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1. The Richness of Life: The Essential
2. A Desert Calling: Life in a Forbidding
3. Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections
4. The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections
5. Ontogeny and Phylogeny
6. The Structure of Evolutionary
7. The Mismeasure of Man (Revised
8. Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics
9. Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville:
10. Stephen Jay Gould: Reflections
11. An Urchin in the Storm: Essays
12. Ever Since Darwin: Reflections
13. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale
14. Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion
15. Full House: The Spread of Excellence
16. The Science and Humanism of Stephen
17. The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections
18. I Have Landed: Splashes adn Reflections
19. Punctuated Equilibrium
20. Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and

1. The Richness of Life: The Essential Stephen Jay Gould
by Stephen Jay Gould
Hardcover: 672 Pages (2007-05-17)
list price: US$35.00 -- used & new: US$12.12
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0393064980
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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The most entertaining and enlightening writings by the beloved paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and celebrant of the wonder of life."Nature is so wondrously complex and varied that almost anything possible does happen....I rejoice in [its] multifariousness and leave the chimera of certainty to politicians and preachers."—from Ever Since Darwin

Upon his death in 2002, Stephen Jay Gould stood at the pinnacle among observers of the natural world, recognized by Congress as a "living legend." His prodigious legacy—sixteen best-selling and prize-winning books, dozens of scientific papers, an unbroken series of three hundred essays in Natural History—combined to make Gould the most widely read science writer of our time. This indispensable collection of forty-eight pieces from his brilliant oeuvre includes selections from classics such as Ever Since Darwin and The Mismeasure of Man, plus articles and speeches never before published in book form.

This volume, the last that will bear his name, spotlights his elegance, depth, and sheer pleasure in our world—a true celebration of an extraordinary mind. 20 illustrations ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars The richness of Gould's legacy
This is a very useful selection from the writings of the late Stephen Jay Gould, with an excellent introduction by Steven Rose. It does not correspond exactly with my choice of Gould's best and most important pieces, but it's hard to criticise the editors when Gould's output was so large and varied. It is certainly a good starting point for anyone who is new to Gould, and will no doubt lead them to look at his other work.

Gould's output falls into four main areas. Firstly, there is his contribution to evolutionary theory: he developed (with Niles Eldredge) the theory of punctuated equilibrium (linked to the concept of species selection); he emphasised that evolutionary history consists of a branching bush, not a ladder of progress; he argued that chance (or rather "contingency") plays a large part in evolutionary history; he contended that not every feature of an organism can be explained by functional adaptationism; and he showed that organs can often be adapted and used for purposes which are different from the ones they first evolved to perform.

Secondly, Gould saw that science is a human activity which is influenced by the social, historical and ideological context in which it takes place. His historical biographies of scientists always show them to be products of their times. In this context Gould is also excellent at showing the dialectical interaction between theory and factual evidence in the development of scientific knowledge.

The third area of Gould's work is his lifelong battle against those crude biologically deterministic theories (such as sociobiology and evolutionary psychology) which try to explain away human behaviour as being mainly determined by our genes. An example of what Gould was up against is Richard Dawkins. Dawkins refers to living creatures as "lumbering robots" programmed by their genes. And in an interview published in "New Statesman" (26th March 1999), while discussing cloning, Dawkins said: "Cloning Saddam Hussein would be horrible. Cloning David Attenborough, or someone we all admire, might be fine."

This is the sort of genetic determinism that Gould demolishes. Does Dawkins really think that the nastiness of the dead dictator and the niceness of the admirable Attenborough are simply the result of their genes, and nothing to do with their upbringing, experiences, social circumstances and life-history? Gould has pointed out that nature's clones (identical twins) have already shown us that having identical genes does not mean having the same personality.

Unlike Dawkins, Gould has a grasp of the subtle and complex interaction between our genetic potentiality and the environmental factors which play an enormous part in making us what we are. Gould also points out the real danger of genetic determinism: it suggests that social problems and inequalities are the inevitable result of our biology rather than things that we can put right.

Fourthly and finally, Gould has written about the relationship between science and religion. Gould (an agnostic) believed that there need be no inevitable conflict between the two as long as each sticks to its own sphere and leaves the other alone. Religion should leave science to get on with explaining nature, and science should leave moral debates to religion. I think Gould is on shaky ground here. He is understating the conflict between science and religion; he is playing down the reactionary role that religion still plays in society; and he is failing to analyse the SOCIAL roots of morality. He rightly says that we should not leave moral decisions just to scientists, but I would also say that we shouldn't leave them to priests either!

Nevertheless, even though I am an atheist myself, I do not believe that Richard Dawkins' crude version of atheism is any better than Gould's "softness" on religion. Dawkins is like the philosophers of the Enlightenment in that he thinks that religious beliefs can be dispelled by directly confronting them with rational, scientific arguments. He fails to understand that atheists have to do more than just show religion to be superstitious nonsense: it is necessary to understand its social roots and to get rid of the oppressive and alienating social conditions which make people turn to what Marx, in the famous "opium of the people" passage, called "the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless circumstances." (For more on this see my review here on Amazon of Dawkins' book, "The Selfish Gene".)

Gould is one of my favourite writers. He is not perfect. His writing style (especially in his later books) can at times be repetitive and self-indulgent. But he is always worth reading: he never fails to make you think. I thoroughly recommend this book.

Phil Webster.

5-0 out of 5 stars A rich collection, from a masterful essayist
Somewhat oddly, I was introduced to evolution through evolutionary psychology, specifically, through Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works. And, following Pinker's references, I read Dawkins, Dennett, Cosmides, Tooby and that crowd. To put it mildly, Stephen Jay Gould was never popular with these writers so I found myself being suspicious of and vaguely hostile to Gould, despite having read only bits of his work. When I came across this collection of Gould's writings, it struck me how unreasonable my attitude was: partisans never paint a flattering picture of their opponents. I would have to read Gould himself to come to a fair assessment. So I bought the book and read all 600+ pages and I am extremely glad I did.

Gould was without doubt a masterful essayist, a stupendously gifted writer, enormously erudite and capable of making charming connections between seemingly disparate topics. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Gould was one of the greatest 20th century essayists, up there with Peter Medawar and Isaiah Berlin.

That is not to say that I agree with Gould about everything or that I think his work was uniformly excellent. On the contrary, I think "The Spandrels of San Marco" was a travesty (and unoriginal to boot), and "More Things in Heaven and Earth" (his infamous New York Review of Books piece) was just horrendous. Gould's views about evolutionary psychology ("ultra-Darwinism" he called it) and the evolution of the human mind generally were silly. And, the actions of Science For the People - with which Gould was centrally involved - were inexcusable. Moreover, Gould misled the public because he failed to be clear about when he was explaining or illustrating settled science and when he was engaging in partisan debate.

All that said, I don't think we should condemn him too much: it's human to be led astray by one's passionate political and moral convictions. Besides, there is no doubt that nearly anyone has much to learn from Gould and that his essays are, on the whole, delightful, cogent and enlightening. Read Gould (but with eyes open and pinches of salt at the ready).

5-0 out of 5 stars good compendium
Gould is probably the best popularizer of natural history since Audubon. This is the first collection of Gould's work. Either you love it or you haven't read it...

Doc Ock

4-0 out of 5 stars Good Overview of Gould
The Richness of Life is a good overview of Stephen Jay Gould's writings, but the individual collections are better.He is a brilliant and original thinker, thought-provoking, and generally entertaining.My only comment that is less than superlative would be on his writing style, which unfortunately is overly academic and not very accessible to the average reader.I think his inability to use smaller words and shorter sentences significantly hindered his ability to influence more of the general public. For example, Carl Sagan was able to communicate very lofty ideas in a simple manner without sacrificing the message.I am of the opinion that almost everything in the world can be explained in such a manner that at least 90 percent of the people can understand it.In many ways, even Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" is more accessible than Mr. Gould's work.Nevertheless, despite this trifling criticism, I strongly recommend all of Stephen Jay Gould's shorter collections, including "The Flamingo's Smile", "Bully For Brontosaurus", "Ever Since Darwin", and the many others.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good Overview of Gould, But His Individual Collections Are Better
This book isn't necessarily meant to be "The Best" of Stephen Gould. It aims more at giving readers an overview of the main themes of his life's work. So perhaps it suffers a little from having to include the most representative essays rather than the most interesting ones. For sheer liveliness, I think you would be better off to get some of Gould's more limited annual collections, such as "The Panda's Thumb" and "Bully for Brontosaurus." These latter have the indulgence of including quirkier, more exploratory musings.

However this is still a very worthwhile collection - with one exception. When you get about midway through to the essay entitled "The Structure of Evolutionary Theory" - skip over it without a backward glance. A typical sentence in this long exercise reads, "The classical and most familiar category of internal channeling (the first, or empirical, citation of constraint as a positive theme) resides in preferred directions for evolutionary change supplied by inherited allometries and their phylogenetic potentiation by heterochrony." Whaaaaa? The editor does warn that this essay was intended for a professional audience. Still, I didn't think Gould was capable of such utterly opaque writing, whoever his target audience, and my opinion of him was accordingly lowered a bit.

Then other tripping points throughout the book are Gould's repeated use of words such as "contingent" and "epitome." He clearly demonstrates his ongoing fondness for "contingency," but usually (although not always) uses that word in its more obscure sense of "accidental." This is contrary to the meaning most of us give the word colloquially, as when we say, "I will marry you contingent on your earning more money." In this more common sense, the word means "dependant upon - following as a logical consequence of" - almost the exact opposite of Gould's frequent meaning of "accidental."

Because of this persistent eccentricity in Gould's vocabulary, I suggest you keep a dictionary handy as you read "Richness." Then you can look up not only the more unusual words he uses so aptly, but also those more common words on which he tends to put his own spin.

This book also makes it evident how rapidly scientific theory is changing and advancing. Gould, who died just a few years ago, says here that Lamarckianism (the idea that we inherit traits our parents acquired) is totally dead. But just recently, the study of "epigenetics" has been demonstrating that what people eat, what chemicals they are exposed to, their levels of stress, etc., can permanently, genetically influence their progeny by affecting what genes get turned on. Lamarck may have been partially right after all.

There is certainly an advantage to having this span of essays assembled here. It shows connections and contradictions more strongly than even Gould himself might have noticed as he wrote these pieces in different decades. For example, in an early autobiographical essay, Gould writes about his youthful renegade support of the Yankees in the middle of a staunch Brooklyn Dodgers neighborhood. His unpopular affiliation earned him a number of savage beatings. He writes these off with an almost "boys-will-be-boys" tone. Violence in this context struck him as being a sign of healthy, energetic team loyalty - an essential rite of passage.

But then in another essay entitled "Of Two Minds," Gould reflects on and deplores humankind's "tendency to parse complex nature into pairings of `us versus them.'" He says this can be harmful, "given another human propensity for judgment - so that `us versus them' easily becomes `good versus bad'" - and we feel morally justified in eradicating the latter.

He doesn't seem to see how the seeds of such dangerous divisiveness were present in those boyhood neighborhood sports partisanships. But in this and so many other ways, "Richness" gives the reader a bird's eye view that was often denied to the author himself. ... Read more

2. A Desert Calling: Life in a Forbidding Landscape
by Michael A. Mares
Hardcover: 336 Pages (2002-05-14)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$13.34
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Asin: 0674007476
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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For most of us the word "desert" conjures up images of barren wasteland, vast, dry stretches inimical to life. But for a great array of creatures, perhaps even more plentiful than those who inhabit tropical rainforests, the desert is a haven and a home. Travel with Michael Mares into the deserts of Argentina, Iran, Egypt, and the American Southwest and you will encounter a rich and memorable variety of these small, tenacious animals, many of them first discovered by Mares in areas never before studied. Accompanying Mares on his forays into these hostile habitats, we observe the remarkable behavioral, physiological, and ecological adaptations that have allowed such little-known species of rodents, bats, and other small mammals to persist in an arid world. At the same time, we see firsthand the perils and pitfalls that await biologists who venture into the field to investigate new habitats, discover new species, and add to our knowledge of the diversity of life. Filled with the seductions and trials that such adventures entail, A Desert Calling affords an intimate understanding of the biologist's vocation. As he astonishes us with the range and variety of knowledge to be acquired through the determined investigation of little-known habitats, Mares opens a window on his own uncommon life, as well as on the uncommon life of the remote and mysterious corners of our planet. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Mysterious Deserts of our Earth
Michael Mares is the Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, as well as Curator of Mammals at that institution.During his earlier career he spent many years in the back country of the planet's deserts studying the smaller mammals of these dry and often desolate ends of the earth.The years he invested in advancing our knowledge of what some might call mere mice and rats (as well as bats and armadillos) could not be easily repeated.Indeed his important work on Old World desert rodents came to an abrupt halt with the fall of the Shah and the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Army.If anything, the situation is much worse, with not only war and political unrest, but the suspicion of many governments (not totally unjustified in a very few extreme cases) that any field biologist might be a bioengineering pirate who will not just take specimens, but patentable biological products.

The stories of Mares' field work in such remote areas as the desert near Andalaga in Argentina, the Dasht-i-Kavir in Iran,the Sahara near Giza in Egypt, and the back country of Brazil, are well-told in"A Desert Calling: Life in a Forbidding Landscape".This is a fascinating journal of a field biologist who has discovered several new species and subspecies of mammals and documented numerous details of their lives and of the lives of known species whose ecology and life histories were an almost total blank.Such research is certainly not without danger, as any field biologist knows. Floods, snakes, dangerous people, heat, bad roads, etc. all take their toll.I call myself a field biologist because most of my work has been based in the field as opposed to laboratory, but I (as Stephen J. Gould says of himself in the Forward) am the meanest piker compared to Mares! I never spent months in the field in some almost inaccessible part of South America, but I suspectfew biologist have done what Mares has accomplished in this regard. The fact (as Gould notes) that the book is almost totally about Mares' field work as opposed to his administrative role, speaks volumes about the true field biologist that Mares is.

Mares spins a wonderful tale of scientific discovery in a world that is rapidly vanishing because of human population pressures and the demands of consumers in the developed and developing World.We may never see its like again.If you would know what this research, often denigrated by politicians as a waste of public monies, really entails and what it really means to human knowledge of the planet, read this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Desert adventures with biology
It is interesting that this book is being published for the first time since much of the material comes from Professor Mares's work with small desert mammals during the seventies.Mares, who is the Curator of Mammals and Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma is also the author of Encyclopedia of Deserts (1999).Perhaps he has been too busy to publish what is essentially a popular work.Since the book includes reports on his field work and that of his students into the nineties, maybe this book is a way of rounding out a career.

Regardless of the reason for the material finally finding publication, we are the better for it.Part memoir, part fieldwork journal, and part travelogue, A Desert Calling is that rare scientific tome that engages our adventurous spirit through a vivid and lively presentation while at the same time giving us a concrete sense of the animals and their habitats.As the late Stephen Jay Gould expresses it in the Foreword, Mares writes with "a verbal freshness (and a fine sense for a good yarn) that will delight even the most sophisticated urbanite...." (p. xi)

The book is also beautifully edited and presented with handsome page layouts.Chapter beginnings and major paragraph breaks feature photo icons of the small desert rodents that were the focus of much of Mares's work.The text is interspersed with black and white photos of animals and the forbidding desert climes that he and his fellow field biologists encountered on three continents.There are four maps to help us locate these places.Mares includes an appendix giving both the common and scientific names of species mentioned in the text organized geographically.There are 14 pages of suggestions for further reading ordered by chapter.

Mares's travels include the Sonoran and Mojave deserts in the American southwest, the Monte Desert and the Patagonia and Caatinga regions in South America, and the Dasht-i-Kavir in Iran and the Sahara in Egypt.He traveled to Argentina during the years of the Dirty War and was in Iran just before the fall of the Shah and the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini.He lived through blinding sandstorms and heat so oppressive that he sought relief in pig water and mud laced with pig feces.He endured stings from hoards of vicious insects in landscapes nearly as barren as the moon with shaded Fahrenheit temperatures in the 130's.(p. 181)He encountered bureaucratic obstruction that would try the patience of a saint, poverty that would move even Scrooge to tears, and enough danger to satisfy a jaded CIA agent.

