Forget Dennett’s strawmen destruction – read Gould carefully for what GOULD is trying to say. The Big Book is ‘Das Kapitaal’ of the 21st century biology – someone now needs to write a shorter, simpler Manifesto for the masses to read and understand….and we can go from there.
Go from there? Jerry Coyne better watch out! Genetic roaders are going to be swept away by the vanguard of the scientific revolution!1 Now, in all seriousness Das Kapital is an important book, a significant book. And there is truth in it as well; my understanding is that Karl Marx was one of the first to note what we would call the Industrial Revolution.2 But there’s truth in the Bible too; it records verifiable history and archeology. That doesn’t mean that it’s a blue-print for science (unless you’re a Young Earth Creationist). Das Kapital was a failure in terms of giving rise to a science of economics in a positivistic sense; its predictions were falsified, whether into the future, or as a model of what the past was like.3 Of course that doesn’t matter to a True Believer. Das Kapital echoed through the centuries not because of its scientific value; rather, it became the scripture of a secular religion, a political movement which appealed to mass psychological predispositions toward utopianism and the normative preferences of intellectuals who wished to give their sentiments, values and interests the imprimatur of science.4
As for The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, I don’t think it has the same psychological resonance. An anti-reductionist manifesto is by its very nature resistant to compaction; it’s non-mathematical verbosity will evade economization. It is, thank gods, a relatively innocuous scripture because not only do the believers not read it (as is the norm), but the preacher’s message can only be wholly negative, because to rebut the parsimonious formulations of the opposition is an easier task than to tame the overgrown doctrine and present it without distortion. Amen! Selection at work among religions, just as that apostle of functionalism David Sloan Wilson would wish it.
1 – Right, I know that wasn’t Marx. I just couldn’t resist.
2 – Most economic historians don’t think that it was really a revolution from what I gather.
3 – I know there are Marxist economists and historians who aren’t total fruitcakes. That being said, my understanding is that it is a relatively marginalized faction or sect, not an ascendant wave of scholarship.
4 – I’m sure you know that Marx was a keen follower of Darwin’s theory (Update: John Lynch says not really. Fair enough).