The Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould
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. —Noam Chomsky
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.