Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) wrote many other important books, such as Ever Since Darwin, The Panda's Thumb, The Flamingo's Smile, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, Bully for Brontosaurus, Eight Little Piggies, Dinosaur in a Haystack, Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, The Lying Stones Of Marrakech, etc. [NOTE: page numbers refer to the 412-page hardcover edition.]
He wrote in the Prologue to this 1983 book, "I am gathering this third volume of collected essays in the midst of world-wide festivities for the third Darwinian centennial of our century... Darwinian theory is in a vibrantly healthy state. Confidence in the basic mechanism of natural selection provides a theoretical underpinning... However, and ironically, the early 1980s also witnesses an utterly different and perverse debate about evolution... I refer, of course, to the political resurgence of the pseudoscience known to its supporters as 'scientific creationism'---strict Genesis literalism masquerading as science in a cynical attempt by bypass the First Amendment and win legislatively mandated inclusion of particular (and minority) religious views into public school curricula... Intense debates about HOW evolution occurs display science at its most exciting, but provide no solace (only phony ammunition by willing distortion) to strict fundamentalists."
He notes, "Francis Crick... has continued to generate controversy, challenging hypotheses... In late 1981, he published a book, Life Itself, advocating a theory of 'directed panspermia'---the idea that Earth's original life arrived as microorganisms dispatched by intelligent beings who chose not to make the long journey themselves. (Ten will get you fifty that he's wrong this time---but only fifty; he's been right too often.)" (Pg. 166)
He argues, "I would suggest ... that atavisms [i.e., evolutionary "throwbacks"] teach an important lesson about potential results of small genetic changes, and that they suggest an unconventional approach to the problem of major transitions in evolution... Must one group always evolve from another through an insensibly graded series of intermediate forms? Must evolution proceed gene by gene, each tiny change producing a correspondingly small alteration of external appearance? The fossil record rarely records smooth transitions, and it is often difficult even to imagine a function for all hypothetical intermediates between ancestors and their highly modified descendants... The current challenge to traditional gradualistic accounts of evolutionary transitions will take root only if genetic systems contain extensive, hidden capacities for expressing small changes as large effects. Atavisms provide the most striking demonstration of this principle that I know... Horses have never lost the genetic information for producing side toes... What else might their genetic system maintain, normally unexpressed, but able to serve, if activated, as a possible focus for major and rapid evolutionary change?" (Pg. 181)
He discusses "homeotic" mutations [i.e., "if a human developed a second pair of arms where his legs should be, but an extra pair of arms on the chest would not qualify"; pg. 188]: "Homeotic mutants are gripping in their weirdness, but ... We must avoid... the tempting but painfully naïve idea that they represent the long-sought 'hopeful monsters' that might validate extreme saltationist views of major evolutionary transitions in single steps (a notion that I, despite my predilections for rapid change, regard as a fantasy born of insufficient appreciation for organisms as complex and integrated entities). First of all, most homeotic mutations produce hopeless creatures. The legs that extend from antennal sockets or surround mouths ... are useless appendages without proper neural or muscular hookups. Even if they did work, what would they accomplish in such odd positions?" (Pg. 194) But he argues, "small genetic changes that happen to affect the switches might engender cascading effects throughout the body. Homoeotic mutants teach us that small genetic changes can affect the switches and produce remarkable changes in an adult fly. Major evolutionary transitions may be instigated ... by small genetic changes that translate into fundamentally altered bodies." (Pg. 196)
He elaborates on his suggestion that Teilhard de Chardin was a "conspirator" in the Piltdown Man forgery. "I do believe that a conspiracy existed at Piltdown and that... a man who later became one of the world's most famous theologians... knew what [Charles] Dawson was doing and probably helped in no small way----the French Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin." (Pg. 202) He adds, "I have sharpened the basic arguments and read through Teilhard's published work, finding a pattern that seems hard to reconcile with his innocence. My case is, to be sure, circumstantial... but I believe that the burden of proof must now rest with those who hold Father Teilhard blameless." (Pg. 208) He continues, "Perhaps I am now too blinded by my own attraction to the hypothesis of Teilhard's complicity. Perhaps all these points are minor and unrelated, testifying only to the faulty memory of an aging man... Still I would not now come forward with my case were it not for a second argument... the record of Teilhard's letters and publications." (Pg. 213) He suggests, "I assume that Piltdown was merely a delicious joke for him---at first... But the joke quickly went sour. Smith Woodward tumbled too fast and too far... I cannot view [Teilhard's] participation as more than an intended joke that unexpected turned to a galling bitterness almost beyond belief. I think that Teilhard suffered for Piltdown throughout his life." (Pg. 225-226) [However, in Gould's final "summary" work, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, he does not mention Piltdown Man, and only refers to Teilhard incidentally as a "theistic evolutionist" example; so hopefully he finally gave up on this speculative theory.]
He says, "The basic attack or modern creationists falls apart on two general counts ... First, they play upon a vernacular misunderstanding of the word 'theory' to convey the false impression that we evolutionists are covering up the rotten core of our edifice. Second, they misuse a popular philosophy of science to argue that they are behaving scientifically in attacking evolution. Yet the same philosophy demonstrates that their own belief is not science, and that 'scientific creationism' is a meaningless and self-contradictory phrase... creationists can (and do) argue: evolution is 'only' a theory... Well, evolution IS a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty." (Pg. 254)
In an essay on the Scopes "Monkey Trial," he observes, "[John Thomas] Scopes didn't even teach biology in the small, inappropriate, fundamentalist town of Dayton... He had been hired as an athletic coach and physics teacher but had substituted in biology when the regular instructor... fell ill. He had not actively taught evolution at all, but merely assigned the offending textbook pages as part of a review for an exam. When some town boosters decided that a test of the Butler Act might put Dayton on the map... Scopes was available only by another quirk of fate... The school year was over... But he had stayed on because he had a date with 'a beautiful blonde' at a forthcoming church social." (Pg. 265) He adds, "In the heroic version [of the trial], John Scopes was persecuted, [Clarence] Darrow rose to Scopes's defense and smote the antediluvian [William Jennings] Bryan, and the antievolution movement then dwindled or ground to at least a temporary halt. All three parts of this story are false." (Pg. 270)
Besides being a highly creative evolutionary theorist, Gould was also a brilliant writer and an engaged "public intellectual." His presence is sorely missed on the scientific and literary scene.