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The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History

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With sales of well over one million copies in North America alone, the commercial success of Gould's books now matches their critical acclaim. The Panda's Thumb will introduce a new generation of readers to this unique writer, who has taken the art of the scientific essay to new heights. Were dinosaurs really dumber than lizards? Why, after all, are roughly the same number With sales of well over one million copies in North America alone, the commercial success of Gould's books now matches their critical acclaim. The Panda's Thumb will introduce a new generation of readers to this unique writer, who has taken the art of the scientific essay to new heights. Were dinosaurs really dumber than lizards? Why, after all, are roughly the same number of men and women born into the world? What led the famous Dr. Down to his theory of mongolism, and its racist residue? What do the panda's magical "thumb" and the sea turtle's perilous migration tell us about imperfections that prove the evolutionary rule? The wonders and mysteries of evolutionary biology are elegantly explored in these and other essays by the celebrated natural history writer Stephen Jay Gould.


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With sales of well over one million copies in North America alone, the commercial success of Gould's books now matches their critical acclaim. The Panda's Thumb will introduce a new generation of readers to this unique writer, who has taken the art of the scientific essay to new heights. Were dinosaurs really dumber than lizards? Why, after all, are roughly the same number With sales of well over one million copies in North America alone, the commercial success of Gould's books now matches their critical acclaim. The Panda's Thumb will introduce a new generation of readers to this unique writer, who has taken the art of the scientific essay to new heights. Were dinosaurs really dumber than lizards? Why, after all, are roughly the same number of men and women born into the world? What led the famous Dr. Down to his theory of mongolism, and its racist residue? What do the panda's magical "thumb" and the sea turtle's perilous migration tell us about imperfections that prove the evolutionary rule? The wonders and mysteries of evolutionary biology are elegantly explored in these and other essays by the celebrated natural history writer Stephen Jay Gould.

30 review for The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Stephen Jay Gould is a pleasure to read. No writer I know can so seamlessly combine the cultural sophistication of belles-lettres with the rigors of scientific explanation. Gould is singularly able to frame scientific controversies and hypotheses within a larger historical context, showing the human side of the scientific endeavor while in no way minimizing its brilliance and legitimacy. Science emerges as both deeply human—colored by a thousand irrational biases and prejudices—and yet remarkabl Stephen Jay Gould is a pleasure to read. No writer I know can so seamlessly combine the cultural sophistication of belles-lettres with the rigors of scientific explanation. Gould is singularly able to frame scientific controversies and hypotheses within a larger historical context, showing the human side of the scientific endeavor while in no way minimizing its brilliance and legitimacy. Science emerges as both deeply human—colored by a thousand irrational biases and prejudices—and yet remarkably effective at getting beyond these human failings. I would even go so far to say that Gould is worth reading simply for the writing alone. His prose is excellent—full of personality, and yet never self-indulgent. If you are looking to write non-fiction, you could scarcely find a better model of clarity, wit, and intellectual seriousness. All this being said, I must admit that there are some irritating aspects to Gould’s writing. Or perhaps I should say to his thinking. Arguably Gould’s favorite topics is how culture and personality can warp the scientific enterprise. He gives excellent examples of this, such as Paul Broca’s controversy over brain size, or the racist theories of John Langdon Down. Gould insists that everyone has cultural biases, and he is surely right. But Gould was no intellectual historian—even if he often dipped into the field—and the way that he wields these supposed biases can be frustrating and superficial. Perhaps the most irksome example of this is Gould’s preoccupation with gradualism vs. catastrophism—whether things happen bit by bit, or in rapid bursts. Gould styles himself a catastrophist, and is quick to invoke the “Western bias” for gradualism in characterizing his opponents. Yet I think it is inaccurate to call gradualism a “Western bias”: throughout European history, invoking catastrophic events (such as Noah’s flood) as explanations has been extremely common. It is not even quite fair to call gradualism a “bias,” since there are some good arguments for preferring it. In any case, I think that Gould’s labels set up a false dichotomy. Surely there is a continuum between slow and steady and fast and jerky. Besides all this, Gould’s description of some processes as “sudden” or “fast” can be very misleading for the non-scientist, since he is still talking about many thousands of years. This is just one example of Gould’s penchant for moving scientific questions into the realm of cultural clashes; and I think it is not a fair way to argue. To be fair to Gould, he was a serious scientist and quite capable of making his points on purely empirical grounds. And it is surely legitimate and useful to examine how culture influences science. I mainly object to the way Gould uses this historic truism—that scientists have been guided by biases—to support his own conclusions. Gould was, of course, a man with his own preoccupations. Aside from the gradualist-catastrophist controversy, he is drawn to stories of scientific racism and sexism, the imperfections of evolution (as in the title essay), the science of allometry (the study of size), and the relationship of phylogeny to ontogeny. This may seem like quite a wide field—and Gould was a man of eclectic interests—but his essays have a family resemblance: they examine how biases have distorted the truth of evolution. Of course, what constitutes the "truth of evolution" is open to debate, and Gould has quite particular notions in this field. Some of Gould’s pet theories have not gained general acceptance in the intervening time. But considering how much this field has evolved in the last forty years, it is remarkable that these essays have aged so well. They can still be profitably read by the curious amateur. And, as I said at the beginning, even if the information in these essays were entirely obsolete, the essays would still be worth reading for the quality of writing alone. Few science writers have gained this distinction.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Kay Silva

