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on May 8, 2016
Better than expected . in very good condition.
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on January 11, 2016
Gould is a master storyteller about real things that matter.
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on February 20, 2015
I bought this for a class but really, even if you are not a Bio major, the stories are great, science is really and brought to a level everyone can appreciate.
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on January 8, 2015
This book was given as a Christmas gift & the recipient is delighted with it.
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on December 22, 2014
A great book by Stephen Jay Gould dealing with the mechanisms of evolution and the controversy darwinism- creationism.
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on September 30, 2014
good
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on September 12, 2014
Excellent
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Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) wrote many other important books, such as The Panda's Thumb,Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes,The Flamingo's Smile,Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History,Eight Little Piggies,Dinosaur in a Haystack,Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms,The Lying Stones Of Marrakech,The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, etc. [NOTE: page numbers refer to the 540-page hardcover edition.]

He wrote in the Prologue of this 1991 book, "This is the fifth volume of collected essays from my monthly series, 'This View of Life'... Against a potential charge of redundancy, may I advance the immodest assertion that this volume is the best of the five. I think that I have become a better writer by monthly practice (I sometimes wish that all copies of 'Ever Since Darwin' would self-destruct), and I have given myself more latitude of selection and choice in this volume. (The previous four volumes discarded only a turkey or two ... This volume, covering six years of writing, presents the best... thirty-five pieces from more than sixty choices.)" (Pg. 13-14) He adds, "no political movement is more vital and timely than modern environmentalism... We hear so much talk about an environmental ethic... Yet I think that we need something far more grubby and practical. We need a version of the most useful and ancient moral principle of all---the precept developed in one form or another by nearly every culture... No one has ever improved upon the golden rule. If we execute such a compact with our planet, pledging to cherish the earth as we would wish to be treated ourselves, she may relent and allow us muddle through." (Pg. 18)

He states, "Darwin's world is full of 'terrible truths,' two in particular. First, when things do fit and make sense (good design of organisms, harmony of ecosystems), they did not arise because the laws of nature entail such order as a primary effect. They are, rather, epiphenomena, side consequences of the basic causal process at work in natural populations---the purely 'selfish' struggle among organisms for personal reproductive success. Second, the most complex and curious pathways of history guarantee that most organisms and ecosystems cannot be designed optimally. Indeed, to make an ever stronger statement, imperfections are the primary proofs that evolutionary theory has occurred, since optimal designs erase all signposts of history." (Pg. 61)

He suggests, "I propose a simple reason for labeling an automatic inference from current utility to historical origin as fallacious: Good function has an alternative interpretation. A structure now useful may have been built by natural selection for its current purpose (I do not deny that the inference often holds), but the structure may also have developed for another reason (or for no particular functional reason at all) and then been co-opted for its present use. The giraffe's neck either got long in order to feed on succulent leaves atop acacia trees or it elongated for a different reason (perhaps unrelated to any adaptation of feeding), and giraffes then discovered that, by virtue of their new height, they could reach some delicious morsels. The simple good fit of form to function... permits, in itself, no conclusion about why giraffes developed long necks." (Pg. 114)

He further argues, "Darwin appreciated the force, and potentially devastating extent of Mivart's critique ] about incipient stages... Darwin then faced his dilemma and developed the interestingly paradoxical resolution that has been orthodox ever since... If complexity precludes sudden origin... then how can we ever get from here to there? Darwin replies that we must reject an unnecessary hidden assumption in this argument---the notion of functional continuity. We all freely grant that no creature can fly with 2 percent of a wing, but why must the incipient stages be used for flight?... This principle of functional change in structural continuity represents Darwin's elegant solution to the dilemma of incipient stages." (Pg. 142-143) He adds concerning feathered wings, "the most popular hypothesis identifies thermoregulation as the original function of incipient stages that later evolved into feathered wings. Feathers are modified reptilian scales, and they work very well as insulating devices. Moreover, if birds evolved from dinosaurs... they arose from a lineage particularly subject to problems with temperature control." (Pg. 145)

