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An overview of the origin of life, and evolution. This book is aiming to high school students as well as general readers.
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.
A collection of 34 essays, most originally published in 'Natural History' magazine, in which the renowned evolutionary biologist and paleontologist muses on evolution, time, change, and history. Some intriguing topics addressed include why images of snails were printed backward in 17th century treatises on conchology and why schoolchildren are falsely taught that in the Middle Ages people thought the earth was flat.
Gould's first book, this is a collection of essays on evolution and natural history.
This is Gould's fourth volume of essays reprinted, with postscripts, from Natural History. Gould's monthly columns seem to take on new meaning in these collections; each becomes a piece in a mosaic pattern of thought. Thus, The Flamingo's Smile gives a glimpse at the big picture. The essay on the extinction of dinosaurs is placed effectively next to a consideration of humanity's possible extinction through nuclear war. The discussions of evolutionary biology include new pieces from recent research and revisions in previously held beliefs, as well as a surprisingly relevant essay on the decline in batting averages in major league baseball. And, for the first time, Gould writes for the general reader on his own research on Bahamian land snails. This book requires undivided attention, but the reward is special insight into the complexities of evolutionary biology. Susan Klimley, Columbia Univ. Libs., N.Y.
Few would question the truism that humankind is the crowning achievement of evolution; that the defining thrust of life's history yields progress over time from the primitive and simple to the more advanced and complex; that the disappearance of .400 hitting in baseball is a fact to be bemoaned; or that identifying an existing trend can be helpful in making important life decisions. Few, that is, except Stephen Jay Gould who, in his new book Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin, proves that all of these intuitive truths are, in fact, wrong. "All of these mistaken beliefs arise out of the same analytical flaw in our reasoning, our Platonic tendency to reduce a broad spectrum to a single, pinpointed essence," says Gould. "This way of thinking allows us to confirm our most ingrained biases that humans are the supreme being on this planet; that all things are inherently driven to become more complex; and that almost any subject can be expressed and understood in terms of an average." In Full House, Gould shows why a more accurate way of understanding our world (and the history of life) is to look at a given subject within its own context, to see it as a part of a spectrum of variation rather than as an isolated "thing" and then to reconceptualize trends as expansion or contraction of this "full house" of variation, and not as the progress or degeneration of an average value, or single thing. When approached in such a way, the disappearance of .400 hitting becomes a cause for celebration, signaling not a decline in greatness but instead an improvement in the overall level of play in baseball; trends become subject to suspicion, and too often, only a tool of those seeking to advance a particular agenda; and the "Age of Man" (a claim rooted in hubris, not in fact) more accurately becomes the "Age of Bacteria." "The traditional mode of thinking has led us to draw many conclusions that don't make satisfying sense," says Gould. "It tells us that .400 hitting has disappeared because batters have gotten worse, but how can that be true when record performances have improved in almost any athletic activity?" In a personal eureka!, Gould realized that we were looking at the picture backward, and that a simple conceptual inversion would resolve a number of the paradoxes of the conventional view. While Full House deftly reveals the shortcomings of the popular reasoning we apply to everyday life situations, Gould also explores his beloved realm of natural history as well. Whether debunking the myth of the successful evolution of the horse (he grants that the story still deserves distinction, but as the icon of evolutionary failure); presenting evidence that the vaunted "progress of life" is really random motion away from simple beginnings, not directed impetus toward complexity; or relegating the kingdoms of Animalai and Plantae to their proper positions on the genealogical chart for all of life (as mere twigs on one of the three bushes), Full House asks nothing less than that we reconceptualize our view of life in a fundamental way.
In his final book and his first full-length original title since Full House in 1996, the eminent paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould offers a surprising and nuanced study of the complex relationship between our two great ways of knowing: science and the humanities, twin realms of knowledge that have been divided against each other for far too long. To establish his two protagonists, Gould draws from a seventh century b.c. proverb attributed to the Greek soldier-poet Archilochus that said roughly, "The fox devises many strategies; the hedgehog knows one great and effective strategy." While emphatically rejecting any simplistic attempt to assign either science or the humanities to one or the other of these approaches to knowledge, Gould uses this ancient concept to demonstrate that neither strategy can work alone, but that these seeming opposites can be conjoined into a common enterprise of tremendous unity and power. In building his case, Gould shows why the common assumption of an inescapable conflict between science and the humanities (in which he includes religion) is false, mounts a spirited rebuttal to the ideas that his intellectual rival E. O. Wilson set forth in his book Consilience, and explains why the pursuit of knowledge must always operate upon the bedrock of nature's randomness.The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox is a controversial discourse, rich with facts and observations gathered by one of the most erudite minds of our time.
From the book jacket: Exploring the "peculiar and mysterious particulars of nature," Gould introduces the reader to some of the many and wonderful manifestations of evolutionary biology.
Gould finished this collection of essays after 9/11, and after his diagnosis of terminal cancer.
"Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms" is the newest collection of best-selling scientist Stephen Jay Gould's popular essays from Natural History magazine (the longest-running series of scientific essays in history). It is also the first of the final three such collections, since Dr. Gould has announced that the series will end with the turn of the millennium. In this collection, Gould consciously and unconventionally formulates a humanistic natural history, a consideration of how humans have learned to study and understand nature, rather than a history of nature itself. With his customary brilliance, Gould examines the puzzles and paradoxes great and small that build nature's and humanity's diversity and order. In affecting short biographies, he depicts how scholars grapple with problems of science and philosophy as he illuminates the interaction of the outer world with the unique human ability to struggle to understand the whys and wherefores of existence.
Essays culled from Gould's monthly column "The View of Life", in Natural History magazine that he wrote for 27 years.