But above all he reports on the animals and how they live.He includes the discovery of a number of new species and genera of mammals, and three major ecological findings, all having to do with convergent evolution.Seeking the animal in the Monte Desert of Argentina that is the analogue of the kangaroo rat of the North American Sonoran Desert he inexplicably finds none.But then by happenstance he becomes aware of an extinct marsupial skeleton collected by famed biologist George Gaylord Simpson that fits the expected convergence to a tee.Indeed the animal had gone extinct only a million years previous which explained why none of the other rodents had yet evolved to fill that niche. (p. 126)

Mares also demonstrates that the jerboa of the Sahara, which is taxonomically nearly identical to the kangaroo rat, a fact well know for many decades, is not the whole story.It turns out that their diets and therefore some parts of their anatomy, including their teeth of course and presumably their digestive systems, are more different than was previously supposed.Mares realized this because he discovered that while kangaroo rats are seed specialists, the convergent jerboas have a more varied diet including plants and even crickets.After some further research, Mares understood that the bipedal adaption of the jerboas and kangaroo rats is an adaptation to allow them to run (hop!) away from predators.

To my mind the most interesting discovery was that the rock hyraxes of Africa have a nearly exact counterpart in the rock cavies of Caatinga in Argentina.As Mares expresses it (p. 202), they "are about as distantly related as mammals can be, [but they] not only look alike, but are similar in almost all aspects of their reproduction, ecology, and behavior."In a splendid example of natural selection at work, Mares points to their unique but similar rock pile environments as strongly shaping their morphology and behavior.

Perhaps what Mares does best that other scientists that work in distant places do not always do so well is to shed light on not only the climate and the species but on the local people, what they are like and how they live.His description of the isolation of some of the people in the Monte and the Chaco ("El Impenetrable" in Spanish, which Mares calls a "land of thorns") in Argentina is almost like reading about lost tribes from ancient times.His encounters with locals sometimes reminded me of something from a wild west movie of my childhood.

Also very interesting was his account of the discovery of a new species, the golden vizcacha rat on pages 257-259.I also liked his touching recollection of coming home for Halloween just in time to join his two boys for trick or treating on page 275.

Bottom line: this engaging and colorful book allows us to experience the hard work, pure drudgery, quiet contentment, and the sometimes thrilling exhalation of field work through the eyes of a working scientist with a gift for exposition.

5-0 out of 5 stars Two books for the price of one
Michael Mares' book grew on me enormously as I read it.The combination of his series of wild experiences along with his enthusiasm for the research puzzles he confronts made this book read almost like a double thriller.This could be read as a travel book, very much like Eric Hansen's books, with a bonus of learning a lot about nature, evolution, ecology, etc.Or, it could be read as a book of ecology and evolution with the bonus of extraordinary adventures.At first, I kept on reading the book more for the adventures and then realized that my excitement about the science was growing.I have never had a book sneak up on me in this way.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Beauties and Dangers of the Desert
We are quite used to hearing about the rainforest and the worries about its loss.We hear less about the loss of deserts.Let the military test there, let off-track entertainment vehicles bounce there, let toxic wastes accumulate there; they are not good for much else, goes the common view.They are uncomfortable places to visit, and they can't be turned to agriculture.Michael A. Mares, in _A Desert Calling: Life in a Forbidding Landscape_ (Harvard), has a completely different view.Mares has spent his professional life studying the deserts of the United States, Argentina, Iran, and Egypt.He undoubtedly knows plenty about plants, insects, birds, and snakes of these areas, but he is a specialist in the mammals that have evolved to live in such harsh conditions.Desert rats, mice, armadillos, and gerbils have been his study, and he has here (note the double meaning of the title) assembled a description of his life's work, as well as an attempted explanation of just why he has spent so much time in places the rest of us could not stand.His thoughtful and funny stories are a sort of autobiography, and he has much to tell us about the exotic animals that he wants better appreciated.

There are some peculiar beasts out there.The kangaroo rat has a nose exquisitely tuned to find buried seeds, and can filter sixty seeds from sand in a second.There are penguins in the desert in Patagonia.There are a few rodents on different continents who can live on the leaves of the saltbush, leaves that have a protective outer layer of cells full of salt.They have special teeth, or in one case, special dental hairs, that strip away the inedible layer to get to the green below.There are deadly assassin bugs.Mares describes staying in some of the most unpleasant regions of the world, and admits that when he is busy with academia and home, he longs to get to the desert, but it works vice versa, too.He is almost killed by fungus infesting his lungs after climbing through guano deposits in a New Mexico cave.He is nearly crushed by trees falling during a storm on a bat hunt in Costa Rica.Some of the most surprising specimens described here are humans, and Mares has plenty of funny stories.

_A Desert Calling_ is full of light moments, and near-disasters that are pleasant to recall because they are over.However, Mares has a good deal serious to say about the study of desert animals, and in the larger view, about taxonomy in general."If you do not know the taxonomy and systematics of the organisms you study - if you cannot identify them correctly and understand how they are related - then you cannot study them in any meaningful manner."Research in "bigger" topics such as ecology is only possible when taxonomists have gone to the field beforehand and identified one creature from another and settled their ranges and evolutionary relationships.Mares has found and been responsible for the first scientific descriptions of many mammals, and knows that there are still plenty out there which have yet to be properly catalogued and studied.Over and over, he comes across specimens about which no one has basic answers: Are they diurnal or nocturnal?Do they live in colonies?Do they hibernate?What do they eat?There is an enormous amount of basic science brightly reported here, and an enormous amount that is yet to be done. ... Read more

3. Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 544 Pages (1992-04-17)
list price: US$17.95 -- used & new: US$9.45
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Asin: 039330857X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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From his bestseller Wonderful Life to his splendid essays on endlessly interesting variations of evolution, Gould has raised the art of scientific writing to new heights. "Whether his topic is typewriter design, the technical triumph of Voyager or Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak, Gould holds our attention."--Publishers Weekly. Photos and drawings.Amazon.com Review
Stephen Jay Gould has a wide range of interests, and for many years he has shared his enthusiasms in the pages of Natural History and the New York Review of Books, among other journals. His passions include baseball, the puzzles of evolutionary theory, and the game of scholarly detection as it applies to questions such as, "What became of dinosaurs, anyway?". He answers entertainingly, but never talks down to his readers. Gould is one of modern natural science's great popularizers, but he shuns the temptation to make the giant reptiles of prehistory the Smurfs of the 1990s, in the manner of a certain purple dinosaur. The 35 pieces gathered here make for fine browsing, full of sideways glances and digressions that eventually make sense. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (12)

5-0 out of 5 stars Bully for Brontosaurus
This book came exactly as planned in my order. The shipping and cost is better priced to any other website I have visited in the past. Green_earth_books is where you want to get any of your college books as well. If you order from this user i know you will not be dissappointed and wont need to be worried about scamming because this site is real.

4-0 out of 5 stars Goulden pond
My commendation of Stephen Jay Gould is in the way of a class action review. I do not remember reading anything by this author that was not satisfying and worthwhile - though sometimes at odds with my own views. This collection of essays was simply the latest I had found at the library when I wrote this review (some years ago). Gould's explorations of science and its cultural relevance, his clear explanations of arcane points of evolutionary theory, and his evident excitement about learning make him one of my faves. Why is the QWERTY keyboard (on which I am typing this review) a good example of the tendency of evolutionary changes to persist? What can we learn about creationism from the myth that Abner Doubleday invented baseball? How might the popularization of dinosaurs be used to improve science education? Why is birth only a point on a continuum? Why do kiwis lay enormous eggs, and what does that tell us about scientific research? This is brain candy of the first order. Check it out.

5-0 out of 5 stars extraodinary range, intellectual but in laymans terms - wonderful
I have really enjoyed Stephen Jay Gould. His range of essays and the scope of topics he discusses has always interested me, as has in ability to draw from what is clearly a profoundly wide range of material which covers literature, history, religion as well as natural history. This is I think the thing that most interests me and it is something which we don't often find in intellectual writing now, that ability to draw parallels, or discuss in depth issues outside of a certain subject matter. It reminds me a bit of the late Alistair Cook and his letters from America and these essays are mostly of about the same length.

This collection is 35 essays and collected into 10 loose sections. These include some interesting groupings which you would normally not expect from a natural scientist including Intellectual biography. His biography of Antoine Lavoisier is a case in point. Lavoissier, a renowned scientist of his time, was condemned to death at the guillotine during the French Revolution, and indeed was beheaded. Gould's biography manages to touch on the aspects of his life and death including the myths which remain on his last words and days, the attempted scientific restructuring of France by the revolutionaries (including new measurements and renaming of the months etc) and the revolution's final downfall, it turned out the revolution did need scientists after all.

There are essays on "kiwi eggs and the liberty Bell" or one of my favourites on Glow worms which uses the life of this insect to discuss our understanding of life processes of all insects - is the adult form the ultimate, or, like glowworms which are pupa, should we be reconsidering our adult-centric view of the natural world?

I really enjoy Gould's style, it is easy flowing prose and fairly straightforward to understand. There are a few concepts which I have to re-read to get the actual meaning as some of these issues are complex - the issue of probability in evolution vs creation for instance is complex and takes a bit of consideration from a non-mathematician.

I would certainly recommend this book for those who hold a creationist or intelligent design belief. This provides some fascinating points of discussion which may provide some counterpoint to the Intelligent Design assertions. Gould's letter to President Jimmy Carter and Carter's own respect for Gould would be of interest if nothing else.

This is not an easy thing to sit down and read at once, but it is wonderful to browse in and out of and skip back and forth through.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bully for Brontosaurus
Stephen Jay Gould writes another volume of essays that are profound in scope. Trying to review essays in book form is difficult, but taking the task at hand, here is what I have to say.

These collected essays are enlightening and thought provoking. They vary in scope and content, but are always stimulating. The author has a knack for making the reader think, as I suppose all good professors should, a task well taken here.

The writing is easily followed and straight forward with a smattering of Gould's wit thrown in for spice. The authou's sense of humor is also apparent. The essays are educational, even as the author brings two apparently different articles and ties them together with a common thread.

I found a cornucopia of disparate objects that fueled my intellectual pleasure, as I read through the book. Anyone interested in Natural History or just curious about life should read this book.

The author's flowing writing style is evident, his teaching skills are there to enjoy and learn from.

Read and enjoy good writing.

5-0 out of 5 stars Practice Makes (More Nearly) Perfect
This is the sixth of the collections of Gould's essays from the magazine Natural History.Gould has commented that, as he got better at essay writing, he found the earlier volumes less pleasing.Certainly, as he went along, he improved both in literary quality and in the depth of his treatment of issues. Gould is amusing, but always with a serious purpose: to educate the public about how science works, and how, often, it doesn't.In particular, the section of three essays gathered under the heading "Numbers and Probability" is very good at making one think about the real nature of "the odds." ... Read more

4. The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 352 Pages (1992-08-17)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$5.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0393308197
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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With sales of well over one million copies in North America alone, the commercial success of Gould's books now matches their critical acclaim. Reissued in a larger format, with a handsome new cover, The Panda's Thumb will introduce a new generation of readers to this unique writer, who has taken the art of the scientific essay to new heights. Illustrations. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (18)

5-0 out of 5 stars natural history
This was a hard to find book. It arrived in excellent condition,just as advertised.
Net shopping is the greatest.

5-0 out of 5 stars More Stephen Jay Gould
More essays by Stephen Jay Gould. They are brilliant, as always. And, as always, Gould's essays give me something to think about.

5-0 out of 5 stars In Memorium
This is the book that reminds us why Stephen Jay Gould was the Great One.He was perhaps the greatest naturalist of his generation, as measured by being able to get across complex scientific ideas for the common man in an interesting manner.Additionally, he was a great scientist in his own right.The world is a sorrier place to lose him.

Gould's essays are far-ranging, but center around his view of life and evolution- through punctuated equilibrium.Using analogy (allowed in natural history essays) and his extensive research experience, he looks at how paradaigms shift, and why they should.He describes the evidence and logic behind a punctuated model as opposed to gradualism.And along the way lets us learn some fascinating new worlds in human and animal life.

At times I don't agree with his strong dislike of religion.At times his writing is dated- to be expected in a book now 25 years old.(He talks with great excitement about how we can now determine the code of RNA.)But his writing is always interesting, always thought-provoking and challenging, always novel.He has a new way of seeing things, even after a quarter century.He forces the reader to confront their preconceptions and shift their paradaigms.You learn, yes, but with great joy, and a spice of humor.

5-0 out of 5 stars Two Panda's Thumbs up!!
The "argument from design" traces back at least to the medieval theology as a favorite proof for the existence of God. The argument runs that the exquisite design and interrelation of earthly organisms can be explained only by the existence of an Intelligent Designer.

I continue to believe in God, but Stephen Jay Gould's essays in "The Panda's Thumb" is a rather large nail in the coffin of this argument.

In essay after essay, Gould describes nature's mistakes and improvisations, seeming proof against the work of an intelligent designer. For instance, the "thumb" of pandas -- a specialized appendage to strip leaves from bamboo shoots -- is not a true thumb, but a weirdly-designed extension of a wrist bone. Gould demonstrates many other animal adaptations, from orchids to hermit crabs, that use unlikely body parts to perform survival tasks required by later generations of organisms.

Gould's explanation of neoteny - the tendency of organisms to retain anatomical features from childhood - is one of his most fascinating chapters. With a simple mutation, the basis for much uniquely human behavior and anatomy comes in to focus. We humans don't develop elongated snouts like other mammals; we retain our capacity to play throughout our lives rather than abandoning it at puberty; our brains continue to grow after birth; we are helpless and dependent on our parents far longer than other mammals. And in a typically Gouldian play of ideas, he charts the changing facial features of Mickey Mouse over the years to show him being drawn with more infant -like (and therefore human-like) features - rounder head, bigger eyes, shorter snout.

Though Gould is not a theist, "Panda's Thumb" is not an argument against God, but *for* the appropriate use of science to describe the natural world. We theists are well-served by books like this, which give us the ammunition needed to battle cultural forces that seek to blind us to the truth that lies right in front of us in the natural world and of which we are a part.

4-0 out of 5 stars Evolutionary theory meets Mickey Mouse and selfish genes
The second collection of Gould's articles from Natural History continues to explore Darwin's themes and the resultant ideas since. There's several interesting essays here, including my favorite one in which the evolution of Mickey Mouse is discussed.

One of the essays here dealt with Richard Dawkins' controversial stand (in The Selfish Gene) on genes in which he states that a person is just a gene's way to make another gene. (This is different from normal evolutionary thought in that genes there are the subject of random variation which then is subject to the environment and tested.) Gould is not convinced by Dawkins' theory, mainly because, he says, there is no evidence that genes can be linked to specific attributes, i.e., there isn't an "eye" gene. Gould wrote this some years back, so it will be interesting to see if he revisits this subject now that researchers have indeed discovered the "eye" gene (through testing on flies).

Gould also covers Robert Bakker's theories about warm-blooded dinosaurs (later written up in Bakker's The Dinosaur Heresies) and the link to birds, a good essay for people to review prior to the hullabaloo that will follow Jurassic Park 2 (it's always fun to check up on an author's source material). ... Read more

5. Ontogeny and Phylogeny
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 520 Pages (1985-01-17)
list price: US$33.50 -- used & new: US$26.08
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Asin: 0674639413
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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"Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" was Haeckel's answer--the wrong one--to the most vexing question of nineteenth-century biology: what is the relationship between individual development (ontogeny) and the evolution of species and lineages (phylogeny)? In this, the first major book on the subject in fifty years, Stephen Gould documents the history of the idea of recapitulation from its first appearance among the pre-Socratics to its fall in the early twentieth century.

Mr. Gould explores recapitulation as an idea that intrigued politicians and theologians as well as scientists. He shows that Haeckel's hypothesis--that human fetuses with gill slits are, literally, tiny fish, exact replicas of their water-breathing ancestors--had an influence that extended beyond biology into education, criminology, psychoanalysis (Freud and Jung were devout recapitulationists), and racism. The theory of recapitulation, Gould argues, finally collapsed not from the weight of contrary data, but because the rise of Mendelian genetics rendered it untenable.

