Of Science, Scripture, and Surprise

Review of Trent D. Stephens and D. Jeffrey Meldrum. Evolution
and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding
. Salt Lake City: Signature
Books, 2001. xxii + 238 pp. $19.95.

Of Science, Scripture, and Surprise

Reviewed by Duane Boyce

In Evolution and Mormonism, Trent Stephens and Jeffrey
Meldrum make a passing remark about the nature of scientific practice. In the course of discussing one common
scientific conclusion, they say that any rebuttal must provide a reasonable
alternative explanation for the same data. Such alternative hypotheses are
encouraged, they tell us, and add that, speaking of science generally, “there
is no conspiracy . . . to suppress reasonable hypotheses” (p. 114).

I wish they had said more about this. Stephens and Meldrum
are accomplished scientists,[1] but as it stands this description of scientific attitude and practice says too
little. It captures well enough the ideal of scientific practice but
not enough of the day-to-day reality. In actual practice science is not as tidy
as the statement suggests.

This is not an insignificant matter. To the extent that we
know only the ideal, and assume that actual scientific practice is a perfect
reflection of that ideal, we will be naïve about scientific disciplines and
about the steady stream of intellectual conclusions we encounter, in one form
of media or another, that flow from them. Such naïveté can cause us to become
sloppy and gullible in our thinking and slip into a too-easy acceptance of
whatever intellectual pronouncements happen to come our way. It is then all too
easy to actually become dogmatic and to adopt a level of certainty that is out
of all proportion to our actual acquaintance with the evidence and with the
internal logic of the claim in question.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in two recent
biographies of Joseph Smith by Richard D. Anderson and Dan Vogel, respectively.[2] Both authors rely heavily on the Freudian psychoanalytic tradition to justify
their biographical speculations about the activities and motivations of the
Prophet. Unfortunately, though
worshipped by many for nearly half a century, for sound intellectual reasons
Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is passé today as a scientific program, and it
has been for decades. Thus, although Anderson and Vogel accept the theory
unquestioningly, they could hardly be more mistaken.[3] Their naïveté
on the matter has betrayed them, leading both into a sorely misplaced
confidence with regard to a subject of the greatest importance.

But this is only one example. Misplacement of confidence can
happen anytime and practically anywhere. Scientific advance is not a smooth
linear process, much less a short one. All along the way (especially in less
mature disciplines, but to some degree in all) there are surprises: new
discoveries, failed tests, altered hypotheses, failed interpretations, rival
explanations, revised assumptions, exposed prejudices, and so forth. At any
point in this journey (again, especially in less mature disciplines, but to
some degree in all), particularly between surprises, many
well-informed people may think finality has been reached on a particular
scientific matter—and yet be shown, by the next surprise along the way,
to be mistaken. And some of this occurs not simply because scientific advance
in itself requires hard, laborious work over time—which it does—but
also because straightforward, objective empiricism can sometimes experience difficulty,
at least in the short term, in overcoming the prevailing scientific
expectations and cultural assumptions of the time.[4]

A further question. That is why I wish Stephens and
Meldrum had decided to say more about this topic than they do. The question
they have in mind goes something like this: “Does science encourage new
hypotheses, or is there instead a conspiracy to suppress such hypotheses?”
The answer they give is the answer of the prescriptive ideal: “Of course
science encourages new hypotheses, and of course there is no conspiracy of
suppression.” That’s all fair enough. I only wish they had asked a further
question, one that would have rounded out their treatment of scientific
attitudes and practice. That question is, “Are there any features of
scientific investigation that, by themselves, and without any conscious conspiracy,
exert a suppressive influence on the generation and acceptance of new

This question is important because the answer is yes. Of
course there are features of scientific investigation that limit and suppress
new hypotheses. A primary purpose of this paper is to illustrate this—to
show at least at a certain level of detail the types of difficulties that can
occur in the scientific process and thus to show why we must have a more
nuanced view of scientific attitudes and practice than just a statement of the
ideal. I assume that Stephens and Meldrum agree with this view and that what I
present in this paper is similar to what they would have said had they decided
to take up this part of the topic. I have no doubt that they are as interested
as I am in avoiding a naïve reading of science.

Of course, one implication of the complex, bumpy, and surprising
nature of scientific inquiry is that we are guaranteed to be mistaken in our
beliefs, to one degree or another, more often than we might like to suppose and
perhaps even on topics where our confidence is the highest. I think that’s

Naïve vs. Nuanced Views of the Scriptures

Of course, if it is important to avoid a naïve reading of
science, it is equally important to avoid a naïve reading of the gospel. Beyond
core fundamentals (which can be known with complete certainty through the
Spirit), the scriptures also touch on many subjects that can be read in
different ways by different students, all of them devoted to the gospel;
because revealed knowledge on such topics is so incomplete, they simply elude
final interpretation. If we do not understand this, we can naïvely accept and
then, come what may, hold on to whatever point of view we encountered first on some topic. This too is naïve, and a mistake.[5]

Because our knowledge is so incomplete, I believe we will encounter
an endless panorama of surprises—and on a host of scriptural
topics—once we pass through the veil. We will then fully appreciate just
how fragmentary our understanding has been.

Tentativeness and Humility

So in both scientific and gospel scholarship, recognizing
the difficulty of comprehension in both, there is reason for a lingering tentativeness
and humility about many of the beliefs we hold at any one time. No matter how
much we think we know, it’s probably best to live with the expectation that, despite
our best efforts, in both arenas, we will turn out to be wrong on a host of
matters. Many of these may be small, of course, but some of them perhaps pretty
large. We should live in anticipation of surprise. The alternative, it seems to
me, is to risk intellectual and even spiritual gullibility, and likely an
attitude of naïve dogmatism that will turn out in the end to have been
misguided and false, not to mention psychologically costly, all along the way.[6]

So I will first try to
show why the description of scientific practice given by Stephens and Meldrum—indeed,
why any such generalization—says too little. I will then look at their
treatment of one scriptural passage and then at a scriptural matter that,
unfortunately, they do not treat at all. Finally, I will illustrate why we
should be enthusiastically open to surprise in scriptural as well as in
strictly intellectual matters.

Of Science

My approach in looking at science will be to draw on
behind-the-scenes reports of one who was himself a notable scientist: Stephen
Jay Gould, prominent paleontologist and professor of zoology at Harvard and
recently deceased at a comparatively young age.

Gould is convenient for three reasons. The first is that as
a practicing scientist he furnishes more of an inside perspective than many
authors who write about science are able to provide. The second is that Gould
shares his experience and perspective without reservation. Written in a personal
voice, his 2002 tome (1433 pages in all), The Structure of Evolutionary Theory,[7] is heavily drenched in historical and behind-the-scenes personal examples of
the scientific process at work. Reading Gould we can see some (at least in the
way he describes them) of the inner workings of investigation, explanation, and
even publication in at least one branch of science. The third reason Gould is
handy is that, by happy coincidence, he writes in the same field as Stephens
and Meldrum. I think this correspondence of topics, though not necessary, is at
least useful for an essay in response to their book.

Gould is a controversial
figure, of course. On one hand he is accused of attributing too much distinctiveness
to what must be his most famous writings on evolutionary theory (“punctuated
equilibrium,” to be discussed momentarily), and on the other hand he is
resented for becoming the poster child for those who wish to debunk mainstream
evolutionary thought.[8] I believe these are the primary reasons for his controversial status, and I
have no interest in either. I will simply draw attention to three facets of
scientific investigation (among many that appear in his book) that will help
bring a bit of nuance, and thus soberness, to our understanding of the
scientific process.

Although, for the reasons mentioned, I draw my examples from
Gould’s writings on evolutionary theory, I use them merely as examples of what
can happen in scientific investigation generally. My concern throughout is not
with evolutionary theory per se, but with the broader issue raised by Stephens
and Meldrum of all scientific investigation, whatever the discipline. My only
comment about evolution will be a modest prediction at the end.

I. Publication Bias and Distortion of the Scientific Record

Gould and colleague Niles Eldredge developed a modification
of evolutionary theory in the early 1970s that they called “punctuated
equilibrium.” The concept arose from data in the fossil record that
paleontologists had long observed: (1) when species appear in the geological
record, they do so suddenly (geologically speaking), without evidence of
gradual evolutionary development beforehand; and (2) most species appearing in
the fossil record do not exhibit observable change over time—they look
about the same when they disappear from the record as they did when they first
arrived.[9] The term punctuated captures the idea of this sudden appearance; equilibrium, or stasis,
captures the idea of the evident morphological stability of species over time.[10]

According to Gould, these observations of sudden appearance
followed by stasis were thought by paleontologists in general to depart from
standard Darwinian expectations. Paleontologists, he tells us, attributed to
conventional Darwinism the view that (1) all evolutionary change is necessarily
gradual over whole populations and that (2) natural selection operates
exclusively at the level of the individual organism. But if these claims are
true, the fossil record ought to show literally countless examples of gradual
species development through changes in individual organisms. Since it doesn’t
show this, paleontolo­gists felt forced, on what they took to be sound
Darwinian grounds, to see the contrary fossil evidence as simply an artifact of
an imperfect geological record—either the expected transitional intermediates
(which, again, should be countless) for one reason or another simply failed to
fossilize, or scientists just hadn’t been looking long enough to be able to
discover them.

Omissions from the Scientific Record

As a result of this view of the matter, Gould tells us,
paleontologists came to consider every instance of stasis in the fossil record
as a departure from Darwinian expectations and therefore as “just another
failure to document evolution” that “certainly did not represent
anything worth publishing” (p. 760). As Gould tellingly observes,

Paleontology therefore fell into a literally absurd vicious
circle. No one ventured to document or quantify—indeed, hardly anyone
even bothered to mention or publish at all—the most common pattern in the
fossil record: the stasis of most morphospecies throughout their geological
duration. (pp. 759–60)

According to Gould, the
canonical response of paleontologists to this state of affairs was “a
quite unconscious conspiracy of silence”—they didn’t publish what
they knew; after all, “few scientists write papers about failure to
document a desired result” (p. 759), in this case, evidence of gradual
evolutionary change in species. As Gould asks rhetorically to demonstrate a
practical reality about scientific choices, “How many scientists will
devote a large chunk of a limited career to documenting a phenomenon that they
view as a cardinal restriction recording a poverty of available information?”
(p. 761). The answer, of course, is “not many.” And he adds that many
samples of species have never been documented in detail because “their
apparent stasis seems ‘boring’ to students of evolution” (p. 763). “As
a consequence,” he tells us, “most nonpaleontologists never learned
about the predominance of stasis, and simply assumed that gradualism must
prevail, as illustrated by the exceedingly few cases that became textbook ‘classics'”
(p. 760).[11]

So scientists in fields other than paleontology never
learned the truth about the fossil record, at least to the extent that it was
known among paleontologists, because paleontologists were not publishing
works that would tell them.
Defined a priori as nonevidence of what
they were all looking for (i.e., patterns indicating gradual species development),
there was nothing about stasis in the geological life of a given species that
made it worth publishing. Thus, based only on textbook orthodoxy, which was all
that was available to them as nonspecialists, for a century and more many
scientists mistakenly believed and propounded the view that the fossil record,
taken at face value, substantiated claims of gradualism and of exclusively
organismic (versus, for example, species-level) evolution.

When the paleontological
reality finally became known (or as Gould says, when “this fundamental
phenomenon finally emerged from the closet”), nonpaleontologists were “often
astounded and incredulous” (p. 760). For example, most evolutionary
biologists, we are told, had not expected this result because little in the way
of published research or discussion by paleontologists had led them to expect it.

