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"Ritual Patricide: Why Stephen Jay Gould Assassinated His Idol"

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George Gaylord Simpson was the undisputed American heavy-weight in macro-evolutionary theory prior to paleobiology’s disciplinary formation in the 1970s. Memory of Simpson’s intellectual influence on this next generation of thinkers is tied intimately to aggressive and bitter disputes regarding originality. In the process, Simpson’s macro-evolutionary views were attacked in volleys of empirical and theoretical criticism. His views also were attacked on historical and philosophical grounds, as his replacements struggled to distinguish new from old. These attacks took on an intensity well beyond the norm for contentiousness theoretical disputes, and are perhaps best understood as ritual patricide. The fight with Simpson functioned as a unifying force in the frantic discipline building underway in macro-evolutionary studies during the 1970s.

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