Turning to modern concepts, Gould demonstrates that, even though the whole subject of parallels between ontogeny and phylogeny fell into disrepute, it is still one of the great themes of evolutionary biology. Heterochrony--changes in developmental timing, producing parallels between ontogeny and phylogeny--is shown to be crucial to an understanding of gene regulation, the key to any rapprochement between molecular and evolutionary biology. Gould argues that the primary evolutionary value of heterochrony may lie in immediate ecological advantages for slow or rapid maturation, rather than in long-term changes of form, as all previous theories proclaimed.

Neoteny--the opposite of recapitulation--is shown to be the most important determinant of human evolution. We have evolved by retaining the juvenile characters of our ancestors and have achieved both behavioral flexibility and our characteristic morphology thereby (large brains by prolonged retention of rapid fetal growth rates, for example).

Gould concludes that there may be nothing new under the sun, but permutation of the old within complex systems can do wonders. As biologists, we deal directly with the kind of material complexity that confers an unbounded potential upon simple, continuous changes in underlying processes. This is the chief joy of our science."

... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

5-0 out of 5 stars Used Ontogeny and Phylogeny
The book purchased was a used copy of Stephen Gould's "Ontogeny and Phylogeny" in paperback.The book was no surprise since I knew what it was.Condition was as advertised, I think, but was excellent at any rate.Delivery was within a reasonable time.So this was a very satisfactory transaction from my point of view, excellent book for a reasonable price within a sensible time period.What else to expect?

5-0 out of 5 stars One Of The Most Influential Books On Evolutionary ThoughtPublished In The Past Twenty Five Years
If there is any book that has greatly reinvigorated interest in the relationship of developmental biology to evolutionary biology, then Stephen Jay Gould's "Ontogeny and Phylogeny" may be the most likely suspect. When it was published originally back in the late 1970s, this elegantly written volume was as much a superb overview of Gould's extensive scientific research up to that time, having been preoccupied with understanding allometry and its evolutionary implications for years and writing a series of memorable scientific papers for which he would receive such notable honors as the Paleontological Society's Schuchert Award (which is bestowed upon paleobiologists under the age of forty for making significant contributions to the field.). It is one of the rare technical books on evolutionary thought which have become widely read by others outside of evolutionary biology, and that is due mainly for its relevance as an important history of developmental biology and philosophy of science text as well as a more technical volume of primary interest to developmental biologists, paleobiologists and other evolutionary biologists. Stephen Jay Gould explores the relationship between ontogeny and phylogeny with an elegant historical overview which starts with ancient Greek philosophers and emphasizes the work of Ernst Haeckel, Gavin de Beer and others. His scientific discussion about various aspects of ontogeny (e. g. neoteny) remains among the best written accounts I have come across. Now more than ever, "Ontogeny and Phylogeny" remains an important contribution to the history and philosophy of evolutionary thought in biology, especially in light of the current, substantial interest in "evo-devo", or rather, the importance of developmental biology in affecting not only our understanding of speciation, but equally important, in trying to comprehend better the patterns and processes of macroevolution. So I am not exaggerating when I observe that "Ontogeny and Phylogeny" remains one of the most influential books on evolutionary thought published in the last twenty five years; I predict that it will remain one of Gould's most important contributions to evolutionary biology, and an enduring legacy to a scientific career that became well known to fellow scientists and the general public alike.

5-0 out of 5 stars The rise and fall of a scientific idea
"Ontogeny recapitulates philogeny" is the largely defunct theory that as a fetus grows it reprises the collected earlier adult states of its evolutionary forebears.

And this book is not so much about that theory as it is about the history of how the theory was proposed, its influence on other learning and the process of its demise.

In this way, this book is properly bracketed with Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate in its discussion of the all too not empiracal process of empiracal reasoning.Its also reminiscent of Percival Lowell's assertion that canals existed on Mars because just as Lowell largely saw what he was predisposed to see early biologists like those mentioned in this work were themselves predisposed to see what they were predisposed to see.

Yes, the theory rose and fell but perhaps Gould's most telling discussion was in his treatment of how the theory came to misused for educational and political purposes.If the fetus recapitulated its evolutionary past, then perhaps children in prominent countries capitulated in their behavior the cultures of less prominent countries.And so, child's play was just a stage reminiscent of aboriginal social interaction and a child's make believe world was their real life religion.

Deep stuff.

What Gould could have added were the other abuses made on the still existent theory of Darwinian evolution wherein turn of the century aristocrats fancied themselves the socially fittest of the species.Again, we have an example of science placed at the easy service of prejudice.

However, and this is where Gould's discussion gives cause for hope, being a scientific theory it fell because it failed to pass muster with scientific techniques of testing.

And in this way, Gould's book is not so much about the passing of a scientific idea as it is about the use of the technique of empiracal testing and not predisposition to determine truth.

3-0 out of 5 stars More of a history of ideas than a biology text
This book is about the history of the concepts around which the "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" developed, flourished and eventually faded out. Gould goes into the viewpoint of every significant biological thinker that ever thought anything about this phrase, and what that thinker thought about all the other thinkers.
If you are really interested in the history of evolutionary thought, there is a point to reading this. But if you are just interested in reading about neat biological examples/life histories/concepts, this book is serious overkill.
It is probably not fair to rate this book for what it is not, instead of what it is. However, once I decided to read this book (and I read it twice, with several years between), I found that I didn't enjoy the reading that much. As Mark Twain remarked about some piece of music, the book is not as long as it seems. But it sure does seem long!

2-0 out of 5 stars Serious competetion for barbiturates
Oh my friends, I tried Atlas-fashion but to no avail. This drawn out excercise in long haired erudition was simply too much for me. I'm sorry but there were cracks on the cieling that needed observing, weekends to be spent at the market and hangnails to chew. No, Ontogeny and phylogeny was simply not to be. I tried mind you, I read it up to page 223 where Gould set out to delineate De Beer's eight categories of heterochrony in part II, chapter 7 of this opus, where upon I cried "enough!!" I really like Gould too. I loved "Wonderful Life" and devoured "Ever Since Darwin." Indeed, Gould waxed eloquently (and succintly) on neoteny, paedomorphism and heterochrony in "Ever Since Darwin." Ontogeny and Phylogeny on the other hand will make you wish you'd never heard of these terms. I will say, having read part I, that I did get a thorough grounding in why Haeckel's recapitulation is untenable, but I was able to get that in one paragraph in Werner Muller's "Developmental Biology." Maybe this book was just a bad personality fit for me, and lord knows I love biology better than money or food, but I found it to be a not pleasant to read, sparingly informative, massive waste of time. This may seem harsh to Gould-ophiles, but I'd be lying if I said otherwise. On a positive note, it did give a good historical account of such 19th century natural science luminaries like Haeckel, Von Baer, de Beer, et al, and the development of their thought. Maybe if I were incarcerated I'd read this book, as it is there are too many other interesting and rewarding activities to pursue. ... Read more

6. The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
by Stephen Jay Gould
Hardcover: 1464 Pages (2002-03-21)
list price: US$59.50 -- used & new: US$27.96
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Asin: 0674006135
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The world's most revered and eloquent interpreter of evolutionary ideas offers here a work of explanatory force unprecedented in our time--a landmark publication, both for its historical sweep and for its scientific vision.With characteristic attention to detail, Stephen Jay Gould first describes the content and discusses the history and origins of the three core commitments of classical Darwinism: that natural selection works on organisms, not genes or species; that it is almost exclusively the mechanism of adaptive evolutionary change; and that these changes are incremental, not drastic. Next, he examines the three critiques that currently challenge this classic Darwinian edifice: that selection operates on multiple levels, from the gene to the group; that evolution proceeds by a variety of mechanisms, not just natural selection; and that causes operating at broader scales, including catastrophes, have figured prominently in the course of evolution.Then, in a stunning tour de force that will likely stimulate discussion and debate for decades, Gould proposes his own system for integrating these classical commitments and contemporary critiques into a new structure of evolutionary thought.In 2001 the Library of Congress named Stephen Jay Gould one of America's eighty-three Living Legends--people who embody the "quintessentially American ideal of individual creativity, conviction, dedication, and exuberance." Each of these qualities finds full expression in this peerless work, the likes of which the scientific world has not seen--and may not see again--for well over a century.Stephen Jay Gould is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University and Vincent Astor Visiting Professor of Biology at New York University. A MacArthur Prize Fellow, he has received innumerable honors and awards and has written many books, including Ontogeny and Phylogeny and Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle (both from Harvard).Amazon.com Review
The theory of evolution is regarded as one of the greatest glimmerings of understanding humans have ever had. It is an idea of science, not of belief, and therefore undergoes constant scrutiny and testing by argumentative evolutionary biologists. But while Darwinists may disagree on a great many things, they all operate within a (thus far) successful framework of thought first set down in The Origin of Species in 1859.

In The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, a monumental labor of academic love, Stephen Jay Gould attempts to define and revise that framework. Using the clear metaphors and personable style he is so well known for, Gould outlines the foundation of the theory and attempts to use it to show that modern evolutionary biology has lost its way. He then offers his own system for reconciling Darwin's "basic logical commitments" with the critiques of modern scientists.

Gould's massive opus begs a new look at natural selection with the full weight of history behind it. His opponents will find much to criticize, and orthodox, reductionist Darwinists might feel that Gould has given them short shrift. But as an opening monologue for the new century's biological debates, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory sets a mountainous precedent in exhaustive scholarship, careful logic, and sheer reading pleasure. --Therese Littleton ... Read more

Customer Reviews (50)

5-0 out of 5 stars A life's work
An excellent academic book that covers Gould's life work in detail. It will (or should) become a standard reference for postgraduate students of biological evolution. It is not easy reading but is helped by an excellent table of contents; it summarises the main arguement of the book. My only critisism is that it seems to neglect the work of Simon and Salthe, both of whom have made significant contributions to a heirarchical (multi-level) theory of evolution.

5-0 out of 5 stars Gould Unplugged
This book (Gould's last) is a behemoth.With over 1400 pages, it becomes a physically taxing task to read it.This task is not lessened by the verbiage (and verbosity) that exemplify Gould's style.That being said, this book emcompasses such marvelous theoretical views and includes such a thorough history of evolutionary ideas, that it would be a shame to allow its size and density to prevent you from reading it.Gould spent his entire life pondering the big questions of evolutionary thought, and his ponderings are here revealed with significant insight into the roots of the questions themselves.It is an endeavor to read (as it was a lifetime to write), but the rewards of such an endeavor are innumerable and priceless.

5-0 out of 5 stars Omits Evolution's astounding feat of social insects
In the weeks I spent poring over this landmark volume I don't recall any explanation of the social insects which have been heavily researched by others in recent years. Societies occur among very few vertebrates and the insects, the world's champs in mimicry including behavior mimicry, a possible clue.

5-0 out of 5 stars Gould's last work sets the standard for the 21st century
Anything and everything by Gould is worth reading. He was aware that he was dying as he finished this book, and it bears the marks of an attempt to cram a lifetime of study and thought into one work. One feels that had he lived longer, the book would have been shorter. The extensive coverage of nearly forgotten figures who represent many examples of one type of opinion is not really necessary to make his points. The reader who is not a specialist will want to do a bit of skimming.

But the length is a minor flaw. The book is an attempt to make all of his conclusions available to both the lay reader and his colleagues. Fundamentalists will read it as a critique of Darwinism; it's not. It represents an extension of Darwin to take into account all that the 20th century revealed about genetics, extinction, cladistics, emergent properties, andastronomical catastrophes. Hopefully it will stand as a monument to empiricism in the face of the new Dark Age that some see coming -- a time when we will forget not only what we knew, bu that we ever knew it.

2-0 out of 5 stars Needs a sympathetic rewrite or at least an editor
I do not recommend you read this book unless you are an academic in the field and need to do so.Although I am unsympathetic with many of the ideas in it, the primary reason for my low rating is that the book was overlong and poorly written where it matters.

I'll start with what I liked about the book.The first chapters were on the history of evolutionary theory, and it is here where Gould's principal strength as a popularizer comes through well.Although these chapters could have been more concise, and they were oriented towards backing Gould's ideas, I enjoyed them for the most part.The last chapters in the modern theory section on the importance of constraint were interesting, though they suffered heavily from Gould's style of discourse.I found the last pages of the book on the importance of contingency to be quite beautiful.

The bulk of the book consisted of the material on punctuated equilibrium and Gould's hierarchy of Darwinian individuals. I had issues with the ideas themselves, but these are a distant second to what I felt about Gould's notion of an argument.Evolutionary biology is not a branch of philosophy and textual analysis should not, as Gould claims, "be pursued more often in scientific discussion."They are not done so, according to him, because of the "philistinistic culture of science."Molecular biology and mathematics are vital components of evolutionary biology, as much and perhaps more so than the incomplete fossil record.Gould gave lip service to molecular biology and much less respect to the now venerable and important discipline of population genetics - except of course when the results from these fields backed up his narrative.

Gould's use of lawyerly argument, where verdict is truth, is the reason why he is rightfully disdained for opening the door to creation "science" in the debate on teaching evolution in schools. By stripping away hard science, and replacing it with metaphors, cartoons, and narratives, Gould took a rigorous theory, based firmly on empirical and deductive facts, and replaced it with a secular creation myth that is open to attack.Although this has made him the darling of what he calls the "literati", it is also what made him a bad scientist.The fact that he addressed modern Darwinism tangentially, chose instead to focus on Darwin's and others Victorian era writings, and rejected ideas because they didn't "feel right," didn't improve his standing with me.

Gould's writing when it came to the science under debate was a nightmare.Intentionally or not, he constructed a complex hierarchy of nested, irrelevant tangents; tangents that were fragments within sentences, which were then tangents within paragraphs, which were in turn tangents within sections, ad nauseam. One of the most frustrating aspects of the book was that he refused to give a clear definition of what he meant by "punctuated equilibrium" until pg 1001: "We locate any revisionary status for punctuated equilibrium in its suggestions about the nature of stasis, and particularly its implications for attributing macroevolutionary phenomena to causes operating on the differential success of species treated as Darwinian individuals.Ordinary speciation remains fully adequate to explain the causes and phenomenology of punctuation."Others, such as Richard Dawkins, have done much on addressing this definition of punctuated equilibrium.My comment here is that it took so long to come to it, and up until this point Gould hinted at saltationist underpinnings to punctuated equilibrium, only to later decry and impugn the integrity of his critics for criticizing these alternative definitions.

My main intellectual criticism was of Gould's hierarchy of Darwinian individuals.I thought this was fine as a phenomenological tool to describe macroevolutionary events, but Gould inverted cause and phenomena to claim that species selection is irreducible to gene or organism selection.His reason why?"Nonlinearities."Along with not knowing what the word "fractal" means, which he used quite a bit to mean either "self-similar" or "scales up", Gould thought "nonlinear" meant "hopelessly complex."His style of argument?Keep repeating the word irreducible until the reader breaks down.Gould was snidely dismissive towards the results of population genetics, but only addressed them directly in a (relatively) brief two page discussion where he claimed that they had to be invalid because population genetics models were able to explain both punctuated equilibrium (stasis followed by rapid change) and his cartoon notion of Victorian gradualism.Since Gould himself was clear that both are evident in the fossil record, it is strength, not a weakness, of a modeling system to be able to explain both.

Although the ideas in the book did not all resonate with me, I would have recommended it if it was more clear and much, much more concise, since the ideas in it are an important part of the current discussion on evolutionary theory.But because of the poor writing in the important scientific parts of the book, and Gould's often unprofessional comments towards critics, I don't think this behemoth of a tome is worth your time.
... Read more

7. The Mismeasure of Man (Revised & Expanded)
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 448 Pages (1996-06-17)
list price: US$17.95 -- used & new: US$8.62
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Asin: 0393314251
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The definitive refutation to the argument of The Bell Curve.When published in 1981, The Mismeasure of Man was immediately hailed as a masterwork, the ringing answer to those who would classify people, rank them according to their supposed genetic gifts and limits.

