Stephen Jay Gould quotes

  • In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Mean #Science #Apples

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Mean #Essence #Who We Are

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Peace #Interesting #People

  • Science can't tell us what our life means ethically. It can't tell us what we are meant to do as moral creatures. But, insofar as science can understand what we're made of, and what we're related to, the Darwinian revolution completely revised our ideas about who we are and what we're related to and how long we've been here and why we're on this Earth.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Mean #Ideas #Long

  • When people learn no tools of judgment and merely follow their hopes, the seeds of political manipulation are sown.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #People #Political #Religion

  • All organisms vary, and it's just folk knowledge. You just have to look around a room of people, and everybody knows that it's true. Darwin didn't know the mechanism of heredity, but you don't have to. You just need to know the fact of it.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #People #Looks #Rooms

  • Objectivity cannot be equated with mental blankness; rather, objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and then subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny - and also in a willingness to revise or abandon your theories when the tests fail (as they usually do).
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Objectivity #Tests #Failing

  • You put three facts together - that all organisms produce more offspring that can survive, that there's variation among organisms, and that at least some of that variation is inherited - and the syllogistic inference is natural selection.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Together #Variation #Facts

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Fighting #Winning #Emotional

  • Natural selection is just three factors - over-production, variation, and inheritance combined to produce adaptation to changing local environments. It's not a principle or progress; it's just a principle of local adaptation. You don't make better creatures in any cosmic sense; you make creatures that are better suited to the changing climates of their local habitats.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Progress #Three #Habitat

  • Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Hope #Fear #Lying

  • If genius has any common denominator, I would propose breadth of interest and the ability to construct fruitful analogies between fields.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Analogies #Fields #Genius

  • Perhaps I am just a hopeless rationalist, but isn't fascination as comforting as solace? Isn't nature immeasurably more interesting for its complexities and its lack of conformity to our hopes? Isn't curiosity as wondrously and fundamentally human as compassion?
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Nature #Compassion #Interesting

  • Nothing is more dangerous than a dogmatic worldview - nothing more constraining, more blinding to innovation, more destructive of openness to novelty.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Innovation #Religion #Novelty

  • Facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Air #Data #Ideas

  • The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Humility #Science #Arrogance

  • The center of human nature is rooted in ten thousand ordinary acts of kindness that define our days.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Kindness #Ordinary #Human Nature

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Science #Intellectual #Culture

  • 'Creation science' has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand exactly why it is false.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Teacher #Simple #Curriculum

  • We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a ‘higher answer’– but none exists
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Atheist #Years #Ice

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

    #Keys #Agents #Evolution

  • Nature is what she is - amoral and persistent.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Nature #Persistent

  • If any issue should unite liberals and conservatives, anyone who cares about the integrity of human achievement or respect for human accomplishment, may we not all pledge to avoid the silly censoring that can lead to a codification of Orwell's Newspeak? Consider John Milton's reasons for why good arguments are often lost: 'For want of words, no doubt, or lack of breath!'
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Integrity #Silly #Accomplishment

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Ocean #Simple #Years

  • We have become, by the power of a glorious evolutionary accident called intelligence, the stewards of life's continuity on earth. We did not ask for this role, but we cannot abjure it. We may not be suited to it, but here we are.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Earth #May #Roles

  • Facts do not 'speak for themselves'; they are read in the light of theory.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Light #Facts #Speak

  • No Geologist worth anything is permanently bound to a desk or laboratory, but the charming notion that true science can only be based on unbiased observation of nature in the raw is mythology. Creative work, in geology and anywhere else, is interaction and synthesis: half-baked ideas from a bar room, rocks in the field, chains of thought from lonely walks, numbers squeezed from rocks in a laboratory, numbers from a calculator riveted to a desk, fancy equipment usually malfunctioning on expensive ships, cheap equipment in the human cranium, arguments before a road cut.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Lonely #Creativity #Cutting

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

    #Memories #Years #Tricksters

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Evolution #Nonsense #Claims

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Commitment #Science #Problem

  • Creation science has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectual heritage-good teaching-than a bill forcing our honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise?.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Teacher #Teaching #Simple

  • Human consciousness arose but a minute before midnight on the geological clock. Yet we mayflies try to bend an ancient world to our purposes, ignorant perhaps of the messages buried in its long history. Let us hope that we are still in the early morning of our April day.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Morning #Long #Ignorant

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

    #Science #Degrees #Would Be

  • Any human being is really good at certain things. The problem is that the things you're good at come naturally. And since most people are pretty modest instead of an arrogant S.O.B. like me, what comes naturally, you don't see as a special skill. It's just you. It's what you've always done.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Work #Skills #People

  • Life is short, and potential studies infinite. We have a much better chance of accomplishing something significant when we follow our passionate interests and work in areas of deepest personal meaning.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Life Is Short #Passionate #Chance

  • Scientists have power by virtue of the respect commanded by the discipline... We live with poets and politicians, preachers and philosophers. All have their ways of knowing, and all are valid in their proper domain. The world is too complex and interesting for one way to hold all the answers.
    -- Stephen Jay Gould

    #Knowing #Interesting #Discipline

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

    #Science #Thinking #Fog