Gould, Stephen Jay
Stephen Jay Gould 1941-2002-
American nonfiction writer and essayist.
The following entry presents an overview of Gould's career through 2001.
Gould, an educator and evolutionary biologist, is well-known and respected for his nonfiction works in which he explains complex scientific theories in a manner that is accessible to the layman. Trained as a paleontologist and geologist, Gould is noted for his ability to make his esoteric topics entertaining without compromising their integrity. His essay collections include Ever since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History (1977) and The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History (1985), and his full-length works include The Mismeasure of Man (1981), Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time (1987), and Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (1999). Gould has been praised by critics for providing a valuable link between the worlds of science and literature.
Gould was born in New York City, the son of Leonard, a court reporter, and Eleanor, an artist. In 1963 Gould completed his undergraduate studies at Antioch College and earned a Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1967. He started his career as an educator at Antioch College in 1966 as an instructor in geology. In 1967 Gould began teaching at Harvard University, eventually holding positions as a professor of geology, the curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology. In 1974 Gould began writing a monthly column for Natural History magazine. Gould also served on the advisory boards for the Children's Television Workshop and Nova magazine, and stayed actively involved in court battles regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools. Throughout his career, Gould received a wide variety of awards and accolades, including the American Book Award for The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History (1980), the National Book Critics' Circle Award for The Mismeasure of Man, the Phi Beta Kappa Book Award in science for Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History (1983), a National Book Critics' Circle Award nomination for Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle, and the Rhone-Poulenc Prize for Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (1989). Gould died on May 20, 2002, succumbing to lung cancer.
A majority of Gould's essay collections are comprised of commentary written for his monthly column, “This View of Life,” in Natural History magazine. Gould's signature approach in his essays is to illustrate scientific principles using engaging, often bizarre, examples drawn from nature. Ever since Darwin examines how humans, with their intellectual predispositions, manipulate science for their own ends. Gould contends that those who find biological determinism compelling do so not because of the prevalence of irrefutable evidence but because of an often racist agenda. The work stresses how the use of analogies has helped scientific knowledge advance and has contributed to the development of theories in successive areas of scholarship such as criminal anthropology, eugenics, psychoanalysis, sociology, and biology. The title essay of the collection The Panda's Thumb discusses evolutionary changes and argues that the opposable digit found on pandas is not actually a thumb, but instead is an enlarged wristbone that enables the panda to strip leaves from bamboo shoots. In Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, Gould presents an evolutionary theory that he developed with paleontologist Niles Eldredge known as “punctuated equilibrium,” which holds that evolution does not occur in steady incremental stages, but rather in rapidly sweeping leaps of change initiated in small segments of a population. Punctuated equilibrium directly challenges the view of stage evolution held by gradualists, and Gould maintains that homo sapiens are no longer in the process of biological evolution. The Flamingo's Smile explores a number of themes such as the origins of appendages, myths about certain creatures, intelligence testing, and science in the service of ideology. In 1987 Gould published An Urchin in the Storm: Essays about Books and Ideas, a collection of Gould's reviews of books about evolution, most of which originally appeared in The New York Review of Books. Bully for Brontosaurus (1991) and Eight Little Piggies (1993) both address a major recurring motif in Gould's work—misunderstood evolutionary history—while displaying his trademark metaphors and extrapolations.