Yet the idea of biology as destiny dies hard, as witness the attention devoted to The Bell Curve, whose arguments are here so effectively anticipated and thoroughly undermined. In this edition, Stephen Jay Gould has written a substantial new introduction telling how and why he wrote the book and tracing the subsequent history of the controversy on innateness right through The Bell Curve. Further, he has added five essays on questions of The Bell Curve in particular and on race, racism, and biological determinism in general. These additions strengthen the book's claim to be, as Leo J. Kamin of Princeton University has said, "a major contribution toward deflating pseudo-biological 'explanations' of our present social woes."
Amazon.com Review
How smart are you?If that question doesn't spark a dozenmore questions in your mind (like "What do you mean by 'smart,'" "Howdo I measure it," and "Who's asking?"), then The Mismeasure ofMan, Stephen Jay Gould's masterful demolition of the IQ industry,should be required reading.Gould's brilliant, funny, engaging prosedissects the motivations behind those who would judge intelligence,and hence worth, by cranial size, convolutions, or score on extremelynarrow tests.How did scientists decide that intelligence wasunipolar and quantifiable, and why did the standard keep changing overtime?Gould's answer is clear and simple: power maintains itself.European men of the 19th century, even before Darwin, saw themselvesas the pinnacle of creation and sought to prove this assertion throughhard measurement.When one measure was found to place members of some"inferior" group such as women or Southeast Asians over the supposedlyrightful champions, it would be discarded and replaced with a new,more comfortable measure. The 20th-century obsession with numbers ledto the institutionalization of IQ testing and subsequent assignment towork (and rewards) commensurate with the score, shown by Gould to benot simply misguided--for surely intelligence is multifactorial--butalso regressive, creating a feedback loop rewarding the rich andpowerful.The revised edition includes a scathing critique ofHerrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve, taking them to task forrehashing old arguments to exploit a new political wave of uncaringand belt tightening. It might not make you any smarter, but TheMismeasure of Man will certainly make you think. --RobLightner ... Read more

Customer Reviews (100)

5-0 out of 5 stars Not Always Easy, But Very Worthwhile
Gould combines scholarship with skepticism and humour, and makes an often arcane subject accessible to a non-scientist like myself.In a rather devastating way, he shows how the prejudices in society manifest themselves in scientists who have done prejudiced research in support of racism, primarily, as well as sexism.He takes us from the 19th century through to today, with this new edition covering the most recent writings of Jensen and his supporters as addenda.He shows that for more than a century data was reported inaccurately, data was reported selectively, tests were designed ineffectively and deceptively. and the mathematical analysis of the data was skewed to support the presuppositions of the scientists rather than the truth.

I found it disheartening to learn that scientists, whom I generally hold in very high esteem, were not more self-aware - many of them fooled themselves as they fooled the public.Some of the immigration policy consequences of their errors were horrific.Science was often used in the service of subjugation.But I am comforted that at least science has the ability to revisit old theories and challenge and revise them.Gould does this with gusto.

5-0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting Read, But...
Stephen Jay Gould was among the greatest minds in the world and will be remembered as such (if with a tinge of controversy). The Mismeasure of Man portrays a vivid history of now disproven scientific theories and their reflection of the society at the time. Some remnants of these theories are still pervasive today and I found it interesting to read about where misconceptions could have originated. In short, Gould illustrates societal prejudices affecting science and its subsequent impact on society throughout the last century or so.

Gould writes clearly and is very focused on making his point. His anecdotes are wry and personal. However, this book is not a peer-reviewed scientific paper, but more of a history lesson with Gould's point of view. Some of his examples have been criticized for misinterpreting the positions of certain scientists and setting up fallacious arguments. Despite this, the majority of his arguments are sound and his portrayal of scientific history accurate. This is a great read for those interested in a bit of the history of psychology.

Three things I took from this book:
The complexity of human societies makes studying humans incredibly difficult and even the most painstaking scientific studies of any sort must be looked at within its context. We must also understand that science act more like guidelines rather than a strict statement of fact.

Our genetics are involved in every part of our being, but do not put us on an unchangeable path to an inevitable fate. It is difficult to argue for biological determinism, especially when such vastly different physical traits (phenotype) can arise from very similar genes (genotype). In addition, a great amount of variability can occur within a single physical trait.

Stephen Jay Gould pissed off quite a few people, specifically psychologists (most of them are long deceased, but a few scientists that he cites or criticizes are still alive).

5-0 out of 5 stars The oppressive nature of intellegence testing unveiled
An oldie but goodie. Pop anthropolgy icon S.J.Gould examines how the pseudoscience of intelligence testing was conceived, and has almost always been practiced as, a tool of social oppression. From early phrenology to modern standardized testing, IQ and aptitude testing has provided a scientific-appearing justification for racist and social class-based injustices.

5-0 out of 5 stars wonderful introduction for laymen to the nature of science
The original book is a lovely, short introduction to the nature of science.It shows how scientific data are collected and analyzed with the goal of supporting or rejecting scientific hypotheses.The best part is that Gould catches all of us in wishful thinking -- in being so certain of our conclusions in advance that we unintentionally taint our data to match.Far from being value-free, science is, like every other human endeavour, a biased activity despite the genuine attempts to make it objective and cool-headed.

From basic training in statistics for the non-mathematical, to an elegant and highly approachable writing style, Gould walks us through some shocking errors in science in the past, showing us that science can only approach the truth but never attain it.

The more recent stuff, attacking The Bell Curve, which hadn't been written when Gould first came out with this book, is fine for those especially interested in the topic, but don't miss the clear, cogent, novice-friendly exposition of how scientific errors are made and how careful analysis represents one method of correcting them.

Absolutely wonderful!

5-0 out of 5 stars Debunking a bad science: a single number cannot define the mind
Jerry Pournelle has stated that Stephen J. Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man" wasn't science. In a way, I have to agree with Pournelle because the book doesn't do what science does, viz state a hypothesis and present data and arguments to support it. Rather, it debunks an entire field of study, namely IQ testing.

Gould starts by reaching back a couple of hundred years to show early attempts to objectively define and determine intelligence, for example by the shape or volume of the skull. Gould shows conclusively that early studies were hopelessly biased to show whites were superior to non-whites and men to women. Sometimes the academics didn't realize their bias and honestly believed they were being objective, other times they were guilty of fraud by selecting specific test subjects to support their thesis.

Gould argues that today's program of intelligence testing is as misguided as craniometry was then. He argues against biological determinism and against the abstraction of intelligence as a single number, as a single thing. Does it make any sense when speaking of Newton, Mozart, or Darwin that one is more intelligent than the other? But that is what IQ tests do: they line up people along a single dimension.

Vincent Poirier, Tokyo ... Read more

8. Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution
by David F. Prindle
Hardcover: 249 Pages (2009-05-26)
list price: US$26.98 -- used & new: US$6.50
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Asin: 1591027187
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould was, until his death in 2002, America's best-known natural scientist. His monthly essays in Natural History magazine were widely read by both scientists and ordinary citizens with an interest in science. One of his books won the National Book Award, and another was a bestseller in three countries. Philosopher Daniel Dennett proclaimed him "America's evolutionist laureate."

While many people have written about Gould's science, pro and con, and a few have written about his politics, this is the first book to explore his science and politics as a consistent whole. Political scientist David F. Prindle argues that Gould's mind worked along two tracks simultaneously --the scientific and the political. All of his concepts and arguments were bona fide contributions to science, but all of them also contained specifically political implications.

As one example among many, Prindle cites Gould's controversial argument that if the "tape of evolution" could be rewound and then allowed to unspool again, nothing resembling human beings would likely evolve. This was part of his larger thesis that people are not the result of a natural tendency toward perfection in evolution, but the result of chance, or as Gould put it, contingency. As Prindle notes, Gould s scientific ideas often sought to attack human hubris, and thus prepare the ground for the political argument that people should treat nature with more restraint.

Prindle evaluates Gould's concepts of punctuated equilibrium (developed with Niles Eldredge), "spandrels", and "exaptation"; his stance on sociobiology, on human inequality and intelligence testing; his pivotal role in the culture wars between science and fundamentalist Christianity; and claims that he was a closet Marxist, which Prindle disputes. He continually emphasizes that in all these debates Gould's science cannot be understood without an understanding of his politics. He concludes by considering whether Gould offered a new theory of evolution.

Anyone with an interest in one of America's great scientists, or in paleontology, evolutionary theory, or intellectual history will find Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution to be a fascinating exploration of the man and his ideas. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

3-0 out of 5 stars Biases beyond political correctness
Why I am giving three stars to this book I may myself not know. Perhaps because it is so outlandishly biased, both scientifically and politically, that it amounts more to hilarious entertainment than to the subject of criticism meriting low evaluation.

One may begin with politics, which the author is in the book's title concerned with as regards Stephen Jay Gould. But aside from Gould's "politics of evolution", the book's author has his own sympathetic stance as (p.118) a "leftist" opposed to "existing political inequalities", held fostered by the "right-wing", whose "journalists...justify patriarchy, or sexism, or racism, or capitalism...". I have watched Fox News and listened to Rush Limbaugh, these considered paragons of the right-wing, and I have never heard them fostering political inequalities and the other particulars except for defending capitalism. The hate of capitalism, the system found today greatly beneficial for public prosperity, went out with the demise of Marxism, with not even Ralph Nader attacking it, reserving his displeasure for "corporations" instead. The preceding thus illustrates the author's severe bias, which seems to lack a hint of objectivity.

He correspondingly also uses as cusswords the terms "conservative" and "creationist", the latter appearing as the designation he applies to everyone opposed to Darwinism. They include proponents of "intelligent design", whom he characterizes alongside others as (p.37) "apostles of irrationality...in their efforts to insert the teaching of superstition into American public schools", as (p.46) "imposters" promoting "pseudosciences", as (p.184) "Barbarians at the Gates", as (p.200) "individuals who exist external to the realm of science, and who share neither values nor points of view with scientists", or as (p.201) "religious zealots [that] are a fundamentally different sort of character from scientists", adding, "Science enshrines rationality as an ideal; creationism enshrines irrationality."

In answer, one may first correct an impression that the concept of "intelligent design" originated with the "creationists" of the 20th century. Instead it can be traced back at least two centuries to William Paley, who strongly impressed Darwin. Further, "intelligent design" has been advocated by committed scientists like Michael Denton, Michael J. Behe, or Stephen C. Meyer. Our author credits the first of these with (p.191) "some plausibility", but explains that these creationists exploit Darwinist "weakness for their own antiscientific purposes". However, "intelligent design" makes as much effort at rational justification as does any scientific theory, Darwinism in particular. Like Darwinism, it proposes an at least as plausible means by which the functionality of organisms was acquired, namely by design, in similarity to the functionality of objects of human design.

But one can go much farther regarding rationality and science. Our author continues, mentioning Darwinist "undirected...random mutations", and criticizing the idea of "directed variability" which "Darwinists repudiate". Contrary, however, to Darwinism's exclusively "undirected" events in organisms, live organisms do indeed undergo "directed" events and do so wholesale. In distinction from lifeless ones, live organisms are in all their functions "directed" toward self-preservation. This principal aim or purpose is responsible for all of the organism's responses, adaptations, to its environment, and it makes Darwinism's fundamental argument of absence of purpose in biology false.

5-0 out of 5 stars A top pick for any interested in Gould's approaches and their origins
Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould was America's best-known natural scientist until his death in 2002, producing monthly essays in a popular natural history publication and winning awards for his books. Most books about Gould cover his science: David F. Prindle's STEPHEN JAY GOULD AND THE POLITICS OF EVOLUTION is the first to be written about his political connections and how they influenced his science career, and provide a fine survey of how Gould's mind worked along both scientific and political paths. A top pick for any interested in Gould's approaches and their origins.

5-0 out of 5 stars A very good overview
A book of 217 text pages is not enough to do complete justice to the work of Harvard University evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, who died in 2002. This book, by political scientist David Prindle is an excellent start. Prindle limits his investigation to the political connections of Gould's evolutionary work and views, and thus keeps things manageable. As a political scientist, Prindle had a lot of catching up to do to make himself familiar, not just with Gould's work, but with evolutionary biology on a quite detailed level. Without that background, he could not have written this book. This is not an elementary text. Prindle doesn't cover everything, but what he covers is done well. He shows that Gould was not always consistent in his views and he does not hesitate to come down on Gould's side, or on the other, when there seems to be a clear choice to be made on one issue or the other. Chapters are extensively footnoted and the book is very well written, with no typos that I recall. ... Read more

9. Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 348 Pages (2004-05)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$6.49
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Asin: 0393325571
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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"Scientific analysis intersects with flat-out fandom. [Gould] could write, he was funny, and he loved, loved baseball."—Booklist

Science meets sport in this vibrant collection of baseball essays by the late evolutionary biologist.Among Stephen Jay Gould's many gifts was his ability to write eloquently about baseball, his great passion. Through the years, the renowned paleontologist published numerous essays on the sport; these have now been collected in a volume alive with the candor and insight that characterized all of Gould's writing. Here are his thoughts on the complexities of childhood streetball and the joys of opening day; tributes to Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and lesser-knowns such as deaf-mute centerfielder "Dummy" Hoy; and a frank admission of the contradictions inherent in being a lifelong Yankees fan with Red Sox season tickets. Gould also deftly applies the tools of evolutionary theory to the demise of the .400 hitter, the Abner Doubleday creation myth, and the improbability of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.

This book is a delight, an essential addition to Gould's remarkable legacy, and a fitting tribute to his love for the game.Amazon.com Review
The late Stephen Jay Gould was a man of strong opinions--and not just about evolutionary theory and paleontology, the subjects of fine books of his such as Ever Since Darwin and Wonderful Life. Just get him going on baseball, as readers of his long-running monthly column in Natural History magazine will remember, and sparks would fly.

Baseball, Gould writes in this collection of diverse essays and reviews, is an intellectual’s game, but only accidentally so; plenty of smart folks like other sports. In his case, though, baseball was the game to follow, for he grew up in the New York of the 1950s, when the city had "the three greatest teams in major league baseball." Two of those teams later moved far away, but Gould nursed his passion into adulthood, all the while acquiring plenty of ammunition for sophisticated arguments about every facet of the game. In these pages, for instance, he weighs in on such eminently arguable matters as the greatest player the sport has known (Ty Cobb, maybe), the greatest single game ever played (game six of the 1975 World Series), why it is that no one hits .400 these days (it’s a matter of statistics, but so much more too), and whether the current system of postseason playoffs is a good thing (no).

The sport has had few more learned and literate fans than Gould, who brings his best to these pieces. Celebrating triumphs and mourning tragedies on and off the diamond, this book makes just the right companion for the new season, and for the seasons to come. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

Customer Reviews (15)

4-0 out of 5 stars Pointy Headed Baseball Musings
Gould was a great baseball fan.His writings about what it was like to grow up in New York City during the 50's are wonderful.The true gem of gems in this collection of essays deals with the history and rules of stickball.

He describes himself as a pointy-headed intellectual and it's clear from this book he is.The writings are often tainted by politics and it's not easy reading for the average joe.However I would recommend this book to any hardcore baseball fan.

