Stephen Jay Gould and the Struggle for American Democracy
How Stephen Jay Gould's career illustrates that criticizing science is important for American democracy.
The question of public trust in science feels newly urgent, but today is not the first time that opposing ends of the American political spectrum have critiqued modern science. This dynamic has historical roots in the early 1970s, when critiques of science emerged simultaneously out of Civil Rights, feminist, and decolonization movements on the left, as well as within the creationism of the Christian Right.
In Criticizing Science, Myrna Perez follows the public career of evolutionary biologist, political leftist, and anti-creationist Stephen Jay Gould during the final decades of the American twentieth century. Gould believed that denaturalizing scientific objectivity could be part of the greater work of racial and gender justice in the United States. Perez shows the promises and limitations of Gould's view—most famously expressed in his 1981 book The Mismeasure of Man—that the collective self-reflection on the history of scientific bias would lead to a better, less oppressive science. She argues that we must instead contend with the radical possibilities that are opened by working for a resolutely democratic science.
By centering Gould, Perez clarifies divides among left, liberal, and right-wing movements over evolutionary science during the rise of the Christian Right and the expansion of academic feminism. These divides continue to shape contemporary debates over climate change, vaccines, abortion policy, and the nature of gender in present-day American politics.
About the Author
Myrna Perez is an associate professor of gender and American religion at Ohio University. She is the coeditor of Critical Approaches to Science and Religion and a series editor of Osiris.
Other Titles in SCIENCE / History
Other Titles in History of science