I don't think academic writing ever was wonderful. However, science used to be much less specialized.
If evolution almost always occurs by rapid speciation in small, peripheral isolates, then what should the fossil record look like? We are not likely to detect the event of speciation itself. It happens too fast, in too small a group, isolated too far from the ancestral range ...
So much of science proceeds by telling stories.
Can I pay any higher tribute to a man [George Gaylord Simpson] than to state that his work both established a profession and sowed the seeds for its own revision? If Simpson had reached final truth, he either would have been a priest or would have chosen a dull profession. The history of life cannot
If we choose a weak and foolish speculation as a primary textbook illustration (falsely assuming that the tale possesses a weight of history and a sanction of evidence), then we are in for trouble - as critics properly nail the particular weakness, and then assume that the whole theory must be in da
The board transported its jurisdiction to a never-never land where a Dorothy of the new millennium might exclaim: "They still call it Kansas, but I don't think we're in the real world anymore."
Nature is objective, and nature is knowable, but we can only view her through a glass darkly and many clouds upon our vision are of our own making: social and cultural biases, psychological preferences, and mental limitations (in universal modes of thought, not just individualized stupidity).
Natural selection is a theory of local adaptation to changing environments. It proposes no perfecting principles, no guarantee of general improvement
Our searches for numerical order lead as often to terminal nuttiness as to profound insight.
Good scholars struggle to understand the world in an integral way (pedants bite off tiny bits and worry them to death). These visions of reality [...] demand our respect, for they are an intellectual's only birthright. They are often entirely wrong and always flawed in serious ways, but they must be
Few intellectual tyrannies can be more recalcitrant than the truths that everybody knows and nearly no one can defend with any decent data (for who needs proof of anything so obvious). And few intellectual activities can be more salutary than attempts to find out whether these rocks of ages might cr
I am particularly fond of [Emmanuel Mendes da Costa's] Natural History of Fossils because this treatise, more than any other work written in English, records a short episode expressing one of the grand false starts in the history of natural science and nothing can be quite so informative and instruc
Rifkin's assertions bear no relationship to what I have observed and practiced for 25 years ... Either I am blind or he is wrong - and I think I can show, by analyzing his slipshod scholarship and basic misunderstanding of science, that his world is an invention constructed to validate his own priva
The journalistic tradition so exalts novelty and flashy discovery, as reputable and newsworthy, that standard accounts for the public not only miss the usual activity of science but also, and more unfortunately, convey a false impression about what drives research.
Natural selection may lead to benefits for species, but these `higher' advantages can only arise as sequelae, or side consequences, of natural selection's causal mechanism: differential reproductive success of individuals.
The vigorous branching of life's tree, and not the accumulating valor of mythical marches to progress, lies behind the persistence and expansion of organic diversity in our tough and constantly stressful world. And if we do not grasp the fundamental nature of branching as the key to life's passage a
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
We pass through this world but once. Stephen Jay G
Is uniformitarianism necessary?
Fundamentalism is rigorously and systematically used to indoctrinate and subjugate young minds. It is a contraceptive designed to prevent intellectual fertilization.
Science is all those things which are confirmed to such a degree that it would be unreasonable to withhold one's provisional consent.
Science is not 'organized common sense'; at its most exciting, it reformulates our view of the world by imposing powerful theories against the ancient, anthropocentric prejudices that we call intuition.
Phony psychics like Uri Geller have had particular success in bamboozling scientists with ordinary stage magic, because only scientists are arrogant enough to think that they always observe with rigorous and objective scrutiny, and therefore could never be so fooled while ordinary mortals know perfe
The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm.
Some beliefs may be subject to such instant, brutal and unambiguous rejection. For example: no left-coiling periwinkle has ever been found among millions of snails examined. If I happen to find one during my walk on Nobska beach tomorrow morning, a century of well nurtured negative evidence will col
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 ar
Evolution is a process of constant branching and expansion. Stephen Jay Goul
If I don't make it, I'll be very sad that there are things I didn't do, but I'm happy that I've done what I have.
Evolving life must experience a vast range of possibilities, based on environmental histories so unpredictable that no realized route - the pathway to consciousness in the form of Homo sapiens or Little Green Men, for example - can be construed as a highway to heaven, but must be viewed as a tortuou
Nothing is more dangerous than a dogmatic worldview.