RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! Part 150 My May 15, 1994 letter to Stephen Jay Gould (Part A)

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On November 21, 2014 I received a letter from Nobel Laureate Harry Kroto and it said:

…Please click on this URL http://vimeo.com/26991975

and you will hear what far smarter people than I have to say on this matter. I agree with them.

Harry Kroto

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(Harry Kroto pictured below)

Image result for harry kroto nobel prize

I have attempted to respond to all of Dr. Kroto’s friends arguments and I have posted my responses one per week for over a year now. Here are some of my earlier posts:

Arif Ahmed, Sir David AttenboroughMark Balaguer, Horace Barlow, Michael BatePatricia ChurchlandAaron CiechanoverNoam Chomsky,Alan DershowitzHubert Dreyfus, Bart Ehrman, Stephan FeuchtwangDavid Friend,  Riccardo GiacconiIvar Giaever , Roy GlauberRebecca GoldsteinDavid J. Gross,  Brian Greene, Susan GreenfieldStephen F Gudeman,  Alan Guth, Jonathan HaidtTheodor W. Hänsch, Brian Harrison,  Hermann HauserRoald Hoffmann,  Bruce HoodHerbert Huppert,  Gareth Stedman Jones, Steve JonesShelly KaganMichio Kaku,  Stuart Kauffman,  Lawrence KraussHarry Kroto, George LakoffElizabeth Loftus,  Alan MacfarlanePeter MillicanMarvin MinskyLeonard Mlodinow,  Yujin NagasawaAlva NoeDouglas Osheroff,  Jonathan Parry,  Saul PerlmutterHerman PhilipseCarolyn PorcoRobert M. PriceLisa RandallLord Martin Rees,  Oliver Sacks, John SearleMarcus du SautoySimon SchafferJ. L. Schellenberg,   Lee Silver Peter Singer,  Walter Sinnott-ArmstrongRonald de Sousa, Victor StengerBarry Supple,   Leonard Susskind, Raymond TallisNeil deGrasse Tyson,  .Alexander Vilenkin, Sir John WalkerFrank WilczekSteven Weinberg, and  Lewis Wolpert,

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Love Him or Hate Him, Stephen Jay Gould Made a Difference

I never met Stephen Jay Gould, though I did attend a lecture he gave two years ago. Still, that hour explained many of the opinions I’d heard of him: love, hate, joy, envy, and respect. Like a lot of people who make a difference, Gould was a study in contrasts. You also had to wonder whether he ran according to a different clock than the rest of us. The campy cliché 24/7 didn’t apply to Gould—he could not have fit so much in a 24-hour day and a 60-year life. Gould was first and forem

Jun 10, 2002
BARRY PALEVITZ

1I never met Stephen Jay Gould, though I did attend a lecture he gave two years ago. Still, that hour explained many of the opinions I’d heard of him: love, hate, joy, envy, and respect. Like a lot of people who make a difference, Gould was a study in contrasts. You also had to wonder whether he ran according to a different clock than the rest of us. The campy cliché 24/7 didn’t apply to Gould—he could not have fit so much in a 24-hour day and a 60-year life.

Gould was first and foremost a scientist. His immediate research area, the evolution of land snails, might seem quaint to some, but his impact transcended those bounds. Most scientists, and others as well, knew him as a bold thinker and synthesizer unafraid to ruffle feathers, particularly with his Punctuated Equilibrium hypothesis. Together with Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History, Gould tried to explain why species suddenly change in the fossil record. The jumps were real rather than illusory, they argued, and not the product of poor preservation of intermediate forms. Searching for such forms was pointless because they don’t exist. Instead, much of evolution is characterized by static periods in which organisms don’t change, interspersed with rapid speciation events.

Published in 1972, the hypothesis pitted Gould against gradualists adhering to traditional Darwinian explanations. It may seem more like a molehill than a mountain now, but at the time debate over the idea was pretty heated. “It was shocking in ’72,” says evolutionary ecologist Massimo Pigliucci of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “It sparked a lot of papers,” and that’s why “it was one of the most important papers of the 20th century,” he concludes.

Whether change happens gradually or in fits depends on what you define as fast in geological terms. We now know that species can dramatically adapt to environmental changes in just a few years. Male guppies rapidly resume bright coloration for sexual display once predation pressure disappears and standing out is advantageous. By virtue of molecular genetics and developmental biology, we also know that one or a few mutations in major regulatory genes generate major changes in body form. It works in plants as well as animals—just one inactivated gene changes a bilaterally symmetrical flower into a radial one.

