web site hit counter Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History

Availability: Ready to download

More than any other modern scientists, Stephen Jay Gould has opened up to millions the wonders of evolutionary biology. His genius as an essayist lies in his unmatched ability to use his knowledge of the world, including popular culture, to illuminate the realm of science. Ever Since Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould's first book, has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. L More than any other modern scientists, Stephen Jay Gould has opened up to millions the wonders of evolutionary biology. His genius as an essayist lies in his unmatched ability to use his knowledge of the world, including popular culture, to illuminate the realm of science. Ever Since Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould's first book, has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. Like all succeeding collections by this unique writer, it brings the art of the scientific essay to unparalleled heights.


Compare

More than any other modern scientists, Stephen Jay Gould has opened up to millions the wonders of evolutionary biology. His genius as an essayist lies in his unmatched ability to use his knowledge of the world, including popular culture, to illuminate the realm of science. Ever Since Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould's first book, has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. L More than any other modern scientists, Stephen Jay Gould has opened up to millions the wonders of evolutionary biology. His genius as an essayist lies in his unmatched ability to use his knowledge of the world, including popular culture, to illuminate the realm of science. Ever Since Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould's first book, has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. Like all succeeding collections by this unique writer, it brings the art of the scientific essay to unparalleled heights.

30 review for Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Note: I wrote this review sometime before Gould's death. How does one write about a book of essays? Ever Since Darwin is a collection of essays drawn from Natural History magazine for which Gould wrote a monthly column entitled "This View of Life." While not especially easy reading, all the essays provide an intellectual delight that make them well worth the effort. A common thread running through all is the wonder and amazement Gould has for the extraordinary variation and adaptability of natu Note: I wrote this review sometime before Gould's death. How does one write about a book of essays? Ever Since Darwin is a collection of essays drawn from Natural History magazine for which Gould wrote a monthly column entitled "This View of Life." While not especially easy reading, all the essays provide an intellectual delight that make them well worth the effort. A common thread running through all is the wonder and amazement Gould has for the extraordinary variation and adaptability of nature. One can see in these essays the development of ideas more fully defined in Wonderful Life The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History His examples are most absorbing and occasionally bizarre. He explains how the tiny gall midge reproduces in two ways: either normally from eggs as sexually reproducing flies; or without the aid of a father, i.e., via parthenogenesis, otherwise known as virgin birth. When food is abundant (midges feed primarily on mushrooms) the young grow in the mother's body feeding on her flesh. After she has been consumed they emerge and within two days their own children begin to feed off the parent. This matricide which at first glance might appear somewhat foolish is not just a disgusting freak of nature. As Gould points out, in light of evolutionary theory, the behavior is truly efficient and adaptive. As long as food is plentiful reproduction remains parthenogenetic. As food inevitably becomes scarcer the flies reproduce normally (hate to use the word normal in this context) at which point they can fly and scout out new food sources. "The flightless parthenogenic female stays on the mushroom and feeds. When it exhausts its resources it produces winged descendants to find new mushrooms." This still does not answer the question of why matricide? Gould explains better than I (read the essay entitled "Why should a fly eat its mother?;" but, basically it has to do with adaptability to environments which impose irregular catastrophic mortality (fairly common in nature,) or where food sources are hard to find but abundant when located. The best adaptability is to "reproduce like hell while you have the ephemeral resource, for it will not last long and some of your progeny must survive to find the next one." Whether this lesson should be applied to Man I will not hazard a guess. Gould recognizes the social and cultural influences of the scientific imagination. Theories, at their best, should free us from our prejudices, at their worst they support the biases of their creators (witness Wolcott and his misinterpretation of the Burgess Shale), illustrated also in the attempts to find parallels between individual development and evolutionary history. (Gould has another book Ontoqeny and Phyloqeny dealing with just this issue which I have not yet read, but will soon?) Gould is very skeptical of biological determinism. (At a recent conference I witnessed E.O. Wilson, author of Sociobiology The New Synthesis, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition , a proponent of biological determinism, and Gould argue these points, much to the fascination of the audience. Gould argues for biological potentiality.) Biological determinism has become popular in Gould's mind because it allows us to escape responsibility, e.g. the homeless are inevitably thus because they inherited the wrong genes; we can fob off responsibility for war to man's inherent aggressiveness rather than to blame the political structures we have created. Several essays deal with just such issues. Obviously I have not come close to doing justice to this richly diverse and fascinating collection of essays. Read the book, I guarantee you will be fascinated.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    If there's an overarching theme in these fascinating essays it's that scientists (and science) are just as vulnerable to political and social bias as everyone else, and we should be skeptical of claims that the scientific "facts" support a given political or social view. Unfortunately, in my reading, the author seems concerned with this misuse of science only when it's in support of philosophical ideals that he does not share. While he presents his own view as enlightenedly multifarious, it come If there's an overarching theme in these fascinating essays it's that scientists (and science) are just as vulnerable to political and social bias as everyone else, and we should be skeptical of claims that the scientific "facts" support a given political or social view. Unfortunately, in my reading, the author seems concerned with this misuse of science only when it's in support of philosophical ideals that he does not share. While he presents his own view as enlightenedly multifarious, it comes across more as an argument for the other extreme, only from a defensive position. Here's an example: I do not claim that intelligence, however defined, has no genetic basis—I regard it as trivially true, uninteresting, and unimportant that it does. In a book where there is no detail too small to inspire impassioned debate, a notion suddenly becomes "trivial, uninteresting, and unimportant," the moment it doesn't directly bolster the author's egalitarian social views or may come to an uncomfortable conclusion. He goes on to claim, Our job is simply to provide the best environmental situation for the realization of valued potential in all individuals. Our job? As scientists? As human beings? It's unfortunate that an otherwise astute book that cautions against being too eager to derive philosophical conclusions from mere facts contains a smattering of political statements derived from nothing at all. It's as if the author seeks to bolster his well-meaning social ideals, not by finding support for them, but by arguing the fallibility of science proper.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Gonçalves

