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Stephen Jay Gould

Evolutionary Biologist and Paleontologist

Stephen Jay Gould: It depends on its nature. This theory of punctuated equilibrium that Niles Eldredge and I developed in 1972 was very controversial, and has been one of the foci of evolutionary debates for 20 years now. So I'm certainly no stranger to that kind of controversy. And then I've been involved in social controversies like the "race and IQ" issue and the creationism issue. The punctuated equilibrium debate was an intellectual exercise that had to be dealt with in a more conventionalized way, by writing papers, by giving speeches, by collecting data from one's point of view, or against it, as it happened. The creationism debate was something totally different, because it has nothing to do with intellect. Creationism is a totally unviable bit of nonsense. It's a socially important issue in America, but you don't fight that with the same tools. It's a political struggle, that's fought before the courts, and we won it. So it very much depends on the nature of the issue.
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Stephen Jay Gould

Evolutionary Biologist and Paleontologist

If they are honorable discussions of ideas that are engaged in by flexible people, and that is subject to tests, then debate can really move a field forward. If they're personally bitter and acrimonious, then who needs them? Life's full of difficulties anyway, why create more of them? Life's full of hardships. People are going to get sick and die and the world's full of tragedy, why make more for yourself by petty bickering in a professional world where ideally you don't need to have it? So it very much depends on the nature of it. Even the creationism debate, it was fascinating to be part of, because it's part of American social history. I sat in a courtroom in Arkansas, and it was like being at the Scopes trial in the 1920s. It was being a part of a major incident in the 20th century of American history. That part was thrilling.
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Stephen Jay Gould

Evolutionary Biologist and Paleontologist

Stephen Jay Gould: As I've said, it's a political struggle, and that's all it is, because first of all it's about religion. But I don't even really see it as a religious issue, because the vast majority of people who are religious are on our side of this. Creationism is a movement by a very small -- though not insignificant, they're still millions of people -- a minority of Biblical literalists to impose their religion, to which they are entirely welcome of course. I'm a real First Amendment absolutist on that issue. What people do in their homes and churches, I have no interest in refuting. I may think they're wrong, and over a cup of coffee or a beer I'll be happy to argue with them, but I'm not entering their churches or their homes to tell them. But I don't want them in the science classrooms of my public school either, touting their minority version of religion that happens in this case to be factually incorrect.
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Stephen Jay Gould

Evolutionary Biologist and Paleontologist

I think there's a lot of mythology about the past. But it is certainly true that there are very distressing trends towards mediocrity and regimentation -- I think almost inevitably -- an electronically dependent, passive world, where hundreds of millions of people are seeing the same things, and are subject to the blandishments of advertisers over the national media. Television is a fundamentally passive exercise. Wouldn't have to be used that way. It's bound to be, and there are paradoxes. Now we can all be consumers of music. You can put on MTV. In the 19th century, if you lived on the prairie, you had to make your own music with your violin or your voices. On the other hand, I'm not gonna long for the good old days, because I'll bet you if you actually calculated it out, there are more people making their own music now than ever before, because musical training is wider. There are hundreds of homes in any city where people at this time of the year are singing Christmas carols or playing their recorders or strumming their guitars. So I don't think it's worse, but certainly there are great tendencies to mediocrity and mass commercialization. If an intellectual has any duty, it's to stress the value of individualistic excellence. That's all we can do. We're always gonna be a minority. There's no doubt, I think, we always have been a minority, and if anything we're a stronger minority. But that's our one job, is to stress non-compromise in the search for excellence, and it's to stress doing it in a manner that has personal integrity and is not copycat, or is not overly easy, or is not merely for commercial success.
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John Grisham

Best-Selling Author

It's hard to forget people like that. And it's fun now. I go back every time. I've gone back with every book. There are five stores. I call them -- they're my home stores. These are friends of mine, and I can't imagine publishing a book and not going back to their stores. I mean, now the book signings last for, you know, ten or 12 hours, but you know, it's still fun.
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John Grisham

Best-Selling Author

The pressure of really sudden notoriety and success, it's good and bad. I mean, it's something you think you'd like to have, and it's something that's nice. There are a lot of rewards. The good far outweighs the bad. But you catch yourself trying to remember what's important to you, your friends and families and what you enjoyed doing years before. We have two small children, and we had a life before all this happened. And even then -- we call it BF, before The Firm, that's how we judge time -- everything we did revolved around the kids, and it's still that way. We've sort of regrouped as a family, and we kind of stick to ourselves, with a few friends.
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David Halberstam

Pulitzer Prize for Journalism

If you get information that is going to jar the Government of the United States and jar the people of the United States, that's what you get paid for. Don't expect to be popular. The better you do the job, the more likely you are to go against conventional wisdom, and people don't like to hear bad news. So you are not going to be popular. I think it's probably in the nature of who I am emotionally, for whatever reason. Growing up in that particular family, I was the more anti-authoritarian one. I have an intuitive sense. Some people are very hierarchical, and they have been raised up to be hierarchical, and they have an instinct to play to whoever is powerful. I have an instinct for almost the same reason to be anti-hierarchical, to listen to the voices of those who are not powerful. It is something I have had since I was a very young person, and a young reporter. It has been a considerable asset professionally. I think it makes you tougher. It makes you fair. It doesn't mean you don't give the people who are in power their fair hearing, but I think there is an assumption in this society that the people who govern have great, great access to get their side of the story out, and therefore, if there is a contradictory story, you (the reporter) are paid to listen to the alternative information.
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David Halberstam

Pulitzer Prize for Journalism

I remember very early on in Vietnam, it's a small thing, but we all wore fatigues. Therefore, we would get on a helicopter and go out, and I wanted it very clear, if someone saw me on a helicopter in fatigues, I wanted them to know damn well that I was a reporter. I didn't want someone talking to me -- "My God, I didn't know I was talking to a reporter!" So I went and had made up a strip of names -- and all the others finally followed -- that said "Halberstam, New York Times." They knew they were talking to a reporter.
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