He continues, "incipient wings aid thermoregulation but provide no aerodynamic benefit---while larger wings provide no thermoregulatory oomph but initiate aerodynamic advantage and increase the benefits steadily thereafter." (Pg. 149) He asserts, "New evolutionary directions must have such quirky beginnings based on the fortuitous presence of structures and possibilities evolved for other reasons... Gastric brooding must be an either-or, a quantum jump in evolutionary potential... what intermediate stage can one imagine? Many fishes (but no frogs) brood young in their mouths---while only males possess throat pouches, but only female Rheobatrachus broods in its stomach. Eggs can't develop halfway down the esophagus." (Pg. 305)

He points out, "the most famous story in all the hagiography of evolution is, if not false outright, at least grossly distorted by biased reconstruction long after the fact. I speak of Thomas Henry Huxley's legendary encounter with the bishop of Oxford, 'Soapy Sam' Wilberforce... The story has an 'official version' codified by Darwin's son Francis... and expanded in Leonard Huxley's biography of his father. This reconstruction has become canonical." (Pg. 385-386) He admits, "Amazingly enough (for all its later fame), no one bothered to record the event in any detail at the time itself. No stenographer was present. The two men exchanged words to be sure, but no one knows what they actually said." (Pg. 388) He adds, "When we turn to the few letters of eyewitnesses, we find... the official story further compromised... Huxley's words may have rung true, but his oratory was faulty. He was ill at ease... many in the audience did not hear what he said... for all the admitted success of Huxley's great moment, [Joseph] Hooker surely made the more effective rebuttal... we do not really know what either man said in the famous exchange about apes and ancestors. Huxley's retort is not in dispute... But what had Wilberforce said to incur Huxley's wrath?... we have nothing but a flurry of contradictory reports... it seems most unlikely that ... Wilberforce taunted Huxley by asking him pointedly whether he could trace his personal ancestry from grandparents back to apes... No contemporary account puts the taunt quite so baldly." (Pg. 392-395) He further adds, "we may conclude that the heroic legend of the official version fails badly in two crucial points---our ignorance of Wilberforce's actual words and the near certainty that the forgotten Hooker made a better argument than Huxley... In particular, Wilberforce seemed not a bit embarrassed by the incident." (Pg. 397) He asks, "Why then, and how, did the official version so color this event as a primal victory for evolution? The answer largely lies with Huxley himself, who successfully promoted ... a version that suited his purposes..." (Pg. 398)

Of the infamous "Nebraska Man" claims, he acknowledges, "One can hardly blame modern creationists for making hay of this brief but interesting episode in paleontology. After all, they're only getting their fair licks at [Henry] Osborne, who used the original interpretation to ridicule and lambaste their erstwhile champion [William Jennings] Bryan... I write this essay to argue that Nebraska man tells a precisely opposite tale, one that should give creationists pause (though I do admit the purely rhetorical value of a proclaimed primate ancestor later exposed as a pig)." (Pg. 436-437) He adds, "Yet anyone who has studied the dental anatomy of mammals knows immediately that this seemingly implausible mix-up of pig for primate is not only easy to understand but represents one of the classic and recurring confusions of the profession. The cheek teeth of pigs and humans are astonishingly and uncannily similar... The Hesperopithecus tooth, worn so flat and nearly to the roots, was a prime candidate for just such a misidentification." (Pg. 443) Of the famous reconstructed drawing of "Nebraska Man," he concedes, "The attempt to reconstruct an entire creature from a single tooth is absolute folly... I can hardly blame creationists for gloating over the propaganda value of this story." (Pg. 445-446) But he also adds, "If creationists really wanted to ape the procedures of science, they would ... hold up their most ballyhooed, and now most thoroughly discredited, empirical claim---the coexistence of dinosaur and human footprints in the Paluxy Creek beds ... and publicly announce their error and its welcome correction." (Pg. 447)

Besides being a highly creative evolutionary theorist, Gould was also a brilliant writer and an engaged "public intellectual." His presence is sorely missed on the scientific and literary scene.
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Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) wrote many other important books, such as The Panda's Thumb,Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes,The Flamingo's Smile,Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History,Eight Little Piggies,Dinosaur in a Haystack,Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms,The Lying Stones Of Marrakech,The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, etc.