Gould aptly illustrates the grip this vicious circle had on
even the most elite of scientists:

To cite a personal incident that engraved this paradox upon
my consciousness early in my career, John Imbrie served as one of my Ph.D.
advisors at Columbia University. This distinguished paleoclimatologist began
his career as an evolutionary paleontologist. He accepted the canonical equation
of evolution with gradualism, but conjectured that our documentary failures had
arisen from the subtlety of gradual change, and the consequent need for
statistical analysis in a field still dominated by an “old-fashioned”
style of verbal description. He schooled himself in quantitative methods and
applied this apparatus, then so exciting and novel, to the classic sequence of
Devonian brachiopods from the Michigan Basin—where rates of sedimentation
had been sufficiently slow and continuous to record any hypothetical
gradualism. He studied more than 30 species in this novel and rigorous
way—and found that all but one had remained stable throughout the
interval, while the single exception exhibited an ambiguous pattern. But Imbrie
did not publish a triumphant paper documenting the important phenomenon of
stasis. Instead, he just became disappointed at such “negative”
results after so much effort. He buried his data in a technical taxonomic
monograph that no working biologist would ever encounter (and that made no
evolutionary claims at all)—and eventually left the profession for
something more “productive.” (p. 760)

Borrowing from the medical and social sciences, Gould
describes this phenomenon as “publication bias”—a bias by which
“prejudices arising from hope, cultural expectation, or the definitions of
a particular scientific theory dictate that only certain kinds of data will be
viewed as worthy of publication, or even of documentation at all” (p.
763). This was precisely the case with paleontologists’ nonreporting of stasis
as the overwhelmingly dominant pattern in the fossil record, a bias that
resulted in serious omission of empirical observations from the scientific
literature on the topic.

Distortion of the Scientific Record

But omission of an important and widespread empirical observation
was only part of the problem. In a historical field such as paleontology, Gould
frequently reminds us (e.g., pp. 147, 761, 803, 854–74), the central
matter is one of relative frequencies, that is, how often a given pattern
occurs in comparison to other possible patterns. For example, how often does
stasis appear in the fossil record as opposed to cases of gradualism? When
relative frequencies of this sort are of such importance, publication bias is
particularly problematic. To omit data about any one pattern by failing to
publish it not only excludes that evidence from the scientific record (one kind
of problem, serious in its own right), but it also automatically distorts any
conclusions we want to draw about the relative frequencies of patterns that do
appear in the literature. The published patterns will always appear dominant
simply because contrary patterns have not even been published—or
published only rarely—and this because “no other style of evolution
attracted study” in the first place (p. 855). According to Gould, this is
precisely what occurred: traditional paleontologists “eliminated examples
of abrupt appearance and stasis from the documentation of evolution”—and
this meant that “the relative distributions of evolutionary rates [how
often evolution appears to have occurred abruptly, geologically speaking, vs.
how often it appears to have occurred more gradually] would therefore emerge
only from cases of gradualism” (p. 761)—a case of sampling bias as
serious as any I know.

But the problem worsens, for it is not just that the pattern
of stasis was excluded from documentation or that this omission inherently
distorted conclusions drawn from the patterns that were documented in
the literature. The difficulty was deeper yet because, as Gould reports, “gradualism
occurs too rarely to generate enough cases for calculating a distribution of
[abrupt vs. gradual] rates” (pp. 761–62). In other words, all other
problems aside, evidence of gradual development still does not appear
frequently enough in the fossil record to permit the calculation of comparative
frequency rates—and this in a discipline, Gould tells us, whose standard
methodological procedure just is the calculation of frequency rates. As a

paleontological studies of evolution therefore became warped
in a lamentable way that precluded any proper use of the fossil record. . . .
Instead, paleontologists worked by the false method of exemplification:
validation by a “textbook case” or two, provided that the chosen
instances be sufficiently persuasive. And even here, at this utterly minimal
level of documentation, the method failed. A few examples did enter the
literature—where they replicated by endless republication in the
time-honored fashion of textbook copying. But, in a final irony, almost all
these famous exemplars turned out to be false on rigorous restudy. (pp.

Gould then cites literature that demonstrates stasis in
cases that had long been widely used as textbook examples of gradual development. He
includes the oyster Gryphaea, all documented species of fossil horses, and
the antlers of the “Irish Elk” (pp. 761–62). Gould further
laments the historical reality in the discipline:

Traditional paleontology therefore placed itself into a
straightjacket that made the practice of science effectively impossible: only a
tiny percentage of cases [those showing gradualism] passed muster for study at
all, while the stories generated for this minuscule minority rested so
precariously upon hope for finding a rare phenomenon . . . that even these
textbook exemplars collapsed upon restudy with proper quantitative procedures.
(p. 763)

Then, in one of his many personal asides, Gould reports: “As
Hallam said to me many years ago, after he had disproved the classical story of
gradualism in Gryphaea: more than 100 other species of mollusks,
many with records as rich as Gryphaea‘s, occur in the same
Liassic rocks, yet no one ever documented the stratigraphic history of even a
single one in any study of evolution, for all demonstrate stasis. Scientists
picked out the only species that seemed to illustrate gradualism, and even this
case failed” (p. 763). Little wonder that Gould calls such publication
bias—paleontology’s prime example of which was the nonreporting of stasis
in the fossil record—”an insidious phenomenon in science that simply
has not been recognized for the serious and distorting results perpetrated
under its aegis” (p. 763).

II. Authority and Stigma

To illustrate another untidy element found in scientific
practice, we begin with the finding in 1980 (by L. W. Alvarez et al.) of evidence
that a catastrophic event had led to (at least) one case of mass extinction in
the earth’s history. Gould describes as clearly “evidence-driven”
Alvarez’s hypothesis of extraterrestrial impact as the cause of this
catastrophe, and yet Gould reports that perhaps only he and one other
invertebrate paleontologist of their generation “reacted with initial
warmth to the impact hypothesis” (p. 1307). Despite the empirical case for
the conclusion, Gould informs us that it was met with “rejection and
outright disdain from nearly all established professional students of the
fossil record” (p. 1307).

Lyell and Cuvier

Why would this be? If the evidence seemed immediately plausible
and elegant to Gould and at least one other paleontologist, why not to all? To
understand at least part of the reason for this resistance, at least as Gould
sees the matter, we must consider two important historical figures, the French
naturalist and zoologist Georges Cuvier (1769–1832) and the famous
British geologist Charles Lyell (1797–1875).

Cuvier is a significant figure because, contrary to the
received opinion of his time, he believed that most fossils were remains of
species that had become extinct. Further, he believed they had become extinct
through catastrophic events that had occurred over the course of the earth’s
history, resulting in a succession of one fauna after another in the fossil
record. This conclusion was reached by a specific scientific method. Gould says
that Cuvier and other catastrophists

preached a radical empirical literalism: interpret what you
see as a true and accurate record of actual events, and interpolate nothing. If
horizontal strata overlie a sequence of broken and tilted beds, then a
catastrophe must have terminated one world and initiated another, as the geological
discontinuity implies. If fauna disappeared at such a boundary, and younger
beds contain fossils of different creatures, then a mass extinction must have
eradicated the older fauna. The catastrophists advocated directionalism as a
primary theme for the earth’s history, and empirical literalism as a fundamental
approach to science. (p. 485)

Whatever the evidence for it might be, catastrophism is not
congenial to classical Darwinian theory. Darwin postulated the central role of
competition among organisms in crowded environments to explain the progressive
nature of natural selection. This allowed him, in Gould’s words, to “validate
the central belief of his surrounding culture, the concept of progress, as a
primary signal of life’s history” (p. 480). But this Darwinian commitment
to orderly progress in evolutionary outcomes was undermined by the possibility
of large-scale events, such as catastrophes, that would have occurred randomly
and produced random effects among existing populations. Inimical to the
Darwinian vision of (primarily) orderly adaptation and progressive evolutionary
development, the possibility of such mass extinctions and other large-scale
environmental phenomena introduce, in Gould’s words, “a powerfully
confusing and potentially confuting new actor: the tumbling, whimsical wheel of
fortune rather than the slow and steady wedge of progress” (p. 480).

Enter Charles Lyell, whose well-known argument for and commitment
to a uniformitarian view of geological history was, unlike Cuvier’s catastrophist
theory, highly congenial to Darwin’s preferred account of evolutionary
mechanisms and of progressive development, and it was a position to which
Darwin naturally gravitated. But he was hardly alone in this. Lyell’s
multivolume work on the principles of geology, published over the course of
three years, was impressive to all, and his work became the rage in
intellectual circles; indeed, his contribution stands as a major influence not
only in geology but in the history of science generally.

But according to Gould, there’s more to the story than the
triumph of Lyell’s arguments and evidence over Cuvier’s (or anyone else’s). He
reports that Lyell’s ascendancy ultimately owed as much to rhetorical flair (a “tricky
rhetorical argument,” he calls it, p. 482) as to any strength in
documentation. Gould recounts:

In his most clever, and devastatingly effective, trope of
rhetoric, Lyell argued that the substantive claims of “uniformity”
must be valid because the basic practice of science requires that we accept a
set of methodological assumptions bearing the same name despite their truly
different status (“uniformity of law and process”). In so doing,
Lyell managed to elevate a testable claim about gradualism to the status of a received a
doctrine vital to the successful practice of science itself.
This subtle conflation has exerted a profound, and largely negative, influence
upon geology ever since, often serving to limit and stifle hypotheses about
rates of processes, and to bring derision upon those who advocated even local
catastrophes. (p. 482)

As Gould informs us, the combination of Lyell’s status and
his utter rejection of catastrophism ultimately “placed catastrophism
beyond the pale of scientific respectability.” Catastrophists came to be
seen as simplistic theological dogmatists who argued from biblical accounts of
the creation and of the earth’s history rather than from scientific
evidence—this despite the fact that “anyone who knew Cuvier, Elie de
Beaumont, or d’Orbigny recognized their mental power, their scientific
integrity, and the considerable empirical support enjoyed by their systems. But
when these men died, Lyell’s characterization persisted, and ‘catastrophism’
became equated with anti-science and dogmatic theological reaction” (p.

What’s most interesting, and informative, is that the
mischaracterization of Cuvier and the other catastrophists that began with the
initial writings by Lyell more than 150 years ago has persisted to the present.
Gould reports:

How ironic . . . that modern textbook cardboard should misidentify
Lyell as an empiricist who, by laborious fieldwork and close attention to
objective information, drove the dogmatists of catastrophism out of science. To
the contrary, the catastrophists were the empirical literalists of their time!
Lyell and Darwin opposed catastrophism by probing “behind appearance”
to interpret, rather than simply to record, the data of geology. . . . Proper
procedure in geology, Lyell asserted, requires that we interpolate into a
systematically impoverished record the unpreserved events implied by our best
theoretical understanding. Lyell and Darwin worked by interpretation and
interpolation; the catastrophists preached empirical literalism! (pp.

hastens to add that he is not saying that Cuvier and the other catastrophists
were right in methodology and Lyell and Darwin wrong. But, he says, he knows “no
greater irony in the history of science than the inverted posthumous
reputations awarded to Lyell and the catastrophists for their supposed
positions on ‘objectivism’ in science” (p. 486).

But there’s more to the story than mere irony. Gould further
informs us that Darwin’s defense of Lyell succeeded “in directing more
than a century of research away from any consideration of truly catastrophic
mass extinction, and towards a virtually unchallenged effort to spread the
deaths over sufficient time to warrant an ordinary gradualistic explanation in
conventional Darwinian terms” (p. 1303). And he adds that uniformitarian
presuppositions clamped “a tight and efficient lid upon any consideration
of empirically legitimate and conceptually plausible catastrophic scenarios.
Merely to suggest such a thing (as even so prominent a scientist as Schindewolf
. . . discovered) was to commit an almost risible apostasy” (p. 1303).[12]

The stigma attaching both to any consideration of
catastrophic events over earth’s history and to the early adherents of such
considerations has endured. Gould remarks: “The arms of misreason extend
across generations. When primary documents disappear from sight, textbook pap
can clone itself, and resulting legends then beget further fantasy with little
hope for correction within an established system of belief” (pp.
482–83). And he shares this aside:

The great works of Cuvier
and other catastrophists have always remained on library shelves, and have been
much valued by historians and collectors. But never doubt the power of false
characterization to ban effective consideration of the readily available. A
scientist beyond the pale becomes an object of ridicule without being
read—and the force of silence should never be underestimated. To cite
just one personal anecdote about Cuvier and his Discours préliminaire: The
stereotyped Cuvier stands accused in most textbooks for arguing that
catastrophes wipe all life off the face of the earth, and that God then creates
new biotas from scratch. But Cuvier never advanced such a claim. No doubt, when
pressed, he would have accepted some new creation to replenish a depleted
world. But he attributed much local faunal change across stratigraphic
boundaries to migration from previously isolated areas following geographic
alterations that accompany episodes of rapid geological change (citing, as a
potential example, the migration of Asian mammals to Australia should a land
bridge ever connect these continents). Cuvier didn’t hide this argument; he
presents his viewpoint prominently in Section 30 of the canonical Jameson
translation (1818, pp. 128–29). Yet, at least a half dozen times in my
professional life, colleagues ranging from graduate students to senior
professors have approached me with excitement, thinking that they had just made
an important and original discovery: “Hey, look at this. Cuvier didn’t
believe in complete replacement by new creation . . .” “Yes,” I
reply, “page 128; the passage has always been there.” (pp.