    Having recently settled in Australia I found the information on Marsupials in South America highly interesting. I also enjoyed his somewhat internal debates about dinosaurs. I still haven't latched on to his writing as much as I would have liked. The content is really good and he has a great sum up near the end about a lot of "points" other science writers have made that really comes through with some fervor about the way that bats and bees see and what the world is to us. The sexual and racial Having recently settled in Australia I found the information on Marsupials in South America highly interesting. I also enjoyed his somewhat internal debates about dinosaurs. I still haven't latched on to his writing as much as I would have liked. The content is really good and he has a great sum up near the end about a lot of "points" other science writers have made that really comes through with some fervor about the way that bats and bees see and what the world is to us. The sexual and racial issues surrounding Evolution in scientific history is a subject I detest but he still was able to keep me interested during that portion as well. Its not a book I would re read but it was a good once over.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maitrey

    This was a hugely enjoyable book by an extremely talented writer. The thought most running across my mind when I was reading this book was: "Where can I get more Stephen Jay Gould books?!" Since it is a collection of essays, I don't really want to review any of them personally. Sure, some of the science here is 30 years old (Gould was always sharp on the uptake though), some of it is out of favour (say Gould's ideas on the gene-centric view of evolution), but you'll still enjoy reading every bit This was a hugely enjoyable book by an extremely talented writer. The thought most running across my mind when I was reading this book was: "Where can I get more Stephen Jay Gould books?!" Since it is a collection of essays, I don't really want to review any of them personally. Sure, some of the science here is 30 years old (Gould was always sharp on the uptake though), some of it is out of favour (say Gould's ideas on the gene-centric view of evolution), but you'll still enjoy reading every bit of it. There are ideas about the evolution of dinosaurs, magnetic bacteria, South American marsupials and even Mickey Mouse. Themes such as racism and sexism, as ever, continue to play a major role in his examination of the past. What was most enjoyable was the fact that Gould is such a sympathetic writer, yet his work is full of wit and consideration. The Panda's Thumb made for an excellent book to pick up, regardless of what I was doing or what my mood was and immediately get lost in whatever world Stephen Jay Gould transported you to.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    This wonderful book is a collection of 31 short articles that appeared in the magazine "Natural History" in the late 1970's ('77-'79)...each 'chapter' is an independent read (for the most part) that, if you are a patient pooper, can be finished in a single seating. The topics range from discussions about Darwin's "Origin of Species" to Agassiz unenlightened racism to the length of a year 500 million years ago to Mickey Mouse's head size. Gould is a great writer with full command of natural histo This wonderful book is a collection of 31 short articles that appeared in the magazine "Natural History" in the late 1970's ('77-'79)...each 'chapter' is an independent read (for the most part) that, if you are a patient pooper, can be finished in a single seating. The topics range from discussions about Darwin's "Origin of Species" to Agassiz unenlightened racism to the length of a year 500 million years ago to Mickey Mouse's head size. Gould is a great writer with full command of natural history and a knack in making a difficult subject both informative and entertaining. The only reason that I 'dinged' the rating is that some of the articles...those involving paleontology and general geology...are very much dated and out of step with the current thinking of earth's history. I know that that is somewhat unfair, but, hey, this review is intended for those potential readers who might assume that the science presented represents the cutting edge some aspects of the earth sciences. It does not. There have been huge advances in both discoveries (e.g. feathered dinosaurs) and evolutionary philosophy...there is no way SJG could have predicted all of that. The book is highly entertaining...I recommend it!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina Spiher

