Inheriting the Wind…

Inheriting the Wind…

We’ve endured our own KT-event regarding David Hawkes’s review of Stephen Jay Gould’s last book, The Structure of Evolut


We’ve endured our own KT-event regarding David Hawkes’s review of Stephen Jay Gould’s last book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory [“The Evolution of Darwinism,” June 10]. Scientists and nonscientists wrote us in overwhelming numbers. Below is a longer version of the exchange that appears in our print edition.
   –The Editors

Tuscaloosa, Ala.

I have always respected The Nation as one of the few remaining sources of responsible journalism, so it was with a sinking Et tu Brute? feeling that I read David Hawkes’s “review” of Stephen Jay Gould’s last book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory [“The Evolution of Darwinism,” June 10]. Hawkes has not reviewed the book Gould actually wrote. Instead, he has chosen to proselytize for the religious movement commonly known as intelligent design (ID). He begins the review in a fantasy world in which Darwin did not originate the concept of natural selection. Such an assertion flies in the face of literal mountains of historical documents that Hawkes either has overlooked or chooses to ignore. Errors fly thick and fast. Whereas there is some justice to the assertion that Darwin’s theory of evolution was reductionist, it is nothing short of absurd to claim that the study of genes is even more reductionist. In reality, modern evolutionary theory is far more holistic than was Darwin’s and partners with ecology and developmental biology to offer powerful insights about life on earth.

Curiously, Hawkes digresses at length from his subject to castigate Richard Dawkins, showing clearly that his purpose is to attack evolutionary theory rather than to review Gould’s book. Hawkes returns to science, but it is the science of the 1960s. Referring to Triceratops as a member of Reptilia is almost like referring to phlogiston as if it were a valid scientific concept. This is followed by the astonishing claim that evolutionary biologists insist that natural selection is the only cause of evolution and that catastrophes (such as meteor impacts) have no place in their theories. Hawkes proceeds to unveil his revelation, which boils down to: Shit happens. Unfortunately for Hawkes, evolutionary biologists discovered this long before our “reviewer.” The technical literature of the past fifty years shows clearly that Hawkes is attacking a straw man. Hawkes then claims that Niles Eldredge and Gould developed the punctuated equilibrium model of evolution as a replacement for what creationists like Hawkes choose to call “Darwinism.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The debate over the relative merits and explanatory power of punctuated equilibrium and gradualism revitalized the study of evolutionary rates a few decades ago, and ample proof was shortly discovered that both modes of evolution are common in the real world.

Finally we come to the point of the whole “review.” Hawkes claims that intelligent design should be taken seriously because of recent political and pedagogical successes. Here is where Hawkes’s training in English (but not science) fails him. Scientific theories do not win acceptance the way one wins a beauty contest. Political successes do not cut the mustard. In the realm of science, theories gain acceptance when they are supported by facts, and when they are shown to have explanatory power. Unfortunately for those who would like ID to be a scientific theory, it is not. ID isn’t science for the very simple reason that (1) it makes no testable predictions, (2) its adherents do not do scientific research and (3) there is not one single published scientific paper that uses facts and reason to provide credible support for any aspect of ID. ID may be wrong, it may be right, it may be a lot of things. But it won’t be science until it acts like science and until its followers begin doing the things that real scientists do. If Hawkes wants to see evolutionary biology supplanted by a scientific explanation more in harmony with his preconceived religious notions, maybe he should go back to school, major in biology and see if he can find any evidence that actually supports the statements he would like to make.

The Nation didn’t earn any points by printing this religious tract masquerading as a book review.

Geological Survey of Alabama

Spokane, Wash.

David Hawkes sets a new standard for obtuse reviewing by trying to spot-weld Stephen Jay Gould’s last book to the giddy expectations of biochemist Michael Behe’s intelligent design. While it is unclear whether Hawkes thinks it a good or bad thing that the philosophy of nineteenth-century Darwinism owed a bit to progressive capitalism, his overall notion that the K-T extinction somehow “represents a mortal threat to mainstream Darwinism” skids way off the track.