    In this collection of scientific essays, Stephen Jay Gould promises to shine a light on Darwin’s dangerous and revolutionary idea, whilst informing the reader – in a comprehensive and adequate prose – about the new advancements in the field. The writing is lucid and compelling. The subjects are varied and detailed. And while it presents the reader with data and information about the various ideas floating around in the scientific community, it never asserts anything: the reader has to make their In this collection of scientific essays, Stephen Jay Gould promises to shine a light on Darwin’s dangerous and revolutionary idea, whilst informing the reader – in a comprehensive and adequate prose – about the new advancements in the field. The writing is lucid and compelling. The subjects are varied and detailed. And while it presents the reader with data and information about the various ideas floating around in the scientific community, it never asserts anything: the reader has to make their own conclusions. After all, that might be the ultimate purpose of a good essayist. Many people acknowledge Charles Darwin as the most brilliant scientist of all time. In 1859, he proposed a theory that would soon alter the perception of life on planet Earth. Until the 19th century, nobody had a conclusive scientific answer. For all purposes, all species on Earth had been created at a single moment in time by a divine entity. And although there are some who still hold their faith in that specious premise, today it is no longer a plausible idea. In essence, the evidence for evolution is abundant. More than a hundred years later, a lot of momentous events occurred: scientist discovered genetics, and fossil evidence was unearthed from the ground. There was a lot that Darwin did not know. That did not stop him from devising the most important theory in all biology.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Clare Bell

    Stephen J. Gould was a treasure of a science writer, who left us far too early, in 2003. Ever since I stumbled across his column in Natural History Magazine, I've been an avid Gould reader. This is his first collection of the Natural History columns, and, although not as brilliant as his later works, contains the promise that emerged in The Panda's Thumb, The Flamingo's Smile, and others. Even so, by itself, it is amazing. Gould's work has definitely shaped my view of evolution and biology. Many Stephen J. Gould was a treasure of a science writer, who left us far too early, in 2003. Ever since I stumbled across his column in Natural History Magazine, I've been an avid Gould reader. This is his first collection of the Natural History columns, and, although not as brilliant as his later works, contains the promise that emerged in The Panda's Thumb, The Flamingo's Smile, and others. Even so, by itself, it is amazing. Gould's work has definitely shaped my view of evolution and biology. Many times I thought of sending him a copy of my fiction about how a society of sapient large cats might develop, but I waited until too late. He has delighted and enlightened me over the years, and his books have a place of honor on my "keeper" shelf. I re-read them constantly.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anima