    "An early collection of Stephen Jay Gould's essays from his column in Natural History magazine, The Panda's Thumb was an enjoyable read, assuming you like natural history. It's the third of Gould's collections I've read, and the earliest I've read as well, but it held up well over time. Composed in the late '70s -- '78 and '79, I believe -- the essays in The Panda's Thumb bear the mark of Gould's charming, articulate style ..." Read the rest of my review at [http://www.sabrinaspiher.com/forums/v. "An early collection of Stephen Jay Gould's essays from his column in Natural History magazine, The Panda's Thumb was an enjoyable read, assuming you like natural history. It's the third of Gould's collections I've read, and the earliest I've read as well, but it held up well over time. Composed in the late '70s -- '78 and '79, I believe -- the essays in The Panda's Thumb bear the mark of Gould's charming, articulate style ..." Read the rest of my review at [http://www.sabrinaspiher.com/forums/v...]

  6. 4 out of 5

    Adrian Colesberry

    The greatest modern voice for the neo-Darwinian synthesis. He and a colleague, whose name I forget, re-purposed Kipling's term "just-so stories" to describe evolutionarily plausible but unprovable explanations for things. An amazing critical thinker, Gould realized that if you didn't establish some way of critiquing evolutionary explanations, they would become the equivalent of folk explanations, overpredicting to the point that they could never be disproven. Once evolutionary explanations becam The greatest modern voice for the neo-Darwinian synthesis. He and a colleague, whose name I forget, re-purposed Kipling's term "just-so stories" to describe evolutionarily plausible but unprovable explanations for things. An amazing critical thinker, Gould realized that if you didn't establish some way of critiquing evolutionary explanations, they would become the equivalent of folk explanations, overpredicting to the point that they could never be disproven. Once evolutionary explanations became non-disprovable, it stops being a science and starts being a belief, like believing in god. So he spent a lifetime not just doing his own research but in popularizing disciplined neo-Darwinian critical thinking in this series of essays in Natural History magazine or Nature magazine, I forget. Most of my understanding of the neo-Darwinian synthesis comes from reading Gould.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Fabianna Himet

