Stephen J. Gould
Summer 2002 (images are links)

Stephen J. Gould

Fundamentalism has surfaced as an issue for our times. The West, and the world in general, seems pluralistic and open minded compared to almost any age before our time, though I suspect most any epoch would view itself as open minded. Yet still, cultures swing between the constricted thoughts and behaviors advocated by those believing in the ‘fundamental’ truths, to the more pluralistic affirmations revealed in the thoughts and behaviors representing a variety of viewpoints. On occasion, cultures with different fundamental viewpoints clash.

September 11 surfaced above the noise revealing a struggle between the fundamentalists of Islam, and the fundamentalists of corporatism. Living is the US, it’s hard to even imagine that the Islamic Fundamentalists have a point. We are so close to the priorities of capital and the power that capital gathers, it’s not clear to us that other perspectives warrant much respect. Clearly, killing innocents demands we not respect the perpetrators of the act. What point they may have had, has been demeaned by the means of their communicating their anger, frustration and dismay. Fundamental to our understanding of civilized behavior is that you do not kill non combatants as a means to and end. If you do so, your message will be ignored.

Unless you win. If you kill non combatants and win, it’s acceptable, if you don’t talk about it.

In a country as open to differing viewpoints as the United States (provided the viewpoint does not seriously impede the flow of commerce), a large number of fundamental forces are in play - wrestling with pluralistic forces and smashing against rival fundamental beliefs. There are individuals observing this crashing of idea waves, writers that share their insights on the nature of these varying ideas. Some of these writers are invested in a particular fundamental position, others try to write from a position unattached. Occasionally a relatively unattached writer will write supporting the forces of pluralism, though, of course, seeking to observe and comment while unattached is already contributing to a pluralistic perspective.

For almost thirty years Stephen J. Gould has been a voice that speaks eloquently of varying influences operating seamlessly within a system, and sings their praises while describing how specifically those forces work with one another. At the same time he made contributions to his chosen vocation, offerings with staggering implications, ideas that furthered the pluralistic position.

Stephen J. Gould is an evolutionary biologist. He is not a fundamentalist. Incredibly, he has lived and breathed in the dry atonal fundamental tenets of the classic Darwinian Synthesis and breathed out a rich symphony of evolutionary influences that includes the neo-darwinian narrow path, the rejected ideas of two centuries past, and the vivid innovations of contemporary times.

Stephen J. Gould belongs on this page dedicated to alternative science because he never believed something just because he was told it was true. Rather, he believed that if there was truth in something, then it was worth affirming. He saw truth in more places than perhaps any scientist that didn’t believe in god has ever found it. Overwhelming colleagues with the girth of his ideational embrace, Stephen J. Gould’s pluralism has generated a rich and complex understanding of how life has evolved on earth.

On May 21st, 2002 Stephen J. Gould passed. Gould was a vocal critic of Creationist non science rhetoric. Gould was an agnostic. Yet Gould often experienced awe and gratitude for the miraculously beautiful world we live in (awe often noted in his over 300 essays; all the way to his final piece published last year) and knew the creatures of our world in more detail than almost anyone on this planet. He did honour to the earth and to us by so deeply praising our earth’s beauty.

We mourn his passing.
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Stephen J. Gould