    I very much enjoyed reading this collection of unique essays which explores, from a geologists’ point of view, few scientific theories that were popular about 40 years ago. All 33 essays are awesome. Essays number 6 (about 'ladder' vs 'bushes' ) and 9 (about Irish Elk) caught my attention with few things that I've never heard about. In essay number 6, ‘ Bushes and Ladders in Human Evolution’, Gould rejects the “ladder” representation of the human evolution from 'Australopithecus africanus' to 'H I very much enjoyed reading this collection of unique essays which explores, from a geologists’ point of view, few scientific theories that were popular about 40 years ago. All 33 essays are awesome. Essays number 6 (about 'ladder' vs 'bushes' ) and 9 (about Irish Elk) caught my attention with few things that I've never heard about. In essay number 6, ‘ Bushes and Ladders in Human Evolution’, Gould rejects the “ladder” representation of the human evolution from 'Australopithecus africanus' to 'Homo sapiens' introducing the “bush metaphor” saying that species did not “morphed” into the next one but rather “overlapped in time”-“In this paradigm, speciation – the formation of new species – occurs by branching off from the ancestral stock, while the ancestors continue on. The details of the process are fuzzy, but proponents argue that it almost always occurs in small, isolated populations … in marginal environments …” Essay number 9,’ The Misnamed, Mistreated, and Misunderstood Irish Elk’ evolves around the extinct Irish Elk known for its super-sized antlers –about 12 feet across a pair. Some scientists were supporting the idea that the antlers were increasing in size ‘ generation after generation’ and because very big antlers would have impeded eventually the Elk's overall function, the species disappeared. Trying to find out if it there is evidence for the ‘allometric’ correlation, Gould gathered specimens, did the measurements , and discovered that antlers were increasing “about two and a half times faster than the rest of the deer.” “ In spite of this apparent success, Gould remained dissatisfied. Can we really know that the giant antlers offer no selective advantage?, he asks rhetorically. Darwin …speculated that larger antlers might serve a role in sexual selection (“selected” as attractive by the female), rather than as better armament against predators or rivals. Another possibility, Gould suggests, is that they were used against rivals in “ritual combat” rather than literal combat; … In either case, we cannot dismiss the possibility that the antlers drove the size of the deer, rather than vice versa”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Santiago Hernandez

    “Ever Since Darwin” overall is a great read and is a great way to immerse yourself in the world of evolution. In this book, Dr. Stephen Jay Gould tackles various topics that fall within the realm of evolution, the history of evolution as a field of science, and even the biological arguments against racism and human nature. As stated before, this is a great book for further exposing yourself to the concept of evolution and the information surrounding it. Dr. Gould presents various cases from human “Ever Since Darwin” overall is a great read and is a great way to immerse yourself in the world of evolution. In this book, Dr. Stephen Jay Gould tackles various topics that fall within the realm of evolution, the history of evolution as a field of science, and even the biological arguments against racism and human nature. As stated before, this is a great book for further exposing yourself to the concept of evolution and the information surrounding it. Dr. Gould presents various cases from human evolution to the literal exploration of the evolution of life. In addition to this topic, Dr. Gould touches upon some of the history behind evolution starting with Charles Darwin himself and ending with the way natural selection was used to justify various outrages points of view. One of the largest issues, in my opinion, that this book makes an effort to fight is racism and it in no sense of the word fails. Dr. Gould uses a variety of information from the field of Biology to prove to the reader that scientifically humans are but one species and cannot be logically separated into different groups. All the way to the end, Dr. Gould’s “Ever Since Darwin” bombards the reader with information pertaining to evolution and ultimately shows her/him how far it’s come as a field. If there’s one thing I should point out, it’s that this book can prove to be quite hard to read at times with all the scientific jargon that it contains, and so I recommend that any reader should read this book (in order to get the most out of it) in a setting where they aren't pressured to read it by a certain deadline. Take the book in little by little and I’m sure that Dr. Gould’s prose will at least impart something interesting and worthwhile to your internal data bank.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    Solid introduction to Gould's perspective on evolution and other issues in modern science. The essays were written in the late 1970s, but they still feel current-- I especially enjoyed his meditations on the Irish Elk, the role of size in evolutionary development, and the shakeup caused by the discovery of plate tectonics in the late 1960s. Towards the end of the book he gets a little hung up on his politics-- as an enlightened highly liberal humanist, he has little time or sympathy for scientis Solid introduction to Gould's perspective on evolution and other issues in modern science. The essays were written in the late 1970s, but they still feel current-- I especially enjoyed his meditations on the Irish Elk, the role of size in evolutionary development, and the shakeup caused by the discovery of plate tectonics in the late 1960s. Towards the end of the book he gets a little hung up on his politics-- as an enlightened highly liberal humanist, he has little time or sympathy for scientists who distort the facts to match their conservative/racist/classist/sexist ideologies. That whole series of essays is praiseworthy and impossible to disagree with, but in the age of Obama, it feels a little bit dated and strident. And after reading ten essays where Gould assails the impact of conservative politics on science, even the most liberal reader has got to wonder: in what ways did Gould's own liberal bent bias his results?