    3.5 The book consists of 31 essays divided into 8 sections, published in conjunction in 1981. Gould has a curious way of writing. Throughout, he goes over different themes relating them to principles of evolution. He presents information about particularities in natural history with philosophical inquiry. In the first section, Perfection, and Imperfection: a trilogy on a Panda’s Thumb, he talks about contrivance, a term coined by Darwin, which basically refers to existing features that produce in 3.5 The book consists of 31 essays divided into 8 sections, published in conjunction in 1981. Gould has a curious way of writing. Throughout, he goes over different themes relating them to principles of evolution. He presents information about particularities in natural history with philosophical inquiry. In the first section, Perfection, and Imperfection: a trilogy on a Panda’s Thumb, he talks about contrivance, a term coined by Darwin, which basically refers to existing features that produce innovative functions other than previously defined (enter artificial selection’s realm). An idea that breaks from the notion that new parts arise to form a sole assigned function. On this note, he elaborates on pandas’ six digits (”fingers”) and how it was believed (as stated in The Giant Panda: a morphological study of evolutionary mechanisms of D. D. Davis, 1964) that it was an extension of the sesamoid bone that looked like a thumb. He further expands on contrivances in Senseless Signs of History, remarking that it should be acknowledged as evidence of evolution that doesn’t fall within the natural selection concept. The imperfections' seen as remnants of structures that served some function for previous species but no longer shared that function with the current organism. An example used was whales' hip bones. In Double Trouble, Gould explores a clam species with a modified mantle that permits it to camouflages as fish. The second section comprises: Natural Selection and the Human Brain, Darwin’s Middle Road, Death before Birth, Shades of Lamarck y Caring Groups, and Selfish Genes. He revises Alfred Russell Wallace's posture on evolution in contrast to Darwin’s, questioning the exclusivity of natural selection as the agent of evolutionary change. Wallace attributed all evolutionary changes to natural selection and strictly sustained that natural selection would result in an improved version of the species (extreme Darwinism, anyone?). Darwin wouldn’t consider himself part of the ‘Darwinism’ wave that resulted from misapplications of his work because he recognized that other factors and evolutionary mechanisms also contribute (but don’t believe me and look over it yourself in Origin of Species). If you’re too lazy—because the book isn’t exactly thriller—the recap is that natural selection is a solid evolutionary force, but it still isn’t the only one (there’re nonadaptive mechanisms for ex). Wallace never accepted the validity of nonadaptive mechanisms. These nonadaptive mechanisms offered correlations between species development and the existence of organs that had a specific function (selective) but could execute other functions (nonselective). He goes over predominant ideas on evolution at the time, science from a cultural level of analysis, evidence of evolution principles, and science’s unorthodox limits. In A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse, Gould argues that the seemingly nonchalant changes of Mickey’s physical appearance were deliberate. The animation is altered to appear more childlike (enlarged head and eyes) in order to provoke a favorable public reception by “activating the nurturer inside us.” His last section, Size and Time, includes Our Allotted Lifetimes, Natural Attraction: Bacteria, The Birds and The Bees y Time’s Vastness. I think Gould’s posture on evolution is clear throughout. That nature works with what it has and utilizes it to its advantage creating new functions for it. That an organism doesn’t only develop structures to respond to a precise situation by means of natural selection, but that existing systems progress and change because their function isn’t of use anymore. This is what I understood but read it yourself as I could be terribly off, still fun!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jason Adams

    Stephen Gould has a remarkable ability to cover scientific concepts in an accessible manor without dumbing things down. The format of his "Reflections..." produces bite-sized meditations on evolution and natural history topics. My only concern is with the constant movement of science, that insights of the seventies may be stale in the current thinking. I wonder at times if I am reading a time capsule of a particular mode of thought, or the dawn of the accepted way of thinking. Things I thought we Stephen Gould has a remarkable ability to cover scientific concepts in an accessible manor without dumbing things down. The format of his "Reflections..." produces bite-sized meditations on evolution and natural history topics. My only concern is with the constant movement of science, that insights of the seventies may be stale in the current thinking. I wonder at times if I am reading a time capsule of a particular mode of thought, or the dawn of the accepted way of thinking. Things I thought were interesting: 1) The terms Idiot, Moron, and Mongoloid once had Scientific Relevance. Gould had to write an essay advocating the use of Downs' Syndrome over the still accepted Mongoloid Idiot. 2) The idea that Birds should be reclassified under a Family of Dinosaurs captures my imagination. Since it's been forty years, I wonder where that ended up. 3) Finally, the way Gould captures the impact of size as an environment for adaptation breaks up most of the science fiction tropes of big vs. little ("The Fly," "The Fantastic Voyage") while opening whole new doors in understanding of nature.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joni Baboci