He wrote in the Prologue of this 1991 book, "This is the fifth volume of collected essays from my monthly series, 'This View of Life'... Against a potential charge of redundancy, may I advance the immodest assertion that this volume is the best of the five. I think that I have become a better writer by monthly practice (I sometimes wish that all copies of 'Ever Since Darwin' would self-destruct), and I have given myself more latitude of selection and choice in this volume. (The previous four volumes discarded only a turkey or two ... This volume, covering six years of writing, presents the best... thirty-five pieces from more than sixty choices.)" (Pg. 13-14) He adds, "no political movement is more vital and timely than modern environmentalism... We hear so much talk about an environmental ethic... Yet I think that we need something far more grubby and practical. We need a version of the most useful and ancient moral principle of all---the precept developed in one form or another by nearly every culture... No one has ever improved upon the golden rule. If we execute such a compact with our planet, pledging to cherish the earth as we would wish to be treated ourselves, she may relent and allow us muddle through." (Pg. 18)

He states, "Darwin's world is full of 'terrible truths,' two in particular. First, when things do fit and make sense (good design of organisms, harmony of ecosystems), they did not arise because the laws of nature entail such order as a primary effect. They are, rather, epiphenomena, side consequences of the basic causal process at work in natural populations---the purely 'selfish' struggle among organisms for personal reproductive success. Second, the most complex and curious pathways of history guarantee that most organisms and ecosystems cannot be designed optimally. Indeed, to make an ever stronger statement, imperfections are the primary proofs that evolutionary theory has occurred, since optimal designs erase all signposts of history." (Pg. 61)

He suggests, "I propose a simple reason for labeling an automatic inference from current utility to historical origin as fallacious: Good function has an alternative interpretation. A structure now useful may have been built by natural selection for its current purpose (I do not deny that the inference often holds), but the structure may also have developed for another reason (or for no particular functional reason at all) and then been co-opted for its present use. The giraffe's neck either got long in order to feed on succulent leaves atop acacia trees or it elongated for a different reason (perhaps unrelated to any adaptation of feeding), and giraffes then discovered that, by virtue of their new height, they could reach some delicious morsels. The simple good fit of form to function... permits, in itself, no conclusion about why giraffes developed long necks." (Pg. 114)

He further argues, "Darwin appreciated the force, and potentially devastating extent of Mivart's critique ] about incipient stages... Darwin then faced his dilemma and developed the interestingly paradoxical resolution that has been orthodox ever since... If complexity precludes sudden origin... then how can we ever get from here to there? Darwin replies that we must reject an unnecessary hidden assumption in this argument---the notion of functional continuity. We all freely grant that no creature can fly with 2 percent of a wing, but why must the incipient stages be used for flight?... This principle of functional change in structural continuity represents Darwin's elegant solution to the dilemma of incipient stages." (Pg. 142-143) He adds concerning feathered wings, "the most popular hypothesis identifies thermoregulation as the original function of incipient stages that later evolved into feathered wings. Feathers are modified reptilian scales, and they work very well as insulating devices. Moreover, if birds evolved from dinosaurs... they arose from a lineage particularly subject to problems with temperature control." (Pg. 145)