Thus, although one of the greatest intellects of the nineteenth
century and an empiricist of the first order, Cuvier became stigmatized
(through the influence of Lyell, who was also a great intellect) as
theologically dogmatic and anti-empiricist. According to
Gould’s account, Cuvier and his scientific conclusions, and even anything
approaching his conclusions, were excluded from respectable consideration by
the intellectual community for generations.


This brings us back to
our starting point: Alvarez and the resistance of the paleontological community
to his hypothesis of mass extinction through catastrophic impact. From the
historical perspective provided by Gould, it appears that the paleontological
community resisted Alvarez’s conclusion primarily because of the
century-and-a-half-long momentum of scientific bias against any conclusion of that
kind. The evidence, Gould tells us (and which he reviews), was elegant and
plausible, and “bursting with seeds of testability,” it “should
have caught the attention and intrigue of all scientists from the start”
(p. 1307).

But the anti-catastrophic biases of Lyellian and Darwinian
traditions ran so deep, and the knee-jerk fear and disdain of paleontologists
therefore stood so high, that even this welcome novelty of operationality did
not allay rejection and outright disdain from nearly all established
professional students of the fossil record (whereas other relevant
subdisciplines with other traditions, planetary scientists and students of the
physics and engineering of impacts, for example, reacted in markedly more mixed
or positive ways). (p. 1307)

So on Gould’s account the resistance to Alvarez was due not
to overwhelming countervailing evidence or arguments, but instead to “biases,”
“knee-jerk fear,” and “disdain,” the histories of which can
all be traced back more than 150 years to the Lyellian repudiation of
catastrophism in general. Tying the historical pieces together, Gould remarks
that “no one can comprehend the emotional vigor of the debate engendered
by Alvarez’s proposal for catastrophic mass extinction by extraterrestrial
impact without understanding the historical legacy of Lyell’s successful and
tricky rhetorical argument against catastrophism” (p. 482).

It should be noted that,
according to Gould, the Alvarez finding does not imply “a general theory
of mass extinction” (p. 1311). However, it does validate the assertion
that “catastrophism contained important elements of validity from the
start” (p. 483). For Gould it is unfortunate that these elements could not
be appreciated by the scientific community given the tenor and the theoretical
commitments of the times, and that they have had a difficult time being
appreciated even recently. Of his own attempts to remedy the situation, Gould

I have, in my own writings, tried to summarize the theoretical
importance of readmitting truly catastrophic scenarios of mass extinction back
into scientific respectability (after 150 years of successful Lyellian
anathematization) by stating an emerging consensus about four crucial and
general features of such events, each strongly negative (and, in their
ensemble, probably fatal) for the key extrapolationist premise needed to
maintain a claim of exclusivity for a strictly Darwinian theory of evolutionary
process . . . : mass extinctions are more frequent, more rapid, more
, and more different in their effects than
paleontologists had suspected, and than Lyellian geology and Darwinian biology
could permit. (pp. 1312–13)

The stigma attaching to Cuvier and
catastrophism affected not only the reputations of individual scientists and
their work, but also what other scientists found worthy of investigation in
their own work, as well as what they found worthy of respect—whatever the
evidence—in the work of others. And it was an effect that was still being
felt 150 years after its origins.[13]

III. Authority and the Bandwagon Effect

The negative effects of authority in a scientific discipline
are not restricted to the stigmatizing of particular scientists or particular
theories. Sometimes they are more subtle, though no less powerful and
constricting in their effects.

“Hardening” and the Modern Synthesis

One example is Gould’s description of what happened to
evolutionary theory in roughly the final half of the last century and extending
to the present. Gould’s story begins with what is known as “the modern
synthesis” (variously called “the synthetic theory” or “the
modern synthetic theory”), beginning in the 1930s and having as a major
early milestone the publication in 1942 of Julian Huxley’s book Evolution:
The Modern Synthesis
. In Gould’s view, “Huxley obviously felt
that the morphology of evolutionary consensus could best be described as a
synthesis—that is, a gathering together of previously disparate elements
around a central core” (p. 503). This modern synthesis is traditionally
thought of as consisting of two phases: (1) the synthesis of Darwin with
Mendelian genetics and (2) a growing similarity in the contributions made by
different disciplines to evolutionary theory.

But Gould also describes the history of the modern synthesis
as including a dimension of intellectual “hardening,” specifically
hardening around natural selection as the exclusive agent of evolutionary
change. Whereas in the first phase of the synthesis scholars “tended to
agnosticism about relative frequencies among the legitimate phenomena, notably
on the issue of drift (and other random phenomena) vs. selection” (p.
505), later, Gould notes, “the leading synthesists promoted natural
selection, first to a commanding frequency and then to virtual exclusivity as
an agent of evolutionary change. This consensus hardened to an orthodoxy, often
accompanied by strong and largely rhetorical dismissal of dissenting
views—a position that reached its acme in the Darwinian centennial
celebrations of 1959″ (p. 505). This position “eventually narrowed to
a restrictive faith in what Weismann had called the ‘all-sufficiency’ of
natural selection, with the accompanying requirement that phenotypes be
analyzed as problems in adaptation” to the virtual exclusion of any other
factors. “This hardening extended beyond overconfidence in adaptation to a
more general, and sometimes rather smug, feeling that truth had now been
discovered, and that a full account of evolution only required some mopping up
and adumbration of details” (p. 505). Gould reports that “confidence
in adaptation grew so great that many symposiasts [at the 1959 cele­bratory
conference] presented their arguments in a ‘can’t fail’ manner, by delimiting a
set of supposedly inclusive outcomes, each validating adaptation for any
conceivable result” (p. 572).

Gould reports that although in the beginning the synthesis
was pluralistic and exploratory in character, it “had hardened by 1959
into a set of core commitments that, at least among epigones and acolytes, had
become formulaic and almost catechistic, if not outright dogmatic” (p.
570).[14] Illustrating just how much an assumed feature of the intellectual landscape
this dogma had become, Gould tells how even such a monumental figure as
Theodore Dobzhansky failed to understand central elements regarding population
genetics of the synthesis and happily accepted them “on faith” (p.

Dobzhansky’s willingness to accept an incomprehensible
literature, and the later acquiescence of so many leaders from other
subdisciplines (largely via Dobzhansky’s “translation”) testify to a
powerful shared culture among evolutionists—a set of assumptions accepted
without fundamental questioning or perceived need to grasp the underlying
mechanics. Such a sense of community can lead to exhilarating, active science
(but largely in the accumulative mode, as examples cascade to illustrate
accepted principles). As a downside, however, remaining difficulties, puzzles,
anomalies, unresolved corners, and bits of illogic may retreat to the
sidelines—rarely disputed and largely forgotten (or, by the next
generation, never learned). This situation may sow seeds of an orthodoxy that
can then become sufficiently set and unchallenged to verge on dogma—as
happened in many circles, at least among large numbers of epigones, at the acme
of the Synthesis in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. (p. 520)

One is reminded of the influential Hungarian philosopher of
science Imre Lakatos. Working from the London School of Economics concurrently
with Karl Popper, Lakatos argued (among other things) that, at some point in
the development of any significant “research programme” (i.e., a set
of related theories that share a similar “hard core”), the basic
assumptions of the program ultimately come to be rendered irrefutable simply by
force of the consensus of the participants. Once this point is reached those
assumptions are thereafter protected by what Lakatos calls the “negative
heuristic” of the program—a conceptual momentum that directs
research away from any further investigation of those central assumptions.
Simply put, no one ever questions them anymore. This conclusion has been
overblown by some, but its central reality is evident in this report from

Explaining that the hardening he describes “cannot be
explained as simply and empirically driven” (p. 542), Gould says further:

The culture of science trains us to believe that such major
shifts of emphasis record improvements in knowledge won by empirical research
and discovery. I do not deny that observation did play a significant role, at
least in illustrating, with some elegant examples, the power of adaptation. . .
. But empirical discovery cannot supply the entire (or even, I think, the
major) reason for adaptationist hardening, for each favorable case can be
matched by a failure (often hedged or unacknowledged), and no adequate
assessment of an overall relative frequency has ever been achieved—to
this day. Thus, any judgment, in either direction, must represent the
fashionable imposition of a few well-documented cases upon an unstudied
plethora. (pp. 541–42)

In an interesting
demonstration of shared psychology—and lost memory—in an
intellectual movement, Gould shares at length (pp. 520–41) how
Dobzhansky, Mayr, and Simpson, all of whom were major leaders in the hardening
movement, changed their minds over time in the direction of adaptationism and
away from their earlier openness to other possible mechanisms of evolutionary
change, and yet later claimed that they had not changed their minds at
all—even though this was clearly belied by what they had written in their
earlier years. Gould adduces this as an interesting feature of the general
intellectual hardening: these prominent scientists had obviously changed their
minds but could not remember doing so.

Although Gould considers the possibility that “some
complex mixture of empirical and sociological themes may explain the
adaptationist hardening of the synthesis” (p. 543), he draws particular
attention to one dimension:

The community of evolutionary biologists is sufficiently
small, and sufficiently stratified—a few lead and many follow, as in most
human activities—that we need not necessarily invoke some deep and
general scientific or societal trend to explain a change in opinion by a
substantial community of evolutionists in different nations. A reassessment by
a few key people, bound in close contact and mutual influence, might trigger a
general response. (p. 543)

Gould believes this occurred with the three leading
exponents of hardening in America—Dobzhansky, Simpson, and Mayr. They
worked together as colleagues in what Gould calls a “New York Mafia”
centered at Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History. He

The validation of selection as a nearly exclusive mechanism
of evolutionary change, as embodied in the adaptationist program[,] received
strong verbal approbation, and elegant illustration in a few cases, but won
orthodox status largely as a bandwagon effect prompted by the urgings of a few
central figures, notably Mayr and Dobzhansky, and the subsequent acquiescence
of most professionals to the assertion of such leading figures, and not to the
data of convincing demonstrations. (p. 586)

In other words, a few top scientists dramatically influenced
what other scientists believed, not because of convincing research data, but
because these leaders were suitably situated and sufficiently elite that others
acquiesced to their pronouncements. As Gould observes, “a few lead, and
many follow” (p. 543). Thus can the specter of orthodoxy arise even in
scientific disciplines.[16]

Paleontology’s intimidation. The role of authority and
the bandwagon effect influenced not only the general hardening of evolutionary
theory; according to Gould, it also dramatically influenced paleontologists’
behavior for decades. We have already seen in Gould’s account that
paleontologists long believed that stasis in the geological record amounted to
nonevidence of what they were searching for: what they took to be the Darwinian
expectation of gradual evolutionary change. Intimately acquainted with the
primary evidence as they were, however, paleontologists could not be entirely
content to consider the overwhelming observation of sudden appearance of
species and their subsequent stasis as failure to find anything worthwhile and
to constantly attribute such failure to the regrettable imperfection of the
geological record. They were at least partly nagged by the suspicion that their
primary data—the actual fossil record—amounted to evidence of something.
So why didn’t they say so? Gould tells us:

Paleontologists have always recognized the long-term
stability of most species, but we had become more than a bit ashamed by this
strong and literal signal, for the dominant theory of our scientific culture
told us to look for the opposite result of gradualism as the primary empirical
expression of every biologist’s favorite subject—evolution itself. (p.