  8. 4 out of 5

    John Miller

    a lot... makes science very enjoyable and readable without dumbing it down one bit, but just by eliminating jargon. puts science in its social context, and ties it in with other fields of life and learning. also compares general phenomenon in evolution as a system to other types of systems.. .. .Must read one of his books!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dany

    "In the conventional model of scientific "progress," we begin in superstitious ignorance and move toward final truth by the successive accumulation of facts. In this smug perspective, the history of science contains little more than anecdotal interest–for it can only chronical past errors and credit the bricklayer for discerning glimpses of final truth. It is as transparent as an old-fashioned melodrama: truth (as we perceive it today) is the only arbiter and the world of past scientists is divi "In the conventional model of scientific "progress," we begin in superstitious ignorance and move toward final truth by the successive accumulation of facts. In this smug perspective, the history of science contains little more than anecdotal interest–for it can only chronical past errors and credit the bricklayer for discerning glimpses of final truth. It is as transparent as an old-fashioned melodrama: truth (as we perceive it today) is the only arbiter and the world of past scientists is divided into good guys who were right and bad guys who were wrong."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Reid

    What can I say? Pretty fascinating in parts, it seems dated and alive at the same time. I'm familiar with some of the basics, which probably prevented me from being enthralled, but he is definitely a very good essayist with a broad liberal viewpoint, which I appreciated. I definitely want to read more of his books, I should have read them long ago. Some personal highlights: Was strange when he mentioned that plate tectonics was a fairly new theory, within the last 10 years of his writing, in '75 a What can I say? Pretty fascinating in parts, it seems dated and alive at the same time. I'm familiar with some of the basics, which probably prevented me from being enthralled, but he is definitely a very good essayist with a broad liberal viewpoint, which I appreciated. I definitely want to read more of his books, I should have read them long ago. Some personal highlights: Was strange when he mentioned that plate tectonics was a fairly new theory, within the last 10 years of his writing, in '75 and '76, because although I learned about continental drift, it seemed like no time had passed when I learned of tectonics in school as well. At the time I had no idea it was a new theory. I knew Darwin was not nearly the first to theorize about evolution, but he was about the only one that didn't rely on an ultimate supernatural force for the mechanism - more than half of the reason he was revolutionary was because of his "uncompromising philosophical materialism." I guess I take that for granted. Which is why I also got a big laugh out of Gould's opening sentence of Chapter 10: "Since man created God in his own image..." I said the same thing in my freshman college class of the politics of underdevelopment. For some reason God came up and I offered an opposing view, saying the very same thing as Gould. It was a conversation stopper. Most fascinating in a sci fi way was his chapter on size, growth, and the increasing ratio of volume to surface size, and then takes you through the absurdities of some sci fi movies, like the giant ant movie Them and the tiny human movie, what, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and how many of the actions would be impossible. For example, with a human the size of an ant, s/he could not overcome surface adhesion forces, so could never remove an article of clothing; or how the smallest drop of water from a "shower" would likely kill you. Related to evolution, he mentions that a human half our size couldn't wield a weapon with enough force to take down a large animal, since kinetic forces shrink with size as well. His main point being that size is a major aspect of evolution, and there are limitations and advantages with most developments of size, one way or the other. Another example is how insects with exoskeletons (and lobsters and crabs) can afford to molt because the surface adhesion forces are greater than gravity's force on them, keeping the creatures in their shape, whereas if we were to molt, gravity would turn us into puddles of goo. Something, by name, I hadn't known - the concept of neoteny ("holding youth") - how human evolution has included the retardation or slowing down of "maturation" in the womb, as compared to other primates. Our brain may grow larger due to retaining rapid fetal growth rates, whereas those rates decrease sooner for other primates. Of course, our "soft spot" doesn't fuse until well after birth, and the ends of our digits and long bones are still cartilaginous at birth - that's why baby fingers are so rubbery. One other difference is that other primates "begin" with 5 aligned toes, but later the great toes rotate outward to oppose the other toes - luckily that doesn't happen with us, otherwise we'd be walking like orangutans. Perhaps some of the list he includes isn't neoteny, but just basic different evolution? I don't know. Apparently there have been some professional disagreements with some other parts of this book, but nothing earth shattering for most readers. Some of them are mentioned on his Wiki article. Another pretty fascinating chapter is on "life history strategies" - how some species, like some cicadas and bamboo have evolved to survive their predators by only reproducing in huge numbers in long primary-numbered years, such as 17 years for some cicadas, and 120 years (!)(ok, doesn't need to be primary) for a certain bamboo! The survival advantage being that no predator or their offspring could possibly align their production numbers to gorge on and wipeout that many offspring at such an "unpredictable" timeframe. (Bamboo and cicadas are apparently very very tasty to a lot of animals!) This is probably his most basic and "beginner" book, and as such, it's a pretty good intro to one of the best popular science writers to walk the earth. I should mention, too, he's known for criticizing bad science and biased thinking, and he'll often point out our arrogance, folly, and racism, and how even in science the privileged often defend the existing social arrangements. The essays in this book are wide ranging - you're bound to appreciate many of them.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marshall

