Wednesday, December 11, 2019 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Simon Conway Morris

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Again and again Gould has been seen to charge into battle, sometimes hardly visible in the struggling mass. Strangely immune to seemingly lethal lunges he finally re-emerges. Eventually the dust and confusion die down. Gould announces to the awestruck onlookers that our present understanding of evolutionary processes is dangerously deficient and the theory is perhaps in its death throes. We look beyond the exponent of doom, and there standing in the sunlight is the edifice of evolutionary theory, little changed.
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p.10

 
Simon Conway Morris

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Gould occupies a rather curious position, particularly on this side of the Atlantic. Because of the excellence of his essays, he has come to be seen by non-biologists as the preeminent evolutionary theorist. In contrast, the evolutionary biologists with whom I have discussed his work tend to see him as a man whose ideas are so confused as to be hardly worth bothering with, but as one who should not be publicly criticized because he is at least on our side against the creationists. All this would not matter, were it not that he is giving non-biologists a largely false picture of the state of evolutionary theory.

 
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Gould's arguments on the quirkiness of human intelligence are not only presented as part of an evolutionary argument, but also I believe to buttress an ideological viewpoint. In brief, his assessment of Man as an evolutionary accident is to lead us into a libertarian attitude whereby, by virtue of a cosmic accident, we, and we alone, have no choice but to take responsibility for our own destiny and mould it to our desire.

 
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In his references to my own work, Gould includes at least nine citations that involve more than just an expression of Gould's opinion; in these citations Gould purportedly paraphrases my views. Yet in eight of the nine cases, Gould's representation of these views is false, misleading, or grossly caricatured. Nonspecialists could have no way of knowing any of this without reading the cited sources. While an author can occasionally make an inadvertent mistake in paraphrasing another, it appears Gould's paraphrases are consistently slanted to serve his own message.

 
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I want to argue that the “sudden” appearance of species in the fossil record and our failure to note subsequent evolutionary change within them is the proper prediction of evolutionary theory as we understand it. […] Evolutionary “sequences” are not rungs on a ladder, but our retrospective reconstruction of a circuitous path running like a labyrinth, branch to branch, from the base of the bush to a lineage now surviving at its top.

 
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My name has been associated with that of Mr. Jay Gould and others in connection with the speculation, and gross injustice has been done me thereby.… You have my authority for stating that I consider Mr. Jay Gould a damned villain.

 
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