Darwinian evolution became the great intellectual novelty of
the later 19th century, and paleontology held the archives of life’s history.
Darwin proclaimed insensibly gradual transition as the canonical expectation
for evolution’s expression in the fossil record. . . . Thus, paleontologists
could be good Darwinians and still acknowledge the primary fact of their profession—but
only at the price of sheepishness or embarrassment. No one can take great
comfort when the primary observation of their discipline becomes an artifact of
limited evidence rather than an expression of nature’s ways. Thus, once
gradualism emerged as the expected pattern for documenting evolution—with
an evident implication that the fossil record’s dominant signal of stasis and
abrupt replacement can only be a sign of evidentiary
poverty—paleontologists became cowed or puzzled, and even less likely to
showcase their primary datum. (p. 750)

Ashamed, sheepish, embarrassed, cowed. Whatever else they
may be, these are clearly not the adjectives of one who finds science, in
practice, routinely encouraging “alternative hypotheses.”

The Inevitability of Textbook Authority

One more element of the role of authority in scientific
practice is worth mentioning. It is best illustrated by Thomas Kuhn, the
immensely influential historian of science. In his course at MIT on the nature
of scientific knowledge, Kuhn routinely posed the following question to
students early in the term: “What reasons do you have for believing in the
Copernican view of the solar system rather than the Ptolemaic? All of you
accept the Copernican system, of course. The question is, Why?”

The question, of course, seems too easy because everyone
knows that the Copernican view of planetary motion—including its central
heliocentric postulate—is true and that the ancient geocentric view is
false. That’s grade school stuff. One would therefore expect these future
scientists, certainly among the best math and science students in the country,
to dispatch the question with ease. But they didn’t. Against every item of
evidence they advanced to prove the Copernican system correct, Kuhn would
demonstrate that such evidence was not compelling, let alone decisive, and that
it did not in fact justify acceptance of the Copernican system over the
Ptolemaic. He would demonstrate this repeatedly until the class finally fell
silent. Kuhn would then explain that the proper evidence for the Copernican
system does exist but that its technicality renders it unfamiliar to most,
including those studying science.[17]

Kuhn conducted this exercise because he wanted to
demonstrate how fully even scholars rely on the authority of other scholars and
textbooks in accepting and believing what they do. Even the best, he was eager
to show, hold comparatively few beliefs rooted in direct familiarity with the
scientific evidence, and the evidentiary gaps that remain are filled by largely
unexamined assumptions based on the authority of others.

Of course, a little reflection reveals how unavoidable this
reality is; with all there is to know it could not be otherwise. But it is
still instructive to be explicit about this point. After all, for generations
nonpaleontologists accepted a false version of the geological record—that
fossil discoveries generally displayed gradual organismic change over
geological time—because that was the version presented in textbooks.
Unfortunately, as we have been informed by Gould, the classic examples cited in
the textbooks have been roundly discredited. Similarly, for 150 years
scientists have believed Lyell’s demonstrably false anathematization of Cuvier
and of catastrophism in general, rendering the vast majority of paleontologists
thoroughly resistant to strong evidence even of local catastrophic events in
the world’s history, all because Lyell’s authoritative mischaracterization had
been preserved and replicated in generations of science textbooks.[18]

Again, scholars have no choice but to learn much of what
they know from the authority of textbooks. No one can be a specialist in very
many things, much less in everything. But it is worth keeping in mind that this
is the reality. It is also worth keeping in mind that textbook versions have
been known not only to present mere caricatures of the state of knowledge in a
particular field, but also, according to Gould, to be demonstrably false.[19]

Of Science and Surprise

From Gould’s detailed
accounts of scientific episodes and movements, we have seen up close some of
the complexities of scientific investigation—examples of (unintentional)
omissions and distortions in scientific publications, the role of scientific
authority in unfairly stigmatizing individuals and theories over generations,
and the role of bandwagon effects and textbook orthodoxy in influencing
scientific opinion.

This might seem surprising. If science is marked by its
empiricism—by its dedication to observing, predicting, and testing, as
well as to theorizing—shouldn’t it be able to detect any dead-end avenues
of investigation rather quickly and get back on track? Isn’t there something
called a “crucial experiment” or a “crucial test”?

Unfortunately, the matter is seldom so simple. It’s true
that science is eventually self-correcting, but there is a lot of meaning
packed into the word eventually, and the process is far from smooth or
quick. Theories are complicated networks of interrelated observations,
hypotheses, assumptions, meanings, inferences, implications, and
presuppositions. Testing any part of such a complex network yields multiple
possibilities for interpretation. For example, although from the beginning
Newtonian theory was highly successful in accounting for planetary motion, it
was eventually discovered in the nineteenth century that it actually failed to account for the orbit of the planet Uranus. But in spite of this negative
evidence, scientists didn’t reject the Newtonian explanation of planetary
motion. Instead, they considered this predictive failure a research problem, a
puzzle to be explained, not a failure of the Newtonian explanation itself. In
fact, they accounted for the anomaly within Newtonian mechanics by
postulating the existence of another planet of the necessary mass and orbit to
account for the observed motion of Uranus. When the planet Neptune was
discovered, in direct corroboration of this hypothesis, the wisdom of such an
approach was dramatically confirmed and provided further evidence for the power
of Newtonian theory.

The story does not end there, for there was a similar
difficulty with the orbit of Mercury. On the heels of the success with Uranus,
it was naturally thought that the anomaly of Mercury could be explained in the
same way. Thus, the existence of yet another planet was hypothesized and given
the name Vulcan. No such planet was ever discovered, however, and Mercury’s
orbit was never explained within Newtonian theory—and yet this was never
considered a falsifying event for the Newtonian account of planetary motion,
but only an anomaly that would eventually be explained by the Newtonian account.[20]

This scientific reality—resistance to falsification
even by disconfirming evidence—is inevitable. This is because any
individual scientific hypothesis is inherently part of a larger whole,
surrounded by a complex network of related theoretical statements and
assumptions (A), all of which, though implicit, are always tested along with
any particular hypothesis (H). Thus, as introductions to the philosophy of
science typically point out, any test situation assumes something like this

If H and A are all true, then so is O (an observation
predicted by H).

(As our tests show) O is not true.

Therefore, H and A cannot all be true.

To recur to the example of Uranus and Mercury, we might
put the matter like this:

If the Newtonian explanation of planetary motion and all
the related theoretical statements and assumptions that surround it are all
true, then Uranus will exhibit orbital pattern x and Mercury will
exhibit orbital pattern y.

(As our tests show) Uranus and Mercury do not exhibit
orbital patterns x and y, respectively.

Therefore, the Newtonian
explanation of planetary motion and the related theoretical statements and
assumptions that surround it cannot all be true.

By the logical principle of modus tollens, this
is a valid conclusion, but it does not tell us which of the statements of the
theory must be rejected—the hypothesis about planetary motion itself or
one or more of the myriad assumptions and theoretical statements that are
conceptually related to it. We are free to look anywhere in the system for the
feature that requires modification by this experimental result. In the cases of
Uranus and Mercury, for example, scientists simply rejected an implicit
assumption they had made—the assumption that, just because they had not
yet been observed, there were no planets nearby that were affecting the orbits
of Uranus and Mercury in the required way.

Holism. The view that no statement can ever be tested
in isolation because of its embeddedness in a larger theoretical structure is
called “holism.” First advanced by Pierre Duhem (1861–1916),
its most forceful recent proponent (in his own version) has been W. V. Quine.
Often called the Duhem-Quine thesis, it is the basis for Quine’s argument that
at least in principle even the laws of mathematics are revisable in the wake of
experimental results that call for a modification of theory. According to
Quine, the reason the laws of mathematics are not modified when modification is
called for—and other elements of the theory are revised instead—is
that we want to make whatever changes will cause the least amount of disruption
to the theoretical system as a whole, other things equal. We follow, Quine says
picturesquely, the “maxim of minimum mutilation.” The idea is to
revise the theory in the smallest way possible and to keep the theory as simple
as possible, but all in the service of maximizing the theory’s future
predictive success. What is not required is that any particular part of the
theory (including the specific hypothesis under examination) be retracted in
the face of experimental failure.[21]

Thus hopes about falsification and crucial tests to the
contrary, it is rarely a simple matter to reject a theoretical statement, even
in the face of evidence unanimously regarded as negative. It can be difficult
to know exactly when to consider a negative result a mere
puzzle—something to investigate or wonder about—and when to
consider it an actual failure of the statement or hypothesis in question.
Because these are matters of judgment, and not merely of evidence, scientists
can be expected to, and do, disagree about the most promising explanation and
about the most fruitful direction for further study.

Given this reality, it is hard to fault any theorist or set
of theorists who, in hindsight, seem to have overlooked data that should have
modified their views. The meaning of such data for the theoretical statement in
question is generally ambiguous rather than obvious, and this must be kept in

Worldviews. As a final point, though, it is worth
remarking that sometimes it’s not just that the meaning of the data is
ambiguous; the problem is that some possible meanings cannot be seen at all.
Gould speaks, for example, of the “broad worldviews” that scientists
develop about their subjects. Such worldviews are not just “passive
summaries,” he tells us, of what is generally accepted; they also “serve
as active definers of permissible subjects for study, and modes for their
examination.” Although such intellectual contexts can foster and guide
fruitful work, Gould says, the downside is that “ever so often in the
history of science, such worldviews direct and constrain research by actively
defining out of existence, or simply placing outside the realm of
conceptualization, a large set of interesting subjects and approaches.”
This is serious enough, but it gets even worse. As Gould explains, the subjects
that are thus excluded from consideration often include the
very classes of data best suited to act as potential refutationsof
the very worldview that has excluded them. “Such self-referential
affirmations,” Gould adds, “are not promoted cynically, or (for the
most part) even consciously, but they do, nonetheless, operate as strong
impediments to scientific change” (p. 1309).

Worldviews, though inescapable, are therefore double-edged
swords. On one hand, they integrate a wide range of observations and beliefs
and guide productive research in the directions suggested by such. But on the
other hand, worldviews simultaneously preclude research in other directions
because, from within a given worldview, there are always possibilities that
cannot even be seen, much less appreciated and investigated. And this
includes the very classes of data that have the best chance of disconfirming the worldview itself. In this way, without conscious calculation, worldviews
can tend to be insular and, by conceiving a world in which much possible
counterevidence cannot even be conceived, self-confirming. Such worldviews are
like spectacles that not only impose a certain view of the world on us but also
simultaneously prevent us from seeing the degree to which what we see is
determined by the spectacles themselves. As Gould says (using the term theory synonymously with worldview): “A theory often compels us to see the
world in its light and support. Yet we think we see objectively and therefore
interpret each new datum as an independent confirmation of our theory.” As
a result, “although our theory may be wrong, we cannot confute it”
(p. 761). Thus, to the degree that we hold scientific worldviews of one sort or
another (and I think in mortality it is impossible not to), we are their
intellectual captives as well as their intellectual beneficiaries. The
combination is inescapable.


This brief treatment is far from an exhaustive list of the
complexities—indeed, the nagging discontents—that inhere in
scientific investigation, but they suffice to draw at least this modest
conclusion: Any simple assurance about the nature of scientific attitudes and
practice—for example, the generalization that alternative hypotheses are
encouraged as a matter of course in scientific inquiry and that reasonable
hypotheses are not suppressed—is limited to a description of the ideal in scientific investigation. In matters of actual practice, such a description
significantly underdescribes the reality. If actual scientific practice were as
tidy as the ideal, Gould would find little use for many of the expressions he
employs, such as “sheepish,” “embarrassed,” “cowed,”
“risible apostasy,” “catechism,” “shared cultural
assumptions,” “dogma,” “knee-jerk fear,” “bias,”
“tricky rhetorical argument,” “canonical,” “intellectual
hardening,” “triumph of hope and expectation over evidence,” “fantasy,”
“unconscious conspiracy,” “absurd vicious circle,” “a
few lead and many follow,” “insidious,” “warped,” “derision,”
“anathematization,” “textbook pap,” the “power of
false characterization,” “arms of misreason,” “prejudice,”
“disdain,” “rhetorical dismissal of dissenting views,” “restrictive
faith,” “straightjacket,” “object of ridicule without being
read,” “bandwagon,” “orthodoxy,” “stigma,”
and “acquiescence.” He also would not talk of “difficulties,
puzzles, anomalies, unresolved corners, and bits of illogic” that are “rarely
disputed and largely forgotten,” or of investigative failures that are “often
hedged or unacknowledged.” He would not speak of epigones who “generally
promulgate the faith and disregard, or never learn, the problems, exceptions,
and nuances” of a scientific theory. Nor would he be able to identify
presuppositions that have imposed a “tight and efficient lid” on
alternative explanations for scientific data, or talk of “assumptions
accepted without fundamental questioning.” He would not speak of
worldviews that “operate as strong impediments to scientific change,”
and he would not identify “profound” and “negative”
influences that (note it well) “limit and stifle hypotheses.”[22]

If we do not appreciate how such descriptions can apply to
one level or another of scientific practice—descriptions that depart
significantly from the prescriptive ideal of scientific inquiry—we
appreciate too little. The risk of such naïveté is that it can lead to
carelessness in our thinking and, especially in fields where we are not expert,
to a credulous acceptance of whatever intellectual pronouncements we happen to
encounter. This in turn can lead to a degree of certainty that is not remotely
matched by our understanding or by our familiarity with the relevant evidence,
both pro and con.

