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What is the evidence that Gould was a Marxist?

by Zane Martin, New Zealand (guest writer)

17 August 2006

We generally refer to Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002) as a Marxist due to his well-known leftist leanings, and activities such as his involvement in the ‘Marxist Science for the People’ group (with even more ardent Marxist Richard Lewontin). The Socialist Worker Online mentions that Gould was on the advisory boards of the journal Rethinking Marxism and the Brecht Forum, sponsor of the New York Marxist School.1 The Encyclopedia of the American Left singled Gould out as one of the ‘few scientists [who] have emerged as major public allies of the Left’ and as ‘perhaps the most formidable example of a supportive presence at Left events and for Left causes.’2

A famous quote made by Gould is that within his Jewish-Marxist family subculture he learned his Marxism ‘at his daddy's knee’. He has said that his politics were very different from his father’s, but never explained exactly how. Some have speculated that this referred to a rejection of Stalinism. Whatever the meaning, it is clear from Gould’s work that he was strongly influenced by Marxist beliefs. In his book The Culture of Critique, evolutionist author Kevin MacDonald writes that Gould has ‘acknowledged that his theory of evolution as punctuated equilibria was attractive to him as a Marxist because it posited periodic revolutionary upheavals in evolution rather than conservative, gradualist change’.3

He freely admitted that his punctuated equilibrium theory, for which he is most famous, attracted him because of his knowledge of Hegel and Marx. Many agree that Gould allowed his Marxist philosophy to influence his science. He has even been labelled, by other evolutionists, ‘muddle-headed, hypocritical, blinded by Marxism, and rhetorically dishonest’.4

Further reading about Gould’s Marxist leanings:

Notes

  1. Gasper, Phil, ‘A scientist of the people’, Socialist Worker Online, 7 June 2002, p8 <www.socialistworker.org/2002-1/410/410_08_StephenJayGould.shtml>.
  2. Gasper, Phil, ‘A scientist of the people’, Socialist Worker Online, 7 June 2002, p8 <www.socialistworker.org/2002-1/410/410_08_StephenJayGould.shtml>.
  3. MacDonald, Kevin, ‘The Culture of Critique’, <http://home.comcast.net/~neoeugenics/gou.htm>.
  4. Monastersky, Richard, ‘Revising the Book of Life’, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 15 March 2002 <http://chronicle.com/free/v48/i27/27a01401.htm>.

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