If anybody should be sweating over this it should be ID theory, which must account for the distinctive pattern of what happened next. Instead of a Designer obviously stepping in to fill the void with engineered novelty, the fossil record clearly shows only a long procession of grubby microevolutionary speciation based on the straggle of surviving fauna. By the way, contrary to Hawkes’s gloss, most intelligent designers do not “accept the fossil record as evidence of species change.” Nor is natural selection turned off by mass extinction. Indeed, the rate of natural speciation doesn’t change appreciably: As Niles Eldredge noted in his own book Reinventing Darwin, it is the probability of successful speciation that temporarily rises until vacated ecological niches are filled. And since it takes time for nondesigned variations to accumulate, subsequent adaptive radiations (such as the Carnivora or Tethys Sea cetaceans) play out over millions of years.

Should Hawkes consider reviewing any more technical scientific works, where a firm grasp of specialized terminology is a must… well, as the saying goes, don’t give up the day job.



David Hawkes writes that “every serious evolutionist” before Darwin accepted the theory of natural selection. Not so. Darwin’s achievement lay not, pace Hawkes, in Darwin’s “change of emphasis” concerning the process of natural selection. Rather, Darwin’s claim to fame rests on his positing the theory of natural selection to explain what had, indeed, been widely accepted for some time: the ubiquity of adaptation and the common ancestry of all living organisms.

True, many natural historians before Darwin accepted a limited notion of survival of the fittest. This process, they reasoned, merely culls “monsters” from a species, thereby preserving its essential features. Darwin turned such logic on its head. The theory of natural selection instead claims that “self-interested” individual struggle creates species-level change. Darwin located the cause of both adaptation and common descent in the process of natural selection, dealing a blow to the intellectual descendants of William Paley.

The theory of natural selection thus postulates a causal relation wholly unappreciated by natural historians before Darwin. Unless I have misread him, Hawkes is wrong to suggest otherwise.

Department of Biological Sciences and Department of Philosophy
University of Maryland

Columbia, Mo.

The difficulty with Darwinism is that it lends itself so easily to metaphor. Thus, such nonsense as “social Darwinism,” over-interpreted genetics (Dawkins), the arguments for intelligent design creationism… and David Hawkes’s review. Alas for the creationists and their sympathizers, punctuated equilibrium, the K-T event (which may not have been the most important cause of the dinosaurs’ extinction), theories of self-organization, etc., are not challenges to “orthodox Darwinism,” which exists primarily in the mind of Phillip Johnston. Rather, they are extensions of the fundamental reality that the universal processes of variation, selection and reproduction account for biological adaptation. The question is settled scientifically. Hawkes’s review would better have been assigned to someone willing to do the homework.

Professor of Biochemistry
University of Missouri

Northampton, Mass.

David Hawkes’s reflections on Darwinism are mostly wrong. He is, after all, a specialist in Renaissance literature and theology, John Milton and Marxist philosophy, not biology. His biological insights are about as sophisticated as those of the creationists, and his understanding of evolutionary theory as limited.

The idea that Gould is to Darwin as Karl Marx is to Adam Smith is too ludicrous for words. Gould was an essayist and popularizer of the highest caliber and a pretty good paleontologist, but even were his theory of punctuated equilibrium correct (and this is more of an interpretational issue than anything else), this would be not an overthrow of Darwinism but an enrichment. The idea that an asteroid impact could change the course of evolution, for instance, does not at all threaten Darwinian evolutionary theory.

Hawkes bases his argument on the idea that Darwin, like Smith, was a reductionist and a methodological individualist, while Gould, like Marx, was a system-level thinker. In fact, Smith, like Marx, was a powerful systematic thinker, and Darwin, like Gould and most evolutionary thinkers (Dawkins and a few others aside), were population-level theorists, not methodological individualists.

Hawkes would like us to believe that if you reject laissez-faire market ideology, you must reject Darwinism. I hope not, because there has never been anything close to a successful attack on basic evolutionary theory, and Gould’s is no exception (nor did he think it was). On the other hand, Adam Smith’s invisible hand is not sufficient to run a successful and fair economy, and laissez-faire capitalism has little support from modern economic theory.

