Montag, 14. Januar 2008

Simon Conway Morris, Stephen Jay Gould and Daniel Dennett

In an Interview (of "Monsters and Critiques") with Daniel Dennett (July 2007) there is a mention of Simon Conway Morris, which I appreciate:
M & C: (...) Before I move on to Consciousness Explained, let me sidestep a moment to your views on the late Stephen Jay Gould? You spent a good portion of 'Darwins Dangerous Idea' (= DDI) 'tattooing his intellectual ass.' What did you think of him as a thinker, scientist, and man? I ask because there was a famed brouhaha between the two of you. My opinion of Gould is generally favorable. In an essay and review of his final book I wrote:
(...) Yes, he had faults. His almost comical misinterpretation of the fossils found in the Burgess Shale, in his 1989 book Wonderful Life (one of his few published books that was not a collection of previously published essays), was totally devastated by Simon Conway Morris's 1998 book The Crucible Of Creation. He also denied that there were any trends in evolution when arguing against linearity or determinism, an addendum which kyboshed an otherwise valid point. (...) To his credit, in this book's preface, Gould admits his occasional faux pas: 'Although I have frequently advanced wrong, or even stupid, arguments, at least I have never been lazy.'
Would you generally agree with that assessment? You too seem to feel Gould totally flubbed the Burgess Shale fossils. In effect, he claimed that the Cambrian Explosion could have led to wholly different bodily forms than the symmetrical sort we see now. He mistook body parts for whole bodies, looked at front ends of bodies as rears, ups as downs, etc., and generally tried to impose his presuppositions for reality. Yet, despite that, he was a tireless defender of rationalism, even if his conclusions differed from others. If you agree with that view of Gould, why the hell are not real debates and disagreements in science, such as you vs. Gould, put out for debate amongst the masses? (...)
Daniel Dennett: I see Gould quite differently. He was an academic bully, who exploited his scientific credentials to push his political views—or maybe they were closer to religious views. (Remember: I started out as a friend of his; I often attended his seminars at Harvard but eventually I got so annoyed with the way he would misrepresent his critics and bully the students that I had to leave.) When I wrote DDI, I knew I was going to have to expose Gould's history of misrepresentation—since he was going to hate my book, and would pillory it with his usual tricks if I didn't attempt to preempt that vilification effort with an analysis of his own work. Gould had been selling America a watered-down and distorted version of basic evolutionary theory for decades, and when I pointed this out, he reacted--not unreasonably!-- with a venomous attack on what he called my "Darwinian fundamentalism," but, you know, the evolutionary biology community knew I was right, and said so. (I am not alone in incurring Gould's wrath: I'm proud to stand with Richard Dawkins, the late, great John Maynard Smith and Steve Pinker, as sane and forthright a team of "fundamentalists" as one could ask for.) (...).

1 Kommentar:

Miguel Chavez hat gesagt…

I just lost a whole lot of respect for Dennet. He's more dogmatic now then he was just a few years ago. It's a shame.

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