That scientific study is complex and sometimes messy is not
a new observation, of course. Specialists in the philosophy of science have
long identified subtle complicating dimensions of scientific study (both human
factors and others, like holism, that are more strictly academic in nature),
and to one degree or another such dimensions play a role in scientific
investigation whatever the field. Gould’s area of study is just one example.[23] The role such factors play will vary widely among scientific disciplines, of
course, depending partly on a field’s maturity, the degree of difficulty it
faces in obtaining precise data, the nature and extent of the research funding
it enjoys, and so forth; but these complexities play at least some role in
every field. My own discipline is psychology. I studied closely with Larry
Jensen, Lynn Scoresby, and Terry Warner (from philosophy) at Brigham Young
University, and with Lawrence Kohlberg at Harvard. Though I have not done so
myself, based on my intellectual experience in this discipline, I have no doubt
that someone suitably inclined could identify in detail how various human and
other complicating elements have played out in psychology and its various
schools of thought over the last hundred years. Think again of the recent
biographers of Joseph Smith (see p. 164): insufficiently cautious in their
examination of the Prophet, they placed their confidence in a psychological theory
that, it was discovered long ago, suffers under careful scrutiny. Had they been
more alive to the discontents of scholarly investigation in general, these
authors might have been less prone to wield this psychological tool in such an
unquestioning and ultimately fruitless manner.

Humility and Wisdom

I think it is impossible
to know all of the assumptions and subtle influences that affect our
intellectual conclusions at any one time over the wide range of disciplines
that interest us. No doubt this includes various expressions of publication
bias that might be influencing not only what we believe, but even what we deem
worthy of interest or study in any number of fields. Further, we probably
cannot know the extent to which we find certain intellectual viewpoints
repugnant primarily because of professional stigma rather than because of our
acquaintance with actual disconfirming data. Nor can we probably know the
opposite—the degree to which other intellectual viewpoints hold us in
their thrall simply because they are accepted by people we admire and not,
again, because of our acquaintance with any actual evidence.

I think it is also impossible to know, based on the
authority of textbooks, exactly what we should accept with full certainty and
what we should doubt. And finally, in disciplines where we are not truly expert
I think it is impossible to be aware of all the negative evidence faced by
various statements within a theory, much less to know how to regard such
evidence—whether as disconfirming or as merely puzzling. Moreover, it is
impossible to know the degree to which we are cognitively captive to any number
of worldviews and to trace all of the limitations and errors, large or small,
that are entailed by this unavoidable, but constricting, reality of
intellectual life.

To one degree or another, these are all inevitable realities
of intellectual inquiry. They are unavoidable. But recognizing and explicitly
acknowledging such tensions and discontents is preferable to ignoring them. By
ignoring them we are apt, in our naïveté, to ascribe more certainty than is
warranted at any given moment to a particular discipline’s range of
intellectual conclusions (as happened with psychoanalytic theory, for example)
and to risk developing an attitude of dogmatism and defensiveness as a result.

Recognizing such factors, on the other hand, we can be saved
from such dogmatism and instead attain something approaching wisdom: a
lingering tentativeness and humility about many of the beliefs we hold at any
one time. In other words, we can be sure we are mistaken in one way or another
even if we cannot be sure exactly where. I believe such an attitude would have
helped these biographers of Joseph Smith, to mention only two, and it seems the
prudent course for us all. It’s probably best to live with the expectation that
despite our best efforts we will turn out, to some extent at least, to be
mistaken on many matters: we should live in anticipation of surprise.

Of Scripture

I have tried to show why I wish Stephens and Meldrum had
said more about scientific attitudes and practice than just identifying the
ideal. I now want to treat two scriptural matters—one that they discuss
and one that I wish they had discussed because it is so central.
Finally, I will illustrate why I think surprise is inevitable on scriptural
topics, just as it is on strictly intellectual matters. On the things of eternity,
I believe we should embrace our ignorance, enthusiastically and with wonder.

2 Nephi 2:22

In the course of their book, Stephens and Meldrum address
scriptural and other authoritative statements from the Brethren that relate to
the current state of scientific thinking on evolution. They do this at some
length, which is admirable in light of their intended audience. Much could be
said about their discussion on these topics, but I will restrict my attention
to what I think is their most important argument.

The authors believe that
Adam and Eve were not inherently immortal in the Garden of Eden, but instead
sustained a condition of immortality by eating of the fruit of the tree of
life. Following their transgression, they were no longer permitted to eat of
that tree, so mortality reentered the world for them. At the same time the rest
of creation was living, dying, and evolving just as it had “for millennia”
(p. 135).[24]

According to scripture and official Latter-day Saint
doctrine, Adam and Eve represented the first progenitors, or parents, of the
human race. According to scientific evidence, human ancestors descended through
the hominid line by natural selection. Once having achieved their “human”
stature through evolution, Adam and Eve could have been placed into the Garden
of Eden where they ate of the fruit of the Tree of Life and were rendered
immortal for as long as they partook of its fruits. They were told not to eat
of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In fulfillment of God’s plan that
they exercise their agency, they yielded to temptation and ate of the forbidden
fruit. They were consequently exiled from the garden, separated from the Tree
of Life, and thus reverted to their mortal state. (p. 185)

This, of course, contradicts the more common view that prior
to the fall the earth enjoyed a paradisiacal state: living things, and at a
minimum Adam and Eve, were inherently immortal and basked in the spiritual
presence of God. According to Stephens and Meldrum, on the other hand, nothing
was inherently immortal; life and death occurred through the immensity of time
until evolutionary mechanisms (including certain constraints on developmental
possibilities) produced bodies suitable for the two spirits, Adam and Eve; upon
entering those bodies, Adam and Eve then became immortal through eating of the
fruit of the tree of life. Then came the fall, the banishment of Adam and Eve
from further eating of the tree of life, and a return to their inherently
mortal condition, including the inevitability of physical death for themselves
and their posterity.

Latter-day Saints are familiar with the scriptural passage
that has always appeared to stand in the way of this view and that must be
accounted for if the view is to be compelling:

And now, behold, if Adam
had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in
the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the
same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have
remained forever, and had no end. (2 Nephi 2:22)

Pointing out that this is the only
passage that supports the notion that “Adam and Eve, as well as all the
animals, for that matter, were inherently immortal and incapable
of reproduction” (p. 134), Stephens and Meldrum say (please note their
ellipsis): “The central part of this scripture is the phrase ‘all things .
. . must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were
created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end'” (pp.
134–35). “What does the term ‘all things’ refer to?” they ask. “Can
we be certain that ‘all things’ in verse 22 means Adam, Eve, all the animals,
and all the plants?” After a few observations about the passage, they
suggest that the phrase all things actually refers to “conditions.”
Thus in their view it seems that the passage might be read as follows: “All
things regarding
the condition of Adam and Eve
would have continued. They would have
continued to be immortal because they would have been able to continue eating
of the tree of life.” Read this way, the verse presents no problem to the
authors’ view of evolution and the fall because only Adam and Eve were changed;
everything else continued as it always had in an inherently mortal condition:
living, dying, and evolving through the mechanisms of natural selection.

But there is a difficulty with the authors’ analysis of this
passage. Asking what the phrase all things refers to is a
reasonable question, and their reading is a plausible reading, but only because
of the ellipsis they insert into the text. The verse actually says: “And
all things which
were created
must have remained in the same state in which they were
after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.”
If the verse is read in its entirety, we are not faced with a puzzle about what
the phrase all
might mean. The verse itself tells us that it means all
things “which were created.” We naturally think of the tangible
substances (e.g., “the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light
to rule the night,” Moses 2:16) and the living things (e.g., “cattle,
and creeping things, and beasts of the earth,” Moses 2:24) described in
the creation accounts, and plausibly suppose that this would be the most
natural reading of the term in 2 Nephi 2:22 as well; it would not normally
occur to us that it might refer to something more abstract like “conditions.”
So the authors help us out by omitting that part of the verse; now we have a question. But notice what has happened here: The way the authors
elicit a question in our minds, thereby producing an opening for an alternative
interpretation of this verse, is to omit the part of the verse that provides
the very interpretation that they then say is missing.

I don’t want to be too quick about this matter, however.
After all, it is logically possible that the phrase all things actually
does refer to something like “conditions,” and someone could make an
argument to demonstrate this. In that case, for example, the verse would be
read something like this: “And all conditions which were created must have
remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and
those conditions must have remained forever, and had no end.” I think the
argument would be somewhat complicated and probably implausible in the end, but
it might be worth a try.[25] I want only to point out that Stephens and Meldrum themselves do not make such
an attempt. They avoid it by omitting the very phrase that would require this
more complex argument.

Miracles and the Creation

Stephens and Meldrum view evolutionary mechanisms as the
method by which God has brought about the various forms of life on earth,
including man, over the immensity of geological time. They discuss many
scriptural passages in order to flesh out their view, and other Latter-day
Saint scientists naturally do the same. But I have never seen anyone (at least
that I can remember) who addressed the following two considerations: First, the
prophet Moroni, in Mormon 9, explicitly places the creation in the context of
God’s miraculous power. He begins in verse 11 by emphasizing that “behold,
I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of
Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens
and the earth, and all things that in them are.” Then, after querying in
verse 16, “Behold, are not the things that God hath wrought marvelous in
our eyes? Yea, and who can comprehend the marvelous works of God?” Moroni
asks in verse 17, “Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his
word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was
created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles
been wrought?”

Running them together as he does, there seems to be no
distinction in Moroni’s mind between the marvelous and miraculous nature of God’s
works and the nature of his works as Creator.

In this, Moroni is similar to his predecessor Jacob, who

Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How
unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that
man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be
revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God. For
behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which
earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to
speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able
to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it,
according to his will and pleasure? (Jacob 4:8–9)

How, then, might God’s miraculous power as described by
Moroni and Jacob relate to evolutionary theory? After all, evolutionary theory
explicitly eschews anything that even hints at the miraculous, while these
prophets see hardly anything but the miraculous in their view
of the creation.

One natural argument is that evolutionary mechanisms
themselves are the miraculous manifestation of the power of
God—initiated, presumably, “by the power of his word”; coming
to understand those mechanisms, therefore, is simply coming to understand the
manner by which he works. Moreover, to satisfy Jacob’s assertion about the
necessity of revelation to understand God’s ways, one could say that guiding
scientific discovery is the method God uses to reveal his ways.

I understand the reason for this kind of argument, but I
think it less plausible than it appears at first glance. To see this—and
this is the second consideration—think of the following examples of how
the Lord has worked with physical elements, both during and following his
earthly ministry. Listing this many examples might seem to belabor the point,
but it is important to get the full impact of various events in which the Lord
interacts with the physical world.

He turns water into wine (John 2:1–10).

He walks on water (Matthew 14:23–33; Mark

He feeds more than five thousand people with five loaves and
two fishes (Matthew 14:13–21).

He feeds more than four thousand people with seven loaves “and
a few little fishes” (Matthew 15:32–38).

He vanishes from a hostile multitude (Luke 4:28–30;
John 8:59).

He stills a storm by verbally rebuking it (Matthew
8:23–27; Mark 4:36–41).

He fills his disciples’ nets with fish (Luke 5:4–9;
John 21:3–6).

He heals the sick at will (these healings are too numerous
to list exhaustively, but consider Matthew 14:35–36; 15:30–31; Mark
5:22–23, 35–43; 5:25–34; Luke 8:22–56; John
9:1–15; 11:1–44; 3 Nephi 17:6–9).

