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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ever since Gould scientific essays are fun, October 11, 2000
This review is from: Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History (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. Reading Gould, I get the feeling that his way of arguing could well have been the way Socrates once talked to anyone you cared to listen: ask before you accept anything as "fact", and be aware of your limits. Or to put it in Gould's words: "I will rejoice in the multifariousness of nature and leave the chimera of certainty to politicians and preachers".
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