The opening section of Gould's first book-length work, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977), addresses a fundamental question in evolutionary biology. In the mid-1800s, Ernst Haeckel posited that “ontogeny,” or an individual's life history, parallels “phylogeny,” or the history of that individual's species. Nineteenth-century embryologists in general believed that an organism's physical development progressed through the same stages that the organism's entire species did during its long evolution. Gould traces how the arguments surrounding the validity of “ontogeny” and “philogeny” have changed since Haeckel's original observations. Mismeasure of Man exhaustively reanalyzes the raw data that researchers have used over the last 150 years to develop the core principles of biological determinism. In so doing, Gould exposes what he sees as two key erroneous findings: the belief that brain size differs according to race and sex, and the belief that intelligence can be quantified through methods such as craniometry or mental testing. In a highly critical assessment of scientific “objectivity” in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Gould systematically debunks myths about the relationship between IQ and heredity, and questions whether intelligence can or should be measured. Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle presents a discussion of “deep time,” or geological time, and seeks to reevaluate the theories of scientists Villian Thomas Burnet, James Hutton, and Charles Lyell. Using an arrow as his metaphor—whereby “time's arrow” corresponds to sequential events and “time's cycle” corresponds to repeating patterns of events—Gould demonstrates how humans tend to perceive time and notes that most humans subscribe to the sequential or linear concept of time. Wonderful Life, a book-length study of Charles Walcott's 1909 Burgess Shale discovery, uses the film It's a Wonderful Life as an extended metaphor for evolution. Gould argues that Walcott miscategorized the hugely diverse animal fossil record found preserved in the shale, wrongly assuming that the creatures must be the predecessors of modern animal life. Because the shale was formed from a sudden landslide, Gould argues that the event supports the idea that random events factor heavily in evolution. Reminiscent of Mismeasure of Man, Wonderful Life further posits that scientists must remain more receptive to creative approaches to data. Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin (1996) places the work of population geneticists against the work of paleontologists, who have studied fossil records and have traced the various stages of human evolution. Gould uses the slump in American baseball batting averages to illustrate how competitive systems can change over time. Gould asserts that baseball players have nearly reached a point where they cannot “improve” anymore and he parallels this development to the record of biological evolution. Rocks of Ages, based on one of Gould's earlier essays, seeks to eradicate the idea that religion and science—along with their tools, methodologies, and belief systems—can or should exist within each other's intellectual territories. Positing the NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) principle, Gould maintains that the realms of science and religion necessarily and rightly occupy different areas of scholarship.
Gould has been applauded by critics for consistently upholding his high standards of accessibility and scientific integrity throughout his career. Many critics have maintained that a large part of Gould's appeal lies in his ability to elicit in his readers his own enthusiasm for his subjects. He has garnered acclaim not only for his insights and inventive means of communicating intricate, detailed theories, but also for the sheer quality of his prose. However, commentators have noted that Gould often approaches science with his own political and personal biases. Some reviewers have argued that Gould continually downplays religious views of scientific events and does not accurately or adequately present opposing viewpoints. Critics familiar with evolution and the theories of Charles Darwin have commented that Gould's “punctuated equilibrium” theory does not differ significantly from what Darwin himself wrote and observed. Rocks of Ages has met with particular criticism, with some reviewers faulting the work for its loose arguments and weak research. Other critics have complained that Gould's works can be difficult to read because his personality has such an overwhelming presence in his books, arguing that his immodesty can border on conceit. Commentators have also faulted Gould for relying too heavily on his use of extended metaphors. Despite these criticisms, most critics have conceded that Gould's prodigious scientific knowledge and accomplished prose style has made him one of the most important science writers in contemporary literature.
Ever since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History (essays) 1977
Ontogeny and Phylogeny (nonfiction) 1977
The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History (essays) 1980
The Mismeasure of Man (nonfiction) 1981
Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History (essays) 1983
The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History (essays) 1985
Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time (nonfiction) 1987
An Urchin in the Storm: Essays about Books and Ideas (essays) 1987
Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (nonfiction) 1989
Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History (essays) 1991
Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History (essays) 1993
Dinosaur in a Haystack (essays) 1995
Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin (nonfiction) 1996; published in the United Kingdom as Life's Grandeur: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin
Questioning the Millennium: A Rationalist's Guide to a Precisely Arbitrary Countdown (nonfiction) 1997
Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History (essays) 1998
Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (nonfiction) 1999
The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History (essays) 2000
I Have Landed: The End of a Beginning in Natural History (essays) 2002
The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (nonfiction) 2002
SOURCE: Young, J. Z. “The Ape Who Never Grows Up.” New York Review of Books 25, no. 9 (1 June 1978): 12-13.