    This book explores various topics related to evolution. Darwin pretty much nailed it, and his discoveries are still the foundation of modern biology. However, much has happened since Darwin, and that's what this book discusses. Some of the articles were fairly interesting, like the one about Darwin's friendship with the captain of the H.M.S. Beagle, and how size of body structures influence its shape. I could have done without his politics at the end. He favorably quotes socialists and feminists, This book explores various topics related to evolution. Darwin pretty much nailed it, and his discoveries are still the foundation of modern biology. However, much has happened since Darwin, and that's what this book discusses. Some of the articles were fairly interesting, like the one about Darwin's friendship with the captain of the H.M.S. Beagle, and how size of body structures influence its shape. I could have done without his politics at the end. He favorably quotes socialists and feminists, such as Friedrich Engles' claim that evolution is all about labor, Ashley Montagu's claim that women are superior to men due to neoteny, and Simone de Beauvoir's claim that human beings have no essence. He complains that some of the early biologists were racist and sexist (big shock, so was everyone else back then). As if the claim that women are biologically superior to men is somehow not sexist. He only seems to like abusing science for political ends if they agree with his views. He detests any claims of biological determinism. His reasoning is that determinists have been wrong in the past, and this can be used to justify prejudice. But here's the thing. This is science. People are wrong all the time in science. It's a self-correcting system. We learn from our mistakes and move on. Just because a claim is unpleasant or abused by bigots does not mean we should refuse to study it, for the simple reason that not understanding nature does not make nature go away. If science is abused by political ideologues, that is the fault of the ideologues, not of the scientists for asking questions about nature. He acknowledges this: "Of course, no view should be rejected because we dislike its implications. Truth, as we understand it, must be the primary criterion. But the claims of determinists have always turned out to be prejudiced speculation, not ascertained fact." In other words, we shouldn't bother researching it at all because these claims are just always wrong, period. His only evidence is a couple of anecdotes. But even if he's right that every deterministic hypothesis ever made, ever, has proven false, it was still useful to research it because we learn just as much from disproven hypotheses as proven ones. Disproving hypotheses is not considered a failure in science. He claims that "the hallmark of humanity is not only in our mental capacity but also our mental flexibility. We have made our world and we can change it." This is true, and yet that does not mean there can't also be nature that tilts people in certain directions. People can be genetically predisposed, inclined to behave in certain ways, and still choose not to behave in those ways. Sometimes they should choose to go against their nature (e.g. if they're sociopathic) and sometimes they shouldn't (e.g. if they're homosexual). Knowing our genetic predispositions ahead of time allows us to change ourselves and our world for the better. He asks, "why are we so intrigued by hypotheses about innate disposition? Why do we wish to fob off responsibility for our violence and sexism upon our genes?" Because that's what biology does. It researches nature. It's about understanding ourselves, not "fobbing off responsibility." If there is a biological component to violence, it would be useful to know that. The whole point of biology is to learn about our nature so we can manipulate it to improve our quality of life, and yet he seems to believe that it's all about throwing up our hands and giving up because it's just in our nature. I guess what bugs him is that, in addition to teaching us what we can change, science can also teach us what we can't change, and this is uncomfortable news. For example, we can't fly. We just can't. No amount of "mental flexibility" will change that. But by knowing that we can't fly no matter what, we won't waste our time and energy on it. Instead, we can use science in ways we can change. We can discover the laws of aerodynamics, so even though we can't fly, we can build machines that can. Understanding what is in our nature and beyond our control is paradoxically liberating and can lead to wonderful changes. Anyway, those are just a few things at the end that seemed boneheaded. As I said, the rest of the book is quite reasonable and fairly interesting.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

    Gould is pithy. His understanding is deep enough that he can actually describe evolution to the reader. Not every scientist can move beyond teaching and the constraints of the university. Gould always seemed unbound. He is more similar to Darwin and his coworkers than most students have a right to expect. Reveling in blessed work is enjoyable.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Ann

