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Author Topic: Did Stephen Jay Gould really say this?
Pogue Ma-humbug
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We have a very ignorant, right-wing columnist in Cincinnati who wrote a piece Sunday on the glories of creationism and the lies of evolution.

In his story, he had these two quotes:

quote:
Dr. Stephen J. Gould, Harvard professor of biology and geology: "One hundred and twenty years of fossil research (after Darwin), it has become abundantly clear that the fossil record will not confirm this part of Darwin's predictions. A species does not arise gradually by the gradual transformation of its ancestors."

quote:
The late Nobel Prize winner Dr. George Wald, professor of microbiology at Harvard: "That leads us to only one other conclusion: that of supernatural creation. But we cannot accept that on philosophical grounds; therefore we choose to believe the impossible: that life arose spontaneously by chance."
Now, I've been able to find Gould's "quote" only on creationist Web sites. I have not been able to fund Wald's "quote."

Can anyone either confirm these quotes (in context) or debunk them? I'd like our little fella to know the truth.

Pogue

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Chava
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The Gould quote is consistent with the arguments made in favor of the "punctuated equilibrium" theory of evolution against the traditional "gradualism" theory. The creationists are mistaken in thinking that he's arguing in favor of divine creation.

Chava

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Cure the Blues
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I suspect the Gould quote may be legit, but completely taken out of context. The sentence is very carefully worded: "will not confirm this part of Darwin's predictions." As Chava suggested, it's probably in support of the punctuated equilibrium theory.

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Kathy B
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Gould's stement in another form, with citation
quote:
"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…in any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the gradual transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and ‘fully formed.’" Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution’s Erratic Pace," Natural History 86, May, 1977, p. 14.
Wald's quote: When it comes to the origin of life, there are only two possibilities: creation or spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation was disproved 100 years ago, but that leads us to supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds; therefore, we choose to believe the impossible.

"The Origin of Life," Scientific American, 1954, reprinted on p 307-320, A Treasury of Science, Fourth Revised Edition, Harlow Shapley et al., eds., Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1958. p 309.

Another variant: As for spontaneous generation, it continued to find acceptance until finally disposed of by the work of Louis Pasteur—it is a curious thing that until quite recently professors of biology habitually told this story as part of their introductions of students to biology. They would finish this account glowing with the conviction that they had given a telling demonstration of the overthrow of mystical notion by clean, scientific experimentation. Their students were usually so bemused as to forget to ask the professor how he accounted for the origin of life. This would have been an embarrassing question, because there are only two possibilities: either life arose by spontaneous generation, which the professor had just refuted; or it arose by supernatural creation, which he probably regarded as anti-scientific [Wald, George (1972), Frontiers of Modern Biology in Theories of Origin of Life (New York: Houghton-Mifflin).]

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Grumpy
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Stephen Jay Gould's second career was being misquoted by anti-evolutionists. Sadly, it's a career that outlives the man himself.
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Silas Sparkhammer
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathy B[oo]:
Another variant: As for spontaneous generation, it continued to find acceptance until finally disposed of by the work of Louis Pasteur—it is a curious thing that until quite recently professors of biology habitually told this story as part of their introductions of students to biology. They would finish this account glowing with the conviction that they had given a telling demonstration of the overthrow of mystical notion by clean, scientific experimentation. Their students were usually so bemused as to forget to ask the professor how he accounted for the origin of life.

Of course, all that Pasteur proved was that observable fauna, such as maggots, does not spontaneously appear in rotting meat in an oxygen atmosphere over a time-span of weeks or months.

The Urey experiments, on the other hand, showed that in a non-oxygenated atmosphere, the building blocks of life (self-replicating molecules) could have come into existence due to energetic discharges (UV, lightning, volcanic heat) over a period of a billion years.

These are two completely different issues. The substitution of one for the other is a traditional creationist tactic, and is entirely fraudulent.

Silas (I've seen Henry Morris in action; the man is a deliberate and conscious fraud) Sparkhammer

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The Vorlon Ambassador's Aide
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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
The Urey experiments, on the other hand, showed that in a non-oxygenated atmosphere, the building blocks of life (self-replicating molecules) could have come into existence due to energetic discharges (UV, lightning, volcanic heat) over a period of a billion years.

It's worth noting, however, that those experiments were based upon ideas about the early atmosphere of Earth that are no longer considered to be correct.

The experiments are highly interesting, but not particularly meaningful in regard to life's beginnings on this world.

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First of Two
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Has anyone repeated the Urey experiments with the components that are considered to be correct today?

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Archangel
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What Chava said.

The proponents of the faith-based view regularly resort to selective quotation to distort the meaning of reputable scientific commentary, being as they have no reputable scientific support of their own.

Punctuated equilibrium counters the schoolroom view that evolution occurs in even and measured steps.

Equilibrium: Long periods of genetic stability: Punctuated: short bursts of genetic change.
Equilibrium: Long periods of genetic stability again.

