Stephen J. Gould, Ph.D.

Paleontologist, Evolutionary Biologist, Historian of Science

Antioch College (1963)

Bachelor of Arts – Geology

Columbia University (1967)

Ph.D. – Evolutionary Biology & Paleontology

Harvard University (1967-2002)

Assistant, Associate, and Professor of Geology Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology 

Paleontological Society (1985–1986)


Society for the Study of Evolution (1990–1991)


American Association for the Advancement of Science (1999-2002)


In 2001 the American Humanist Association named Dr. Stephen Gould the Humanist of the Year for his lifetime of work. In addition, he amassed over 40 honorary degrees.

Gould's Idea

No question about it: Harvard’s Steven Jay Gould believed in evolution. Dr. Gould died prematurely at the age of 60. The following excerpts from Warren L. Johns’ Beyond Forever summarize Gould’s intellectual deviation from conventional Neo-Darwinism.

Early in the 1970’s, Stephen Jay Gould, articulate evolutionist, recognized Darwinian expectations of gradualism fell abysmally short of scientific adequacy.
Remember Darwin’s “…natural selection acts only …by short and sure, though slow, steps?” Gould disagreed, dismantling the fragile tradition point blank!

The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design…has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution.1 “…The fossil record with its abrupt transitions offers no support for gradual change.2

Gould ridiculed the lack of fossil evidence pointing to gradualism. “The overwhelming prevalence of stasis became an embarrassing feature of the fossil record.3 “…Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth…In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors, it appears all at once and fully formed.”4

He hammered away at the obviously missing intermediates.

“The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.”5

Gould’s doubts were not enough to convert him to creationism but his keen skepticism ripped giant holes in neo-Darwinian whole cloth. His reservations resonated. Not content to merely shake establishment tradition, Gould laid two corner stones on which to build his and Niles Eldredge’s alternative theory of origins.

Punctuated equilibria,” built on “stasis” and “sudden appearance,” represents sea change from evolutionism’s discredited notion of incremental accumulation of slight changes leading eventually to entirely new and different life formats.

  • Stasis. Most species represent no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless.
  • Sudden Appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed.”6

Stasis lives! The dethroning of King Charles was underway—inside the rank and file of committed evolutionists, no less!

While Gould’s punctuated equilibria explanation of origins has yet to capture the fancy of all evolutionists, his analysis struck a nerve. His collaborator, Niles Eldredge, added fuel to the stasis/sudden appearance fire announcing, unequivocally, that Darwin’s contrary predictions were just plain ‘wrong!’

“…It has become abundantly clear that the fossil record will not confirm this part of Darwin’s predictions. Nor is the problem a miserably poor record. The fossil record simply shows that this prediction is wrong.

“…The observation that species are amazingly conservative and static entities throughout long periods of time has all the qualities of the emperor’s new clothes: everyone knew it but preferred to ignore it. Paleontologists, faced with a recalcitrant record obstinately refusing to yield Darwin’s predicted pattern, simply looked the other way.”7

Gould, undercut the core essence of neo-Darwinism with cold-eyed logic.

“You don’t make new species by mutating the species… A mutation is not the cause of evolutionary change.”8

  1. Stephen Jay Gould, “Is a New and General Theory of Evolution Emerging?’ Paleobiology, (Winter, 1980) 6[1]:127.
  2. Stephen Jay Gould, “The Return of Hopeful Monsters,’ Natural History, 86[4]:22-30, June-July, 1977.
  3. Stephen Jay Gould, “Cordelia’s Dilemma’, Natural History, Feb 1993, 15.
  4. Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda’s Thumb (New York: W.W. Norton, 1980) 182.
  5. Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda’s Thumb (New York: W.W. Norton, 1985) as quoted by Woodward, Doubts About Darwin, 40, 41.
  6. Stephen Jay Gould, “The Episodic Nature of Evolutionary Change,’ in The Panda’s Thumb (New York: W.W. Norton, 1985) 182ff as cited by Woodward, Doubts About Darwin, 41.
  7. Eldredge & Tattersall, The Myths of Human Evolution, 1982, 45-46.
  8. Stephen J. Gould, Speech at Hobart College, February 14, 1980, cited by Luther Sunderland, Darwin’s Enigma (El Cajon, California: Master Books, 1984), 106 (emphasis in original) cited by Bert Thompson and Brad Harrub, “National Geographic Shoots Itself in the Foot Again,’ (ApologeticsPress.Org online report, 2004) 36.

The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History
AuthorStephen J. Gould
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 17, 1992)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0393308197
ISBN-13: 978-0393308198
List Price: $16.95

Genesis File is an educational website.
While not a format for debate, the Editor welcomes all good faith contacts.