Thomas H. Huxley was one of the first supporters of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, and he did more than any other writer to advance its acceptance among scientists and nonscientists alike. His most famous book, Man's Place in Nature, published only five years after Darwin's The Origin of Species, offers a compelling review of primate and human paleontology, and is the first attempt to apply Darwin's theory to human beings. As compelling a piece of analysis now as it was 140 years ago, Man's Place in Nature is a must for every science lover's library.
From the book cover: 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. And yet the idea of innate limits-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 by Stephen Jay Gould. In this edition Dr. 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, in a separate section at the end, on questions of The Bell Curve in particular and on race, racism, and biological determinism in general. These additions strengthen the claim of this book to be "a major contribution toward deflating pseudobiological 'explanations' of our present social woes."
Were dinosaurs really dumber than lizards? Why, after ?all, are roughly the same number of men and women born into the world? What led the famous Dr. Down to his theory of mongolism, and its racist residue? What do the panda's magical "thumb" and the sea turtle's perilous migration tell us about imperfections that prove the evolutionary rule? The wonders and mysteries of evolutionary biology are elegantly explored in these and other essays by the celebrated natural history writer Stephen Jay Gould.
"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 macro-evolution.
In this new edition of Questioning the Millennium, best-selling author Stephen Jay Gould applies his wit and erudition to one of today's most pressing subjects: the significance of the millennium. In 1950 at age eight, prompted by an issue of Life magazine marking the century's midpoint, Stephen Jay Gould started thinking about the approaching turn of the millennium. In this beautiful inquiry into time and its milestones, he shares his interest and insights with his readers. Refreshingly reasoned and absorbing, the book asks and answers the three major questions that define the approaching calendrical event. First, what exactly is this concept of a millennium and how has its meaning shifted? How did the name for a future thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ on earth get transferred to the passage of a secular period of a thousand years in current human history? When does the new millennium really begin: January 1, 2000, or January 1, 2001? (Although seemingly trivial, the debate over this issue tells an intriguing story about the cultural history of the twentieth century.) And why must our calendars be so complex, leading to our search for arbitrary regularity, including a fascination with millennia? This revised edition begins with a new and extensive preface on a key subject not treated in the original version.As always, Gould brings into his essays a wide range of compelling historical and scientific fact, including a brief history of millennial fevers, calendrical traditions, and idiosyncrasies from around the world; the story of a sixth-century monk whose errors in chronology plague us even today; and the heroism of a young autistic man who has developed the extraordinary ability to calculate dates deep into the past and the future. Ranging over a wide terrain of phenomena--from the arbitrary regularities of human calendars to the unpredictability of nature, from the vagaries of pop culture to the birth of Christ--Stephen Jay Gould holds up the mirror to our millennial passions to reveal our foibles, absurdities, and uniqueness--in other words, our humanity.
In this new edition of Questioning the Millennium, best-selling author Stephen Jay Gould applies his wit and erudition to one of today's most pressing subjects: the significance of the millennium.
"People of good will wish to see science and religion at peace. . . . I do not see how science and religion could be unified, or even synthesized, under any common scheme of explanation or analysis; but I also do not understand why the two enterprises should experience any conflict." So states internationally renowned evolutionist and bestselling author Stephen Jay Gould in the simple yet profound thesis of his brilliant new book. Writing with bracing intelligence and elegant clarity, Gould sheds new light on a dilemma that has plagued thinking people since the Renaissance. Instead of choosing between science and religion, Gould asks, why not opt for a golden mean that accords dignity and distinction to each realm? At the heart of Gould's penetrating argument is a lucid, contemporary principle he calls NOMA (for nonoverlapping magisteria)--a "blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution" 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 elaborating and 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 his bestselling books Wonderful Life, The Mismeasure of Man, and Questioning the Millennium, Gould has written on the abundance of marvels in human history and the natural world. In Rocks of Ages, Gould's passionate humanism, ethical discernment, and erudition are fused to create a dazzling gem of contemporary cultural philosophy. As the world's preeminent Darwinian theorist writes, "I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between . . . science and religion." (From the Hardcover edition.)
"People of good will wish to see science and religion at peace... I do not see how science and religion could be unified, or even synthesized, under any common scheme of explanation or analysis; but I also do not understand why the two enterprises should experience any conflict." So states internationally renowned evolutionist and bestselling author Stephen Jay Gould in the simple yet profound thesis of his brilliant new book. Writing with bracing intelligence and elegant clarity, Gould sheds new light on a dilemma that has plagued thinking people since the Renaissance. Instead of choosing between science and religion, Gould asks, why not opt for a golden mean that accords dignity and distinction to each realm? At the heart of Gould's penetrating argument is a lucid, contemporary principle he calls NOMA (for non-overlapping magisteria) -- a "blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution" 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 elaborating and 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. As the world's preeminent Darwinian theorist writes, "I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between ... science and religion."
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.
"What pleasure to see the dishonest, the inept, and the misguided deftly given their due, while praise is lavished on the deserving -- for reasons well and truly stated." -- Kirkus Reviews. 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 sparkling collection. "No one knows more about Darwin and about evolution than Stephen Gould does. No one writes more clearly on these subject then Stephen Gould does. No one is better equipped to deal with fallacies, however crude or however subtle, in this field than Stephen Gould is. This collection of reviews is my proof." -- Isaac Asimov
Shermer has five basic answers to the question in his title: for consolation, for immediate gratification, for simplicity, for moral meaning, and because hope springs eternal. He shows the kinds of errors in thinking that lead people to believe weird things.
"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 touch by a master of the field".--Lewis Thomas, M.D.
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