Stephen Jay Gould Quotes

Who is Stephen Jay Gould?

Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science.

Born September 10, 1941
Died May 20, 2002

Books by Stephen Jay Gould


Best 27 Quotes by Stephen Jay Gould

“Homo sapiens are a tiny twig on an improbable branch of a contingent limb on a fortunate tree.”

Stephen Jay Gould

“Life is short, and potential studies infinite. We have a much better chance of accomplishing something significant when we follow our passionate interests and work in areas of deepest personal meaning.”

Stephen Jay Gould

“Nothing is more dangerous than a dogmatic worldview – nothing more constraining, more blinding to innovation, more destructive of openness to novelty.”

Stephen Jay Gould

“Nothing matches the holiness and fascination of accurate and intricate detail.”

Stephen Jay Gould

“People talk about human intelligence as the greatest adaptation in the history of the planet. It is an amazing and marvelous thing, but in evolutionary terms, it is as likely to do us in as to help us along.”

Stephen Jay Gould

“Science is not a heartless pursuit of objective information; it is a creative human activity.”

Stephen Jay Gould

“Skepticism is the agent of reason against organized irrationalism – and is therefore one of the keys to human social and civic decency.”

Stephen Jay Gould

“The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best – and therefore never scrutinize or question.”

Stephen Jay Gould

“The most important tactic in an argument next to being right is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without an embarrassing loss of face.”

Stephen Jay Gould

“We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a ‘higher answer’ – but none exists.”

Stephen Jay Gould

“We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes — one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximum freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way.”

Stephen Jay Gould

“When people learn no tools of judgment and merely follow their hopes, the seeds of political manipulation are sown.”

Stephen Jay Gould

Bully for Brontosaurus Quotes

“Intelligence is too complex and multifaceted a thing to reduce to any single dimension.”

Stephen Jay Gould
Bully for Brontosaurus

“Knowledge and wonder are the dyad of our worthy lives as intellectual beings.”

Stephen Jay Gould
Bully for Brontosaurus

“Our planet is not fragile at its own timescale and we, pitiful latecomers in the last microsecond of our planetary year, are stewards of nothing in the long run.”

Stephen Jay Gould
Bully for Brontosaurus

“Scientists have power by virtue of the respect commanded by the discipline. We live with poets and politicians, preachers and philosophers. All have their ways of knowing, and all are valid in their proper domain. The world is too complex and interesting for one way to hold all the answers.”

Stephen Jay Gould
Bully for Brontosaurus

“This or that is proclaimed awesome every second sentence – and we have lost a wonderful English word.”

Stephen Jay Gould
Bully for Brontosaurus

The Flamingo's Smile Quotes

“The human mind delights in finding pattern — so much so that we often mistake coincidence or forced analogy for profound meaning. No other habit of thought lies so deeply within the soul of a small creature trying to make sense of a complex world not constructed for it.”

Stephen Jay Gould
The Flamingo's Smile

“We have become, by the power of a glorious evolutionary accident called intelligence, the stewards of life's continuity on earth. We did not ask for this role, but we cannot abjure it. We may not be suited to it, but here we are.”

Stephen Jay Gould
The Flamingo's Smile

The Mismeasure of Man Quotes

“Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame.”

Stephen Jay Gould
The Mismeasure of Man

“If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.”

Stephen Jay Gould
The Mismeasure of Man

Products by Stephen Jay Gould

“Science must be understood as a social phenomenon, a gutsy, human enterprise, not the work of robots programmed to collect pure information.”

Stephen Jay Gould
The Mismeasure of Man

“We pass through this world but once. Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.”

Stephen Jay Gould
The Mismeasure of Man

The Panda's Thumb Quotes

“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”

Stephen Jay Gould
The Panda's Thumb

“I had learned that a dexterous, opposable thumb stood among the hallmarks of human success. We had maintained, even exaggerated, this important flexibility of our primate forebears, while most mammals had sacrificed it in specializing their digits. Carnivores run, stab, and scratch. My cat may manipulate me psychologically, but he'll never type or play the piano.”

Stephen Jay Gould
The Panda's Thumb

“The authors of recent studies on spotted hyena have found that males and females are so similar that their sex can only be determined reliably by palpation of the scrotum.”

Stephen Jay Gould
The Panda's Thumb

“The world is full of signals that we do not perceive. The tiny creatures live in a different world of unfamiliar forces. Many animals of our scale far exceed the range of our perception of familiar sensations. Bats dodge obstacles by bouncing sound waves of frequencies that I can't hear, though some people can. Many insects see the ultraviolet and follow the invisible 'guides' of flower nectar to what is for them a source of food and pollen that they will carry to the next flower for fertilization (flowers create these color guiding traces in their own benefit, not that of the insects).

What little perceptive beings we are! Surrounded by so many fascinating and real things that we don't see (hear, smell, touch, taste) in nature, and yet so gullible and open to the acceptance of new powers that we mistake the tricks of mediocre magicians for perceptions of a world psychic beyond our own. The paranormal can be a fantasy; it is certainly a refuge for many charlatans. But 'parahuman' powers of perception are all around us in birds, bees, and bacteria.”

Stephen Jay Gould
The Panda's Thumb