Professor of Economics
University of Massachusetts


I was quite dismayed by David Hawkes’s ignorance of both biology and the history of science. His inability to comprehend the process of natural selection hobbles his understanding of Gould’s arguments and leaves the reader at a serious disadvantage in approaching a topic as complex as evolutionary theory. In the most laughable example, he falsely suggests that the asteroid that ended the reign of the dinosaurs has “yet to be fully assimilated by evolutionary theory.” Hawkes fails to understand that such an event is an environmental challenge to the survivors that natural selection acts upon in precisely the same way as any other factor. Even a schoolchild would realize that an asteroid that removes the top predators of an ecosystem does nothing more than alter the landscape of natural selection for the survivors by opening new niches to be exploited and closing others (an asteroid plays havoc with the real estate values of those underneath it). In fact, such catastrophes in the history of the planet have often been wonderful examples of the ability of natural selection to act as an engine of diversity. Consider that in the more-than-200-million-year reign of the dinosaurs, mammals were little more than an afterthought in the taxonomic scheme of things, yet in less than 65 million years following the dinosaurs’ demise mammals have diversified more than a thousandfold from their ancestors who shared the planet with T-rex. Ironically, our very presence here owes a debt of gratitude to what natural selection is capable of even in the face of ecological catastrophe. Think of that asteroid as the midwife of mammalian diversity in the Cenozoic.

How can Hawkes be so wildly confused regarding such a seemingly simple concept? Hawkes’s confusion stems from his lack of understanding of the key differences between the concept of evolution as a whole and the various factors it comprises. For instance, Hawkes dredges up an old creationist misconception that Gould and Eldredge’s theory of punctuated equilibrium is somehow radically disconnected from “Darwinian evolution” when it is, in fact, nothing more than an extension of the Darwinian concept of allopatric speciation!

Of course, one must place at least some of the fault for this misconception at the feet of Gould himself. Gould wrote so many articles for nonscientist audiences that often his own hard science was clouded by his tendency to reduce complex problems to almost theatrical simplicity in order to drive his points home to those audiences. His “dumbed down” yet entertaining articles have often become fuel for his lay critics (the creationists in particular and Hawkes in this example) to criticize concepts they themselves have typically never actually read in their primary sources, such as the peer-reviewed science journals. In the “punk eek” [punctuated equilibrium] example, Gould himself set up a straw man in his popular articles pitting “gradualism” as the enemy punk eek was fighting, but even a cursory examination of Gould’s own writings in the actual scientific literature shows this to be an exaggeration for the lay public. The mere fact that punk eek is wholly founded on Ernst Mayr’s allopatric speciation (a concept alluded to by Darwin himself) belies the fact that it is not the antithesis of “gradualism” but a complement to it as one (Gould would argue the primary one) of several paths possible for the diversification of a lineage of organisms. Hawkes and those like him have been easily taken in by the similarly styled, but scientifically vacant siren song of creationism in its latest guise, intelligent design.

Hamstrung by a lack of familiarity with the actual science behind Gould’s writings, Hawkes easily makes the leap to erroneously assuming that Gould’s final work represents that horrible cliché, a “paradigm shift.” That is “rubbish,” to use Hawkes’s own word, but Hawkes makes this claim as an innocent yet fatal mistake. This conclusion becomes even more obvious when Hawkes states, “The recent advocates of ‘intelligent design,’ however, demand to be taken a little more seriously because of their recent political and pedagogical successes.” Hawkes apparently considers ID’s failure to find any scientific success a matter so trivial it doesn’t warrant mentioning, despite the obvious fact that the very subject is a scientific one, and thus popularity polls and political success become meaningless when they fail to do so much as scratch the scientific standing of evolutionary biology or its adherents like Gould. Amazingly, Hawkes seems to think that popularity should somehow take precedence over actual scientific research when he is puzzled that Gould doesn’t waste time on popular, but scientifically falsified concepts such as those argued by biochemist Michael Behe. Gould doesn’t waste time on the flat-earth idea either and for the same reason– it has already been shown to be false by actual scientific scholarship. This pernicious fact gives the ID community conniptions, but no amount of flowery metaphysical rhetoric and political lobbying can obviate the fact that what Gould did was based on hard science, and it is the misreading of this fact that relegates the verbiage of Hawkes and other fellow travelers to the Op-Ed pages and not science journals.

To use one’s own ignorance to unjustly flail the late Stephen J. Gould’s final opus is an example of why Darwin’s work is still read today and his critics in the newspapers and magazines of his day have long since been forgotten.



Washington, DC

In the author’s biography section of “Fables: The Home for Folktale and Speculative Fiction on the Internet, David Kopaska-Merkel claims to have been born on the moon. That is certainly plausible enough, but is he really the man to lecture us terrestrials on the distinction between “science” and “fantasy”? In fact, our lunar friend provides an instructive example of how a vulgar and dogmatic notion of “science” can be quite compatible with the most arcane fantasies. For two centuries, the semi-educated have fetishized “science” as a methodology uniquely capable of attaining objective truth. This conception of “science” is just as blindly dogmatic as the religious fundamentalisms against which its adherents would have us believe they are fighting. The truth or falsehood of a theory is less significant to such people than its canonical status as “science.” Thus Kopaska-Merkel declares that “ID may be wrong, it may be right, it may be a lot of things. But it won’t be science until it acts like science and until its followers begin doing the things that real scientists do.”

