Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Update: Stephen's Snails

According to the Harvard Gazette, Stephen Jay Gould "became assistant professor of geology and assistant curator of invertebrate paleontology at Harvard in 1967. He was promoted to associate professor of geology and associate curator of invertebrate paleontology in 1971 and to professor of geology and curator of invertebrate paleontology in 1973. In 1982, he was named the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology."

As his Stanford Presidential Lectures and Symposia capsule biography described Professor Gould:

"He completed his undergraduate education with a degree in geology from Antioch College in 1963 and returned to New York to earn a Ph.D. in paleontology from Columbia University in 1967. He has been Professor of Geology and Zoology at Harvard University, currently as the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Geology at Harvard University, Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology in the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, and adjunct member of the Department of the History of Science. He has established a reputation as one of Harvard's most visible and engaging instructors, offering courses in paleontology, biology, geology, and the history of science."

Yes, Professor Gould was "a Harvard professor of geology" - as stated here below, and as both the Harvard Gazette and his Stanford University capsule biography also state. But of course that description describes his academic position not his field of study. Professor Gould's field of study was no more limited to geology than it was to paleontology or biology or the history of science or snails or baseball. Surely no thoughtful person could confuse academic position with field of study. I do suppose there are people who would try to obscure their confusion by suggesting that they know what Professor Gould's field of study was - but ineffectively seek to avoid exposing their narrowmindedness by not actually stating what they think that field of study was. Imagine what a person subject to such confusion would do with an actual complex matter.

I'll deal with the rest of this later.

Further Update: Stephen's Snails

Mr. Adragna conflated his assault on my post about Professor Gould with a larger assault on my response to Ted Barlow. I have separately posted the above response to the portion of Mr. Adragna's efforts respecting Professor Gould - an effort in which Mr. Adragna accomplishes the acrobatic feat of getting basic facts of Professor Gould's life wrong while simultaneously failing to state what he thought those facts were and castigating my correct version of them. I had not planned to explain why my post was separate. However, on reflection there appears to be no good reason not to provide that explanation. Simply put, I consider it to be indecent, almost obscene, for Mr. Adragna to have casually interlineated his dismissive comments regarding the death of a leading scientist between two intemperate rants (Mr. Adragna follows his comments regarding Professor Gould with "p.s.: Don't even get me started on how Mr. Reagan's response to terrorism -- ). For that reason, I have separated my response.

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