    The Panda's Thumb is an overall interesting book dealing with the curiosities of evolution through a compendium of articles written by Gould mostly in the 70s for Nature magazine. The 1992 edition even goes over some clarifications which have come into light in the two decades since the articles have been published. I think the book is a fairly readable popular natural sciences book, although the fragmentation that comes from it being an anthology of articles does make it seem aimless at times. The Panda's Thumb is an overall interesting book dealing with the curiosities of evolution through a compendium of articles written by Gould mostly in the 70s for Nature magazine. The 1992 edition even goes over some clarifications which have come into light in the two decades since the articles have been published. I think the book is a fairly readable popular natural sciences book, although the fragmentation that comes from it being an anthology of articles does make it seem aimless at times. I think the genre has advanced in terms of content and readability by leaps and bounds in the last two decades and while Gould is still a good read, I do believe there are lots of equally good books available which have a bit more structure than the Panda's Thumb. As for anthologies I am a big fan of The Best American Science and Nature Writing yearly series.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Blevins

    This book, read as prep for AP biology before my senior year in high school, brought me into the world of biology in high school, and inspired me to major in biology in college. It also inspired me to read more nonfiction, particularly science nonfiction. It's been one of my favorite types of writing ever since. Steven Gould is amazing at bringing technical concepts into layman's terms. This book, read as prep for AP biology before my senior year in high school, brought me into the world of biology in high school, and inspired me to major in biology in college. It also inspired me to read more nonfiction, particularly science nonfiction. It's been one of my favorite types of writing ever since. Steven Gould is amazing at bringing technical concepts into layman's terms.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tim Robinson

    A collection of essays is not an easy kind of book to like. Here we have a common theme - a slightly unorthodox view of evolution - but no overarching structure or narrative. Nor does each essay come to a single specific conclusion. So it is a largely random wandering through the author's mind, with neither "schedule" nor "map". A greater effort to tie the essays together and sharpen their conclusions would have made this book a lot more readable. A collection of essays is not an easy kind of book to like. Here we have a common theme - a slightly unorthodox view of evolution - but no overarching structure or narrative. Nor does each essay come to a single specific conclusion. So it is a largely random wandering through the author's mind, with neither "schedule" nor "map". A greater effort to tie the essays together and sharpen their conclusions would have made this book a lot more readable.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ravioli

    I'm sorry. I've been trying to read this book for 2 years. The essay topics are interesting, and I think Gould tries to make it accessible, but I just couldn't make it through. The content was over my head and the writing wasn't interesting enough to keep me hooked. DNF 56%ish I'm sorry. I've been trying to read this book for 2 years. The essay topics are interesting, and I think Gould tries to make it accessible, but I just couldn't make it through. The content was over my head and the writing wasn't interesting enough to keep me hooked. DNF 56%ish

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    I'm rereading all of Stephen Jay Gould's works. They are well worth it for pure scientific entertainment. The Panda's Thumb was written in 1980, so it is a bit old. Yet it still stands up well. The pands has five digits plus a "thumb" that is not really a thumb at all. It does show how a thumb could form since there is no gene for a thumb. Gould argues against the slow change theory of evolution. Rather he argues for dramatic sudden changes. I believe Dawkins and others still continue this argum I'm rereading all of Stephen Jay Gould's works. They are well worth it for pure scientific entertainment. The Panda's Thumb was written in 1980, so it is a bit old. Yet it still stands up well. The pands has five digits plus a "thumb" that is not really a thumb at all. It does show how a thumb could form since there is no gene for a thumb. Gould argues against the slow change theory of evolution. Rather he argues for dramatic sudden changes. I believe Dawkins and others still continue this argument. I was fascinated by the magnetotactic bacterium. They build a magnet in their bodies made of tiny particles.