He arranges for Peter to find “a piece of money”
in a fish’s mouth in order to pay tribute (Matthew 17:24–27).

He suddenly appears to his apostles though the doors to the
room were shut (John 20:24–28).

He ascends through the
air after teaching his disciples (Acts 1:9–11).

He descends gradually through the air as he appears to the
Ne­phites (3 Nephi 11:1–8).

He miraculously provides sacramental bread and wine for the
Nephite multitude (3 Nephi 18:3–7).

He performs a transformation in the Three Nephites that
permits them to interact in a constantly miraculous way with the physical world
(3 Nephi 28:19–22; 4 Nephi 1:30–33).

He and the Father descend in a “pillar of light”
and appear to the boy Joseph Smith at the time of his first vision, and they
both then hover in the air to address him (Joseph Smith—History

Moroni, a resurrected being from ages past, passes through
material boundaries and hovers in the air while talking to Joseph (Joseph
Smith—History 1:30, 43).

Consider also how the
Lord worked with various physical elements in the millennia prior to his
earthly ministry:

He performed various miracles before Pharaoh through Moses
(Exodus 4; 7–12).

He parted the Red Sea to permit passage by the children of
Israel (Exodus 14).

He provided manna for the children of Israel for forty years
(Exodus 16:35; Joshua 5:12).

He ensured that the clothing worn by the children of Israel
did not wear out during their forty-year sojourn in the wilderness (Deuteronomy
8:4; 29:5; Nehemiah 9:21).

He blessed the widow’s meal and oil through Elijah (1 Kings

He raised the widow’s son from death through Elijah (1 Kings

He consumed the offerings of the priests of Baal through
heavenly fire (1 Kings 18).

He parted the waters of Jordan through Elijah (2 Kings 2:8).

He parted the waters of Jordan through Elisha (2 Kings 2:14).

He healed the waters of Jericho through Elisha (2 Kings

He multiplied the widow’s oil through Elisha (2 Kings

He raised a boy from the dead through Elisha (2 Kings

He moved Mount Zerin
through the brother of Jared (Ether 12:30).

He caused mountains to flee and rivers to move through Enoch
(Moses 7:13).

He raised a whole city to heaven to spare the people the
coming destruction (Moses 7:21).

And note how Nephi, the son of Helaman, describes God’s
miraculous power:

For behold, the dust of
the earth moveth higher and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of
our great and everlasting God. Yea, behold at his voice do the hills and the
mountains tremble and quake. And by the power of his voice they are broken up,
and become smooth, yea, even like unto a valley. Yea, by the power of his voice
doth the whole earth shake; yea, by the power of his voice, do the foundations
rock, even to the very center. Yea, and if he say unto the
earth—Move—it is moved. Yea, if he say unto the earth—Thou
shalt go back, that it lengthen out the day for many hours—it is done;
and thus, according to his word the earth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man
that the sun standeth still; yea, and behold, this is so; for surely it is the
earth that moveth and not the sun. And behold, also, if he say unto the waters
of the great deep—Be thou dried up—it is done. Behold, if he say
unto this mountain—Be thou raised up, and come over and fall upon that
city, that it be buried up—behold it is done. (Helaman 12:8–17)

All of the above are just examples, of course, but they are
sufficient to suggest that (1) when the Lord wants to accomplish something with
physical elements, he is not hesitant to employ processes that are thoroughly
out of the norm and that are inscrutable to us; and (2) he is not hesitant to
work out of the norm with physical elements when he wants to make things happen
more quickly than they otherwise would. Consider, for example, what motivation
the Lord might have had for turning water into wine. Since at a minimum doing
so saved time, that is likely to have been one of his reasons. And consider the
multitude of the Lord’s healings. We are all familiar with the dimension of
time in the healing process, and even in cases where miraculous assistance is
involved, but in hundreds of cases the Lord eliminated all such time-related
features by restoring health instantly. And think of his
multiplying fishes and loaves (twice) to feed hungry multitudes. And of parting
the Red Sea. And of dividing the waters of Jordan (twice). And of moving
mountains and rivers. And of filling his disciples’ nets with fish. And of
traveling—whether at greater than light speed or by some other unknown
means—from the heavenly realm to visit the earth. Whatever other motivations
he might have had in any of these cases, at a minimum time was affected by the
miracles performed and thus seems likely to have been at least one of his
motivations for performing them.

I think these considerations about God’s miraculous interventions
in the world are worth keeping in mind when pondering his methods of creation
and everything else he reveals in the scriptures. I think it is natural to
wonder, for example, why the Lord would be in such a hurry to provide wine at a
wedding—in so much of a hurry that he would use a miracle, completely
mysterious to us, to accomplish it—while he is in no hurry at all to
create the earth and all of its life-forms, including man, and thus simply puts
in place a complex and immensely time-consuming mechanism that (even if it
includes constraints) is guaranteed to require billions of years before finally
producing a set of physical organisms suitable for housing the spirits of Adam
and Eve. And even if we can provide a plausible answer to this question, we are
still left wondering whether anything that takes so long could reasonably be
considered a miracle.

So I don’t see how coming to conceive of man’s creation in
completely naturalistic terms—which is the explicit program, praised by
Stephens and Meldrum, of Darwin and his theoretical descendants (including
Gould, Dawkins, and countless others)—can qualify as coming to understand
the miraculous ways of God when (1) the explanation specifically depends on the
immensity of geological time to bring the whole process about and (2) the
attempt at a naturalistic explanation excludes, by definition, any
reference to miraculous intervention. If we are going to go in this direction,
we might as well embrace the inevitable and simply deny, along with these
mainstream and prominent figures, that the process was miraculous at all. It
may have been God’s chosen method, but it was one of the times (lasting
billions of years, please note) that he chose not to intervene in any way that
would seem to us significantly out of the ordinary.

But then we’re back to Moroni and Jacob, both of whom
thought the process quite out of the ordinary, to say the least. As they
contemplate the creation, both prophets are immensely impressed with God.
If they understood man’s creation as a naturalistic process that did not in
fact require God (again, the explicit program of standard evolutionary theory),
or that only required him minimally, why would they have come away so impressed
with him?

So we have to wonder. Was the creation of man a miraculous
process—that is, one that cannot be entirely accounted for by known
naturalistic principles? Or was it, though God’s method, a process in which he
played no appreciable role until it came time to place the spirits of Adam and
Eve into the bodies that a naturalistic, complex, and time-immense process had
finally produced for them? And if the latter, how can we explain Jacob’s and
Moroni’s wonder at it all?[26]

In short, it seems to me that, given the Lord’s propensity
for working at least part of the time in a miraculous way with physical
elements—and often in a way that seems intended specifically to save
time—it’s worth wondering why he wouldn’t do this to some degree in the
largest project of all (the creation of the earth and its life-forms), or at
least in his most important project of all (the creation of man). Are these the
places where time does not matter and where miraculous, inscrutable processes
have no place? And more importantly, if so, then why do Moroni and Jacob seem unable
to see this and, in fact, insist on just the opposite?

There are many related questions, of course, and I claim no
final answers to them. I recognize that the Lord could have any number of
reasons in mind for anything he does and that they don’t have to be
translucent, much less transparent, to me. At the same time, I think these
questions are unavoidable given certain elements of the scriptures, and since
Latter-day Saint scientists must always consider scriptural dimensions anyway,
I think this question about miraculous creation is one to add to the list. I
hope the next scientists who write about evolution and the gospel will take a
stab at answering it.[27]

Of Scripture and Surprise

From a scientific and intellectual standpoint, we should
live in anticipation of surprise. But of course the same is also true when it
comes to understanding many matters that are presented in the scriptures.
Certain doctrines are repeated so often in the standard works, and are so
central to the plan of salvation, that they are well understood in their basics
and are subject to the Lord’s promise of spiritual confirmation. Fundamentals
regarding the Godhead, the reality of Jesus Christ as the Savior of mankind,
the truth of the Book of Mormon, the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph
Smith, and the reality of God’s kingdom on earth as led by living prophets all
fall in this category. These are certain.

But the scriptures teach a lot more than these fundamentals,
including making various statements about the creation of the earth and of man
and other forms of life. On these and many other matters, intelligent, devoted,
and spiritually sensitive people can see issues differently and reach different
conclusions. That’s to be expected, and it is an argument, just as in academic
inquiry, for a lingering tentativeness and humility regarding whatever reading
we adopt among the manifold possibilities.

Although by itself this is a helpful reminder, there’s
actually more to the issue than this, for however much the scriptures reveal to
one extent or another—and however difficult it is to be certain of any
one reading and to reach 100 percent agreement among all careful students on
the matter in cases of such revelation—there is far more that the
scriptures don’t reveal
at all
. From the level of minute detail about human accountability
and agency (which is why it is impossible to judge others and their situations)
to the level of the cosmic panorama of realm upon realm of celestial life,
celestial activity, and celestial beings, we know next to nothing. Despite how
much we think we know, the scriptures contain barely a fraction of all reality,
barely a fraction of all that is true and that the Lord could reveal.

Doctrine and Covenants 76 as a Surprise

To see this we need think
only of the surprise that the revelation on the three degrees of glory must
have been to the early Saints, who had been steeped in the simple heaven/hell
topography of the Book of Mormon and the Bible (1 Corinthians 15 notwithstanding).
What reason did they have to think that there was much more to discover about a
topic mentioned so frequently and so similarly in both books of scripture? Then
came section 76. Talk about surprise! Indeed, upon hearing of the vision
experienced by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, Brigham Young could only say: “I
was not prepared to say that I believed it, and I had to wait. . . . I handed
this over to the Lord in my feelings, and said I, ‘I will wait until the Spirit
of God manifests to me, for or against.'”[28]

But that’s only a beginning to the matter of surprise on
this topic, for recall the Prophet’s statement that he could explain “a
hundred fold more” than he actually published regarding the degrees of
glory.[29] That would make over eleven thousand verses—nearly twice the
verses in all the Book of Mormon. So on just this one matter, what the Prophet
revealed to us is a mere 1 percent of what he himself knew—and what
fraction was that of what God knows?

So we don’t know much, certainly less than it is easy to
think we know. But the problem is bigger yet. For again, on just this one
matter, when we are finally in a position to know all that the Prophet knew, we
are likely to understand new truths and experience new perspectives that will
dramatically inform and revise matters that we think we understand
now: subsequent revelations have a way of informing previous ones. Consider how
the Lord’s explanation of the term endless punishment revises and
clarifies all earlier thinking about the nature of God’s punishment (D&C
19:5–12); eight short verses reorient everything revealed on that topic
in any other book of scripture. And surely that will happen again when we learn
the full truth about degrees of glory in eternity.

So while it’s easy to think that we know a lot about this
topic already, I daresay we are in for a bigger surprise than Brigham Young’s.
And, of course, that will happen on an endless number of other topics as well:
logic requires it, and scripture promises it (D&C 101:32–34),
including new information on the details of creation.

In this connection, note what President Spencer W. Kimball
reported on one occasion: “I have learned that where there is a prayerful
heart, a hungering after righteousness, a forsaking of sins, and obedience to
the commandments of God, the Lord pours out more and more light until there is
finally power to pierce the heavenly veil and to know more than man knows.”[30]

“To know more than man knows.” No statement could
better capture my point about both scriptural and intellectual matters, and
from a firsthand personal witness no less. The point is inescapable: in both
intellectual and scriptural matters we should eschew naïve dogmatism and live
instead in welcome anticipation of surprise.

A Prediction

This all brings me to a final, and personal, point regarding
science, scripture, and surprise.