In a way, Gould prefaced such advances. You also see Gould’s insight on evolution and development in his books, The Panda’s Thumb and Ontogeny and Phylogeny. Pigliucci considers the latter Gould’s “most important contribution. It was one of those books that changes a field.” With Elizabeth Vrba, Gould coined the term exaptation to explain how evolution reuses parts and processes to invent new ones.

Like a lot of people who shake things up, Gould had his detractors, including evolutionary adaptationists and gradualists. Still, while “there are good reasons to question some of his contributions, several of my colleagues went overboard,” admits Pigliucci.

Just last March, Gould summed up what he’d learned about evolution—and synthesized still more—in The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Despite flaws, Gould’s 1,433-page tome is “a magnificent summary of a quarter century of influential thinking and a major publishing event in evolutionary biology,” concluded Mark Ridley in a New York Times review.

Science Popularizer

Gould had another, very public side. Along with Carl Sagan, he was one of the 20th century’s leading spokespeople and popularizers of science. While Sagan often made The Johnny Carson Show his venue, Gould reached young people in cartoon form on The Simpsons. Over the course of 28 years, he authored 300 essays in Natural History, with assorted forays into Discover and elsewhere. Unlike Sagan, Gould made it into the National Academy of Sciences despite his public persona. “I was inspired by his popular writings,” says Pigliucci, who does his own share of communicating with the public about evolution. “How many scientists bother to do that stuff?”

Gould had many strengths as a writer, but what garnered so many fans was his impeccable prose and incredible mix of metaphor, baseball, art, and literature. In a forthcoming analysis of Gould’s 300 Natural History essays in the journal Social Studies of Science, Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine, documented 53 mentions of the Bible, 21 of Gilbert and Sullivan (a Gould favorite), 19 of Shakespeare, and eight of Alexander Pope. He also found 16 Latin phrases, nine in French, six in German, and one in Italian. Adds Shermer, “73% contain a significant historical element.” It’s no surprise that Gould was as much a favorite on the humanities side of American campuses as in science labs.

Gould’s writing was anthologized for freshmen English courses, notes Hugh Ruppersburg, professor of English and associate dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia in Athens. “His essays … were excellent examples of nonfiction prose.” Ruppersburg thinks Gould was better than science writers who aren’t professional scientists. “There was something about the way he expressed concepts that made it clear he learned them himself,” he says.

One of the people who anthologized Gould’s work is Penn State English professor John Selzer. “He was a very gifted individual, cosmopolitan in his allusions and metaphors—a lot of fun to read,” he says. Selzer picked Spandrels of San Marco, coauthored by Gould and Harvard colleague Richard Lewontin, as a prime example. Another reason Selzer thinks Gould was a hit in the humanities was his “strong argumentative edge and a real sense of voice” in taking sides on issues such as sociobiology.

Opinions are split, however, on how good a writer Gould really was, at least later in life. Pigliucci won’t argue about Gould’s early work, but thinks his writing style became “baroque.” There were so many metaphors and diversions, it was hard to follow where he was going. At one point in Gould’s Rocks of Ages, which elaborated on his nonoverlapping magisteria argument for distinguishing science and religion, I almost screamed, “No!” after reading what seemed like the hundredth use of the word exegesis.

From my point of view, Gould was at his best in explaining the history, philosophy, and methods of science to a public that, despite his best efforts, is still woefully ignorant of the subjects. “Half the book was history,” marvels Pigliucci of Ontogeny and Phylogeny. “Scientists have a stupid tendency to ignore history,” he says, but not Gould. Maybe his training in paleontology made history an obvious tool. Opines Shermer, “As a historian and philosopher of science, Gould was intensely interested in the interaction between individual scientists and their cultures.”

Creationism Wars

Perhaps nowhere save human cloning does science conflict with culture as does evolution with fundamentalist religion. Gould “was a public scientist,” says Barbara Forrest, a historian at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond who studies creationism. Forrest appreciated Gould’s willingness to stand up for evolution in public school science curricula. Unlike many of his evolutionist colleagues, Gould thought the battle worth fighting. He even testified in the famous McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education case. Federal judge William Overton in part used Gould’s testimony in 1982 to outlaw equal time for so-called scientific creationism in Arkansas schools. It wasn’t easy for Gould, whose words and ideas were often misrepresented by creationists. “He was prone to comments that can easily be extracted from text and taken to mean exactly the opposite of what he meant,” says Elizabeth Craig of Kansas Citizens for Science.

When creationism mutated into its latest incarnation, ‘intelligent design theory,’ about 10 years ago, Gould again pitched in, for example, with his book Rocks of Ages and a Time magazine commentary on the Kansas School Board decision to remove evolution from state science standards. Michigan State University philosopher Robert Pennock used two of Gould’s essays in a recent, mammoth point-counterpoint analysis of intelligent design. Says Forrest, “A person as important in science as he was thought it worthwhile to get involved. He lent his reputation to get the attention of the media. He did what I wish more scientists would do.”

