Released: January 2011
Stephen Jay Gould was not only a leading paleontologist and evolutionary theorist, he was also a humanist with an enduring interest in the history and philosophy of science. The extraordinary range of Gould’s work was underpinned by a richly nuanced and deeply insightful worldview.
Richard York and Brett Clark engage Gould’s science and humanism to illustrate and develop the intellectual power of Gould’s worldview, particularly with regard to the philosophy of science. They demonstrate how the Gouldian perspective sheds light on many of the key debates occurring not only in the natural sciences, but in the social sciences as well. They engage the themes that unified Gould’s work and drove his inquires throughout his intellectual career, such as the nature of history, both natural and social, particularly the profound importance of contingency and the uneven tempo of change. They also assess Gould’s views on structuralism, highlighting the importance of the dialectical interaction of structural forces with everyday demands for function, and his views on the hierarchical ordering of causal forces, with some forces operating at large scales and/or over long spans of time, while others are operating on small scales and/or occur frequently or rapidly.
York and Clark also address Gould’s application of these principals to understanding humanity’s place in nature, including discussions of human evolution, sociobiology, and the role of art in human life. Taken together, this book illuminates Gould’s dynamic understanding of the world and his celebration of both science and humanism.
This thoughtful and perceptive presentation of the remarkable work of Stephen Jay Gould is most welcome. With skill and insight, the authors elucidate Gould’s contributions to evolutionary theory and to the understanding of the interactions of science and human life in many dimensions, from the social factors that enter into serious scientific inquiry to the ways in which recognition of the meaninglessness of nature sets the conditions for a humanistic concern for the achievements of creative intelligence and for how to live a decent life. Not least, they bring forth Gould’s dedication to presenting to the general public the discoveries of biological science, and what it reveals about the wonders of nature, and his inspiring commitment to justice and freedom in his life and work.
York and Clark present a sympathetic and expansive overview of Stephen Jay Gould’s scientific and popular writings, emphasizing how his humanism penetrated every aspect of his work. They offer an insightful interpretation of Gould’s scientific, historical, and philosophical endeavors, giving the reader a refreshing and unified view of his life’s accomplishments.
Stephen Jay Gould will be remembered for many things. He made major contributions to post-Darwinian evolutionary theory, its philosophy, and history. His many essays and books are models of popular science writing. Above all he had a passionate concern for social justice and was a powerful analytical critic of the ways in which ‘science’ has been used in support of racism and sexism. Here, sociologists Richard York and Brett Clark bring together many facets of Gould’s vast output in an accessible exegesis of his ideas.