From Darwin to the present, it has been common to see
evolution as a mechanism for the creation and development of life-forms,
including man, that does not require God. This naturalistic theory has
undergone and is undergoing revision in various dimensions,[31] but the
absence of a role for God, and often the consequent implication of his
nonexistence, is, at least among high-profile figures in the scholarly world,
an enduring feature.[32] Those who disbelieve in the existence of God are flatly wrong, to say the
least, and eventually they will see this. The surprise for them will be large

At the same time there are those who see evolutionary
mechanisms as God’s method not only for creating and developing the
various forms of life on earth but also for creating man. This is the view of
Stephens and Meldrum, and no doubt of many other Latter-day Saint scholars. I
have not argued for it here, but I want at least to state my personal
conclusion on this matter: I anticipate being surprised about many things once
I reach the other side, but nothing would surprise me more than to discover
that such scholars are right about this. I think time will eventually show that
the current state of thinking about the evolution of man is thoroughly false
and that we might have recognized this earlier if not for some of the
complexities (of all kinds) that inhere in scientific investigation itself. So
while I am completely willing to be surprised should the theistic evolutionists
turn out to be right, my best thinking leads me to expect otherwise.

I believe they’re the ones who are in for a surprise.[33]


express appreciation to Cody Carter, Scott Ritter, and Terry Warner, who
responded helpfully to various sections of this paper in earlier drafts. They
are not responsible, of course, for the use I have made of their suggestions or
for the end product: my conclusions, my point of view, or any errors that
remain. For example, Ritter (at least) surely disagrees with my prediction at
the end of the paper.

[1] Their
treatment of DNA and the Book of Mormon, for example, is one of my favorite
papers on the subject. See D. Jeffrey Meldrum and Trent D. Stephens, “Who
Are the Children of Lehi?” in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 38–51; see also the compilation of Maxwell Institute
articles on this subject in Daniel C. Peterson, ed., The Book of Mormon and DNA
(Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2008).

[2] See Richard
D. Anderson, Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith: Psychobiography and the Book of
(Salt Lake City: Signature, 1999); and Dan Vogel, Joseph
Smith: The Making of a Prophet
(Salt Lake City: Signature, 2004).

[3] Latter-day
Saint authors have done a good job of debunking these books and of identifying
weaknesses in psychoanalytic theory along the way. See Michael D. Jibson, “Korihor
Speaks, or the Misinterpretation of Dreams,” FARMS Review of Books 14/1 (2002): 223–60; and Andrew H. Hedges and W. Dawson Hedges, “No,
Dan, That’s Still Not History,” FARMS Review 17/1 (2005). (Jibson’s
treatment of psychoanalytic theory is the more complete of the two.) Karl
Popper famously complained about the empirical emptiness of psychoanalytic
theory, observing that it could be used to explain anything and yet yielded few
if any testable predictions—a conclusion that over time came to be widely
shared. (One cannot help but suppose that authors who want to discredit the
claims of the Prophet Joseph Smith find psychoanalytic theory congenial,
despite its scientific vacuousness, precisely because they can use its web of
concepts to explain anything—and to explain it in the way they
want—without any risk of having their claims disconfirmed, however wildly
implausible they may be in light of actual historical evidence.) Furthermore,
the deepest level of Freud’s theory—his attempt, through postulation of
various mechanisms and compartments of the mind, to account for (1) his patients’
apparently strategic resistance to his therapeutic interventions and (2) their
apparent unawareness of this strategic resistance—is conceptually problematic
if not impossible. See for example, Jean Paul Sartre, Being and
(New York: Washington Square Press, 1966), esp.
86–96; Herbert Fingarette, Self-Deception (New York: Basic
Books, 1969); and C. Terry Warner, “Anger and Similar Delusions,” in
Rom HarrŽ, ed., The Social Construction of Emotion (Oxford: Blackwell,
1986), 135–66.

[4] It is true,
of course, that hypothesis generation and hypothesis testing lie at the heart
of the empirical disciplines. It is also true that careful publication of
empirical findings enables lab experiments to be repeated and tested by other
labs; one scientist’s data can be scrutinized and corrected by others. It’s for
this reason that we can justifiably think of science as constantly improving.
Through the process of hypothesizing, testing, interpreting, publishing,
retesting, reinterpreting, and so forth, science eventually corrects itself.
But it is also true that there is a lot of meaning packed into that word eventually.
Showing just a bit of that meaning is one of the purposes of this paper.

[5] To see how
we can be in error, even on scriptural topics, consider the new light that
meticulous gospel scholarship has shed on Latter-day Saint understanding of
Book of Mormon culture and its likely geographical locations. That has
certainly been a surprise—exploding more than a century’s worth of
assumptions common among the general membership of the church (which includes
me). For just a few examples of the burgeoning literature on Book of Mormon
geography, see John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of
(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985) and Mormon’s Map (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000); John E. Clark, “A Key for Evaluating Nephite
Geographies,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 1/1 (1989):
20–70 and “Searching for Book of Mormon Lands in Middle America,” FARMS
16/2 (2004): 1–54. Perhaps all of this shouldn’t have
been such a surprise—see Matthew Roper, “Limited Geography and the
Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations,” FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 225–75—but it has been.

[6] As I take a
look at science, I should say at the outset that I do not approach this topic
from a radical perspective. This is an important proviso because in the last
twenty-five years many studies of the nature of science—usually written
by nonscientists (though not necessarily scientifically illiterate
nonscientists)—have arisen under headings such as “postmodernism,”
“science studies,” and “the sociology of knowledge,” all
attempting to undermine simplistic notions of scientific practice and
objectivity. While it is valuable to study science in order to do this, a fair
amount of this literature claims far too much about the relativism of science,
and some of it is just silly. These movements have often overinterpreted some
of the themes found in Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, and W. V. Quine—very
important scholarly figures and intellectual heroes of mine—and have
tended to claim too much based on them (and indeed have overlooked some of
their revisions). It is true, as I will try to illustrate, that scientific
practice is not as strictly straightforward, uncluttered, and objective as
simple descriptions sometimes imply. But to acknowledge that scientific
progress is a complicated affair and that scientific conclusions at any given
time are fallible is not to say that science is arbitrary, as some
seem to believe.

Kuhn was one of my
teachers, and I didn’t see at the time the forms of relativism that have been
imputed to him, though it is true that he modified some of his views over the
years. Indeed, he spent the last couple of decades of his life denying the
strong forms of relativism that were imputed to him by, I think, both critics
and acolytes. See, for example, his remarks in “Paradigms of Scientific
Revolution,” in G. Borradori, The American Philosopher: Conversations with
Quine, Davidson, Putnam, Nozick, Danto, Rorty, Cavell, MacIntyre, and Kuhn
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 153–67; Kuhn, The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions
, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1970), 205–7; and Frederick Suppe, The
Structure of Scientific Theories
, 2nd ed. (Urbana: University
of Illinois Press, 1977), 508.

In general, my view of
science studies is best captured in Philip Kitcher, “A Plea for Science
Studies,” in Noretta Koertge, ed., A House Built on Sand: Exposing
Postmodernist Myths about Science
(Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1998), 32–56, which can be summed up as “Do it, but do it well“—a
more controversial view than it may seem. On the philosophy of science in general,
the best summary of twentieth-century efforts up to the postmodern period is
Suppe, The
Structure of Scientific Theories
(cited above). Good sources that
address developments since then are Hugh G. Gauch Jr., Scientific
Method in Practice
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003);
and Christopher Hitchcock, Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Science (Oxford:
Blackwell, 2004). To get a sense of the so-called “science wars” that
ultimately developed around the appearance of “science studies” and
the like, see Koertge, A House Built on Sand (cited above); Harry Collins and
Trevor Pinch, The Golem: What You Should Know about Science, 2nd ed.
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998); Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt, Higher
Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994); Andrew Ross, ed., Science Wars (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996); and Keith Parsons, The Science
Wars: Debating Scientific Knowledge and Technology
(Amherst, NY:
Prometheus, 2003).

[7] Stephen Jay
Gould, The
Structure of Evolutionary Theory
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2002).
In-text citations of page numbers from this point until note 24 refer to this
book; subsequent page citations refer to the Stephens and Meldrum book.

[8] For
example, because Gould challenges some
features of mainstream Darwinian theory, some writers have used his
work to cast doubt on evolutionary theory altogether—to Gould’s utter
dismay (see, for example, his “Evolution as Fact and Theory,” in Hen’s Teeth
and Horse’s Toes
[New York: W. W. Norton, 1994], 253–62, and The Structure
of Evolutionary Theory
, 986–90). This has caused chagrin among
other scholars in the field, who have thought that Gould too easily invites
just this kind of misuse. As to some of Gould’s departures from mainstream
views, Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins (both Harvard colleagues of Gould’s)
remarked at the time of his death that “the task of the biologist, insofar
as it is to provide explanations, is to come up with a reasonable story of why
any particular feature of a species was favored by natural selection. If, when
the human species lost most of its body hair in evolving from its ape-like
ancestor, it still held on to eyebrows, then eyebrows must be good things. A
great emphasis of [Gould’s] scientific writing was to reject this simplistic
Panglossian adaptationism, and to go back to the variety of fundamental
biological processes in the search for the causes of evolutionary change. He
argued that evolution was a result of random as well as selective forces and
that characteristics may be the physical
byproducts of selection for other traits. He also argued strongly for the
historical contingency of evolutionary change. Something may be selected for
some reason at one time and then for an entirely different reason at another
time, so that the end product is the result of the whole history of an
evolutionary line, and cannot be accounted for by its present adaptive
significance.” They also explain that “Gould went even further in his
emphasis on the importance of major irregular events in the history of life. He
placed great importance on sudden mass extinction of species after collisions
of large comets with the Earth and the subsequent repopulation of the living
world from a restricted pool of surviving species.” Richard C. Lewontin
and Richard Levins, “Stephen Jay Gould—What Does It Mean to Be a
Radical?” Monthly Review 54/6,
http://monthlyreview.org/1102lewontin.htm (accessed 24 October 2008).

[9] Gould
summarizes evidence of this consensus among paleontologists on pages
745–55 of The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. It is important
to note that Gould limits the observation to species, not to higher taxonomic
groups. He emphasizes that “transitional forms are generally lacking at
the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.” Gould, “Evolution
as Fact and Theory,” 253–62.

[10] Building on
the work of others, Gould and Eldredge explained this observation by
hypothesizing that species can divide to form new species by the geographical isolation
and subsequent genetic differentiation of one population of a species from the
parent population, and that when this occurs the new formation is analogous to
the birth of new individual organisms. Such new species face the forces of
natural selection just as individual organisms face them, resulting over time
in the selection of some species and the elimination of others. As recently as
his last book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (cited in note 7), Gould repeatedly contrasts
this view of the fossil record and this mechanism for evolutionary change with “Darwin”
or “classical Darwinism.” He attributes to classical Darwinism the
view that the accumulation of large-scale macroevolutionary changes occurs only
through gradual transformation of the whole species as a single population (“anagenesis”)
and that the kind of “branching” or “splitting” described
by Gould and Eldredge (and others before them) plays no important role in
forming such macroevolutionary modifications. Herein lies controversy because
critics have claimed that this is a mischaracterization of Darwin, arguing that
every tenet of punctuated equilibrium was anticipated (at least) by Darwin
himself and so could hardly be considered “non-Darwinian,” as Gould
claims. See, for just one example, Wesley R. Elsberry, “Punctuated
Equilibria,” http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/punc-eq.html (accessed 28
October 2008). But Gould is not without answer. He argues (e.g., The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, 147–49) that such criticisms are misguided
because they rely on selective quotations from Darwin and ignore the overall
tenor of his work as well as its central logic—both of which support gradualism as the “central
conviction residing both within and behind all Darwin’s thought” (p. 148).
He points out that Darwin said “something about nearly everything”
and therefore that, if taken out of context and divorced from everything else
said by Darwin and entailed by the central logic of his work, “a Darwinian
statement can be found to support almost any position, even the most
un-Darwinian” (p. 148; see also pp. 784–822 and 990–1022,
where Gould addresses a wide range of criticisms of his work).

[11] As such
textbook classics, Gould mentions the coiling of the oyster Gryphaea and the increasing body size of horses and adds that “nearly all these ‘classics’
have since been disproved, thus providing another testimony for the temporary
triumph of hope and expectation over evidence” (p. 760).

[12] Gould notes
with lament the extension of this theoretical commitment even into popular
culture: “So strongly entrenched did this prejudice [toward uniformitarian
assumptions and gradual change] remain, even spilling over into popular culture
as well, that a few years after Alvarez et al. (1980) published their
plausible, and by then increasingly well affirmed, scenario of extraterrestrial
impact as a catastrophic trigger for the Cretaceous-Tertiary event, the New York
[2 April 1985] even ridiculed the idea in their editorial
pages,” saying that “astronomers should leave to astrologers the task
of seeking the cause of earthly events in the stars” (p. 1303). Gould castigates the Times for its foray
into such technical matters, matters about which newspapers in general demonstrate
little competence, much less sophistication.