[In the following review of Ontogeny and Phylogeny, Young offers a summary and analysis of Gould's major arguments.]
It is curious that through the centuries men seem to have been more interested in studying the heavens than things on Earth. Even when they did begin to investigate terrestrial matters it was the inorganic that they studied first. Exact knowledge about living creatures has come last of all among the sciences. So it has come about that Newton and his successors among physicists and chemists have usually been considered to be the only real...
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SOURCE: Gieryn, Thomas F. “The Evolution of Evolution.” Contemporary Sociology 8, no. 1 (January 1979): 22-4.
[In the following review of Ontogeny and Phylogeny and Ever since Darwin, Gieryn argues that both books address the use of analogy in developing scientific theories and that the latter volume is especially useful for “sociologists of science.”]
Could a specialist in West Indian land snails have much to say of interest to sociologists? A decided yes, if he is a generalist in paleontology and evolutionary biology, Professor of Geology at Harvard and member of its departments of biology and history of science and, not incidentally, Stephen...
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SOURCE: Medawar, P. B. “Back to Evolution.” New York Review of Books 28, no. 2 (19 February 1981): 34-6.
[In the following review of The Panda's Thumb, Medawar comments on Gould's examinations of the Piltdown Man and the unusual opposable “thumb” of the panda.]
When I reviewed Stephen Jay Gould's admirable Ever since Darwin a few years ago, I expressed the hope that he would not lay his pen aside for too long. I need not have worried, for Gould is a natural writer: he has something to say and the inclination and skill with which to say it. His present collection [The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History] is a series of essays...
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SOURCE: Lewontin, R. C. “The Inferiority Complex.” New York Review of Books 28, no. 6 (22 October 1981): 12-16.
[In the following review of The Mismeasure of Man, Lewontin contextualizes Gould's arguments about faulty data collection, IQ testing, and the flawed thinking behind biological determinism.]
The first meeting of Oliver Twist and young Jack Dawkins, the Artful Dodger, on the road to London was a confrontation between two stereotypes of nineteenth-century literature. The Dodger was a “snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy … with rather bow legs and little sharp ugly eyes.” Nor was he much on English grammar and pronunciation. “I've got to...
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SOURCE: Krauthammer, Charles. “The Ideology of Intelligence.” New Republic 187, no. 3 (11 November 1981): 28-30
[In the following review, Krauthammer praises The Mismeasure of Man, but indicates that Gould, like those scientists whose theories Gould debunks, has his own personal biases.]
The 1964-65 New York World's Fair had a pavilion called Sermons from Science. Being one of those adolescents with an insatiable appetite for things scientific, I wandered in and was treated to fascinating films on such mysterious phenomena as resonance (that which allowed Caruso to shatter glass with his voice) and electromagnetic radiation (that which brought “Father...
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SOURCE: Manuel, Bruce. “IQ Fallacies, Darwin, and His Legacy.” Christian Science Monitor 74, no. 74 (12 March 1982): B3.
[In the following excerpt, Manuel offers a positive assessment of The Mismeasure of Man.]
One of a book editor's easy tasks is finding out which subject areas spawn the most new books. This is accomplished by carefully observing which shelf of review copies sags the most—public affairs? biography? ancient history?
A harder but more rewarding task is discovering which books to recommend. After reading through several new volumes about Charles Darwin and the attempts of archaeologists and theorists to tie up the loose ends of...
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SOURCE: Graber, David. “A Breathtaking Way of Essaying Chickens and Eggs.” Los Angeles Times Book Review (17 July 1983): 3.
[In the following review, Graber discusses how Gould builds on Darwin's theories in Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes.]
