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Thumbnail of Stephen Jay Gould (source)
Stephen Jay Gould
(10 Sep 1941 - 20 May 2002)

American palaeontologist, evolutionary biologist, science historian and author who was a frequent and popular speaker on the sciences. His published work includes both scholarly study and many prize-winning popular collections of essays.

Stephen Jay Gould - Context of Quote on
The Status of Galileo

Illustrated Quote - Large (800 x 600 px)

“A man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must also be right.”
— Stephen Jay Gould
In Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History (1977).

More Stephen Jay Gould quotes on science >>

This quote appears in Gould’s article 'Velikovsky in Collision', in which he contrasts Galileo’s rightful place in scientific history with the case of Immanuel Velikovsky, the subject of his essay. Velikovsky researched eyewitness reports by our ancestors and formed his own theory of modern catastrophism, challenging uniformity of geology as well as Darwin's theory of evolution. In Worlds in Collision (1950), Velikovsky presented his research directly to the public, side-stepping the usual route of a scholar presenting his ideas to his scientific colleagues. Some academics attempted to suppress its publication. That action Gould compared to the supression of the work by Galileo. However, in contrast, Gould concludes:

Velikovsky is neither crank nor charlatan—although to state my opinion and to quote one of my colleagues, he is at least gloriously wrong.

You may judge this from Gould’s opening paragraph in which he described one of Velikovsky’s ideas: “Not long ago, Venus emerged from Jupiter, like Athena from the brow of Zeus—literally! It then assumed the form and orbit of a comet. In 1500 B.C., at the time of the Jewish exodus from Egypt, the earth passed twice through Venus's tail, bringing both blessing and chaos; manna from heaven (or rather from hydrocarbons of a cometary tail) and the bloody rivers of the Mosaic plagues (iron from the same tail). Continuing its erratic course, Venus collided with (or nearly brushed) Mars, lost its tail, and hurtled to its present orbit. Mars then left its regular position and almost collided with the earth in about 700 B.C. So great were the terrors of these times, and so ardent our collective desire to forget them, that they have been erased from our conscious minds. Yet they lurk in our inherited and unconscious memory, causing fear, neurosis, aggression, and their social manifestations as war.”

Text by Webmaster, with quotes from Stephen Jay Gould’s essay 'Velikovsky in Collision', Natural History (Mar 1975), collected in Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History (1977, 1992), 154. (source)

See also:
  • Science Quotes by Stephen Jay Gould.
  • 10 Sep - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Gould's birth.
  • Stephen Jay Gould - context of quote Mary Anning - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Stephen Jay Gould - context of quote Mary Anning - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Stephen Jay Gould - context of quote Honorable errors…not…failures in science - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Stephen Jay Gould - context of quote Honorable errors…not…failures in science - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Stephen Jay Gould - context of quote The status of Galileo - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Stephen Jay Gould: Reflections on His View of Life, by Patricia Kelley, Robert Ross and Warren D. Allmon (ed.). - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Stephen Jay Gould.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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