5-0 out of 5 stars Greater love hath no fan, than he always speak the truth about his sport
Gould was one of those people for whom baseball was an adored affliction. He was a true lover of the game and a traditionalist in the best usage of the term. Like nearly all thinking fans, he deplores the addition of another level of the playoffs, aluminum bats and the designated hitter. His love for the game, developed early in life by his worshipping of Joe DiMaggio and his being an unrepentant lifelong Yankee fan, comes through very strongly in his writing.
My favorite part of the book is when Gould uses his impeccable scientific credentials to perform a statistical analysis on the decline in the variation of batting averages over the years. The standard deviation of batting averages has shown a steady decline from the beginnings of professional baseball in the 1870's to the middle 1970's. His conclusion is that this demonstrates a continued improvement in the overall level of play. He uses this to argue that it is most unlikely that anyone will ever hit .400 again. I don't agree with that, I have seen the banner years put up by George Brett and Tony Gwynn and understand that if each had gotten just a few more hits, then they could have reached that milestone.
I do agree with his assessment of Joe Dimaggio's 56 game hitting streak. There are those who argue that he received help from dubious acts of scoring, but the vast majority of his hits were solid. The most amazing thing is that if there had not been two great fielding plays in game 57, his streak would be in the seventies. The statistical analysis carried out by Gould points out an incontrovertible fact, the streak should not have occurred. Of all the events in sports, it is the statistically most improbable one of all.
I have read hundreds of books about baseball, from the sanitized idolatry of the books before Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" to some of the more recent shameless gutter sniping. Gould is an intellectual whose writing is some of the clearest and most honest about a game whose elegance in unmatched. I have been to Cooperstown and agree with his assessment that it is a most non-touristy town. Yet, that is the way it should be, baseball is a game that is played everywhere, so why not have the baseball hall of fame in a rural area?

2-0 out of 5 stars varies from satisfactory to maudlin
Though Professor Gould's scientific writing glows, this collection of his musings on baseball varies from satisfactory to maudlin. His total bias toward his hometown New York is understandable, but his twisting of statistics to laud his heroes, and the fact that this posthumous collection does not properly credit his fellowSABR members' research is unfortunate. The foreword by David Halberstam is heartfelt, but strikes me as praising Professor Gould's baseball acumentoo highly.

3-0 out of 5 stars Intellectual Essays on Baseball
"Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville" is a collection of essays written by Harvard paleontology professor Stephen Jay Gould, and originally published in the New York Times and several popular magazines. The essays are grouped roughly into three topics: baseball history, the science of baseball, and critiques of baseball books. Gould was without a doubt a passionate fan and a keen intellectual, but the combination of these traits in "Triumph and Tragedy" was not particularly interesting to me. Gould's writing style is pretentious and wordy. Words like "equilibrate," "decadal," and "hagiography" abound, and run-on sentences are frequently encountered. The mathematical and scientific concepts in the science of baseball essays were far over my head.

Some stories and comments are repeated nearly word for word in consecutive essays. Reading about the Brooklyn Dodgers' lone World Series win against the Yankees in the 1950s, for the fourth time in as many essays, was a little ridiculous. This problem could have been easily avoided if an editor had simply reordered a few of the essays.

"Triumph and Tragedy" is not an easy or casual read. I would recommend it only to true baseball fans with an intellectual bent.

3-0 out of 5 stars Mixed Purpose
I am glad Gould took the time to write about his great love of baseball.At 23 years old I grew up in a different baseball era but it was still an enjoyable read.I skimmed the middle 50 pages that got intellectual and statistical.Not that I don't enjoy a great lesson on standard deviation, but it's just not why I bought this book.Aside from the scientifical section, I felt the book was enjoyable and very easy to read.Gould just couldn't resist kicking into prof mode.He even apologizes at one point for how boring he is being.Nonetheless, great man, great sport, average book. ... Read more

10. Stephen Jay Gould: Reflections on His View of Life
by Patricia Kelley, Robert Ross
Hardcover: 416 Pages (2008-11-05)
list price: US$34.95 -- used & new: US$18.40
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Asin: 0195373200
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Considered by many during his lifetime as the most well-known scientist in the world, Stephen Jay Gould left an enormous and influential body of work. A Harvard professor of paleontology, evolutionary biology, and the history of science, Gould provided major insights into our understanding of the history of life. He helped to reinvigorate paleontology, launch macroevolution on a new course, and provide a context in which the biological developmental stages of an organism's embryonic growth could be integrated into an understanding of evolution. This book is a set of reflections on the many areas of Gould's intellectual life by the people who knew and understood him best: former students and prominent close collaborators. Mostly a critical assessment of his legacy, the chapters are not technical contributions but rather offer a combination of intellectual bibliography, personal memoir, and reflection on Gould's diverse scientific achievements. The work includes the most complete bibliography of his writings to date and offers a multi-dimensional view of Gould's life-work not to be found in any other volume. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Excelente tributo a Stephen Jay Gould
Excelente trabajo de los editores Warren Almon,Patricia Kelley & Robert Moss acerca del gran divulgador cientifico Stephen Jay Gould en el cual se muestran en diversos ensayos y reflexiones la gran influencia que tuvo Gould en en campo de la biologia moderna;muy adecuado para quienes esten interesados en la evolución y todas sus implicancias en el mundo moderno. ... Read more

11. An Urchin in the Storm: Essays About Books and Ideas
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 256 Pages (1988-10-17)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$0.01
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Asin: 0393305376
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Ranging as far as the fox and as deep as the hedgehog (the urchin of his title), Stephen Jay Gould expands on geology, biological determinism, "cardboard Darwinism," and evolutionary theory in this lively collection. Drawings. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Get used.
We all should get used to the quality imprinted by Gould in all of his books. This is not the exception, it's a mixture of a first level researcher, a great scientific communicator and a non paralel author in the amplitude of his culture and great sense of humour and use of english. This and all his books most be devoured by everyone interested on science.

4-0 out of 5 stars Violently Devoted to Good Biology
As I sat down to read this, I was disappointed to discover that it was less a collection of essays than reviews, for Gould is at his best when writing natural history essays. Still, many of the reviews lapsed into essay, as he used the authors' books to free-verse his own thoughts, as well as commenting on their writing abilities.

Gould is consistently suitably humble in his approach to these other authors, knowing that he himself writes and is reviewed. If you weed through the irrelevant data on books written decades ago that no one any longer reads, there are some great gems in Urchin, deep thoughts that reveal the real nature of science, biology, and evolution. I have found it helpful to use certain quotes in the classroom to help my students understand what science truly is. In particular I was pleased to see McPhee's Basin and Range, a book that I fell in love with in Prothero's Geology classes in college, for it was so exquisitely written and accurate in describing the geology of the American Mountain West. I also enjoyed Gould's rightful take-down of Jeremy Rifkin in Algeny. Back in high-school debates on genetic engineering, I often ran into Rifkin's name, used whenever an opponent wanted a quote from someone who opposed biotechnology- whether or not the one quoted had real qualifications. Rifkin is a pseudo-scientific hack who has opposed any advances in biotechnology for decades using populist anti-science sentiments. I am pleased to see Gould pointing out the man's numerous flaws in thinking.

Stephen Jay Gould loved biology. He loved science, and evolution, and logical thinking. This is his unquenchionable pursuit throughout his life, and throughout this book. His joy comes out in his writing. This was perhaps most clear to me in his discussion of a quote by McPhee. "All of geology can be summarized in one sentence. The top of Mount Everest is made of marine limestone."

Take a moment, pause, contemplate what that means, and enjoy the delight of discovery with Gould.

5-0 out of 5 stars A brilliant mind
I just read this SJ Gould book of reviews and essays.Gould had a brilliant mind and is highly missed.The essays are complex, and the points well made.As always I give my full trust to Gould's wise opinion.

5-0 out of 5 stars splendid, rich essays full of humanism and depth
These essays, many of which appeared in New York Review of Books, contain some of Gould's finest writing.What makes it very fun is the way he critiques the ideas of others while telling stories and analysing their perspective.If you want a critical vantage on sociobiology, this is a great place to start.You can also read a wonderful review of Turning Point by Frijof Capra, which Gould finds wanting because it is full of assertions that are ultimately unproven.I would agree, but I did see a lot of merit in Capra's ideas of holistic science as well, which represented a precurser to complexity theory.Then there is Gould's trenchent critique of Jeremy Rifkin, whom he says lacks integrity because of his scientific sloppiness and the tendentiousness of his many errors - interesting because one would imagine they would be on the same side on many issues.Through it all, Gould appears as a tolerant spirit, advancing his perspective while respecting that of others with a critical gaze.

Of course, there is Gould's inimitable style:so graceful and flowing that each is like a succulent hors d'oeuvre or some variety of Turkish delight.I honestly think that the quality of this writing is on a par with Emerson or Thoreau.It is the profoundest of literary talents.

Warmly recommended.He was one of our very very best.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Urchin in the Storm
An Urchin in the Storm by Stephen Jay Gould is about books and ideas, but more so about writing, thinking and study in method.

An Urchin in the Storm is divided into five different sections.The first two sections of this book group reviews that discuss the irreductibility of history, along the way the pleasures and challenges of contingency, in its two principle domains of life and the earth. The first section on evolution focuses upon structuralist and hisoricist alternatives.While the second, explains nature's complexity, (Evolutionary Theory, Time and Geology).

The third section of this book explores the theory and consequences, both political and intellectual, of biological determinism.The fourth section deals with "Four Biologists." While the fifth works with "In Praise of Reason."As we read on throughout this book, Gould makes his point and scores, as he exposes fallacies, expands on geology, give thought to biological determinism, and gives the reader a clearer picture of evolutionary theory.

This is a fascinating little book, as Gould works through this little tome, like the urchin, always presenting a tough exterior and continues to prickle the enemy. ... Read more

12. Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 288 Pages (1992-07-17)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$5.71
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Asin: 0393308189
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Reissued in a larger format, this popular anthology offers an introduction to the wonders and depths of evolutionary biology. "A remarkable achievement by any measure . . . One is hard pressed to single out past writers who could wear the sobriquet of natural history essayist with such distinction."--Chicago Tribune. Illustrations. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars This collection of essays will change your worldview - OUTSTANDING
This book is a collection of thirty-something essays that Steven Jay Gould wrote in the 70s on evolution, natural selection, plate tectonics, and related topics.Without exaggeration, this book will change your worldview.The discussions are so profound and detailed, yet so readable and approachable, I can guarantee that you won't look at the natural world or humanity's role in it the same way after working through this collection.Gould touches on so many topics that I can't really do it justice in a short Amazon review, but I'll mention a few items that struck me as particularly compelling.First, this book is a good intro into the theory of evolution and natural selection.If you want to learn more about these two topics, I would recommend this book.One thing that emphasizes about natural selection that is commonly miscontrued by the public is that the evolution of species does not imply that the subsequent evolved generations are and better or superior, they only changed as a result of specific stimuli.If the stimuli were different, the population would have evolved differently.There is this notion that man in particular rests atop some pedestal as the 'ultimate' in evolution.This view is incorrect though, at least through the perspective of Darwinian evolution and natural selection.Second, Gould explains our relationship to the other primates and how we may have evolved.He also elaborates on this idea of a 'missing link', that is a direct fossil link between our pre-human primate ancestors and modern man.He states that our family tree is more of a bush, not a tree, with many branches.Evolution and natural selection generally only occurs in small sub-populations of larger, relatively stable populations that become isolated and undergo some stress.The fossil record comes from the large, stable population, we only learn about the population that has evolved once it become large (large enough for it to become probably that we would find fossils) and stable.Many of the evolutionary branches lead nowhere and we don't ever know they existed because they didn't become large enough to create a stable population.Third, Gould discusses the role that plate tectonics played in the development of life on Earth.The collision and separation of the continental land masses played a key role in bringing together and separating various species.Additionally, the expansion and contraction of the continental coastal zones (the continental shelves) where many species lives may have been responsible for the mass extinction event roughly 200 Myrs ago.This event dwarfs the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 Myrs ago based on numbers of species which became extinct.The final chapters of the book discuss race and IQ tests.In particular, Gould pans the late 18th/early 19th century notions that simple physiological features can be used to demonstrate that whites are superior to blacks.He also shows that the arguments used to demonstrate that IQ is largely racially based are totally fallacious.I don't think that all of Gould's conclusions are agreed upon in the paleontology/evolutionary biology community, but that shouldn't cause you to hesitate to buy this book and read it.

The bottom line is that if you have any interest in evolution and want to learn more, buy this book (you'll want it as part of your collection) and read it.There is so much information packed in this thin book, but it is so well written and readable that anyone can go through this book and enjoy it.You don't need to have a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology to appreciate this book, only a desire to learn more about the natural world.I would give this 6 stars if I could - outstanding and highly recommended.

4-0 out of 5 stars A glimpse of the history of evolutionary theory
Ever Since Darwin is Stephen Jay Gould's first book and is a collection of essays written in the mid-1970's for Natural History Magazine.It is easily accessible for the general reader and covers a range of topics related to Darwin's big idea.Interesting topics include:

- The history of Charles Darwin's life while developing his theory (however, not a lot of details about the findings that made him question creationism).
- The theory of human neoteny (humans retain juvenile ape features into adulthood and evolved by slowing down ontogenic development).
- Human infants as embryos.Other mammals are at a level of development when they are born that human infants don't reach until 6-12 months after birth.
- The history of geologic theories and the vindication of plate tectonics.
- An argument that preformation (the outmoded theory that zygotes were tiny fully formed humans that developed in utero by simply growing larger) was a reasonable scientific theory at the time when it was popular based on what was known then.
- A refutation of the simplistic view of science as objective data collection and theorizing based strictly on the facts.Scientists work within a theoretical framework and are inevitably biased by prevailing social and political attitudes.
- A discussion of genetic determinism vs. potentiality

I am generally averse to books that are made up of a series of independent short articles because they typically fail to reach great depths or reveal great revelations on any one topic, and instead tend to skim the surface of many assorted subjects.This book is no exception to that rule.In addition, it's been over 30 years since it was written and it makes me wonder what new information and theories are necessarily omitted as a result. On the other hand, there is a fair amount of material about the history of scientific theories that is certainly not in danger of becoming obsolete.

There is a little repetition of material between chapters since they were originally written to be read independently, but it is not terribly bothersome.Since I've already read almost all of Richard Dawkins' books, some sections discussed material I was already pretty familiar with.I guess that is inevitable since the information is not newly discovered, this book is written for a general audience, and I've already read quite a bit on the subject of evolution.

This is my first Stephen Jay Gould book, so I can't say how it compares to his others.

4-0 out of 5 stars Pretty good popular science for a Marxist
Pretty darned good popular science for a Marxist, rest his soul (do Marxists have souls, and do they rest after there's no historical left in their materialism?).

5-0 out of 5 stars His first essays were his best
This book offers a dazzling tour of Darwiniana, often as straight history but always in the form of essays for (Natural History Magazine) that are digestible in one sitting.Gould's writing is so masterful and clear that it is simply stunning to read.Gould comes across as a great humanist, respectful of the points of view of others - even the Creationists - and erudite in only the way a lover of knowledge can be.I have studied his writing style for years:it is elegant, spare yet sensual, and continually reformulates ideas is new ways, that is, rarely repetitive.Unlike his later essays, which covered quirkier details in increasingly lugubrious attempts to get at the broader notions he cherished, these essays are fresh and light, in my view amoung the best of the entire series.

As an introducer of popular notions and as a scientist, I believe that Gould will be remembered as a genius.I think he was one of the great essayists of the 20C.Warmly recommended.

3-0 out of 5 stars Trying to make the ineffable understandable
Jill had been trying to get me to read Gould for over a year. She subscribes to Natural History and so had a fresh dose every month to tackle me with. And I'm not sure of my reluctance. Jill would say that it's because I'm reluctant to do anything that she wants me to do--I'm not ready to admit that (I certainly hope that that's not true!). I think it may have been that I didn't want to add Natural History to my voluminous stack of stuff yet to read-- cleverly forgetting, if I had ever truly realized it, that Gould's column was collected, and continuously being collected, in a series of volumes, of which this one is the first. Maybe I just wanted to start from the beginning.

It's a good thing that Jill had introduced me to some later Gould, because this, while genuinely entertaining, and definately intellectually stimulating, is a rougher mix. Gould has grown as a writer (and probably as a scientist) since originally starting his column.

This isn't a book to try to read at one sitting (I think it's been at my bedside for the last year) because it is thick and meaty. While Gould attempts to write at a level that a layman can understand, he doesn't simplify things. It's a tough slog through some of these essays, but always worth the effort. I've got the next volume by the bedside now, and I look forward to growing with Gould. ... Read more

13. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 352 Pages (1990-09-17)
list price: US$17.95 -- used & new: US$6.99
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Asin: 039330700X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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"Luminous. . .Filled with profound and upsetting ideas like the Burgess Shale itself and just as solid. It is surely one of nature's best stories, told with a light touce by a master of the field."--Lewis Thomas, M.D.Amazon.com Review
The Burgess Shale of British Columbia "is the most precious and important of all fossil localities," writes Stephen Jay Gould. These600-million-year-old rocks preserve the soft parts of a collection ofanimals unlike any other. Just how unlike is the subject of Gould's book.