He continues, "incipient wings aid thermoregulation but provide no aerodynamic benefit---while larger wings provide no thermoregulatory oomph but initiate aerodynamic advantage and increase the benefits steadily thereafter." (Pg. 149) He asserts, "New evolutionary directions must have such quirky beginnings based on the fortuitous presence of structures and possibilities evolved for other reasons... Gastric brooding must be an either-or, a quantum jump in evolutionary potential... what intermediate stage can one imagine? Many fishes (but no frogs) brood young in their mouths---while only males possess throat pouches, but only female Rheobatrachus broods in its stomach. Eggs can't develop halfway down the esophagus." (Pg. 305)

He points out, "the most famous story in all the hagiography of evolution is, if not false outright, at least grossly distorted by biased reconstruction long after the fact. I speak of Thomas Henry Huxley's legendary encounter with the bishop of Oxford, 'Soapy Sam' Wilberforce... The story has an 'official version' codified by Darwin's son Francis... and expanded in Leonard Huxley's biography of his father. This reconstruction has become canonical." (Pg. 385-386) He admits, "Amazingly enough (for all its later fame), no one bothered to record the event in any detail at the time itself. No stenographer was present. The two men exchanged words to be sure, but no one knows what they actually said." (Pg. 388) He adds, "When we turn to the few letters of eyewitnesses, we find... the official story further compromised... Huxley's words may have rung true, but his oratory was faulty. He was ill at ease... many in the audience did not hear what he said... for all the admitted success of Huxley's great moment, [Joseph] Hooker surely made the more effective rebuttal... we do not really know what either man said in the famous exchange about apes and ancestors. Huxley's retort is not in dispute... But what had Wilberforce said to incur Huxley's wrath?... we have nothing but a flurry of contradictory reports... it seems most unlikely that ... Wilberforce taunted Huxley by asking him pointedly whether he could trace his personal ancestry from grandparents back to apes... No contemporary account puts the taunt quite so baldly." (Pg. 392-395) He further adds, "we may conclude that the heroic legend of the official version fails badly in two crucial points---our ignorance of Wilberforce's actual words and the near certainty that the forgotten Hooker made a better argument than Huxley... In particular, Wilberforce seemed not a bit embarrassed by the incident." (Pg. 397) He asks, "Why then, and how, did the official version so color this event as a primal victory for evolution? The answer largely lies with Huxley himself, who successfully promoted ... a version that suited his purposes..." (Pg. 398)

Of the infamous "Nebraska Man" claims, he acknowledges, "One can hardly blame modern creationists for making hay of this brief but interesting episode in paleontology. After all, they're only getting their fair licks at [Henry] Osborne, who used the original interpretation to ridicule and lambaste their erstwhile champion [William Jennings] Bryan... I write this essay to argue that Nebraska man tells a precisely opposite tale, one that should give creationists pause (though I do admit the purely rhetorical value of a proclaimed primate ancestor later exposed as a pig)." (Pg. 436-437) He adds, "Yet anyone who has studied the dental anatomy of mammals knows immediately that this seemingly implausible mix-up of pig for primate is not only easy to understand but represents one of the classic and recurring confusions of the profession. The cheek teeth of pigs and humans are astonishingly and uncannily similar... The Hesperopithecus tooth, worn so flat and nearly to the roots, was a prime candidate for just such a misidentification." (Pg. 443) Of the famous reconstructed drawing of "Nebraska Man," he concedes, "The attempt to reconstruct an entire creature from a single tooth is absolute folly... I can hardly blame creationists for gloating over the propaganda value of this story." (Pg. 445-446) But he also adds, "If creationists really wanted to ape the procedures of science, they would ... hold up their most ballyhooed, and now most thoroughly discredited, empirical claim---the coexistence of dinosaur and human footprints in the Paluxy Creek beds ... and publicly announce their error and its welcome correction." (Pg. 447)

Besides being a highly creative evolutionary theorist, Gould was also a brilliant writer and an engaged "public intellectual." His presence is sorely missed on the scientific and literary scene.
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on July 11, 2013
For anyone interested in paleontology, Stephen Jay Gould's books of essays on that science and evolution are a must read.
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