Until only a century ago, communication, even social intercourse, was a commonplace among leading intellectual lights of Western culture. Sharing—for the most part—elements of class, education, and a body of knowledge now banished by the demands of specialization, writers, social thinkers, scientists and artists knew one another well enough to participate in a satisfying exchange of ideas. For several reasons, alas, those days...
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SOURCE: Sullivan, Daniel. Review of Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, by Stephen Jay Gould. America 149, no. 4 (6 August 1983): 76-7.
[In the following review, Sullivan examines Gould's major arguments in Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, noting Gould's focus on creationism and the different approaches to explaining evolution.]
It is a delight to review another book by the prolific science writer and entertaining author, Stephen Jay Gould (cf. my review of The Mismeasure of Man [7/17/82]), who is on the faculty of Harvard University, where he teaches geology, biology and the history of science. This most recent book is the third volume of collected essays,...
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SOURCE: Dunn, Stephen G., and Anne Lonergan. Review of The Flamingo's Smile, by Stephen Jay Gould. America 154, no. 20 (24 May 1986): 437-39.
[In the following review, Dunn and Lonergan praise The Flamingo's Smile, but fault the work for lacking discussion concerning science's relationship with technology and its “responsibility for the global nightmare.”]
Do you ho-hum every time the boring topic of creation science and its fight with evolution comes up? We did—until we perused the above books, by a theologian, a lawyer, a biologist and a chemist, respectively—and found the deleterious consequences of the conflict cast pretty wide ripples....
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SOURCE: Sulloway, Frank. “The Metaphor and the Rock.” New York Review of Books 34, no. 9 (28 May 1987): 37-40.
[In the following review, Sulloway draws connections between Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle's central metaphors and the text of Gould's earlier works, particularly Ontogeny and Phylogeny and The Mismeasure of Man.]
Ever since the appearance of Ontogeny and Phylogeny a decade ago, Stephen Jay Gould has continued to delight and inform a wide spectrum of readers and, in doing so, to defy C. P. Snow's lament about the “two cultures” of the sciences and the humanities. Gould's monthly column in Natural History magazine, published...
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SOURCE: D'Evelyn, Thomas. “Finding Patterns of Meaning in the Tick of Time.” Christian Science Monitor 79, no. 161 (15 July 1987): 21.
[In the following review, D'Evelyn examines how Gould uses the metaphor of an arrow in Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle to compose a history of geology that focuses on three central geological thinkers.]
Today, as in the Renaissance, the breakup of systems of thought releases great energy. Time and research have undermined the main modern ideologies of Marxism and Darwinism until some of their proponents consider them not so much scientific theories as research programs, not testworthy in themselves but still capable of inspiring...
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SOURCE: “Foxes and Hedgehogs: A Look at Four Books by Celebrated Scientists.” American Scientist 76, no. 5 (September/October 1988): 503-04.
[In the following review, the critic questions the self-reflective nature of An Urchin in the Storm.]
How should a collection of reviews be reviewed? I would rather not second guess Gould by presenting my opinion of the books he has reviewed [in An Urchin in the Storm,] but would rather consider the special set of stylistic attitudes and circumstances that provide unity and interest to this volume, conceding that the ideas and images presented have been constrained by Gould's role as book reviewer so that they are not...
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SOURCE: Smith, Wendy. Review of Wonderful Life, by Stephen Jay Gould. Publishers Weekly 236, no. 14 (13 October 1989): 32-3.
[In the following review, Smith examines the commentary in Wonderful Life on the Burgess Shale rock formation, discovered in 1909 by paleontologist Charles Walcott, and his misinterpretation of the fossils within it.]
It seems entirely appropriate that Stephen Jay Gould's office should be located in Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, a red brick structure in the classic institutional style, built in 1859 by Louis Agassiz, America's premier 19th-century naturalist. Gould has devoted a good portion of his distinguished career to...
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SOURCE: Tobin, Allan J. “Evolutions That Never Evolved.” Los Angeles Times Book Review (29 October 1989): 1.
