University of Chicago paleontologist David Raup, SB’53, an innovative authority on evolution and mass extinctions, died of pneumonia July 9 in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. He was 82.
Raup’s former students and colleagues uniformly praised his unique creativity along with his astute capabilities as an academic adviser, senior colleague and paleontological statesman. They remember him for the sweeping scope of the questions he asked, his analytical and quantitative rigor, and his skepticism and humility.
“David Raup ushered in a renaissance in paleontology,” said Raup’s former student and colleague Charles Marshall, SM’86, PhD’89, director of the University of California’s Museum of Paleontology and professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley. “Before Dave, much of the discipline was centered on describing what was. Dave taught the discipline to think about the processes that might have generated the past record.”
Raup introduced statistical concepts to paleontology that treated the fossil record as an outcome of yet-to-be-discovered processes. Raup was widely known for the new approaches he brought repeatedly to paleontology, such as extensive computation, modern evolutionary biology, theoretical ecology and mathematical modeling. More.
The article doesn’t mention that he respected ID theorists, and for good reason. Here, from Evolution News & Views:
a friend directed my attention to this passage from Thomas Woodward’s book Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design. Woodward writes,
A group of Berkeley professors gathered in September 1988 to discuss the original paper on ID framed by Phil Johnson. This remarkable encounter — retold in detail in chapter four of Doubts About Darwin — served as a public debut of his major theses, which would prove to remain substantially constant during the book’s evolution.
During the early stage when Johnson was circulating copies of his paper to wider circles of scientific critics, there looms one other huge milestone: the private 1989 meeting of a dozen scholars at the Campion Center in Boston. Emerging from this was an unexpected defender of Johnson, David Raup, a well-known evolutionary paleontologist with a reputation of brutal honesty about empirical gaps in the neo-Darwinian scenario.
Raup had already read Johnson’s original Berkeley paper and had used it in a graduate seminar at the University of Chicago. He and his students had found no factual errors as they reviewed the paper. As an open-minded scientist, he came to respect Johnson’s scholarship, although he was not persuaded to abandon hope that evolutionary explanations would ultimately be found for the nagging anomalies.
In a phone call to Thomas Woodward, Raup stated “Johnson’s work is very good scholarship, and of course, this is widely denied. He cannot be faulted; he did his homework, and he understands 99 percent of evolutionary biology.” (Darwin’s Nemesis, p. 63-64)
Johnson on occasion exposes his bias as a philosophical theist and a Christian. He says; “I believe that a God exists who could create out of nothing if He wanted to do so, but who might have chosen to work through a natural evolutionary process instead.” Also, “Why not consider the possibility that life is what it so evidently seems to be, the product of creative intelligence? Science would not come to an end, because the task would remain of deciphering the languages in which genetic information is communicated, and in general finding out how the whole system works. What scientists would lose is not an inspiring research program, but the illusion of total mastery of nature. They would have to face the possibility that beyond the natural world there is further reality which transcends science.” (Darwin’s Nemesis, p. 75)
Of course, in those days, Raup was soon shouted down by Darwin’s punks, bullies, and hangers-on. His legacy has nonetheless greatly multiplied.
And many scientists are now shouting back.
Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista
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