So the fossil record of intermediate stages is difficult to establish, in life they weren't around for long.

It's the sort of concern, ethical, evidence based scientists discover in their own theories. The paucity of the fossil record does present less evidence than science would like. It's a difficult conundrum where the theory suggests there will not be much evidence, but it's not a fatal problem. It's also a contentious theory, the other view being that punctuated equilibrium may occur/have occurred but it is not the rule.

But kill dead the lurking fallacy that problems with evidence = default support for the faith-based (to be generous) view.

Its demeaning to even speak of c*****m in the same breath. [Furious]

Edit: The quotes are presented in a false sequence. SJG addresses evolutionary change: Wald addresses life's origins, it's not a response to SJG.

Edit2 (So you know I care) with the greatest respect to Prof. Wald [Wink] : there is nothing impossible in the view that life arose spontaneously by chance. Nor are there *any* philosophical grounds for refusing to accept supernatural creation.

Again I suspect mischevious selective quotation here.

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Animal or god?
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AFAIK Gould did say something about evolution beginning in "leaps and bounds" I think, so it's probably a misquote. I hope time will judge Gould's work better than Dawkins though.
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KeithB
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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:

The Urey experiments, on the other hand, showed that in a non-oxygenated atmosphere, the building blocks of life (self-replicating molecules) could have come into existence due to energetic discharges (UV, lightning, volcanic heat) over a period of a billion years.

These are two completely different issues. The substitution of one for the other is a traditional creationist tactic, and is entirely fraudulent.

Silas (I've seen Henry Morris in action; the man is a deliberate and conscious fraud) Sparkhammer

I hate to be nit-picky, after what happened in the Disney forum about Peggy Lee, but Miller Urey simply showed that *proteins* would be formed, not "self-replicating molecules."
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Kilrati
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quote:
Has anyone repeated the Urey experiments with the components that are considered to be correct today?

Yes, and it doesn't work.
Also the math don't add up according to this physicist
http://www.innercite.com/~tstout/cs/pog_3.shtml

INHO, we all have bias, even scientists. Because of this bias, we interpret any information we receive within a certain framework that will influence our final conclusion. I don't believe there is any way outside of this because we cannot have information without a context. You should not believe that a person is any less biased because he or she has a degree.

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First of Two
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Kilrati: Unfortunately, that site you cited is a Creation Science propaganda work, and not a very good one. The author falls for the old "irreducible complexity" fallacy, for one.

Hell, Chapter 10 is "Messianic Prophecy," and 13 blathers on about Humanism, which is a philosophy and has less to do with evolution than mustard has to do with toothpaste.

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Kilrati
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Ok, just ignore the philosophy. The math in chapter 3 strikes me as sound. Whether the person who wrote it is a creationist or not has little bearing on the validity of the calculations.
And I can find a more conventional reference on how the Urey-Miller experiment does not work under the gazes we suspect were on earth at that time.

I'm not a creationist either, and agree with you entirely that "no reasonable person " believes creationism. But not bevelling creationism is not the same as believing evolution, which is not the same as doubting part of the working of how evolution occurred. Many biologists and other scientists refuse all or part of the theory of evolution. That doesn’t make them creationist.

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The Vorlon Ambassador's Aide
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The math is sound, but the concepts identified with the math are not.
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Silas Sparkhammer
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quote:
Originally posted by KeithB:
quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:

The Urey experiments, on the other hand, showed that in a non-oxygenated atmosphere, the building blocks of life (self-replicating molecules) could have come into existence due to energetic discharges (UV, lightning, volcanic heat) over a period of a billion years.

I hate to be nit-picky, after what happened in the Disney forum about Peggy Lee, but Miller Urey simply showed that *proteins* would be formed, not "self-replicating molecules."
I missed the Peggy Lee farrago...

I thought that Urey's experiment produced amino acid chains, and other polymers similar to nucleic acids, that have the property of (limited) self-duplication. But... I'm very likely to be mistaken; the life-sciences are absolutely my weakest field.

Silas

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When on music's mighty pinion, souls of men to heaven rise,
Then both vanish earth's dominion, man is native to the skies.

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KeithB
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This might be coming from Jonathon Wells. He discusses Miller-Urey in the abominable Icons of Evolution.

Here is a talk.origins rebuttle:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wells/#Miller-Urey

No real details on what Miller-Urey found, but plenty on the current thinking.

(Oh and the Peggy Lee thing was no big deal, I wrote a message implying she was still alive.)

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Kilrati
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quote:
The math is sound, but the concepts identified with the math are not.
What do you mean?
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The Vorlon Ambassador's Aide
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Consider for a moment the number of molecules in a glass of water. Think about the significance of that number.

Now consider the nature of the odds the paper suggests are so overwhelmingly against the spontaneously formation of meaningful genetic information.

Compare the two.

That's what I mean.

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