  14. 5 out of 5

    James F

    Gould's second collection of articles from Natural History. Like the first, very interesting and fun to read, if now somewhat dated. I think that in some of the articles, he tries a little too hard to be a "gadfly" and generalizes his conclusions too much, but he always provokes thought. I enjoy reading articles on evolutionary theory that don't get bogged down in arguing with creationists, but take the facts for granted and discuss the more interesting questions of How and Why things happened t Gould's second collection of articles from Natural History. Like the first, very interesting and fun to read, if now somewhat dated. I think that in some of the articles, he tries a little too hard to be a "gadfly" and generalizes his conclusions too much, but he always provokes thought. I enjoy reading articles on evolutionary theory that don't get bogged down in arguing with creationists, but take the facts for granted and discuss the more interesting questions of How and Why things happened the way they did.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jimbot

    This is the book you want to have just read when you are faced with having to argue with an idiot. Unfortunately, you can never win an argument with an idiot, but at least there is a chapter describing the differences between idiot, moron, and imbecile. When it comes time to explain to your argument-partner what all that fuss regarding Darwin was all about, the topics in this book will handily give you something to knowingly speak about.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Aerann

    I'll read anything & everything I can find that Stephen Jay Gould wrote. I'll read anything & everything I can find that Stephen Jay Gould wrote.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    This man's wit and intelligence and his interest in everything were much to be admired. This man's wit and intelligence and his interest in everything were much to be admired.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael Reilly

    Between 1977 and 2002 Gould released ten volumes of collected essays from his monthly column in "Natural History" magazine. I read all ten as they came out. I was always excited to see a new volume appear. Now I am leisurely re-reading them. This second volume was published in 1980. Gould was a brilliant scientist who contributed several key concepts to the theory of evolution. His most important idea was that, despites its name, evolution did not always evolve. It tended to move forward in fits Between 1977 and 2002 Gould released ten volumes of collected essays from his monthly column in "Natural History" magazine. I read all ten as they came out. I was always excited to see a new volume appear. Now I am leisurely re-reading them. This second volume was published in 1980. Gould was a brilliant scientist who contributed several key concepts to the theory of evolution. His most important idea was that, despites its name, evolution did not always evolve. It tended to move forward in fits and starts between long periods of stability. The theory was named "punctuated equilibrium", which doesn't trip off the tongue. The amazing thing was that in addition to being a brilliant scientist, he was a brilliant writer. Popular science writing frequently involves dumbing down and smoothing out edges and complications. Gould had the ability to clearly describe very sophisticated issues in biology and evolution. He assumed he was writing for interested intelligent non-scientist so he avoided jargon and gobbly-gook. At the same time he usually preserved the excitement of discussing cutting edge ideas that were controversial. He always admitted when he was dealing with speculative ideas. As in each of these volumes, Gould covers allot of territory. He has articles on Darwin and his writings, an evolutionary history of the drawing of Mickey Mouse, abuses of evolutionary theory to support misogyny and racism, the mechanics of how a Panda's thumb evolved, and how smart where dinosaurs. So far as I know, there is no one today who does such a good job at spreading the word about what is going on in evolutionary theory. I know that Gould's cutting edge stuff in 1980 is now old hat and much of it probably no longer accepted. It is a sign of what an interesting writer he is that he is still so readable. (I am reading a paperback which I picked up used. I am fascinated by the previous owner. Many of the pages have notes in Chinese writing and it appears that many of the technical words were translated, in fine small precise handwritten characters, into Chinese. There seems to be a story here.)