Nor is Kopaska-Merkel a lone eccentric. Even sublunary correspondents like John Hedley damage their capacity for coherence when they bow before the idol of what they take to be “science.” Within a single paragraph Hedley hectors us on “the actual science behind Gould’s writings,” fulminates about “the actual science behind Gould,” demands “scientific success,” insists that “the very subject is a scientific one,” interrogates our “scientific standing,” refers us to “science journals” where we will find not only “actual scientific research” but also “actual scientific scholarship,” dismisses ideas he considers “scientifically falsified” and generally genuflects before what he calls, inevitably, “hard science.”

It is no part of my purpose to denigrate science. Rather, I want to point out that fanatics like these use the term “science” in a deeply unscientific manner. For the acolytes of this cult, science performs an emotional rather than a rational function. For them, science is a shibboleth, a fetish, a superstition. It is, in short, a surrogate religion, which provides facile answers to difficult questions and reassuring certainty in the face of scary skepticism. And, as the righteous rage of my respondents reveals, no god in the pantheon of fetishized science is more slavishly adored than Charles Darwin.

Stephen Jay Gould’s The Structure of Evolutionary Theory is 1,433 pages long, and it was published just two months before my review appeared. I have to wonder whether my critics have truly read it with due care and attention. It is a subtle and complex book, and it demands a knowledge of history and philosophy as well as of science. It is also a very surprising book; it does not say what most people will expect it to say. It is a critical retrospective and re-evaluation of Gould’s career, in which he renounces many of his earlier positions and courageously reassesses his relationship to Darwinism. I believe that it represents, to invoke the Hegelian terms that Gould himself frequently employs, an Aufhebung fashioned by the contemporary zeitgeist. The Structure of Evolutionary Theory develops a new theoretical synthesis that finally frees evolutionary science from the Victorian shackles of traditional Darwinism.

I shall return to Gould’s book shortly, but let me first correct a few of my correspondents’ most serious misconceptions regarding Darwin himself. From his eyrie on the moon, Kopaska-Merkel accuses me of inhabiting “a fantasy world in which Darwin did not originate the concept of natural selection.” Jason Baker provides a more reasoned case when he claims, “The theory of natural selection…postulates a causal relation wholly unappreciated by natural historians before Darwin.” In fact, however, it was the “causal relation” that Darwin postulated between natural selection and evolution that was original, not the theory of natural selection itself. That theory is ancient: Its earliest known exponent was Empedocles, and it is summarized in Aristotle’s Physics (book II, part 8, paragraph 2). In the early nineteenth century alone, natural selection was described by, among others, Wells, Matthew, Blyth, Owen, Lamarck and Wallace, all of whose expositions preceded Darwin’s. As Gould notes in his book, “the debate in [Darwin’s] time never centered upon the existence of natural selection as a genuine causal force in nature. Virtually all anti-Darwinian biologists accepted the reality and action of natural selection.”

Darwin did not discover or invent natural selection. His departure from his predecessors lay in his claim that natural selection was the exclusive cause of evolution (he later qualified this to the “main” cause). Scientists from Aristotle to William Paley thought of evolution as the result of an interaction between micrological causes such as natural selection and macrological causes such as an immanent essence or telos (Aristotle), a transcendent essence or eidos (Plato) or the providential design of an intelligent creator (Judeo-Christian religion). Darwin reduced this dialectic to one of its poles: That is why his theory is called “reductive.” He instituted what Gould calls a “panselectionist paradigm” and employed a “microevolutionary extrapolationism” to argue that natural selection, based on random genetic variation and guided by the competitive adaptation of individual organisms to their environments, was in effect the only cause of evolutionary change.

The popular belief that Darwin discovered natural selection is one consequence of the fetishization of science, which leads many people to assume they can safely ignore what they take to be nonscientific thought. To his credit, Gould recognized the intellectual pusillanimity of such a position, although his epiphany came rather late in life (he bravely confesses that he had never properly read Paley’s Natural Theology–the book to which Darwin was responding in The Origin of Species–until he began the research for his final book). Like other pre-Darwinian evolutionists, Paley thought of natural selection as an effect of evolution, the cause being a divine plan to adapt creatures perfectly to their environments. Darwin simply inverted the relation, claiming that natural selection was the cause of evolution, and that the visible harmony of creation was the result of this process.

