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Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History

4.4 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393308181
ISBN-10: 0393308189
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Editorial Reviews


“A shrewd and learned intellectual whose essays on Charles Darwin have the style and address of what in other circumstances might be the writing of a literary critic upon Stendhal or Proust or other such major figure in the world of letters.” (P. B. Medawar - The Sciences)

“A remarkable achievement by any measure. [Gould] is profoundly intelligent, a writer of great natural wit, and his sophistication and learning range far beyond the parameters of his academic field, biology. . . . One is hard pressed to single out past writers who could wear the sobriquet of natural history essayist with such distinction.” (David Walsten - Chicago Tribune)

About the Author

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Geology at Harvard University. He published over twenty books, received the National Book and National Book Critics Circle Awards, and a MacArthur Fellowship.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (July 17, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393308189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393308181
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If I ever have to prove to my son that science can be an entertaining adventure and anything but a reclusive activity, I will give him one of Stephen Jay Gould's books to read. "Ever since Darwin" is the first in a series of collected essays which Gould originally wrote for scientific journals. Some of his favorite subjects are the purposeless, non-progressive nature of evolution (and why we like to deny this fact), the unconscious reflection of social and political ideas in scientific theories, the explanatory power of Darwin's theory, and the peculiar details of the history of science (for example, why Darwin was NOT the naturalist on board of the H.M.S. Beagle). Gould's essays are always full of surprising details, telling anecdotes and witty asides. He would have made an excellent Enlightenment philosopher because he reminds his readers again and again that reason and the scientific method are powerful instruments - if one is aware of their limitations (for example, the "anthropocentric bias", the belief in human "specialness"). Throughout, Gould highlights the human side of science, and the human creativity involved. For him, science is not a "mechanical collection of facts and induction of theories, but a complex process involving intuition, bias, and insight from other fields". Gould has a gentle humor, and an infectious enthusiasm; he likes to play with words (one essay is titled "Is the Cambrian Explosion a Sigmoid Fraud?"), asks interesting questions, never shys away from the odd detail, and takes particular pleasure in theories that contradict common sense.Read more ›
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This was a wonderful reading experience. Dr. Gould is a truely gifted writer with a wonderful wit and colorful style. He has a broad range of interests and knowledge and an interesting circle of friends and collegues upon whose wisdom he also draws (Astronomer Sagan, Geologists Press and Siever, were among those with whose work I was familiar). He also manages to approach "accepted" theories from unusual directions, sometimes with novel and provokative results! The collection of essays includes an interesting work on the effects of the personality of the Captain of the Beagle on the formulation of Darwin's theories; a subject that had certainly never occurred to me. There is also an interesting discussion of the human baby as an unfinished embryo, with interesting implications for the upper limit on brain size and for human evolution as a whole. The effect of size on intellectual potential of the brains of different species, for instance ants vs humans, is the topic under discussion in the Sizing up of Human Intelligence. The interaction of planetary size and surface area and the concommitant implications for development of life is the subject of another article. The effect of social millieu on the development and acceptance of scientific theories is also discussed as is the hindsight criticism of "wrong" theories and their proponents. Probably most interesting, and certainly most urgently in need of repetition even now, is the tendency to use scientific "fact" or verbal slight of hand to support social status quo or even abuse by those with a political agenda. Many of the essays could be well used in high school classes to teach and encourage critical thinking and novel approaches to what is commonly held as "fact." I would not just recommend the book to you, I would encourage you to read it cover to cover!
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
One can argue that no scientific theory has caused more controversies than Darwin's theory. Not to mention the history of the conflicts between religious beliefs and the evolutionary theory, many people today still have trouble accepting it, no matter how all the evidences appear to favor the theory.

Ever Since Darwin by Stephen Jay Gould, however, is not a mere collection of praise songs for the triumph of science. In his essays, Darwinian interpretations of evolutionary biology are illuminated in light of the (enjoyable, at least for us) struggles of those thinkers of conflicting theories. Through citing rich evidences in the history of evolutionary biology, Gould emphasizes the inevitability of having human bias in scientific process.

This is a kind of book that I strongly recommend to students who tend to develop a misconception that science exists only to make their academic experience at school painful. Textbooks do not teach science as much as Gould's essays do. Why?

Science often tends to be seen as the culmination of the infallible facts and evidences deriving from perfectly logical thinking by a few great minds. Gould provides numerous examples to show this is not really the case. In fact, you learn that scientists, who are supposed to thrive for objectivity, suffer quite often from their own agenda and intellectual bias. It is as much a creative, human activity as art and literature, and Gould's excellent essays illuminate that endeavor, not just the bits of accepted facts to regurgitate. All this is done via the discussions of various interesting topics from a baby fly eating its own mother to the dubious attempts to link biological findings to justify racial inequality.
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