- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Revised & Expanded edition (June 17, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393314251
- ISBN-13: 978-0393314250
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 205 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Mismeasure of Man (Revised & Expanded) Paperback – June 17, 1996
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How smart are you? If that question doesn't spark a dozen more questions in your mind (like "What do you mean by 'smart,'" "How do I measure it," and "Who's asking?"), then The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould's masterful demolition of the IQ industry, should be required reading. Gould's brilliant, funny, engaging prose dissects the motivations behind those who would judge intelligence, and hence worth, by cranial size, convolutions, or score on extremely narrow tests. How did scientists decide that intelligence was unipolar and quantifiable, and why did the standard keep changing over time? Gould's answer is clear and simple: power maintains itself. European men of the 19th century, even before Darwin, saw themselves as the pinnacle of creation and sought to prove this assertion through hard measurement. When one measure was found to place members of some "inferior" group such as women or Southeast Asians over the supposedly rightful champions, it would be discarded and replaced with a new, more comfortable measure. The 20th-century obsession with numbers led to the institutionalization of IQ testing and subsequent assignment to work (and rewards) commensurate with the score, shown by Gould to be not simply misguided--for surely intelligence is multifactorial--but also regressive, creating a feedback loop rewarding the rich and powerful. The revised edition includes a scathing critique of Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve, taking them to task for rehashing old arguments to exploit a new political wave of uncaring and belt tightening. It might not make you any smarter, but The Mismeasure of Man will certainly make you think. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“A rare book-at once of great importance and wonderful to read.”
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That said, this review is more about the physical quality of the e-book rather than the content of the text, which I read in complete form a long time ago in hardcover form. W.W. Norton should be ashamed of themselves for how messed-up the format of this e-book is. It is barely readable. And many of Gould's books are priced over $9.99 in e-book form. I bought this because it was the best of his titles available for Kindle at $9.99, not more. He was one of my favorite authors of the past (I have to say now - he belabors the point a lot - and Chapter 1 is a priori dumb - I mean it's all well and good to cover Morton's adventures with mustard seed and lead shot, but all I learned was how idiotic so many of these schemes of the past were, and also sad, denigrating facts about heroes like Abraham Lincoln (somehow I missed that he said "Negro equality! Fudge!" in the Lincoln-Douglas debates - kids, don't copy that one). I am attaching proof of what I say.
Which is a shame. The early chapters are great fun to read, and offer great insight in to how adaptation works. But unlike, say, Dawkins, Gould wanders about in an uneven fashion. That's expected somewhat in a book that is a collection of magazine pieces written over many years, unlike a purpose-written book. But some of these feel like an idea that had been sitting in a drawer for many years, he decided to write something about it, but didn't really have much to say. A good editor could have cleaned that up, but perhaps that would not have left enough material for a book.