Copyrigh t © 1 9 8 0 by Steph en J ay G ould.

A ll righ ts reserved.
Printed in th e U nited States of A merica.
First publish ed as a Norton paperback 1 9 8 0 ; reissued 1 9 9 2 .
L ibrary of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
G ould, Steph en J ay.
T h e panda' s th umb.
B ibliograph y:
Includes index .
1 . E volution- H istory. 2 . Natural selection-
H istory. 1 . T itle.
Q H 3 6 1 . G 6 6 1 9 8 0 5 7 5 . 0 l' 6 2 8 0 - 1 5 9 5 2
ISB N 0 - 3 9 3 - 3 0 8 1 9 - 7
W . W . Nortoù & Company, Inc.
5 0 0 Fifth A venue, New Y ork, N. Y . 1 0 1 1 0
www. wwnorton. com
W . W . Norton & Company L td.
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a h igh ly modified dorsal fin spine affix ed to th e tips of th eir
snouts. A t th e end of th is spine, th ey mount an appropriate
lure. Some deep- sea species, living in a dark world un-
touch ed by ligh t from th e surface, fish with th eir own
of illumination: th ey gath er ph osph orescent bacteria in
th eir lures. Sh allow- water species tend to h ave colorful,
bumpy bodies, and look remarkably like rocks encrusted
with sponges and algae. T h ey rest inert on th e bottom and
wave or wiggle th eir conspicuous lures near th eir mouth s.
" B aits" differ among species, but most resemble- often
imperfectly- a variety of invertebrates, including worms
and crustaceans.
A nglerfish
Pietsch and G robecker' s anglerfish , h owever, h as evolved
a fish lure every bit as impressive as th e decoy mounted on
L ampsilzs ' s rear- a first for anglerfish . ( ' [ h eir report bears as
its appropriate title " T h e Compleat A ngler" and cites as an


Steamboat J I' zllie

cerer' s A pprentfre Fantasia) .

T h e ' E volution' of M ickey M ouse

stage i stage 2 stage 3 M orty

E x pression of th e E motions in . J an and
A nimals,

1 0 5
made a sh ort entitled M ortimer, a dandy in
a yellow sports car, intrudes upon M ickey and M innie' s
q uiet country picnic. T h e th orough ly disreputable M orti-
mer h as a h ead only 2 9 percent of body length , to M ickey' s
4 5 , and a snout 8 0 percent of h ead length , compared with
M ickey' s 4 9 . ( Noneth eless, and was it ever different, M innie
transfers h er affection until an obliging bull from a neigh -
boring field dispatch es M ickey' s rival. ) Consider also th e
ex aggerated adult features of oth er Disney ch aracters- th e
swaggering bully Peg- leg Pete or th e simple, if lovable, dolt
G oofy.
Dandified, disreputable M ortimer ( h ere stealing M innie' s affections) h as
strikingly more adult features th an M ickey. H is h ead is smaller in propor-
ion to body length ; h is nose is a full 8 0 percent of h ead length .
W alt
Disney Productions

Cartoon illains are not
th e only l) isncv ch arac-
ters with ex aggerated
adult features. G oofy,
like M ort,mcr, h as a
small h ead relative
body length and a
prominent snout.
W alt l) isney Produc-


1 2 1
self, seemed to me so improbable or oH - th e- wall th at I
wondered wh y so little attention h ad focussed upon th e
only recognized scientist wh o h ad been with Dawson from
th e start- especially since several of T eilh ard' s prominent
colleagues in vertebrate paleontology h arbored private
th ough ts ( or h ad made cryptically worded public state-
ments) about h is possible role.
A sh ley M ontagu wrote on December 3 , 1 9 7 9 , and told me
th at h e h ad broken th e news to T eilh ard h imself after Oak-
ley' s revelation of th e fraud- and th at T eilh ard' s astonish -
ment seemed too genuine to represent dissembling: " I feel
sure you' re wrong about T eilh ard. I knew h im well, and, in
fact, was th e first to tell h im, th e day after it was announced
in of th e h oax . H is reaction could h ardly
h ave been faked. I h ave not th e sligh test doubt th at th e faker
was Dawson. " In Paris last September, I spoke with several
of T eilh ard' s contemporaries and scientific colleagues, in-
cluding Pierre P. G rassé andJ ean Piveteau; all regarded any
th ough t of h is complicity as monstrous. Pè re Francois
Russo, S. J . , later sent me a copy of th e letter th at T eilh ard
wrote to K enneth P. Oakley after Oakley h ad ex posed th e
fraud. H e h oped th at th is document would assuage my
doubts about h is coreligionist. Instead my doubts inten-
sified; for, in th is letter, T eilh ard made a fatal slip. Intrigued
by my new role as sleuth , I visited K enneth Oakley in
E ngland on A pril 1 6 , 1 9 8 0 . H e sh owed me additional docu-
ments of T eilh ard, and sh ared oth er doubts with me. I now
believe th at th e balance of evidence clearly implicatesT eil-
h ard as a coconspirator with Dawson in th e Piltdown plot.
I will present th e entire case in Natural H istory M agazine in
th e summer or fall of 1 9 8 0 ; but for now, let me mention th e
internal evidence from T eilh ard' s first letter to Oakley
T eilh ard begins th e letter by ex pressing satisfaction. " I
congratulate you most sincerely on your solution of th e
Piltdown problem. . . I am fundamentally pleased by your
conclusions, in spite of th e fact th at, sentimentally speaking,
it spoils one of my brigh test and earliest paleontological
memories. " H e continues with h is th ough ts on " th e psych o-