    As a trained biologist, I should be ashamed of waiting this long to read Gould's essays, but better late than never. I appreciated Gould's interpretation of Darwin, his stress on considering the influence of societal and political prejudices on science, and his use of literary and sports metaphors in his prose. Some memorable quotes: I am a strong advocate of the general argument that "truth" as preached by scientists often turns out to be no more than prejudice inspired by prevailing social and p As a trained biologist, I should be ashamed of waiting this long to read Gould's essays, but better late than never. I appreciated Gould's interpretation of Darwin, his stress on considering the influence of societal and political prejudices on science, and his use of literary and sports metaphors in his prose. Some memorable quotes: I am a strong advocate of the general argument that "truth" as preached by scientists often turns out to be no more than prejudice inspired by prevailing social and political beliefs. [A]t its most exciting, [science] reformulates our view of the world by imposing powerful theories against the ancient, anthropomorphic prejudices that we call intuition. Why do we wish to fob off responsibility for our violence and sexism upon our genes? The hallmark of humanity is not only our mental capacity but also our mental flexibility. We have made our world and we can change it. The expression of any trait represents a complex interaction of heredity and environment. Our job is simply to provide the best environmental situation for the realization of valued potential in all individuals. We live with several unpleasant biological truths, death being the most undeniable and ineluctable. If genetic determinism is true, we will learn to live with it as well. But I reiterate my statement that no evidence exists to support it, that the crude versions of past centuries have been conclusively disproved, and that its continued popularity is a function of social prejudice among those who benefit most from the status quo.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    "But a man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must also be right." Gould's excellent prose and combined essays warn of hubris. Research and conclusions can be tainted by ideology. He reminds us to be aware of our biases and assumptions when crafting studies and interpreting data. Also, a reminder that we are part of the animal kingdom. This collection of essays is well worth your time. "The hallmark of humanity is not only our mental capacity but also our me "But a man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must also be right." Gould's excellent prose and combined essays warn of hubris. Research and conclusions can be tainted by ideology. He reminds us to be aware of our biases and assumptions when crafting studies and interpreting data. Also, a reminder that we are part of the animal kingdom. This collection of essays is well worth your time. "The hallmark of humanity is not only our mental capacity but also our mental flexibility. We have made our world and we can change it."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ken Bishop

    Stephen Jay Gould is my favorite writer in any branch of science. He writes beautifully (loves words) and can explain anthropology to the layperson. Gould is one of the best people to correctly explain Darwin. The majority of writers who try to explain evolution, don't have a clue what they are talking about. If you are interested in this topic read all of his books. Sadly he is no longer with us, but his books live on. Stephen Jay Gould is my favorite writer in any branch of science. He writes beautifully (loves words) and can explain anthropology to the layperson. Gould is one of the best people to correctly explain Darwin. The majority of writers who try to explain evolution, don't have a clue what they are talking about. If you are interested in this topic read all of his books. Sadly he is no longer with us, but his books live on.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Aurélien Thomas

    Simply divided, this book makes out of a broad and complex topic (evolutionary science) an entertaining and accessible subject. Some articles are more interesting than others, an unavoidable imbalance for such a collection but, all in all it's clever, very well written, witty at times and, always relevant. As this was my first Stephen Jay Gould, I would particularly recommend it to whose not knowing where to start with such a prolific writer. Simply divided, this book makes out of a broad and complex topic (evolutionary science) an entertaining and accessible subject. Some articles are more interesting than others, an unavoidable imbalance for such a collection but, all in all it's clever, very well written, witty at times and, always relevant. As this was my first Stephen Jay Gould, I would particularly recommend it to whose not knowing where to start with such a prolific writer.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    What I found most valuable about this book was Gould's careful (and sometimes irritated) explanations of evolution, what it does and doesn't do. I realized that even people who deny evolution should read it so that they at least understand what the evolution is that they reject, because common assumptions people make about evolution are not right at all. What I found most valuable about this book was Gould's careful (and sometimes irritated) explanations of evolution, what it does and doesn't do. I realized that even people who deny evolution should read it so that they at least understand what the evolution is that they reject, because common assumptions people make about evolution are not right at all.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Wow! What a collection of essays! I have always wanted to read Stephen Jay Gould and this was my first book. What is amazing about his writing style is his knowledge of popular culture and how he integrates it into his writing! I found myself stopping and really thinking and reflecting about what he just said! Brilliant man! Can’t wait to read his Wonderful Life book soon!

  19. 4 out of 5

    tom

    excellent collection of essays. all gould's little pet topics are here (though only one reference to baseball). some of the subject matter would later be expanded upon in gould's book the mismeasure of man. i look forward to eventually reading the 9 other essay collections ! excellent collection of essays. all gould's little pet topics are here (though only one reference to baseball). some of the subject matter would later be expanded upon in gould's book the mismeasure of man. i look forward to eventually reading the 9 other essay collections !