Pugnacious, or Obnoxious?

Gould was a fascinating, complex character who had weaknesses as well as strengths, including a reputation for arrogance. Many scientists still resent the rough treatment Gould and Lewontin gave soft-spoken biologist E.O. Wilson, father of the sociobiology field, back in the 1970s. The word around Harvard Yard, at least among some students, was that Gould was arrogant. Still, his classes filled. In a touching letter to the New York Times on May 22, a student in Gould’s history of life class paid tribute, calling Gould’s teaching: “a tour de force that Harvard students may not see the likes of any time soon.”

My Two Cents

Will Rogers once said of an American president, “He puts his pants on one leg at a time,” meaning he’s only human. The question is, do we hold Gould’s personal failings so important that they distort the sum of his life in science and society? The answer is no. When all is said and done, Gould made a big difference. With the death of Carl Sagan in 1996, and now Stephen Jay Gould, science is much the poorer, given that so many of its practitioners shy away from making their work accessible to the public.

On the bright side, for the first time, more than 50% of Americans agree that humans evolved from simpler animals, according to a recent National Science Board survey. We still have great science popularizers, such as E.O. Wilson and Jared Diamond. And more have come out of the ivory closet, witness testimony and articles about biotechnology and cloning. Still, we’ll miss YOU, Steve.Barry A. Palevitz (palevitz@dogwood.botany.uga.edu) is a contributing editor.

1986: The internationally-acclaimed artist, Robert Rauschenberg, with paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, Stephen Jay Gould during the American Academy of Achievement’s 25th-anniversary Summit at historic Mount Vernon, Virginia; 1987: Awards Council member Dr. Stephen Jay Gould presents the Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award to Dr. Jane Goodall at the Banquet of the Golden Plate gala ceremonies in Scottsdale, Arizona.


Stephen Jay Gould is the scholar I will look at today. In  the third video below in the 147th clip in this series are his words “If I were  a bacteria I would be quite satisfied that I was dominating the planet…I don’t know why consciousness should be seen as any state of higher being especially if you use the evolutionist primary criterion of success measured by duration” and I have responded directly to this quote in any earlier post.

50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God (Part 1)

Another 50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God (Part 2)

A Further 50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God (Part 3)

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Stephen Jay Gould (/ɡuːld/; September 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002) was an American paleontologistevolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read authors of popular science of his generation.[1] Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1996, Gould was hired as the Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University, where he divided his time teaching there and at Harvard.

In 1978 I heard the song “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas when it rose to #6 on the charts. That song told me that Kerry Livgren the writer of that song and a member of Kansas had come to the same conclusion that Solomon had. I remember mentioning to my friends at church that we may soon see some members of Kansas become Christians because their search for the meaning of life had obviously come up empty even though they had risen from being an unknown band to the top of the music business and had all the wealth and fame that came with that. Furthermore, Solomon realized death comes to everyone and there must be something more.

(This is the reason I put the 3 minute song DUST IN THE WIND at the beginning of the audio cassette tape I sent to these atheists on May 15, 1994!!!)

Livgren wrote:

All we do, crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see, Dust in the Wind, All we are is dust in the wind, Don’t hang on, Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and Sky, It slips away, And all your money won’t another minute buy.”

Take a minute and compare Kerry Livgren’s words to that of the late British humanist H.J. Blackham:

On humanist assumptions, life leads to nothing, and every pretense that it does not is a deceit. If there is a bridge over a gorge which spans only half the distance and ends in mid-air, and if the bridge is crowded with human beings pressing on, one after the other they fall into the abyss. The bridge leads nowhere, and those who are pressing forward to cross it are going nowhere….It does not matter where they think they are going, what preparations for the journey they may have made, how much they may be enjoying it all. The objection merely points out objectively that such a situation is a model of futility“( H. J. Blackham, et al., Objections to Humanism (Riverside, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1967).

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Both Kerry Livgren and the bass player DAVE HOPE of Kansas became Christians eventually. Kerry Livgren first tried Eastern Religions and DAVE HOPE had to come out of a heavy drug addiction. I was shocked and elated to see their personal testimony on The 700 Club in 1981 and that same  interview can be seen on youtube today. Livgren lives in Topeka, Kansas today where he teaches “Diggers,” a Sunday school class at Topeka Bible ChurchDAVE HOPE is the head of Worship, Evangelism and Outreach at Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin, Florida.

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The first portion of my 5-15-94 letter to Stephen Jay Gould and next week I will have the second part.

