspicious of conclusions that reinforce uncritical hope and follow comforting traditions of Western thought.

Recapitulation provided a convenient focus for the persuasive racism of white scientists; they looked to the activities of their own children for comparison with normal adult behavior in lower races.

... no compelling data to support its anachronistic social Darwinism.

This new consensus seemed so compelling that Ernst Mayr the dean of modern Darwinians opened the ashcan of history for a deposit of Geoffrey's ideas about anatomical unity.

Life shows no trend to complexity in the usual sense-only an asymmetrical expansion of diversity around a starting point constrained to be simple.

Evolution is an inference from thousands of independent sources the only conceptual structure that can make unified sense of all this disparate information.

Why then do I continue to claim that creationism isn't science? Simply because these relatively few statements have been tested and conclusively refuted.

Science is all those things which are confirmed to such a degree that it would be unreasonable to withhold one's provisional consent.

If there is any consistent enemy of science it is not religion but irrationalism.

No rational order of divine intelligence unites species. The natural ties are genealogical along contingent pathways of history.

Life is a copiously branching bush continually pruned by the grim reaper of extinction not a ladder of predictable progress.

Fundamentalism is rigorously and systematically used to indoctrinate and subjugate young minds. It is a contraceptive designed to prevent intellectual fertilization.

If I have any insight at all to contribute it is this: find out what you are really good at and stick to it.

People may believe correct things for the damndest and weirdest of wrong reasons.

I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

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.

Current utility and historical origin are different subjects.

I hardly recognize what I do well. I just do it.

If I don't make it I'll be very sad that there are things I didn't do but I'm happy that I've done what I have.

Look in the mirror and don't be tempted to equate transient domination with either intrinsic superiority or prospects for extended survival.

Without a commitment to science and rationality in its proper domain there can be no solution to the problems that engulf us. Still the Yahoos never rest.

Great theories are expansive; failures mire us in dogmatism and tunnel vision.

Pictures are not incidental frills to a text; they are essences of our distinctive way of knowing.

The Darwinian revolution is about essence. The Darwinian revolution is about who we are it's what we're made of it's what our life means insofar as science can answer that question.

I can envision observations and experiments that would disprove any evolutionary theory I know.

The board transported its jurisdiction to a never-never land where a Dorothy of the new millennium might exclaim: "They still call it Kansas but I don't think we're in the real world anymore.

I dreamed of becoming a scientist in general and a paleontologist in particular ever since the Tyrannosaurus skeleton awed and scared me.

Any decent writer writes because there's some deep internal need to keep learning.

Death is the ultimate enemy - and I find nothing reproachable in those who rage mightily against the dying of the light.

Nothing is more dangerous than a dogmatic worldview.

Obsolescence is a fate devoutly to be wished lest science stagnate and die.

Details are all that matters; God dwells in these and you never get to see Him if you don't struggle to get them right.

[C]ontingency is a thing unto itself not the titration of determinism by randomness.

Our planet is not fragile at its own timescale and we pitiful latecomers in the last microsecond of our planetary year are stewards of nothing in the long run.

No one-liner can ever be optimal.

As a word ecology has been so debased by recent political usage that many people employ it to identify anything good that happens far from cities and without human interference.

The history of life is a tale of decimation and later stabilization of few surviving anatomies not a story of steady expansion and progress.

But we all recognise the primary foible of frail humanity - our propensity for embracing hope and shunning logic our tendency to believe what we desire rather than what we observe.

The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best - and therefore never scrutinize or question.

The dogmatist within is always worse than the enemy without.

Sure we fit. We wouldn't be here if we didn't. But the world wasn't made for us and it will endure without us.

When people learn no tools of judgment and merely follow their hopes the seeds of political manipulation are sown.

The enemy is not fundamentalism; it is intolerance. In this case the intolerance is perverse since it masquerades under the "liberal" rhetoric of "equal time." But mistake it not.

The world is full of signals that we don't perceive.

Facts do not 'speak for themselves'; they are read in the light of theory.

Guessing right for the wrong reason does not merit scientific immortality.

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.

Science simply cannot adjudicate the issue of God's possible superintendence of nature.

Our searches for numerical order lead as often to terminal nuttiness as to profound insight.

The telephone is the greatest single enemy of scholarship; for what our intellectual forebears used to inscribe in ink now goes once over a wire into permanent oblivion.

Misunderstanding of probability may be the greatest of all impediments to scientific literacy.

The pathways that have led to our evolution are quirky improbable unrepeatable and utterly unpredictable.

The enemy of knowledge and science is irrationalism not religion

The median isn't the message.

The median is not the message

Is uniformitarianism necessary?

We pass through this world but once.

Theory-free science makes about as much sense as value-free politics.

So much of science proceeds by telling stories.

The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm.

God was there when it happened. We were not there.... Therefore we are completely limited to what God has seen fit to tell us and this information is in His written Word.