  19. 5 out of 5

    João

    The Panda's thumb is one of the most widely read and translated SJ Gould books. It took me a few years to finally read it all as I've read multiple chapters in random order before (those about the thumb of the panda, the one about solving the Piltdown conspiracy, among others). Finally finishing it I must say it is a bit less cohesive then the previous one but has some texts that shine even more on their own. My favourite piece on science history was the "Crazy Old Randolph Kirkpatrick" chapter. The Panda's thumb is one of the most widely read and translated SJ Gould books. It took me a few years to finally read it all as I've read multiple chapters in random order before (those about the thumb of the panda, the one about solving the Piltdown conspiracy, among others). Finally finishing it I must say it is a bit less cohesive then the previous one but has some texts that shine even more on their own. My favourite piece on science history was the "Crazy Old Randolph Kirkpatrick" chapter. Highly recommended!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Clàudia

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It's a well written and exciting book on curiosities in natural sciences and evolution. It must be probably the "scientific" book I mainly enjoyed reading. However, some essays are pretty old (from the 1980s approximately), so some facts may be outdated. What I liked the most about Stephen Jay Gould is that he is aware of the impact of human biases on science, and most of his essays reflect so. He knows that the work behind science production is not neutral, and the impact that history and polit It's a well written and exciting book on curiosities in natural sciences and evolution. It must be probably the "scientific" book I mainly enjoyed reading. However, some essays are pretty old (from the 1980s approximately), so some facts may be outdated. What I liked the most about Stephen Jay Gould is that he is aware of the impact of human biases on science, and most of his essays reflect so. He knows that the work behind science production is not neutral, and the impact that history and politics have had on science is visible.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brit McCarthy

    Wavering between 3.5 and 4 stars. I'm sure I would have enjoyed and appreciated this more when I was in the middle of my undergraduate science degree. But its been a few years since then and this book needed a lot of my attention now! Once I stopped trying to read it cover to cover and just read an essay at a time it was more manageable. Regardless, it was good to get my brain back into gear for good science writing - I don't want to forget everything I learned and see it turned to mush. Wavering between 3.5 and 4 stars. I'm sure I would have enjoyed and appreciated this more when I was in the middle of my undergraduate science degree. But its been a few years since then and this book needed a lot of my attention now! Once I stopped trying to read it cover to cover and just read an essay at a time it was more manageable. Regardless, it was good to get my brain back into gear for good science writing - I don't want to forget everything I learned and see it turned to mush.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    This is at least the second time I have read this book but I guess I didn't put it in goodreads before. Gould's arrogance is sometimes infuriating, but push through it because the gems in here are worth the trouble. These collections of Gould's essays from Natural History magazine are simply brilliant. I want to read each of these collections again and again. Some of the best nonfiction on earth. This is at least the second time I have read this book but I guess I didn't put it in goodreads before. Gould's arrogance is sometimes infuriating, but push through it because the gems in here are worth the trouble. These collections of Gould's essays from Natural History magazine are simply brilliant. I want to read each of these collections again and again. Some of the best nonfiction on earth.

  23. 4 out of 5

    RC

    Lucid, welcoming, erudite, and eminently readable. Gould had a genius for conveying biological and geological concepts in crystal English prose, always making sure to bring his reader along with him on his Darwinian journeys.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    Each chapter was about a different interesting subject, but I'm afraid it was a bit dense for me, and I tended to go off into auto-pilot whilst I was reading it. But I blame me, not the author, because his style was chatty enough. Each chapter was about a different interesting subject, but I'm afraid it was a bit dense for me, and I tended to go off into auto-pilot whilst I was reading it. But I blame me, not the author, because his style was chatty enough.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    It definitely took me a couple of chapters to get into this book. He has a unique writing style. It also helped to use Google frequently, since it was written in 1980. I think a glossary would have helped.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jared

    Interesting read, much like “Ever Since Darwin” though these essays don’t seem to be as engaging. Some of the research is dated, but it is fascinating to see the perspective in science from 40 years ago.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Viola

    “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” Stephen Jay Gould

  28. 4 out of 5

    B

    Some very interesting essays and some not so interesting. All in all, still worth the read though.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris Briscoe

    An excellent rebuttal to the miraculous but debunked claims of evolution.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Read in college. Gould does a marvelous job of explaining the theory of evolution

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