Gould (and Lewontin) on Skepticism
Quotes from Richard Lewontin’s “The Triumph of Stephen Jay Gould“, The New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 2 · February 14, 2008:
About the necessity of taking scientific findings with a pinch of salt:
What is important about [Gould’s “Measuring Heads: Paul Broca and the Heyday of Craniology“] essay is not that it reveals what we already know to be true about the existence of racism and sexism, but that it shows how any claim that something is “scientifically demonstrated” should be treated with the same skepticism that we invoke when there is any reason to think that the investigator has something to gain, either ideologically or professionally, as we do when financial gain is involved.
About the instinctive abhorrence we should all have against “just-so stories” masquerading lack of predictive powers with retroactive explanations with no basis in reality:
The important point is that it is easy to make up adaptive stories out of one’s imagination for any feature of any organism, but that there are concrete realities of growth and physiology that need to be taken account of before lapsing into unchecked fictions.