Gould describes how the Burgess Shale fauna was discovered, reassembled,and analyzed in detail so clear that the reader actually gets some feelingfor what paleobiologists do, in the field and in the lab. The many linedrawings are unusually beautiful, and now can be compared to a wonderful collection of photographs in Fossils of the Burgess Shale by Derek Briggs, one of Gould's students.

Burgess Shale animals have been called a "paleontological Rorschach test,"and not every geologist by any means agrees with Gould's thesis that theyrepresent a "road not taken" in the history of life. Simon Conway Morris,one of the subjects of Wonderful Life, has expressed hisdisagreement in Crucible ofCreation. Wonderful Life was published in 1989, and therehas been an explosion of scientific interest in the pre-Cambrian andCambrian periods, with radical new ideas fighting for dominance. But even though many scientists disagree with Gould about the radical oddity of the Burgess Shale animals, his argument that the history of life is profoundly contingent--as in the movie It's a Wonderful Life, from which this book takes itstitle--has become more accepted, in theories such as Ward and Brownlee'sRare Earthhypothesis. And Gould's loving, detailed exposition of the labor it tookto understand the Burgess Shale remains one of the best explanations ofscientific work around. --Mary Ellen Curtin ... Read more

Customer Reviews (60)

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Life Indeed.
Although not described as such, Stephen Jay Gould's book "Wonderful Life, The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History" is in fact case studies of all the aspects revealed in the case study of the discovery of, and subsequent reassessment of, a Cambrian largely soft bodied fossil assemblage. The importance of the message that Gould sends is that it illustrates the consequences that a closed mind can have on the value of 'original' research. As a cautionary tale that message applies to any research on any subject that treads new ground, no matter what is the subject of of that research.
One of these days a work will be published that exemplifies the importance of being wrong. The condemnation of speculative 'kite flying,' whether right or wrong, has the effect of closing possible new avenues of research, for who knows when the final definitive aspect of any research on any subject is actually reached?
That then is the real and major importance of this book, in addition of course, to its greatvalue when describing early examples of animal life forms.

Geoffrey Fairclough. Author of "Rammmi's Children."

5-0 out of 5 stars A must read for people interested in the history of life
Wonderfull Life of Stepehen Gould was probably one of the first books I did read on history of life.Although several minor points have been proven to be wrong the overal picture is still true and this book will never fail to increase our interest and curiostity about how life evolved many millon years ago. In many of the books I did read on subjects related to evolution and paleontolgoy I found mentions to Stephen Gould and/or the Cambrian explosion.Only therefore I am already happy to have read it. Every time Cambian explosion is mentioned images of the rich fauna described by Stephen Gould in this book comes to my mind.

4-0 out of 5 stars "Wonderful" Tries Too Hard, Remains Pretty Good

Gould marries science and chance in describing the history in and of the Burgess Shale.He asserts that Charles Walcott, discoverer of the Cambrian fossils in the Shale, wrongly classified these weird animals based on philosophical preconceptions--a mistake that stood for several generations.These animals, most of which are extinct, account for all (or nearly all) of the phyla in existence today, and Gould infers that chance decimation--not natural selection--plays the ultimate role in life's history.

Despite its shortcomings--among them, awkward format and a host of unqualified, perhaps unrecognized assumptions--Gould serves up a daring and not-too-unpleasant read.I recommend it.


-Evolution is not predictable.It is not progress."Wind the tape back," he says repeatedly."Wind back the tape of life to the early days of the Burgess Shale; let it play again from an identical starting point, and the chance becomes vanishingly small that anything like human intelligence would grace the replay."

-Early experimentation, later decimation.Gould notes that animal life appears in the fossil record in bursts, rather than a stately progression from simple-to-complex.It is then decimated by catastrophe, not competition ("When diversity plummets to 4 percent of its former value, we must entertain the idea that some groups lose by something akin to sheer bad luck"), and evolution is left to produce variations on a few remaining body plans.

-Wonder, weirdness, science couched in literature.Gould dwells on the "500 million years of wonderful stories, triumphs and tragedies" since the Cambrian explosion, the varied and often strange body plans of the Cambrian animals, and the place of contingency within science: Literature does a better job of acknowledging contingency than does science, he says, and cites numerous books and movies (including Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life," from whence this book borrows its title) to illustrate his point.He even arranges Chapter III ("The Burgess Drama") into acts and scenes, as if to emphasize that history could have been written many ways.

-Defense of paleontology's place among the sciences."Why has the story [of the wild Cambrian proliferation] not taken hold, or been regarded as momentous?" Gould queries.His emphasis on the "wonder" of life, and the great care with which paleontologists unlock its secrets, reverberates throughout the book.He seems gently but genuinely offended as he quotes Luie Alvarez: "I don't like to say bad things about paleontologists, but they're really not very good scientists.They're more like stamp collectors."In a subtle way, and as much as any other goal, the book seems to focus on refuting that sentiment.


Gould is exquisitely--almost painfully--careful to explain every detail of his argument with copious sidebars, parentheses, illustrations, and asterisks.He is relatively gentle on Walcott, Alvarez, and others he dislikes or with whom he disagrees.He recognizes that scientists, as humans, are subject to the same philosophical pitfalls (i.e., blind conformity) as other humans--and pokes a stick in the collective eye of those who would lobby for scientific infallibility.

Most fascinating, though, is his well-supported statement that "Virtually all major groups of modern animals" appear in the fossil record "within the minuscule span, geologically speaking, of a few million years."And, "The history of life is a story of massive removal followed by differentiation within a few surviving stocks, not the conventional tale of steadily increasing excellence, complexity, and diversity."Regardless of the origins of this `instant diversity,' it was and is most unexpected--especially since it seems to be the pattern of life.I like open questions and paradigm shifts, so Gould's careful history of the Burgess re-discovery intrigued me.


Gould's "literary" presentation is contrived.Certainly, he is well-read--but inserting William Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, Omar Kayyam, Mark Twain, Victor Hugo, biblical proverbs, and a recognizable phrase uttered by Jesus simply doesn't work with the material.Or at least, it doesn't work as it is presented.For example, Gould utters this awkward ejaculation:

"I write this book to pay my respects, and to discharge an intellectual debt for the thrill that such creatures can inspire in a profession that might reinterpret Quasimodo's lament as an optimistic plea for fellowship: Oh why was I not made of stone like these!"

Why indeed.Or consider this ill-used proverb:

"...the mere pattern of life and death offers no evidence that the survivors directly vanquished the losers.The sources of victory are as varied and mysterious as the four phenomena proclaimed so wonderful that we know them not (Proverbs 30:19)--the way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man with a maid."

In these and other cases, he seems to be "Goulding the lily"--as if the material weren't good enough without the contrived literary references.Arranging the "Burgess Drama" into acts and scenes as he does is fine, too, but in context of the awkward quotations, it merely adds to the problem.

And though Gould warns us of assumptions, he falls victim to a few unwarranted ones himself.He continually refers to "the awesome improbability of human evolution" (I understand his point, but what IS the improbability, exactly, and how does he know?) and assumes to speak for "us" and why we misread the Burgess Shale:

"I don't think that any particular secret, mystery, or inordinate subtlety underlies the reasons for our allegiance to these false iconographies of ladder and cone [indicative of evolutionary "progress"].They are adopted because they nurture our hopes for a universe of intrinsic meaning defined in our terms.We simply cannot bear the implications of Omar Kayyam's honesty..."

And so on.I found this tendency mildly irritating because in no way does Gould speak for me, though he claims to do so throughout the book.I much prefer Gould the paleontologist to Gould the psychologist.


I gave "Wonderful Life" four stars because, in spite of its shortcomings, it is truly an iconoclastic book--not wantonly destructive, and not quite surgical, but devastating nonetheless.It respectfully, yet irreverently, raises radical points about the nature of evolution that demand our attention today.I recommend it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Life Review
Beloved, clear, boundlessly enthusiastic Stephen Jay Gould tells us about the 570-million-years-old fossils of the Burgess Shale.This book is a mystery-adventure.The clues are a treasure trove of animal types: misunderstood, misnamed, dismissed--until a group of dedicated detectives reexamined the evidence.Their findings remind Gould of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, for they offer the opportunity to imagine what life on earth might have been like, had our ancestors not survived the various extinctions since the Cambrian Explosion.

5-0 out of 5 stars The most famous Gould's book
This is one of the most famous books from S.J. Gould! I actually bought it because two of my professors recommend it for me saying that every biologist shall read it once in his/her life, since the portuguese translation is out of print now, I bought the original paperback edition form W.W. Norton and I'm really delighted. Great book! Well-writen by its unique style, the acclaimed Gould book calls attention to one of the most exciting discover of the 20th century! I recommend! ... Read more

14. Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 256 Pages (2002-02-26)
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Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Writing with bracing intelligence and clarity, internationally renowned evolutionist and bestselling author Stephen Jay Gould sheds new light on a dilemma that has plagued thinking people since the Renaissance: the rift between science and religion. Instead of choosing them, Gould asks, why not opt for a golden mean that accords dignity and distinction to each realm?

In his distinctively elegant style, Gould offers a lucid, contemporary principle that allows science and religion to coexist peacefully in a position of respectful noninterference. Science defines the natural world; religion our moral world in recognition of their separate spheres of influence. In exploring this thought-provoking concept, Gould delves into the history of science, sketching affecting portraits of scientists and moral leaders wrestling with matters of faith and reason. Stories of seminal figures such as Galileo, Darwin, and Thomas Henry Huxley make vivid his argument that individuals and cultures must cultivate both a life of the spirit and a life of rational inquiry in order to experience the fullness of being human.

In Rocks of Ages, Gould’s passionate humanism, ethical discernment, and erudition are fused to create a dazzling gem of contemporary cultural philosophy. Amazon.com Review
Revered and eminently readable essayist Stephen Jay Gould hasonce again rendered the complex simple, this time mending the seemingsplit between the two "Rocks of Ages," science and religion. Hequickly, and rightfully, admits that his thesis is not new, but onebroadly accepted by many scientists and theologians. Gould begins bysuggesting that Darwin hasbeen misconstrued--that while some religious thinkers have useddivinity to prove the impossibility of evolution, Darwin would havenever done the reverse.

Gould eloquently lays out not "a merely diplomatic solution" torectify the physical and metaphysical, but "a principled position onmoral and intellectual grounds," central to which is the elegantconcept of "non-overlapping magisteria." (Gould definesmagisteria as a "four-bit" word meaning domain of authority inteaching.) Essentially, science and religion can't be unified, butneither should they be in conflict; each has its own discretemagisteria, the natural world belonging exclusively to science and themoral to religion.

Gould's argument is both lucid and convincing as he cites pastreligious and scientific greats (including a particularly touchingsection on Darwin himself). Regardless of your persuasions, religiousor scientific, Gould holds up his end of the conversation withcharacteristic respect and intelligence. --Paul Hughes ... Read more

Customer Reviews (69)

3-0 out of 5 stars Interdigitation?
In Rocks of Ages, Gould defends his famous (or infamous, in the eyes of critics such as Richard Dawkins) NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) thesis.Weary of the what he sees as a fruitless and unnecessary battle between science and religion, Gould argues that the two are separate "magisteria" or authorities which don't clash because they concern themselves with two distinct realms.Science, says Gould, is concerned with facts, and religion with values.The boundaries of the two run up against one another, and in fact frequently "interdigitate," but nonetheless remain distinct.

Dawkins, in his typically arrogant way, claims that Gould must've been insane when writing this little book (see Dawkins' God Delusion).One needn't sympathize with this outrageous accusation to admit that Gould's thesis is troublesome.It's not clear, for example, how to understand the logical or ontological status of magisteria.At times, Gould writes as if they're something like Wittgenstein's language games.But surely he doesn't want to say this.Gould is, if anything, a realist.Moreover, it would appear that he's using "religion" in such a broad sense as to sap it of meaning.Religion does deal with values, but it's more than that.Apparently, though, Gould doesn't want it to be much more than that, because he clearly has no use for miracles (p. 89 ff).At the same time, he seems to suggest that value judgments are subjective, thereby rendering the religious realm even more vague.Finally, it's not at all clear (at least to me) that the boundaries between the scientific and the religious are as crisp (even if they do "interdigitate") as Gould claims.A better metaphor to me seems to be that the boundaries ooze into one another in the way that wetlands ooze into dry ground.Facts inform moral decisions; values influence the way we read facts.

So Gould's NOMA thesis, I believe, is unconvincing, at least as defended in Rocks of Ages (a book which is unusually sloppy for Gould).But along the way, Gould introduces the reader to several interesting asides:for example, the free thought of Francis William Newman, Cardinal Newman's brother; the incredibly poignant and courageous letter written by Thomas Henry Huxley to Charles Kingsley on the occasion of the death of the former's young son; and the "progressive" reasons for William Jenning Bryan's objections to Darwinism.

Readers may want to explore John Haught's "overlapping layers of meaning" thesis, which seems to me a much more successful attempt to mediate the religion/science warfare.See his Is Nature Enough? and Darwin's God.

3-0 out of 5 stars Rocks of Ages. SJ Gould.
This collection of the late Harvard paleontologist S.J. Gould's thoughts is mostly enjoyable, it is also mostly (with a few exceptions) well-studied and even handed. The immodest and starkly partisan bombast that Richard Dawkins has brought to this topic is conspicuously absent throughout most of Gould's discussions. Even where he fails to maintain his dispassion, his interest in doing so is easy to appreciate.

Where Dawkins is compelled to write vigorously (and vitriolically) against religion and theism, while being fundamentally loath to do any respectably dispassionate homework on the topic, Gould has obviously studied the relevant issues rather extensively. Unfortunately, Gould saves a paroxysm bordering on an emotive meltdown worthy of Dawkins for the final pages, demonstrating a surprisingly angry and malfeasant view of the so-called Anthropic Cosmological Principle: "If the laws of nature were just a tad different, we wouldn't be here. Right. . . the universe would present just as interesting a construction, with all parts conforming to reigning laws of this different universe. Except we wouldn't be around to make silly arguments about this alternative universe. So we wouldn't be here. So what." In his sudden angst, the good professor labels a universe without conscious observers "just as interesting" and his own such musings "silly arguments about this alternative universe." He recovers somewhat for a few more eloquent words in the final paragraph. The book is more often characterized by scholarly caution and restraint, and is recommended to readers interested in Gould's perspective on the science-religion dialogue. Although imperfect, this is a better book than some of the more popular offerings in this field.

2-0 out of 5 stars Reconciles science with ethics, not religion
Gould claims to be interested in debunking the myth that science and religion are inherent enemies.Conflicts do arise, of course, but only when practitioners of science or religion fail to observe the limits of their "magisterium" (jurisdiction).The task of science is to explain how things are (facts), and the task of religion is to address questions beyond the ability of science to answer-- purposes, values, meanings.Gould mentions in a footnote that as an undergraduate he wrote a paper on "the naturalistic fallacy"-- a term coined by G. E. Moore to describe the fallacy of holding that values are a part of nature and can be acquired like any other empirical knowledge through scientific study.
Gould acknowledges that postmodern philosophers have questioned the fact/value dichotomy but insists that the distinction remains useful.I agree.The problem arises when he characterizes the magisterium which deals with values as religious.But it is obvious-- Gould himself makes the point-- that one need not be religious to have values.Atheistic existential philosophers have values.And agnostic paleontologists like Gould have values.It is quite illogical, therefore, to argue that if only we can get scientists to stop committing the naturalistic fallacy and admit that values cannot be derived from science (and, of course, convince fundamentalists to stop telling us that the world is 6,000 years old), we will have reconciled science and religion. Gould convincingly argues that something besides science is necessary to lead a full life.But the reader will search in vain for any acknowledgment that religion is a legitimate dimension of that necessary complement.The amazing fact is that Gould never even discusses religion, except in its illegitimate fundamentalist forms that encroach on science.Gould bashes fundamentalism as passionately as any of the new atheists-- and makes peace only with "religion"-- understood vacuously as a concern for values.He speaks of the transcendent importance of values-- but never the value of the transcendent.He never mentions sin, salvation, prayer, resurrection, or even religious experience.The only kind of God who can stay out of the way of scientists is a clockwinder God, whose only act was to create the laws of nature.God's domain is before the beginning of time or after the end of time.A living God in time is a violation of the NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria).Gould is dismissive not only of "creation science" (as are many religious people) but of any religion containing more than an uncaused cause.Gould claims to be interested in religion, but he is far more "religiously unmusical" than the sociologist Max Weber, who described himself that way.
An author who actually delivers what Gould promises is Francis Collins, the geneticist and former head of the Human Genome Project, whose "The Language of God" (DNA) describes how he became a Christian as an adult-- in much the same manner as, and with some inspiration from, C. S. Lewis.