usi ralopith eus

1 5 1
sh ade of G eorges Cuvier: " T h e j ump from a Cuvier or a
T h ackeray to a Z ulu or a B ush man is no greater th an from
th e latter to th e gorilla or th e orang. "
Such overt racism is no longer common among scientists,
and I trust th at no one would now try to rank races or sex es
by th e average size of th eir brains. Y et our fascination with
th e ph ysical basis of intelligence persists ( as it sh ould) , and
th e naï ve h ope remains in some q uarters th at size or some
oth er unambiguous ex ternal feature migh t capture th e sub-
tlety with in. Indeed, th e crassest form of more- is- better-
using an easily measured q uantity to assess improperly a far
more subtle and elusive q uality- is still with us. A nd th e
meth od th at some men use to j udge th e worth of th eir
penises or th eir automobiles is still being applied to brains.
T h is essay was inspired by recent reports on th e wh ere-
abouts of E instein' s brain. Y es, E instein' s brain was
removed for study, but a q uarter century after h is death , th e
results h ave not been publish ed. T h e remaining pieces-
oth ers were farmed out to various specialists- now rest in
a M ason j ar packed in a cardboard box marked " Costa
Cider" and h oused in an office in W ich ita, K ansas. Noth ing
h as been publish ed because noth ing unusual h as been
found. " So far it' s fallen with in normal limits for a man h is
age," remarked th e owner of th e M ason j ar.
Did I j ust h ear Cuvier and A natole France laugh ing in
concert from on h igh ? A re th ey repeating a famous motto
of th eir native land: plus ( " th e
more th ings ch ange, th e more th ey remain th e same" ) . T h e
ph ysical structure of th e brain must record intelligence in
some way, but gross size and ex ternal sh ape are not likely
to capture anyth ing of value. I am, someh ow, less interested
in th e weigh t and convolutions of E instein' s brain th an in
th e near certainty th at people of eq ual talent h ave lived and
died in cotton fields and sweatsh ops.

1 6 3
presented by a prej udiced man. In h is time, it embodied a
deadly earnest attempt to construct a general, causal clas-
sification of mental deficiency based upon th e best biologi-
cal th eory ( and th e pervasive racism) of th e age. Dr. Down
played for stakes h igh er th an th e identification of some
curious noncausal analogies. Of previous attempts to clas-
sify mental defect, Down complained:
T h ose wh o h ave given any attention to congenital
mental lesions must h ave been freq uently puzzled h ow
to arrange, in any satisfactory way, th e different classes
of th is defect wh ich h ave come under th eir observation.
Nor will th e difficulty be lessened by an appeal to wh at
h as been written on th e subj ect. T h e systems of classifi-
cation are generally so vague and artificial, th at, not
only do th ey assist but feebly, in any mental arrange-
ment of th e ph enomena wh ich are presented, but th ey
fail completely in ex erting any practical influence on
th e subj ect.
In Down' s day, th e th eory of recapitulation embodied a
biologist' s best guide for th e organization of life into se-
q uences of h igh er and lower forms. ( B oth th e th eory and
" ladder approach " to classification th at it encouraged are,
or sh ould be, defunct today. See my book
H arvard U niversity Press, 1 9 7 7 ) . T h is th eory, often
ex pressed by th e mouth ful " ontogeny recapitulates ph y-
logeny," h eld th at h igh er animals, in th eir embryonic devel-
opment, pass th rough a series of stages representing, in
proper seq uence, th e adult forms of ancestral, lower crea-
tures. T h us, th e h uman embryo first develops gill slits, like
a fish , later a th ree ch ambered h eart, like a reptile, still later
a mammalian tail. Recapitulation provided a convenient
focus for th e pervasive racism of wh ite scientists: th ey
looked to th e activities of th eir own ch ildren for comparison
with normal, adult beh avior in lower races.
A s a working procedure, recapitulationists attempted to
identify wh at L ouis A gassiz h ad called th e " th reefold paral-
lelism" of paleontology, comparative anatomy, and em-

