Archive for Friday, October 8, 1999


October 8, 1999


Stephen Jay Gould encouraged audience members at the Kansas Union to voice their opinions on evolution by voting in the next Kansas State Board of Education election.

Harvard University evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould offered his opinion on a public controversy during a question-and-answer session Thursday in the Kansas Union.

"No, I love that," Gould said after looking at the Kansas University seal. "That's our culture. If you're going to be bothered by these little things ...

"You have to know where to put your effort. I think that's a very bad place to put your effort."

Gould was asked his opinion about the university seal, which the campus chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has asked KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway to justify because it depicts Moses kneeling before a burning bush.

KU contends the seal demonstrates the scholar's search for wisdom. Gould also read the Latin phrase around the picture on the seal. The Latin phrase is from the book of Exodus and quotes Moses as saying he must go look at the burning bush.

The KU ACLU president, Kevin Sivits, said the organization is acting on behalf of students who are offended by a religious symbol on a state university seal.

"It would not be an important issue to most students," Sivits said. "I would say that it's an important issue to some students. Our job is to represent those students who are impacted that way.

"We've invested relatively minimal resources. It's not like we have spent 50 hours or 100 hours on this."

Most of the questions Gould fielded were about evolution.

He encouraged the audience of about 100 faculty members, students and staff to not view the controversy between creationists and evolutionists as a debate among open-minded people.

Asked what his most persuasive argument to prove evolution to a creationist would be, Gould replied, "This is a political struggle. These are people whose whole life struggle is this. I'm not going to persuade him."

Pressed again to answer the question, Gould said, "If I had an open-minded creationist, I might try to convince him that he had a skewed view of science: If you can't see it, it ain't there. You might tell him that no one (alive today) ever saw the historical Jesus."

Gould urged Kansans to vote in the next Kansas Board of Education election so the state school board's decision to downplay evolution in public school curriculum might be overturned.

Gould has taught at Harvard University since 1967 and is now a professor of geology, professor of zoology and curator for invertebrate paleontology in the university's Museum of Comparative Zoology.

-- Erwin Seba's phone message number is 832-7145. His e-mail address is

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