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Box

    As always, this is not a book report. Rather, it is an opportunity to discuss some ideas that stuck with me while reading “Ever Since Darwin” by Stephan Jay Gould.” The Debate Should Be Over During the 2012 Republican Party Primary run, a debate was held where the nominees were asked to raise their hands if they believed in the theory of evolution. Most of the candidates raised their hands. As I watched, I was baffled that this is still a debate. Sure, we have learned much since Darwin first estab As always, this is not a book report. Rather, it is an opportunity to discuss some ideas that stuck with me while reading “Ever Since Darwin” by Stephan Jay Gould.” The Debate Should Be Over During the 2012 Republican Party Primary run, a debate was held where the nominees were asked to raise their hands if they believed in the theory of evolution. Most of the candidates raised their hands. As I watched, I was baffled that this is still a debate. Sure, we have learned much since Darwin first established the theory. If anything, what we learned has moved us closer, not further away from this truth. So, why the debate? Simply, religion. Evolution flies in the face of intelligent design. There are those who believe evolution might be a tool used by God, but there are vast swaths of believers who profess to biblical truth; the world was created in 7 days, man was made in the image of God, and we may have lived while dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Evolution pokes holes in the story of creation. This keeps it from being widely accepted. Legacy of Debate One of my favorite quotes from this book is the following: "As the new Darwinian orthodoxy swept through Europe, its most brilliant opponent, the aging embryologist Karl Ernst von Baer, remarked with bitter irony that every triumphant theory passes through three stages: first it is dismissed as untrue; then it is rejected as contrary to religion; finally, it is accepted as dogma and each scientist claims that he long appreciated its truth." -Stephen Jay Gould The theory of evolution unleashed debate across the world. Like any good theory, it was debated in the scientific community, tested, peer-reviewed, and then accepted. To this day, it is debated on the grounds of philosophy, religion, sociology, and still within the hallowed halls of academia. No theory has had such a profound impact on humankind. Beyond the debate itself, the way in which we’ve conducted ourselves while in the midst of debate has revealed much about ourselves. In my opinion, this theory and the theory of global climate change have caused something dangerous in our culture to rise, a war against intellectualism. In this war, facts don’t matter, and opinions win the day. A civil society built on the legacy of debate cannot prosper if there is no clear winner. Evolution Misused Mankind has a way of misusing new findings. Evolution was and is no different. Think of Hitler. Think of all those conversations about a superior race. Think of eugenics. Think of the harm we’ve done to each other because we didn’t fully understand a theory. When I think of the greatest invention of my lifetime, the internet, I think of the profound good connecting the entire world together can do. I also think of the myriad of ways in which it has been used to hurt people. Reflecting on evolution and where we currently find ourselves, I can’t help but think this may be the natural order of human discovery: theory, misuse, course correction. If that is the case, I hope we are soon arriving at a point in human history where the greatest inventions of our time are used for their most noble of intentions. Human Nature Evolution has much to say about human nature. It can begin to explain the way we are. It can begin to answer some of our most profound questions. How did we get here? How did the world begin? Where are we going next? How we choose to use this information is up to us. It can inform or cripple. It can answer or sow seeds of deceit. It can close gaps or deliver us to questions that can never be answered. My hope is, as with all things, that we will use it for good and to enlighten ourselves. Anything less would be a disservice to the pioneering man who first brought such an idea forward. Be good to each other, -Nathan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

    Science has long been the hole in my education, but thanks to Stephen Jay Gould, I believe I have found a medium to at least partially fill it. This essay collection, though not uniformly excellent (as it cannot help but be, the essays being written as they are on a wide variety of topics and at different times), is fascinating and educational nonetheless. It is productive, I think, to contrast this with another well-regarded science book written at the same time but with which I was much less i Science has long been the hole in my education, but thanks to Stephen Jay Gould, I believe I have found a medium to at least partially fill it. This essay collection, though not uniformly excellent (as it cannot help but be, the essays being written as they are on a wide variety of topics and at different times), is fascinating and educational nonetheless. It is productive, I think, to contrast this with another well-regarded science book written at the same time but with which I was much less impressed: "Cosmos" by Carl Sagan. If the latter book is rather more famous, I found that it has not aged well. It is primarily concerned with conveying how amazing the stars are, but it does so over a decade before the launching of the Hubble Space Telescope, and I tired of Sagan's tone of amazement towards everything. Though I have no doubt that a biologist would find the "what" of much of the science to be outdated - I was surprised to see continental drift written about as a very recent development - the "how" is fresh and interesting. By this I mean that pretty well all of the essays I most enjoyed were those that related to method: what counts as evidence, what evidence is strong, which is weak, why are some theories accepted and not others, etc. The specifics of what exactly is being examined mattered little, as I found myself excitedly telling my girlfriend about the cyclical variations in the populations of cicadas. Still, for my next foray into Gould's work (and there will be a next), I think I will probably skip ahead a few years to get something from at least the 1990's, science advancing as rapidly as it does. But Gould writes with such clear, vigorous prose and has the range of interests and learning that I prize in a writer that I would unhesitatingly recommend this to anyone. Orwell, Hitchens, Sowell, and Woolf will have to make room for another member in my pantheon of favourite essayists. 4/5