In other words, Darwin eviscerated earlier evolutionary thinking in order to render it “scientific,” in the mechanistic, Victorian sense of the term. He believed that evolution could be explained only by empirically perceptible data, and that it was illegitimate to seek for any non-empirical purpose in nature. In philosophical terms, he replaced the quest for final causes with the study of efficient causes, and he reduced the dialectic between intelligent design and natural selection to one of its poles. As Gould says, Darwin identified the cause of evolution with “the most reductionistic locus then available”–the material actions of individual organisms (ultra-Darwinists like Richard Dawkins use modern technology to reduce agency yet further, to the level of the individual gene). This is not an argument against intelligent design; it is a methodological decision to ignore it.

The ethical ramifications of this decision are profound. The world ceases to appear as a benevolent, organic unity and begins to look instead as if it were formed by the ruthless, selfish pursuit of individual advantage. It would be hard for even the most knuckleheaded scientific fundamentalist to deny that in this regard Darwin was the product of his time. He explained all evolutionary phenomena by extrapolation from competitive individualism. As he freely admitted, Darwin followed this reasoning in imitation of such political economists as Malthus and Adam Smith. Smith argued that competition among individuals gave rise to an “economy” that would be of maximal collective benefit; Darwin argued that competition among individuals produced a process of “evolution” that was beneficial to the species as a whole.

The degree to which Darwin’s theory stands or falls by this microevolutionary extrapolationism is often unappreciated, and one of Gould’s most important achievements was to remind us of this fact: “Darwin’s commitment to the organismic level as the effectively exclusive locus of natural selection occupies a more central, and truly defining role than most historians and evolutionists have recognized.” Gould decries the ahistorical ignorance and disciplinary arrogance of many of his scientific colleagues, who fail to appreciate the significance of the fact that “Darwin transferred the paradoxical argument of Adam Smith’s economics into biology.” He rightly calls “Darwin’s brave and single-minded insistence on the exclusivity of the organismic level…the most radical and most distinctive feature of his theory,” notes that Darwin’s “theory of natural selection is, in essence, Adam Smith’s economics transferred to nature” and observes that Darwin’s ability to use “Smith to overturn Paley” depends upon the proposition that evolutionary causality is unidirectional, flowing only and always from the material actions of individual organisms.

If Darwin’s theory depends on microevolutionary extrapolationism, as Gould says it does, then Gould was not a Darwinist. For example, despite various futile attempts at reconciliation, Gould and Eldredge’s theory of punctuated equilibrium is incompatible with Darwin’s conception of natural selection. Punctuated equilibrium suggests that selection takes place at the level of species as well as at the level of individual organisms, so that the Darwinian picture of evolution as powered by individualistic competition dissolves–evolution can equally be driven by cooperation among members of a species. Punctuated equilibrium also shows that species come into being quite suddenly, and remain static for most of their histories. This contradicts Darwin’s view that evolution is a constant, gradual process, as we might expect it to be if it were the result of natural selection based on competitive individualism. Furthermore, Gould argues that the existence of deep homologies across phyla separated by hundreds of millions of years suggests that there are internal, formal or structural constraints within species that exert an influence on their evolution. We can sense here, although Gould does not say so, the return of immanent teleology–an approach to science that, of course, assumes intelligent design.

But it is the discovery, barely twenty years ago, that the mass extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by the collision of the earth with a huge asteroid (the “K-T event”) that will prove the most dramatic blow to Darwinian microevolutionary extrapolationism. I use the future tense because, as I said in my review and as the stolid incomprehension of my critics amply demonstrates, the implications of this event have yet to be fully assimilated by evolutionary theory. Many people miss the importance of the K-T event because they do not understand the absolutely fundamental role played in Darwin’s theory by the logical technique of extrapolation. Gould understood it well enough. He describes such events as “fracturing the extrapolationist premise of Darwinian central logic”; recalls Darwin’s own awareness “that mass extinction, if more than an artifact of an imperfect fossil record, would derail the extrapolationist premise of his system”; remarks that “the K-T event…fractured the uniformitarian consensus, embraced by a century of paleontological complacency” that tried to account for mass extinctions through “conventional [i.e. Darwinian] modes of evolution”; and points out that the K-T event is now “accepted as an empirical basis for expanding our range of scientifically legitimate hypotheses beyond the smooth extrapolationism demanded by…Darwinian central logic.”

