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Stephen Gould, continued

Gould argued that most people do not realize how easy it is for an apparent pattern to emerge from random events. Even in a table of random numbers, there are regions where patterns can be seen.

The example he gives is coin flipping where the chances of flipping a head is 1 in 2 tries. The odds for getting five heads in a row is x /x x x or 1 time in 32 tries. But it DOES happen that you can flip five heads in a row. Likewise in evolution, although the odds for a sudden, species-forming mutation may be small, it does happen.

Along with the astronomer, Carl Sagan, Gould was one the few scientists who tried to make science popular. From his very readable books to his appearances on television (Johnny Carson Show, The Simpsons) he became a celebrity. Gould never shied away from controversy among scientists and he never did so with the public. He was an active opponent of "Creationism and Intelligent Design." He wrote many magazine articles, appeared in Board of Education hearings, and testified in court cases on behalf of the theory of evolution as the only valid scientific explanation for creation. Among his many honors, perhaps the one that meant the most, because he was a writer at heart, was to be named a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress.

You can hear Dr. Gould explaining his ideas on the Internet radio. Click here.


Fortey, R. A. 2002. Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002). Science. 296: 1984.

Gould, S. J. 2002. The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Ma.

Palevitz, Barry A. 2002. Love him or hate him, Stephen Jay Gould made a difference. The Scientist 16 (12): 12. Text viewable at

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