5-0 out of 5 stars Science and Religion Make Poor Bedfellows
In this landmark work, Dr. Stephen Jay Gould offers a framework in which one may consider the relationship between science and religion.His thesis is that both subjects fall within NOMA (non overlapping magisteria) and only properly comment upon things within their own bailiwicks.Science and religion aren't even the only two categories of NOMA disciplines.Science is the domain of factual truths and religion, moral truths.Science tells us what we're made of and religion tells us what we mean.NOMA isn't an invention; it's an orthdox (if you'll pardon the term) way of looking at science and religion that's been held by many of the world's greatest thinkers for millenia.(I recall that Gustave Le Bon, a 19th century anti-religionist, correctly observed that science never promised to make us happy.Many great early Jewish and Christian thinkers recognized the creation narratives in Genesis as allegory.)While I can't claim to be a great thinker, NOMA sketches out a structure that I've for decades believed existed, but never attempted to systematize.

Gould provides such a structure and also a geneology for NOMA-type thinking.He also describes some of the problems that occur when disciplines step outside of NOMA.It's pretty well-known the errors that can arise when religion tries to become a science (intellectual repression, factual error), but Gould, an irenic non-religious scientist and famous Darwinist, also demonstrates the dangers of science as religion (eugenics, historical justifications for violence).One of the most interesting and intellectually honest parts of the book is Gould's retelling of the Scopes controversy of the early 20th century and his apologia (sort of) pro Bryant who's normally cast as an ignoramus.Gould shows Bryant as a man who was progressive througout most of his life and made some terrible logical and NOMAic errors with regard to Darwinism probably because he was blinded by what he saw as real, understandable dangers - particularly in his time - stemming from hyper-Darwinian thinking.Finally, Gould demonstrates at the end of the book that nature cannot be relied upon for providing moral models; that's up to us.

Gould has been criticized since the publication of this book (1999) by folks like Richard Dawkins for either not actually believing NOMA or for failing to take into account scientific belief systems.Since Gould passed in 2002 he's not able to directly respond to those criticisms.But I believe the text stands and is vindicated by history and reasonable thinking, and that NOMA accurately describes and limits "rocks of ages."There's no sensible way for science and religion to become bedfellows, but NOMA provides a protocol for arguing at the dinner table.This is easily one of the best 50 books I've ever read.In a year or two after more reflection I may bump it up some.This is required reading for those involved in the science-religion discussion.

3-0 out of 5 stars Good enough
This book is not very well written, but this book does offer is a very sound argument that science and religion have no reason to clash nor any reason to support each other.Gould bases his claim mostly around the Scopes "Monkey" trial and offers a few tidbits that most people probably wouldn't realize, but that really show how overblown the trial was, and how it's a false conflict between religion and science.I would recommend this book to anyone who feels torn between science and religion. ... Read more

15. Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 244 Pages (1997-09-16)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$3.06
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Asin: 0609801406
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Respected scientist Stephen Jay Gould suggests that perhaps variety--not complexity--is our true measure of excellence. To illustrate his theme, Gould discusses seemingly disparate topics such as a drunkard's walk, the absence of modern Mozarts, the evolution of the horse, the continuing dominance of bacterial life on the planet, and more. 50 illus.Amazon.com Review
The human mind has a trusty device for simplifying a complexworld: reduce to averages and identify trends. Although valuable, therisk is that we ignore variations and end up with a skewed view ofreality. In evolutionary terms, the result is a view in which humansare the inevitable pinnacle of evolutionary progress, instead of, asStephen Jay Gould patiently argues, "a cosmic accident that would never ariseagain if the tree of life could be replanted." The implications ofGould's argument may threaten certain of our philosophical andreligious foundations but will in the end provide us with a clearerview of, and a greater appreciation for, the complexities of ourworld. ... Read more

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4-0 out of 5 stars The Evolution of Darwinism
This iconoclastic novel sets out to debunk the common misconception that evolution means that all organisms eventually become more complex as time goes on. Stephen Jay Gould does a great job of illustrating this central theme with many examples, including an interesting one from baseball. It shows that 400 hitting in baseball has disappeared over time, and on the surface it would appear that players have just gotten worse. The truth, however, is that players have actually gotten much better, and started to approach the right tail of a bell curve of human potential. Evolution operates in a similar manner, in which organism complexity is reaching the right tail of a bell curve. He shows that bacteria and other simple organisms actually far outnumber complex animals, and that complex organisms are more likely the exception rather than the rule. It was a very interesting book, and Stephan Jay Gould has a great witty sense of humor. I gave it four stars because it is pretty heavily laden with statistical figures and can get a bit technical at times. I still enjoyed the book very much and would definitely recommend it to someone who is willing to revisit their presuppositions about evolution. The audiocassette was well done, and I really enjoyed the reading of it.

2-0 out of 5 stars Dense reading and not quite worth the effort
Gould's examination of evolutionary trends is a tough read. Despite his efforts to lighten the book with humor, this one takes work for the non-scientist to comprehend fully.In essence, this is an examination of the theory of punctuated equilibrium: that speciation occurs in spurts of major genetic alterations that punctuate long periods of little change. This leads to no development towards complexity, it just happens. Change doesn't really occur in a traditional sense.
Well, many people disagree with this concept, (Richard Dawkins comes to mind) but as this is not an area of expertise for me and I don't have the information to argue the merits so I will stick to the basics. Gould presents his argument rather glibly and seems overly pleased with himself for his breakthrough. Despite his best efforts to convince this reader otherwise, I was buried in charts and statistics to the point of frustration. Dealing with the ideas of evolution by examining trends with the focus on the main concept and not the outliers, There's little here for casual enlightenment, it's a scientific argument in the guise of a book.His chapter on the death of the .400 average in baseball will interest baseball fans, but unless you have a background in baseball stats and know who Bill James is, this will be a waste of your time as well, and this is the only section I found interesting enough to really think about. Gould's reputation as one who popularizes science is established, and I have often found his shorter pieces enlightening, but this left me bored to tears. I'll leave those in his field to decide the merits of his theory; as a book that should have entertained as well as enlightened, it just didn't work.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Supplement for High School Science Classes
There are already several excellent reviews below describing the contents of this book. My purpose for writing is to report that I continue to use it very successfully with high school honor students, and can strongly recommend it as a supplement for honors classes.
Particularly useful are the statistical modeling examples...experiments the students love doing ('hands-on'), such as the drunkard's walk (random deviation from a left wall). Using a coin-flip, the students can repeat the experiment several times and record some excellent data, especially when the entire class is compiled. Then, of course, simulate the data with Excel.
There are several lucid examples which are excellent for class discussion...although the baseball stats get a bit long for the typical HS student.
In 2000, I took a small group of students to the AAAS meeting in Washington DC to meet with SJ after we'd studied his book thoroughly in class. He met with us several times, and it seemed as though we already knew him. He was gracious and engaging, and the students were inspired.
The prose in this book is intimate, honest, and illuminating.
I miss this beautiful man.

4-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful concept - (somewhat) difficult to read
Gould's message is pure, and correct. We take complexity as a trend ("thing") that is presumably advancing with time, rather than recognizing it as a part of the Full House where there are right or left limitations, etc etc etc... (you can read the book:)

But from a critique point of view, Gould takes his basic concepts and...sort of...picks complicated forums to explain them, for the average reader.
I mean, I hate to say it, but the book could have been one-quarter to one-third shorter than it was, to say what it does...

I accept his conclusions, and I love his work and his contributions to American science and education. Gould was a great guy and a well-needed popularizer of science. But this book is a bit tedious for the lay-reader who has other things to do every day. Its too long - but for those that can tackle it, its an eye opener !

5-0 out of 5 stars Much better than Taleb and Mandelbrot
This book is about how to analyze data.It is the clearest and best written book on the subject I have read so far.Other well known books on the subject include Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets and The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Taleb and The Misbehavior of Markets A New Kind of Science by Mandelbrot.Although all these authors are brilliant and their respective books have their merits, Stephen Jay Gould's book is much clearer.While Taleb and Mandelbrot obsess about the flaws of the normal distribution assumption underlying investment theory, they both struggle in offering pragmatic alternatives.Gould instead studies the shape of the entire distribution that he calls the "Full House" and remains comfortable within a traditional statistical framework without building any castle of cards (referring to Mandelbrot fractal geometry).

Gould takes you on a really entertaining quantitative learning expedition by following three separate themes: 1) the disappearance of the 0.400 baseball hitter, 2) his run in with a deadly disease, and 3) the theory of evolution.These themes allow him to flesh out his analytical skills and share with you concepts that are often counterintuitive and occasionally revolutionary.

In his struggle with a deadly disease he illustrates how the median outcome (only 8 months to live) did not worry him much.What mattered to him after studying the related data was the skewness of the distribution with a long right-hand tail (meaning many survivors with normal remaining life span unaffected by the disease).He then studied what were the characteristics of these long term survivors (age, overall health, etc...).He noted he did share these characteristics and sure enough he survived this disease just fine.In his case, the median outcome was irrelevant.It was not his most likely outcome.Within this chapter he also introduces the concept of walls or limits.Many distributions have a left wall as figures can't be negative for many variables including stock prices, income level, and survivors' lifespan.For Gould, `walls' are key because they dictate that the distribution can expand in only the opposite direction.

When he moves on to the disappearance of the 0.400 hitter, Gould shows that the distribution of hitters butts against a right wall (upper limit of human achievement). He observed that the average hitting percentage has not changed much over time.But, the best hitters percentages has declined.Yet,he makes a case that today's hitters are better than the 0.400 hitters of yesteryears.What happened is that all positions improved commensurately (fielders, pitchers).So, the 0.400 stat is not an absolute but a relative measure of when batters outsmarted the other positions.He comes up with this perplexing theorem: "as play improves and bell curves march towards the right wall, variation must shrink at the right tail.The worst players got much better, and so did everybody else.But, the best players margin of relative superiority has consequently shrunk.He measured this phenomena by observing the steady decline of the standard deviation of batting average over the past century.And, indeed it declined steadily.So, in this closed system an improvement in performance was not marked by a rising average, but by a decline in standard deviation.The graphs on page 119 illustrate this complex concept very clearly.

Next, Gould moves on where he left a legacy as a leading evolutionary biologist: the theory evolution.Contrary to what we think the theory of evolution was misnamed.Darwin wanted to use the terms "descent with modification" instead of "evolution."Gould states Darwin referred to "evolution" because he succumbed to the cultural pressure of his era.The latter was obsessed with progress and the superiority of mankind.Gould strongly suggests that Darwin's original phrasing was more accurate.Gould goes on explaining that the animal kingdom history is captured by a right-hand skeweddistribution that buts against a left wall of minimal complexity: the bacteria.An animal organism can not be less complex than that.With random mutation managed by natural selection, some species can only become more complex (not less so).Yet, this is not evolution.Bacteria still dominate the animal kingdom.They are more adaptable, more prevalent, more indestructible than any other animal organism.They are the only ones whowould survive a nuclear holocaust and who can live in outer space.The process of complexity is somewhat random.Stephen Wolfram had reached the same conclusion in his very strange book, A New Kind of Science where he suggested that evolution was not so evolutionary but random (and replicable through cellular automata processes). Thanks to Gould, I now realize that Darwin and Wolfram pretty much agreed.

In the last chapter, Gould addresses if human culture is butting now against a right-hand wall of human potential.He thinks that is not so much the case in the sciences where he feels we have much more to figure out.But, he feels it is the case in the arts.Will we ever get another Beethoven? Another Shakespeare? Or another Michelangelo?Most probably not.Charles Murray studying the same subject in his excellent Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 reached pretty much the same conclusion. ... Read more

16. The Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould
by Richard York, Brett Clark
Paperback: 192 Pages (2010-08-01)
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Stephen Jay Gould was not only a leading paleontologist and evolutionary theorist, he was also ahumanist with an enduring interest in the history and philosophy of science. The extraordinary range of Gould’s work was underpinned by a richly nuanced and deeply insightful worldview.

Richard York and Brett Clark engage Gould’s science and humanism to illustrate and develop the intellectual power of Gould’s worldview, particularly with regard to the philosophy of science. They demonstrate how the Gouldian perspective sheds light on many of the key debates occurring not only in the natural sciences, but in the social sciences as well. They engage the themes that unified Gould’s work and drove his inquires throughout his intellectual career, such as the nature of history, both natural and social, particularly the profound importance of contingency and the uneven tempo of change. They also assess Gould’s views on structuralism, highlighting the importance of the dialectical interaction of structural forces with everyday demands for function, and his views on the hierarchical ordering of causal forces, with some forces operating at large scales and/or over long spans of time, while others are operating on small scales and/or occur frequently or rapidly.

York and Clark also address Gould’s application of these principals to understanding humanity's place in nature, including discussions of human evolution, sociobiology, and the role of art in human life.Taken together, this book illuminates Gould’s dynamic understanding of the world and his celebration of both science and humanism.

... Read more

17. The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 480 Pages (1987-01-17)
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Asin: 0393303756
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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"His fourth volume of imaginative, witty essays...equals Gould's prize-winning The Panda's Thumb and The Mismeasure of Man."--Publisher's Weekly. Photographs. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars Good for a read now and then
If you're interested in evolution or biology you'll probably like this book.Some of the essays dabbled too much in the small nuances that separate different species but mostly Gould has a strong theme for each essay and he writes it very well!With the book being a series of essays it's a good coffee table book; you can pick it up and read a single essay and then put it back down.Also, you might need coffee because some of the essays get a little tedious.

4-0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and fun
THE FLAMINGO'S SMILE was a required purchase for an expository writing class I took, and instead of stopping with the handful of essays assigned to us, I went ahead and read the whole book.Gould is a graceful writer and each of his essays has a "point" to make that is grounded in scientific reasoning.

His style is to discuss some biological "problem" in detail, using it to illustrate a more general point or idea about natural history.Some of Gould's essays make a greater impression than others, to be sure, but all are entertaining and none are a waste of the reader's time.

In response to the charge that FLAMINGO'S SMILE contains more "political correctness" than science, I must raise an objection.(See the one-star review below.)Gould's essay on the career and achievements of an American cell biologist, E.E. Just, does not claim that Just would be "famous" if not for his skin color.It explicitly states that racial attitudes kept Just's peers and colleagues from taking his work seriously or according him the respect he deserved.Just is described as a black American who "exiled himself to Europe" because of racist attitudes in his native land.This was a real historical phenomenon, not something Gould cooked up to pontificate about racial equality.Gould also notes that "we must not depict [Just] as a cardboard hero" and mentions his bizarre (but explicable) fling with Italian fascism in the 1930s.

The claim that Gould is intellectually dishonest is not supported by these facts.This particular claim exemplifies one of Gould's favorite themes, which is the persistence of the mistaken belief that science is a body of truths and not a method of discovery.Even real scientists fall into this trap on occasion.Here, the objection suggests that Gould's work cannot be "science" because it is "politically correct."The logical flaw in this statement should be obvious.For further background, you could dip into Gould's book THE MISMEASURE OF MAN, which is an historical survey of pseudo-scientific efforts to prove what racists already believe, i.e. "know" to be true.

