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Dawkins Vs Gould: Survival of the Fittest
Science has seen its fair share of punch-ups over the years, but one debate, in the field of biology, has become notorious for its intensity. Over the last twenty years, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould have engaged in a savage battle over evolution that shows no sign of waning.
Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker, conceives of evolution as a struggle between gene lineages; Gould, who wrote Wonderful Life and Rocks of Ages, sees it as a struggle between organisms. For Dawkins, the principles of evolutionary biology apply just as well to humans as they do to all living creatures; for Gould, however, this sociobiology is not just ill-motivated but wrong, and dangerous.
Dawkins’ views have been caricatured, and the man painted as a crazed reductionist, shrinking all the variety and complexity of life down to a struggle for existence between blind and selfish genes. Gould, too, has been falsely represented by creationists as rejecting the fundamental principles of Darwinism itself.
Kim Sterelny moves beyond caricature to expose the real differences between the conceptions of evolution of these two leading scientists. He shows that the conflict extends beyond evolution to their very beliefs in science itself; and, in Gould’s case, to domains in which science plays no role at all.