  22. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    Unlike some of the reviewers sharing the rating I have given this book, my problem is not Gould's alleged liberal humanistic standpoint. I would say that I personally share that, and his occasional flash of understanding that scientists are hampered in their thinking by social structures is very welcome to sociologists. However here Gould too often himself remains less critically analytical than he should, and still too easily retreats to commitment to the "just so story". Sometimes he seems to Unlike some of the reviewers sharing the rating I have given this book, my problem is not Gould's alleged liberal humanistic standpoint. I would say that I personally share that, and his occasional flash of understanding that scientists are hampered in their thinking by social structures is very welcome to sociologists. However here Gould too often himself remains less critically analytical than he should, and still too easily retreats to commitment to the "just so story". Sometimes he seems to be bringing on critical analysis as a pawn to allow him to retreat to his own commitment. As is usually the case with evolutionary theory and Darwin especially, trying to build a science on the text of one man is always is danger of being snared by quasi-religious attitudes, and one sees it here even in Gould's tentative writing.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kiryl Bushwackacowski

    Excellent book by an engaging and knowledgeable author. The part touching on sociobiology and contemporary debates raging in this area is interesting not least because Gould gives us the tools to evaluate and debunk ideas where the scientific method isn't the primary driver but merely an afterthought or a rattly scaffold upon which individuals mount their arguments. Four stars only because I honestly wish there were more essays on evolution, paleontology, geology, and similar subjects, as they w Excellent book by an engaging and knowledgeable author. The part touching on sociobiology and contemporary debates raging in this area is interesting not least because Gould gives us the tools to evaluate and debunk ideas where the scientific method isn't the primary driver but merely an afterthought or a rattly scaffold upon which individuals mount their arguments. Four stars only because I honestly wish there were more essays on evolution, paleontology, geology, and similar subjects, as they were simply fascinating.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jared

    Excellent collection of essays from an esteemed biologist. He focuses on big topics and uses fascinating examples to illustrate his points. Gould is certainly one of the great science communicators of our time. Some of the essays are notably out of date, but this gives us insight into how far we have come and what some of the controversies in biology have (and still) exist. Most chapters are ~6-7 pages long so it is a great book to read in short bursts or to have on hand when you need to fill so Excellent collection of essays from an esteemed biologist. He focuses on big topics and uses fascinating examples to illustrate his points. Gould is certainly one of the great science communicators of our time. Some of the essays are notably out of date, but this gives us insight into how far we have come and what some of the controversies in biology have (and still) exist. Most chapters are ~6-7 pages long so it is a great book to read in short bursts or to have on hand when you need to fill some town time.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ivan Labayne

    science delivered by journalism; not shy about reflexive insights on the conduct and history of science and social commentary (there are attacks on racism, there was citations on engels re: questioning the naturalized supremacy of the mind); data presented not in the typecast dry way of science (cicadas reproduce every 13 and 17 years para di sumabay sa reproduction ng kanilang predators), for the majority of the existence of life, prokaryotic organisms lang ang meron).

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Peter

    I like Gould's writing, but this first collection I found hard going. I think this was because several essays were on subjects that lacked, for me, enough rootedness in the concrete - 'Science in Society', 'The Science and Politics of Human Nature', 'Size and Shape'. In the essays on Darwin himself and Evolution I felt on surer and easier ground. I'll be trying 'The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox' next. I like Gould's writing, but this first collection I found hard going. I think this was because several essays were on subjects that lacked, for me, enough rootedness in the concrete - 'Science in Society', 'The Science and Politics of Human Nature', 'Size and Shape'. In the essays on Darwin himself and Evolution I felt on surer and easier ground. I'll be trying 'The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox' next.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Jensen

    I quite enjoyed the first half of the book which focused on elucidating interesting examples of principles of natural selection in action. When he turned to the subject of humans, my interest waned. Gould rightly placed a strong emphasis on debunking pseudoscientific explanations of human difference and presents an agreeably enlightened take on human genetics and evolution, but it feels like a drag.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    What I love: science and analysis. What I don’t love: cramming a book into 24 hours so that I can finish an essay due the next day that I forgot about (totally my fault). Definitely would’ve enjoyed it more if I actually took the time to digest everything, unfortunately I didn’t have that time and that kind of ruined the experience.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    This collection of natural history essays was a great read - enough scientific details mixed in with narrative-like explanations that you come away with a deeper understanding of the material without being bogged down in facts and figures. Will definitely be searching out his other collections.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Miao

    There are always things that are nice but you don't really like them. There are always things that are nice but you don't really like them.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.