5-0 out of 5 stars Evolutionary Biology?
Is there any other type of modern biology? Evolution is so deeply interwined in today's biology that it almost seems a tautology to classify this book under Evolutionary Biology. Gould's reflections are masterpieces of rationality and logic heavily supported with facts and exposed with an uneven grace and uniqueness. This, as a lot of other Gould's books, is a collection of essays that don't need to be read in order since they are not chapters, their organization obeys the main subject of each essay, not a unique plot developed along the book. This is an easy and incredibly interesting journey inside reason and natural science, please don't hesitate if you want to be taken by the hand of one of the greatest zoologists of the twentieth century.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History
The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould is a collection of thirty essays with a varied scope, but the contents is encompassing. Bringing history with each essay is the hallmark of Gould and he will not disappoint you here.

This is Gould's fourth in a series of books that are collections of his essays that were found on the pages of "Natural History." These essays bring us life that is a product of a contingent past, not just a timeless law of nature. Gould brings meaning to his essays through an extensive history and a calculated musing to seemingly contradictory themes.

Dinosaurs and the astroid, Hottentot Venus and even baseball are in this book. Gould brings us lucid, cogent commentary and a writting style that will educate you gracefully. Gould has an ability to bring the scientific knowledge to the layperson with erudition and understanding.

Read and enjoy this book... complete with just a little quirkiness and a sense of humor.

5-0 out of 5 stars awestruck
When I first cracked this book as a graduate student, I had little idea of what I was in for: sure, I expected a little on Darwin's theories and some history, but nothing else. What I found was an astonishingly rich panorama of issues connected to Darwin, the nature of science, and of course its misuses. From the trials of the Hottentott Venus to the mistakes of Audobon, Gould has fascinating and humorous perspecitives to bring. It was the ideal diversion - procrastination can be sooo delicious - from the dessicated economics and statistics that I had had to read and the start of a great love affair with this author, one of the finest writers alive.

Gould writes with the most astonishing lucidity and the most elegant style that I have ever read in a science writer. Indeed, those who disagree with him or look down on him - and there are many at Harvard - sarcastically cite his writing talent as the "reason" for his enduring success! Well, I would hope so.If they could write as well as Gould, then perhaps they could advance their opposing views, like, more effectively.

Highest recommendation. ... Read more

18. I Have Landed: Splashes adn Reflections in Natural History
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 432 Pages (2010-09-28)
list price: US$16.50 -- used & new: US$9.25
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Asin: 0099749718
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Stephen Jay Gould's writing remains the modern standard by which popular science writing is judged. Throughout his work Gould has developed a distinctive and personal form of essay to treat great scientific issues in the context of biography. Here, Gould once again applied biographical perspectives to the illumination of key scientific concepts and their history, ranging from the discovery of the new scourge of syphilis by Fracastero in the sixteenth century and Isabelle Duncan's nineteenth-century attempt at reconciling scripture and palaeontology to Freud's weird speculations about human phylogeny and recent creationist attacks on the study of evolution. As always, the essays brilliantly illuminate and elucidate the puzzles and paradoxes great and small that have fuelled the enterprise of science and opened our eyes to a world of unexpected wonders. ... Read more

19. Punctuated Equilibrium
by Stephen Jay Gould
Paperback: 408 Pages (2007-05-31)
list price: US$21.00 -- used & new: US$11.15
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Asin: 0674024443
Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars
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In 1972 Stephen Jay Gould took the scientific world by storm with his paper on punctuated equilibrium, written with Niles Eldredge. Challenging a core assumption of Darwin's theory of evolution, it launched the career of one of the most influential evolutionary biologists of our time--perhaps the best known since Darwin.

Now, thirty-five years later, and five years after his untimely death, Punctuated Equilibrium (originally published as the central chapter of Gould's masterwork, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory) offers his only book-length testament on an idea he fiercely promoted, repeatedly refined, and tirelessly defended.Punctuated equilibrium holds that the great majority of species originate in geological moments (punctuations) and persist in stasis. The idea was hotly debated because it forced biologists to rethink entrenched ideas about evolutionary patterns and processes. But as Gould shows here in his typically exhaustive coverage, the idea has become the foundation of a new view of hierarchical selection and macroevolution.

What emerges strikingly from this book is that punctuated equilibrium represents a much broader paradigm about the nature of change--a worldview that may be judged as a distinctive and important movement within recent intellectual history. Indeed we may now be living within a punctuation, and our awareness of what this means may be the enduring legacy of one of America's best-loved scientists.

(20070512) ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

1-0 out of 5 stars Don't buy this book! Read The Structure of Evolutionary Theory!!!
This book makes me sick! Its an insult to Gould's life and career. This is just one portion of a much larger book! Gould's reasoning is very dialectical. The first half of "The Sturcture of Evolutionary Theory" is on the history of Evolutionary biology. Cutting that out of the book is just disgusting. He never would have wanted this or okay'd it. I understand that the price of The Structure is high, and there needs to be a cheaper paperback version, but this is not the way. If need be, cut the book into two volumes as a paperback, and drop the price. Don't gut his book and sell some abridged version. If you want to read this book, buy the structure!

3-0 out of 5 stars Palaeontology wars
This book was originally the central chapter of Gould's masterpiece, "The Structure of Evolutionary Theory".It would have benefited greatly from a substantial re-write to make it more useful to the non-specialist reader.The technical terminology makes the book hard going.

You pretty much need a dictionary by your side as you read - not that it helps much with the more arcane terminology.There is no Glossary, which I find incredible for a book of this type.

I would not recommend this book to the general reader who just wants to understand the basics of punctuated equilibrium.The non-specialist will give up after the first dozen pages. Reading this book was an agonising experience for a non-palaeontologist like me.

To follow the book, you need to be familiar with the details of Darwin's evolutionary theory and with the technicalities of formal naming and classification of species (cladistics) as well as the technical jargon of palaeontology and geological classifications of strata.Even thus prepared, the non-specialist will find the book hard going.

Here is a fairly typical sample of what the reader faces:"The four taxa represent good biospecies, based on absence of hybrids in sympatry, and on extensive electrophoretic study (Michaux, 1987) showing distinct separation among species and no detectable cryptic groupings (Michaux ,1989) within any species.Michaux then used canonical discriminant analysis to achieve clear morphometric distinction among the species".

Not only is the technical jargon daunting, but one also has to navigate through Gould's often opaque style of writing.

Gould is generally fair in presenting the arguments of his critics.However, he often employs a provocative style in presenting his case.He does not pick fights with individuals (at least not in this book) - but rather chooses to criticise the prevalent beliefs of a whole profession.Such a style must inevitably create friction among professional colleagues.

However, having said that, Gould and Eldredge were responsible for one of the most significant advances in evolution (punctuated equilibrium) since Darwin, and it was probably inevitable that such radical views would generate controversy.And also be seized on with relish by partisans of creationism.

But all is not lost.Gould includes a 63-page Appendix that is very readable by the layman.The Appendix deals with the controversies aroused by punctuated equilibrium in the broader media and academic communities outside palaeontology.The "hijacking" of punctuated equilibrium by creationists to debunk Darwin is well-covered and very interesting.Thankfully, Gould explains where creationist views are ignorant, wrong or dishonest - often all three.

The Appendix (pages 317 - 319) also contains the best description of punctuated equilibrium for the non-specialist in the whole book, in two passages quoted from Colin Tudge and James Gleick.Readers would benefit by referring to these quotes as they plough through the rest of the book.

The less useful section of the Appendix is where Gould answers (or perhaps provokes anew) his critics.Some of these "attacks" warmed over by Gould are legitimate scientific criticisms, some are personal vendettas against him and some are shameless mis-use of his work to push philosophical or religious bandwagons.

Gould himself is not an innocent bystander in any of these tiffs.But I doubt if any lay reader could figure out where the truth lies.Only those who have followed the controversies blow by blow over the years have any hope of forming a balanced opinion of the combatants.

Anyway, who cares about these personal conflicts?What matters is the substance of Gould's contribution to palaeontology, and that is great indeed.

But I suppose such unedifying ephemera might appeal to readers interested in raking over academic tittle tattle and feuds, micro-scandals, gossip and the like from years gone by.
... Read more

20. Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History
by Stephen Jay Gould
Hardcover: 416 Pages (1998-10)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$12.40
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Asin: B00013AX7G
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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First published in 1998, this collection of essays contains some of Gould's best writing on a variety of subjects ranging from Leonardo da Vinci and Martin Luther to fossils and the history of science, including fascinating oddities from the natural world and the printed word.Amazon.com Review
One of this century's most thoughtful and prolificnaturalists, Harvard professor Stephen Jay Gould looks at the humantwists on science in his eighth series of essays taken from NaturalHistory magazine. As only he can, Gould finds questions whereothers have never looked, and answers where others have beenblinded--by their professional rivalries, by their unacknowledgedprivilege in society, by the dominant world-view at their particularjuncture in history. "All great science," he says in the title essay,"indeed all fruitful thinking, must occur in a social and intellectualcontext--and contexts are just as likely to promote insight as toconstrain thought." Gould's gift is being able to identify context,and see patterns in diverse fields or people or moments in history ina way that Darwin saw patterns in living species.

This book is less about clams, worms, and Leonardo than about someevolutionary dead ends in human intellectual history. It's not an easyread. Those who are already Gould fans will find more tantalizingtidbits--no, thick stew--from this fruitful author. Those first-timersdrawn by an intriguing title will scratch, frown, fall asleep, swear,and generally want to give up. But don't! Gould is one of thoseauthors that takes some getting used to. With a little patience, hisextravagant prose will edify rather than trip you, and his digressionswill delight rather than distract. --Lauran Cole Warner ... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

5-0 out of 5 stars Stephen Jay Gould at his best
Stephen Jay Gould had a gift for raising popular science writing to the level of literature. He is by turns profound, humorous and insightful. If you have never read any of his essays, you have missed the fun of a brilliant scientist writing engagingly about what he loves most.

5-0 out of 5 stars Mountains, oh mountains, of things
Once more, with feeling! Damned if Dr. Gould didn't do it again, or, more accurately, kept right on doing it. In this eighth collection of his monthly essays from Natural History magazine, Stephen Jay Gould continued his exploration of how science works (and doesn't). His reading and comprehension of history, both natural and social, produce delicious juxtaposition, insight and humor. Month after month in what became the longest running science commentary series ever to see print. Gould is adept at finding the particular instance which illustrates the general, and discerning errors of presupposition which stymie or paradoxically further scientific inquiry. In one of the title essays of this collection, for example, he demonstrates that Leonardo Da Vinci's motive for analysis of fossil clams -- a study which appears in retrospect to be marvelously modern and ahead of his time -- was offered in defense of an extremely antiquated and fallacious view of the earth as a living body. In other words, Leonardo got the right answer for the wrong reason, and though he knew his view of the earth was flawed, he never got beyond his backward bias. So, while we tend to view Da Vinci as a prescient wizard, he was perhaps more of an obsessed antiquarian, albeit a brilliant one. Great stuff in here about dodoes and Irish elk, neanderthals and missing links, princes and principles, with the arts, artists and religious texts thrown in for good measure.As I have said before ( see reviews of BULLY FOR BRONTOSAURUS,W.W. Norton & Company, 1991, and QUESTIONING THE MILLENNIUM, Harmony Books, 1997), Gould was one of our greatest modern essayists.

5-0 out of 5 stars Essays illuminate intellectual effort, however misguided
Gould's eighth collection of essays from his long-running feature in "Natural History" magazine explores the human history of scientific discovery; the use of observation to bolster preconceived notions and theories, and mistaken, sometimes humorous interpretations of fact.

Gould organizes the book in six broad categories: "Art and Science," "Biographies In Evolution," "Human Prehistory," "Of History and Toleration," "Evolutionary Facts and Theories," and "Different Perceptions of Common Truths."

With his customary eloquence and classic organization, Gould opens each essay with an intriguing anecdote leading to a brief discussion of his subject, then a clear statement of his intent. In the opening piece on Leonardo da Vinci's paleontology (the book's best and the one Gould himself admits to being "most proud of") Gould acknowledges the "truly prescient character" of Leonardo's observation. He then raises "two questions that expose the early-sixteenth-century context of Leonardo's inquiry: first, `What alternative account of fossils was Leonardo trying to disprove by making his observations?' and, second, "What theory of the earth was Leonardo trying to support with his findings?"

Leonardo's startlingly modern observations were employed forcefully to disprove that Noah's flood was the cause of fossil distribution or that fossils were some mystical outgrowth of rock itself. Leonardo's theory, shored up by his accurate observation, argued that the earth was a macrocosm of which man was a microcosm: "as man has within himself bones as a stay and framework for the flesh, so the world has the rocks which are the supports of the earth." Painstakingly, Leonardo proved his quaintly elaborate analogy with a wealth of breathtakingly accurate fossil detail.

This fascinating contrast of fact and human interpretation joyfully engages the reader in Gould's humanist views. While many of these myths have become famous for revealing cultural prejudice - women are inherently non-scientific, the best cave paintings must necessarily be the most modern, the dodo was an inferior evolutionary design - Gould's approach celebrates the vigorousness of human intellect in misguided pursuit.

Gould, who was evolutionary biologist and professor of zoology and geology at Harvard, makes his arguments from many sources, educating the reader on lesser known scientists and theories and revisiting favorites such as Darwin and the persisting misconceptions about the theory of evolution.

His elegant, stately prose conveys his own fascination and amusement and celebrates intellectual accomplishment, however mistaken.

5-0 out of 5 stars Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and The Diet of Worms
As Stephen Jay Gould's writes another book of thought provoking essays, here he toys with us with the title to this book.

The title is about two seperate essays and they are well written. Understanding nature itself is what Gould is doing here... making a point in his customary brillance.There are short biographies, puzzles and paradoxes, all the time Gould is leading us through his thought prossess and reasoning.

This is a very good collection of essays and well worth the time to read.

Read and enjoy.

5-0 out of 5 stars A basket of jewels
Readers of Gould's other collections of science essays will be delightedwith most of thematerial he presents here.With his usual scope and fineprose, he presents us with carefully researched and captivating subjects. All his essays are stimulating exercises in challengingtraditional waysof thinking on a wide spectrum of subjects.

The opening essay onLeonardo da Vinci provides a picture of a thinker challenged bymysteriousevidence, expertly addressed.Da Vinci displays more humanity here thanrevealed by viewing his works.Fossil seashells at mountain peaks werepuzzled over forcenturies.Leonardo's vivid analysis might have enhancedscientific inquiry greatly if hisideas had not ran counter to churchdogmas.

The remaining essays span the usual gamut of resurrecting thereputations of scientists nowoften lost to view.While restoring somescientists in our estimation, he manages to erode thatof others just abit.Huxley, having been knocked off a high pedestal by an earlier essayofGould's is subtly chided here once more for racist opinions.RichardOwen, who used sometruly underhanded tactics in responding to Darwin'stheory of Natural Selection, is givenmore leniency.Racism is a durablecommodity, as Gould himself readily admits indescribing his own feelingsabout taxing pedal-powered vehicles in Africa.It behooves himto grantHuxley a bit of leeway.Huxley, 'Darwin's Bulldog' in his unqualifiedsupport fornatural selection, must necessarily be besmirched a bit inkeeping with Gould's own efforts inevolutionary revisionism.

Havingaddressed NOMA in comments about Gould's bizarre work ROCKS OF AGES, dwelling on the essay here would be inappropriate.Suffice to say, theconcept verges on theirrational, a rare circumstance in Gould's otherwisefine collection.Far more impressive are the two essays, As the WormTurns and Triumph of the Root-heads are among his best work. Every newdiscovery in biology raises our consciousness of our place in Nature.The description of the bizarre parasites inhabiting the body's of crabs is asuperb challenge torigid thinking about evolution's methods.We'refrequently reminded that evolution neverworks 'backwards', but this essayconfirms again how unpredictable life can be in adapting tonewenvironments.Keep this book where the children can reach it.It willprovide hours ofdelightful reading - not just one reading, but many. ... Read more

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