On May 15, 1994 on the 10th anniversary of the passing of Francis Schaeffer I mailed the following letter to Stephen Jay Gould.

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Could you take 3 minutes and attempt to refute the nihilistic message of the song (DUST IN THE WIND) which appears at the beginning of the enclosed tape? Back in 1980 I watched the series COSMOS and on May 5, 1994 I again sat down to watch it again. In this letter today I will tell you of 3 GENTLEMEN who contemplated the world around them. The first one is an evolutionist by the name of Carl Sagan. Mr. Sagan is what I would call a humanist full of optimism.

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The second man also sought to contemplate the world around him and this man was King Solomon of Israel. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon limits himself to the question of human life lived “under the sun” between birth and death and what answers this would give (that is exactly what Mr. Sagan has done in COSMOS).It is this belief that life is only between birth and death that eventually causes Solomon to embrace nihilism. In the first few words of Ecclesiastes he observes the continual cycles of the earth and makes some very interesting conclusions”…to search for understanding about everything in the universe.”

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The third man I want to mention is Francis Schaeffer who I believe was the greatest Christian philosopher of the 20th century. However, when he was a young agnostic many years ago he also had an experience similar to King Solomon’s when he contemplated the world and universe around him.contemplated the world and the universe around him.CARL SAGAN:”Our contemplations of the Cosmos stir us. There is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation as if a distant memory of falling from a great height. We know we are approaching the grandest of mysteries.”KING SOLOMON: Ecclesiastes 1:2-11;3:18-19 (Living Bible): 2 In my opinion, nothing is worthwhile; everything is futile. 3-7 For what does a man get for all his hard work?Generations come and go, but it makes no difference.[b] The sun rises and sets and hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south and north, here and there, twisting back and forth, getting nowhere.* The rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full, and the water returns again to the rivers and flows again to the sea . .everything is unutterably weary and tiresome. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied; no matter how much we hear, we are not content. History merely repeats itself…For men and animals both breathe the same air, and both die. So mankind has no real advantage over the beasts; what an absurdity!—-What Solomon said ties into this following statement by evolutionist Douglas Futuyma – “Whether people are explicitly religious or not they tend to imagine that humans are in some sense the center of the universe. And what evolution does is to remove humans from the center of the universe. We are just one product of a very long historical process that has given rise to an enormous amount of organisms, and we are just one of them. So in one sense there is nothing special about us.”

Image result for douglas futuyma

———-FRANCIS SCHAEFFER: There is no doubt in my mind that Solomon had the same experience in his life that I had as a younger man (at the age of 18 in 1930). I remember standing by the sea and the moon arose and it was copper and beauty. Then the moon did not look like a flat dish but a globe or a sphere since it was close to the horizon. One could feel the global shape of the earth too. Then it occurred to me that I could contemplate the interplay of the spheres and I was exalted because I thought I can look upon them with all their power, might, and size, but they could contempt nothing. Then came upon me a horror of great darkness because it suddenly occurred to me that although I could contemplate them and they could contemplate nothing yet they would continue to turn in ongoing cycles when I saw no more forever and I was crushed.

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Solomon died 3000 years ago and Francis Schaeffer passed away on May 15, 1984  exactly 10 years ago.I firmly believe Solomon was correct when he said in Ecclesiastes 7:2 “It is better to spend your time at funerals than at festivals. For you are going to die, and it is a good thing to think about it while there is time.”Suppose that you to learn that you only had just one year to live—the number of your days would be 365. What would you do with the precious few days that remained to you? With death stalking you, you would have little interest in trivial subjects and would instead be concerned with essentials. I know that is what I did when I was bed ridden in a hospital in Memphis at age 15. I was told that I may not live. My thoughts turned to spiritual things. Thank you for your time.Sincerely,Everette Hatcher III, P.O. Box 23426, Little Rock, AR 72221TIME MAGAZINE May 28, 1984:DIED, Francis Schaeffer, 72. Christian theologian and a leading scholar of evangelical Protestantism; of cancer; in Rochester, Minn. Schaeffer, a Philadelphia-born Presbyterian, and his wife in 1955 founded L’Abri (French for ‘the shelter’), a chalet in the Swiss Alps known among students and intellectuals for a reasoned rather than emotional approach to religious counseling. His 23 philosophical books include the bestseller How Should We Then Live? (1976).” (January 30, 1912-May 15, 1985)

Adrian Rogers is pictured below and Francis Schaeffer above.

Watching the film HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE? in 1979 impacted my life greatly

Francis Schaeffer in the film WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE?

Francis and Edith Schaeffer

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Kerry Livgren/Dave Hope: 700 Club Interview (Kansas) Part 2

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