I 1 8 1
- h e h ad to rej ect literal appearance and common sense for
an underlying " reality. " ( Contrary to popular myth s, Dar-
win and L yell were not th e h eros of true science, defending
obj ectivity against th e th eological fantasies of such " catas-
troph ists" as Cuvier and B uckland. Catastroph ists were as
committed to science as any gradualist; in fact, th ey adopted
th e more " obj ective" view th at one sh ould believe wh at one
sees and not interpolate missing bits of a gradual record
into a literal tale of rapid ch ange. ) In sh ort, Darwin argued
th at th e geologic record was ex ceedingly imperfect- a book
with few remaining pages, few lines on each page, and few
words on each line. W e do not see slow evolutionary ch ange
in th e fossil record because we study only one step in th ou-
sands. Ch ange seems to be abrupt because th e intermediate
steps are missing.
T h e ex treme rarity of transitional forms in th e fossil re-
cord persists as th e trade secret of paleontology. T h e evolu-
tionary trees th at adorn our tex tbooks h ave data only at th e
tips and nodes of th eir branch es; th e rest is inference, h ow-
ever reasonable, not th e evidence of fossils. Y et Darwin was
so wedded to gradualism th at h e wagered h is entire th eory
on a denial of th is literal record:
T h e geological record is ex tremely imperfect and th is
fact will to a large ex tent ex plain wh y we do not find
interminable varieties, connecting togeth er all th e ex -
tinct and ex isting forms of life by th e finest graduated
steps. H e wh o rej ects th ese views on th e nature of th e
geological record, will righ tly rej ect my wh ole th eory.
Darwin' s argument still persists as th e favored escape of
most paleontologists from th e embarrassment of a record
th at seems to sh ow so little of evolution directly. In ex pos-
ing its cultural and meth odological roots, I wish in no way
to impugn th e potential validity of gradualism ( for all gen-
eral views h ave similar roots) . I wish only to point out th at
it was never " seen" in th e rocks.
Paleontologists h ave paid an ex orbitant price for Dar-
win' s argument. W e fancy ourselves as th e only true stu-

T h e cover to K irkpatrick' s privately publish ed Nummulosph ere.
Of it, h e writes: " T h e design on th e cover represents Neptune on
th e globe of waters. On one of th e prongs of h is trident is a piece
of volcanic rock in th e sh ape of a nummuh tic disk, and in h is h and
is a meteorite. T h ese emblems signify th at Neptune' s domain is
enlarged flot only at th e ex pense of neth er J ove. but also at th at
of h igh J ove wh ose supposed emblem of sovereignty- th e th un-
derbolt- really belongs to th e Sea G od . . . Neptune' s bolt is
poised ready to be h urled at rash and ignorant mortals of th e type
of th e a priori would- be refuter, daring to dispute th e validity of
h is title- deeds. "

A L iflunked h is
army intelligence test, h e q uipped ( with a wit th at belied h is
performance on th e ex am) : " I only said I was th e greatest;
I never said I was th e smartest. " In our metaph ors and fairy
tales, size and power are almost always balanced by a want
of intelligence. Cunning is th e refuge of th e little guy. T h ink
of B r' er Rabbit and B r' er B ear; David smiting G oliath with
a slingsh ot; J ack ch opping down th e beanstalk. Slow wit is
th e tragic flaw of a giant.
T h e discovery of dinosaurs in th e nineteenth century pro-
vided, or so it appeared, a q uintessential case for th e nega-
tive correlation of size and smarts. W ith th eir pea brains and
giant bodies, dinosaurs became a symbol of lumbering stu-
pidity. T h eir ex tinction seemed only to confirm th eir flawed
Dinosaurs were not even granted th e usual solace of a
giant- great ph ysical prowess. G od maintained a discreet
silence about th e brains of beh emoth , but h e certainly mar-
veled at its strength : " L o, now, h is strength is in h is loins,
and h is force is in th e navel of h is belly. H e moveth h is tail
like a cedar. . . . H is bones are as strong pieces of brass; h is
bones are like bars of iron
U ob
4 0 : 1 6 - 1 8 1 . "
Dinosaurs, on
th e oth er h and, h ave usually been reconstructed as slow and
clumsy. In th e standard illustration, wades in a
murky pond because h e cannot h old up h is own weigh t on

I 2 6 9
teenth - century paleontologists advocated a relationsh ip of
direct descent and derived birds from dinosaurs.
B ut H ux ley' s opinion fell into disfavor during th is cen-
tury for a simple, and apparently valid, reason. Complex
structures, once totally lost in evolution, do not reappear in
th e same form. T h is statement invokes no mysterious direc-
tional force in evolution, but merely asserts a claim based
upon math ematical probability. Complex parts are built by
many genes, interacting in complex ways with th e entire
developmental mach inery of an organism. If dismantled by
evolution, h ow could such a system be built again, piece by
piece? T h e rej ection of H ux ley' s argument h inged upon a
single bone- th e clavicle, or collarbone. In birds, including
A rch aeopleiyx , th e clavicles are fused to form a furcula, better
known to friends of Colonel Sanders as a wish bone. A ll
dinosaurs, it appeared, h ad lost th eir clavicles; h ence, th ey



Cenobita diogenes

D. L . B A L K W IL L A ND D. M A RA T E A

( continued)

E arliest E nglish man, T h e

E minent I ' ictorians

E ozoon:
B ath ' bius

E ozoon canadense,

E ssay on Population

E ver Since Da7 win


. Vature,

T imes,

1 9 8 4
Numinu/ ites,

On G rowth and Form

On th e L ife and U ' riting of A dam
On th e Sh oulders of G iants ( M er-

On th e J ' arious Contrivances by
rvh ich B ritish and Foreign Or-