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Niles Eldredge - Stephen Jay Gould in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Origin of "Punctuated Equilibria"

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Published on Jun 29, 2012

Niles Eldredge, American Museum of Natural History, New York
Stephen Jay Gould in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Origin of "Punctuated Equilibria"

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Stephen J. Gould's Legacy: Nature, History, Society

May 10-12, 2012
International Meeting
Organized by Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti
in collaboration with Università Ca' Foscari, Venezia

May 20, 2012 will be the tenth anniversary of Stephen Jay Gould's death. Palaeontologist at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, eminent evolutionary biologist, science writer, science historian and opinion maker, Gould gave us an extended and revised version of the theory of evolution, his "Darwinian pluralism", which is today an excellent frame for understanding the scientific advancements in many evolutionary fields. His anticipating intuitions about the conjunction of evolution and development, the role of ecological and biogeographical factors in speciation, the need for a multi-level interpretation of the units of selection, the interplay between functional pressures and internal constraints in processes like exaptation, are fruitful current lines of experimental research today. Even his pungent and sometimes very radical controversies against the progressive representations of evolution (especially human evolution), the pan-selectionist and gene-centered view of natural history, or the adaptationist "just-so-stories", have left their mark in contemporary biology. Gould's histories of nature were explorations in the nature of history, with wider cultural and philosophical implications, like his crucial concept of contingency. In the wonderful location of "Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti" in Venice, the town of Gould's "spandrels of San Marco", an international panel of scientists and philosophers - including Gould's closest friends and colleagues like Niles Eldredge, Elisabeth Lloyd and (in video) Richard Lewontin - will discuss his evolutionary and anthropological legacy, his idea of science as a complex rational enterprise, evolving itself and immersed in human society, his proposal for a methodology in historical sciences, and his unmistakable style of writing and argumentation, overcoming the boundaries between science, literature and art. In Gould scientific research and communication of science were two fields of inquiry strictly related by the idea that science is a high expression of human curiosity and culture.

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