[13] John
Sorenson notes the effects of professional stigma in ignoring evidence relevant
to the Book of Mormon. For example, he identifies “dogmatically
opinionated experts” as the impediment to serious consideration of possible
transoceanic voyages in ancient times—voyages like those described in the
Book of Mormon. The resistance by such experts has occurred despite abundant
evidence and has decisively affected general academic attitudes on the topic.
See John L. Sorenson, “Ancient Voyages Across the Ocean to America: From ‘Impossible’
to ‘Certain,'” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/1 (2005):
4–17. He also describes the chilling, and costly, effects of academic
authority and intimidation on efforts to decipher the Maya hieroglyphics and
other aspects of Mayan civilization. See John L. Sorenson, “Viva Zapato!
Hurray for the Shoe!” review of “Does the Shoe Fit? A Critique of the
Limited Tehuantepec Geography,” by Deanne G. Matheny, Review of
Books on the Book of Mormon
6/1 (1994): 297–361.

[14] Here is
Gould’s description of the synthetic catechism, including its implications for
paleontology: “The Synthetic approach to macroevolution can be
encapsulated in a few dicta: view life as stately unfolding under adaptive
control; depict trends as accumulative and anagenetic within lineages according
to the extrapolationist model [i.e., extrapolating principles of
microevolutionary change to explain all macroevolutionary change]; downplay or
ignore the macroevolutionary calculus of birth and death of species. These
propositions leave little role for the actual archives of life’s
history—the fossil record—beyond the documentation of
change. The causes of change must be ascertained elsewhere, and entirely by neontologists (my
profession’s term for the folks who study modern organisms). Thus the Synthesis
held paleontology at arm’s length” (p. 564).

[15] See Imre
Lakatos, The
Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes: Philosophical Papers, Volume 1
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980).

[16] Adding a
further element to the calculus of authority and bandwagon effects, Gould
points out that “founders tend to be brilliant and subtle, and to keep all
major difficulties constantly in mind, while epigones generally promulgate the
faith and disregard, or never learn, the problems, exceptions, and nuances”
(p. 543). In other words, the bandwagon effect would be smaller or at least of
shorter duration if acolytes were as smart as the masters. One must wonder
about this, however, since Gould has already demonstrated that the major
personalities behind the hardening of the modern synthesis became hardened
without even realizing it. Where was this special capacity for maintaining
awareness of problems, exceptions, and nuances among them?

[17] As a member
of one such class I observed this discussion firsthand. I assume the
give-and-take experience was similar in both previous and subsequent classes.

[18] See pages
576–84 for further examples of what Gould considers to be simplistic and
misleading, and even distressing, treatments of evolutionary themes in
introductory textbooks.

[19] Regarding
the authority of textbooks, Codell Carter of the Brigham Young University
philosophy department tells the story of a professor who taught anatomy for
twenty years at the University of Adelaide (Australia). Although using an
English textbook that gave instructions on dissecting an English frog, the
students actually dissected a similar but anatomically distinct Australian
variety. In all those years of teaching, however, only a dozen students ever noted
the differences between the frogs they were dissecting and the frog that
appeared in the textbook. What’s most fascinating, however, is that even in
those rare cases the students invariably concluded that the problem was not
with the textbook, but with the frog. See Lester S. King, Medical
Thinking: A Historical Preface
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1984). But as Carter asks, How could the frog be wrong?

[20] An accurate
prediction of Mercury’s orbit awaited the appearance of Einstein’s general relativity
theory, and only then was that orbit considered a direct counterinstance to the
Newtonian account. Classic discussions of this incident and its meaning for
scientific practice are found in Hilary Putnam, “The ‘Corroboration’ of
Theories,” in Mathematics, Matter and Method: Philosophical Papers,
2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 1:250–69; Stephen
Toulmin and J. Goodfield, The Fabric of the Heavens (New York: Harper and Row,
1961); Carl G. Hempel, Philosophy of Natural Science (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice-Hall, 1966). See also Harold I. Brown, Perception, Theory and
Commitment: The New Philosophy of Science
(Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1979). Incidents like this convinced Lakatos, among others, that
no theory is ever abandoned except in exchange for another, which makes the
formulation of alternative explanations as important as negative observations
in the demise of existing theories. See, for example, I. Lakatos, “Falsification
and the Methodology of Scientific Programmes,” in Criticism
and the Growth of Knowledge
, ed. I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 91–196. Lightman and
Gingerich develop a similar theme and apply it to five episodes in the history
of science. See Alan Lightman and Owen Gingerich, “When Do Anomalies
Begin?” Science 255 (7 February 1992): 690–95.

[21] See
generally W. V. Quine, The Pursuit of Truth (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1990). Here Quine has moderated the extreme holism of
his early writings (a holism that has been exploited by some in the interest of
postmodern analyses). An early critic of the early view was Adolf Grunbaum.
See, for example, his “The Falsifiability of Theories: Total or Partial? A
Contemporary Evaluation of the Duhem-Quine Thesis,” Synthese 14 (1962): 17–34. Larry Laudan reviews, less technically, much of
Grunbaum’s argument against any strong version of holism; see his Science and
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990). One attempt
to show that we can, despite the holistic thesis, determine which part of a
theory to amend in view of experimental failure is Y. Balashov, “Duhem,
Quine, and the Multiplicity of Scientific Tests,” Philosophy
of Science
61/4 (1994): 608–28. A more recent argument for the
nonnecessity of mathematical truths is Robert Nozick’s. See his Invariances:
The Structure of the Objective World
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 2001).

[22] Because of
his controversial status, some may wish to see Gould as simply having an ax to
grind, and thus they will be inclined to dismiss his historical examples and
characterizations out of hand. I think that is unfair on two counts. First, if
Gould simply has an ax to grind, that should be easy enough to show. Thus,
someone who wants to make this claim should actually demonstrate it, point by
point, rather than simply assert it. That would require saying as much on these
topics as Gould himself says, but such a discussion would certainly be welcome.
But second, a demonstration of this sort would be largely irrelevant to this
paper in any case. My concern is not with evolutionary theory per se, but with
scientific investigation generally. The points Gould makes could be illustrated
from any number of fields. I use Gould simply because he is handy, for the
reasons I mentioned earlier.

[23] The journal Philosophy
of Science
is devoted to these topics. A good historical overview of
the philosophy of science, from Aristotle to the twentieth century, is found in
John Losee, A
Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science
(Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1980). The most thorough treatment of modern philosophy of
science, up to postmodern developments, is found in Suppe, The
Structure of Scientific Theories
(see note 6). As a general
introduction to some of the central classical issues, I recommend Laudan, Science and
(see note 21).

[24] From this
point forward, page numbers refer to Stephens and Meldrum’s Evolution
and Mormonism

[25] For
example, because the term condition is synonymous with the term state,
the verse would say that “all conditions which were created must have
remained in the same condition in which they were after they were created.”
What argument could be given that would make this seem a natural expression for
Lehi to utter rather than an odd one (an expression in which the notion of “condition”
is used as both a first-order concept and a second-order metaconcept)? There
might be such a sensible and plausible argument; I would just like to see it.

[26] One
argument might be that they lived so long before the twenty-first century that
they didn’t have the benefit of modern science to acclimate them to things
miraculous. That may seem a natural direction to go at first, but I think that
in the end it is implausible. Consider Moroni. The Lord appeared to him, and
probably even hovered. Now, certainly that would have seemed marvelous and
miraculous to Moroni in the fifth century, but it would have seemed no less
miraculous had it happened to him in the twenty-first. No one has an
explanation for such a phenomenon even in these modern and information-drenched
times. Indeed, can we identify any miracle Moroni had record of in the fifth
century—and that would have conditioned his view of what counts as
miraculous—that science can explain even today? I can think of none. So
while I think Moroni would be tremendously impressed by what man is able to do
in the twenty-first century, I do not think it would change in the slightest
his view of what it is marvelous for God to do.

[27] Next to
timeless passage through space, the most astounding of all God’s
characteristics (whether the Father or the Son—they are largely
interchangeable in the relevant scriptural passages) seems to me to be his
intuitive union, through the Spirit, with all the elements throughout his vast
kingdom (see D&C 88:5–13, 41). Thus he knows all things (2 Nephi
9:20) because all things are present before his eyes (D&C 38:2; also Moses
1:6), and he also knows the very thoughts and intents of the heart of all the
children of men (Alma 18:32) throughout his creations. This consideration,
among others, convinces me that God’s dimension of life differs so radically
from our own, both in quality and in capacity, that we cannot even begin to
appreciate the difference, much less comprehend and account for it. We cannot
explain the least of his miracles, much less the greatest. This realization
compels me to a general skepticism toward mortals’ intellectual conclusions,
including my own, regarding the things God is able to do and the means at his
disposal to do them.

[28] Brigham
Young, in Journal
of Discourses
, 18:247 (1877), cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson and
Scott H. Faulring, “The Prophet Joseph Smith and His Plural Wives,” FARMS Review
of Books
10/2 (1998): 103.

[29] Joseph
Smith, in Teachings
of the Prophet Joseph Smith
, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake
City: Deseret, 1972), 305.

[30] Spencer W.
Kimball, “Give the Lord Your Loyalty,” Ensign, March 1980,

[31] Gould
summarizes the revisions he sees in the following way. First, he identifies as
the central core of Darwinian theory three primary principles that are part of
the central Darwin “logic” in addition to the fundamental idea of
natural selection: (1) insistence on the level of individual organisms as the
exclusive locus for selection and evolutionary change (which Gould considers
the most radical and distinctive feature of Darwin’s theory); (2) insistence on
the efficacy of natural selection to “create the fit”—as well
as eliminate the unfit in crowded populations—by the slow
microevolutionary accumulation of favorable variations over time; and (3)
insistence, by extrapolation, on the sufficiency of such favorable variations
to yield macroevolutionary changes as well: to generate “the entire
pageant of life’s history, both in anatomical complexity and taxonomic
diversity” (p. 15), which obviously includes the
insistence that no additional causal principles would be required to generate
this pageant of life’s history. Then, to capture these central features of
Darwin’s theory, Gould employs a drawing of a fossil coral consisting of a
central trunk (representing the basic theory of natural selection), three
extending branches (representing the three principles mentioned above), and sub-branches
(representing less central elements of Darwinian theory). Gould then describes
as “K-cuts” any modifications of the theory that would kill at least
one of the three central principles of Darwinian logic and thus destroy the
theory. He describes as “R-cuts” any modifications that would revise
enough of the original form of one of the three central branches to be an
important revision of the theory, while leaving the Darwinian foundation
intact. And he describes as “S-cuts” (subsidiary cuts) modifications
that affect only a sub-branch of the theory. Gould believes that Darwinian
theory has undergone and/or is undergoing R-cuts to all three central branches
and that these revisions make Darwinism “a far richer and fascinatingly
different theory,” although it retains the Darwinian core “rooted in
the principles of natural selection” (p. 20). He also says: “I do believe that the Darwinian framework, and not
just the foundation, persists in the emerging structure of a more adequate
evolutionary theory. But I also hold . . . that substantial changes, introduced
during the last half of the 20th century, have built a structure so expanded
beyond the original Darwinian core, and so enlarged by new principles of
macroevolutionary explanation, that the full exposition, while remaining within
the domain of Darwinian logic, must be construed as basically different from
the canonical theory of natural selection, rather than simply extended [from
it]” (p. 3). Of course, Gould assumes in this model a
particular reading of Darwin—a reading criticized by some, but defended
by Gould. See again note 10 herein.

[32] See, for
just two prominent authors, Richard Dawkins, The Blind
Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design
(New York: Norton, 1996), and The God Delusion (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 2006); and Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), and Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Viking, 2006).

[33] Though the
matter of the evolution of life-forms other than man is to me a lesser issue, I
believe mainstream thinking about this is destined to be mistaken on any number
of levels as well. I don’t know what the truth will turn out to be, but I’m
guessing that everyone will be surprised in the end—including those who
have thought about it the most.