Although he claimed superiority over natural theology on the grounds that his theory was empirically verifiable, Darwin actually rejected the empirical evidence for catastrophic mass extinctions and simply claimed that the fossil record must be imperfect. He was impelled into this contradiction because he understood that uniformitarianism (the belief that evolution is constant and gradual) was the foundation of his entire theory. We now know that this foundation is rotten.

Obviously, the K-T event does not mean that natural selection does not operate. But it does mean that one cannot legitimately construct a theory of evolution by extrapolation from natural selection, or a theory of natural selection by extrapolation from the competitive adaptation of variant individual organisms to their environment. It means that the causality of evolution is not unidirectional. It means that evolution must be conceived as the complex product of various causes and not as the mechanistic consequence of a single material factor. It means that evolution takes place simultaneously at different hierarchical levels and that species as well as organisms can act as evolutionary agents. Together with the theory of punctuated equilibrium and the growing acceptance of internal, structural constraints on evolution, the discovery of the K-T event represents the point at which evolutionary theory ceases to be Darwinian.

An evolutionist who explicitly repudiates Darwinism can expect furious hostility from the prostrate worshippers of “science,” and this was not a prospect Gould relished. He wrenches and twists his argument in a desperate effort to reconcile it with Darwin (readers of Gould’s book will quickly tire of a curiously shaped piece of coral that supposedly illustrates his continued adherence to the root of Darwin’s theory), and he summons admirable reserves of modesty and tact when he describes his theory as “an expansion and revision according to a set of coordinated principles, all consonant with our altered Zeitgeist vs. the scientific spirit of Darwin’s own time.” In fact, it is considerably more than that. The truth is, as I wrote in my review, that Gould was to Darwin as Karl Marx was to Adam Smith.

Assuming they have in fact read the book, my critics’ denial of this can only indicate an ignorance of the history of philosophy. How else could they miss the significance of Gould’s observation that Darwinism “embodied several broad commitments (philosophical or metatheoretical in the technical sense of these terms) more characteristic of nineteenth than of twentieth century thought”? These Victorian philosophical prejudices include the “designation of a privileged locus of causality, a single direction of causal flow, and a smooth continuity in resulting effects.” Gould systematically and unanswerably refutes each of these three essential components of Darwinian logic. He denies that organismal struggle is the exclusive level of operation for natural selection; he denies that natural selection is the sole creative force of evolutionary change; and he denies that macrological change can be explained by extrapolation from the micrological.

Gould was not, then, a Darwinist. But what was he? That is a question he seems to have answered only on his deathbed. Early in his career he regarded himself as merely fine-tuning some troublesome problems in Darwin’s logic, but late in life he came to understand that his incremental tinkering had constructed a new machine: “I worked piecemeal, producing a set of separate and continually accreting revisionary items along each of the branches of Darwinian central logic, until I realized that a ‘Platonic’ something ‘up there’ in ideological space could coordinate all these critiques and fascinations into a revised general theory with a Darwinian base.”

Forget about that “base.” Gould is describing a paradigm shift, and this fact is all the more obvious for his unwonted coyness in discussing it. In a revealing allusion to George Eliot’s novel about a young man discovering a pattern of spiritual significance in his life, Gould claims to feel “like a modern Deronda who gathered the elements of a coherent critique solely because he loved each item individually–and only later sensed an underlying unity, which therefore cannot be chimerical, but may claim some logical existence prior to any conscious formulations on my part.” In other words, the zeitgeist is dictating new truths about evolution, and Gould is staking his claim to be its amanuensis. The Structure of Evolutionary Theory is a rather inchoate work, largely because of Gould’s reluctance to entirely abandon the “Darwinian base,” but we can nevertheless discern in it the outline of a post-Darwinian theory of evolution.

The recent legal, educational and popular successes of intelligent design must not be understood as random aberrations but as manifestations of the spirit of our age. It may surprise my critics to learn that I take no pleasure in these developments. On the contrary, I regard them as the return of the repressed irrationalism that is the inseparable accomplice, and the inevitable result, of the fundamentalist “science” that my critics adore. The great parable of fetishized science, as Gould reminded us, is Goethe’s Faust. Gould’s magnum opus creaks and groans with logical exertion, but beneath the racket I fear we can hear the squeaks and gibberings of the ghosts returning to Tegel.


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