I know they have often taken postshots at each other in their books, and are public opponents of each other’s ideas, but does anyone know what their personal relationship was like? Were they vehement enemies or friendly colleagues?
Despite “Dawkins vs. Gould” and related debates having spawned several booklength accounts by secondary parties, all talking the whole controversy up, there actually appears to have been little personal rancour between the principals.
The only occasion that I know of where they actually met was when they opposed each other in a debate at Oxford - it’s mentioned by Segerstrale in her Defenders of the Truth (Oxford, 2000, p320), though without saying when it was, what the motion was or the outcome. Given their rather different specialisations, I doubt they were likely to run into each other at conferences or the like. Otherwise, I presume Gould had spoken at Oxford on occasion and Dawkins at Harvard; those would seem the most likely other opportunities for them to have been introduced.
Gould’s early discussions of Dawkins were a couple of columns about him back in the early 80s. After that, Dawkins was simply never mentioned in the Natural History essays. My rough interpretation is that these columns were Gould’s attempts to magisterially knock-down the upstart notion of the selfish gene and that he then avoided the issue in the essays once it became obvious how significant that idea was going to become in the field. In all their later published remarks about each others ideas, both were pretty polite, while always trying to clarify exactly where and why they did disagree.
Elsewhere, Gould described Dawkins as “the best living explainer of the essence of what Darwinism is all about” (quoted by Segerstrale, p324). Meanwhile, though I can’t remember either reference, I did recently read someone making the point that Dawkins published an article praising Gould’s contributions to science at a time when it was known amongst colleagues that the latter’s cancer was probably terminal. The implication was that he wanted Gould to know his publically expressed, explicit appreciation before it was too late.
Neither. bonzer’s post pretty much covers it. I don’t think there was ever a chance there’d be a fist fight. I’ve read an essay where Dawkins talks about a letter he wrote to Gould about how they shouldn’t let their differences supply ammunition to anti-evolutionists. IIRC, somewhere else Dawkins says that the trouble with Gould is that he’s too good a writer and too persuasive with his naughty ideas.
Anyone else amazed that Gould was a guest star on The Simpsons? Is he that famous in the 'States, or is Matt Groening a fan?
Gould was on Family Feud?
Small Clanger, former poet laureate Robert Pinsky and painter Jasper Johns have also guest starred, and I don’t think either of them is as well-known as Gould. I guess the producers know that their audience is smart enough to get it.