[In the following review, Tobin argues that Wonderful Life is not as accessible as it could be because of Gould's intrusive presence in the text.]
Stephen Jay Gould's new book, Wonderful Life, recounts two fascinating and previously little-known stories, one about evolution and the other about evolutionary science. The first concerns the relationships between present life on our planet and a set of strange and ancient animals. The second, told as a five-act drama, recounts how three British scientists came to understand these relationships....
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SOURCE: Wright, Robert. “The Intelligence Test.” New Republic 202, no. 5 (29 January 1990): 28-36.
[In the following review, Wright asserts that Gould's “punctuated equilibria” theory in Wonderful Life is neither original nor relevant to the discussion of evolution.]
The acclaim for Stephen Jay Gould is just shy of being universal. He was among the first to win a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award. His lectures are renowned among Harvard undergraduates for their wit and erudition. His monthly column in Natural History has a devout following, and when his essays are anthologized (The Panda's Thumb, The Flamingo's Smile, etc.),...
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SOURCE: Kohn, Marek. “Homage to QWERTYUIOP.” New Statesman and Society 4, no. 149 (3 May 1991): 33-4.
[In the following review, Kohn offers a positive assessment of Bully for Brontosaurus.]
Stephen Jay Gould is halfway into an essay [in Bully for Brontosaurus,] having kicked off with Handel and proceeded via the panda's thumb, when he shows us a picture of his typewriter; or at any rate, an identical model. It's an upright, manual Smith-Corona from the days when the Sopwith Camel was the last word in aviation technology. This is the machine he uses to write his reflections on evolution.
The substance of that particular essay is how the...
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SOURCE: Wells, Martin. “Bully for SJG.” New Scientist 130, no. 1774 (22 June 1991): 47.
[In the following review, Wells compliments Bully for Brontosaurus, noting that the collection's few flaws can be easily overlooked.]
He works to a formula [in Bully for Brontosaurus]. The trick is to spot a biological oddity, an isolated point of interest, and then to work round from that to some topic of global importance. A frog that swallows its eggs and rears tadpoles in its stomach, leading into a discussion of the problem of early stages in the evolution of complex structures. Or the tooth of Hesperopithecus, the American anthropoid that turned out to...
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SOURCE: Lovejoy, Derek. “The Dialectical Paleontologist: Popular Science Writings of Stephen Jay Gould.” Science and Society 55, no. 2 (summer 1991): 197-208.
[In the following essay, Lovejoy discusses Gould's body of work, drawing particular attention to The Mismeasure of Man, Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle, and Wonderful Life.]
- Ever since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1977.
- The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1982.
- Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History. New York: W. W....
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SOURCE: Bethell, Tom. “Good as Gould.” American Spectator 24, no. 8 (August 1991): 9-11.
[In the following essay, Bethell assesses how Gould uses evolutionary theory to support his own political beliefs throughout his body of work.]
Stephen Jay Gould came out from behind a curtain and walked briskly to the podium, briefcase in hand. Good for Gould! He had already taken off his jacket, loosened his banker's tie, and rolled up his sleeves—the better to get down to the business of telling us what's right and what's wrong in evolutionary biology. Stretched out before him in the Memorial Auditorium was this huge shining sea of Stanford undergraduates, who had come to...
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SOURCE: Osman, Tony. “The Evitability of Man.” Spectator 267, no. 8512 (31 August 1991): 24-5.
[In the following review, Osman examines the parallels that Gould creates between his discussion of evolution and events in his personal life in Bully for Brontosaurus.]
You can think of this collection of essays [Bully for Brontosaurus]—articles reprinted from the magazine Natural History—as a series of conversations with Gould. This is a privilege. He is a distinguished scientist—he was the joint author of a theory that showed how evolution must have occurred; but more to the point for these essays—conversations—he combines this with a broad...
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SOURCE: Haegel, Nancy M. “The Questions Scientists Can Answer.” Commonweal 117, no. 16 (27 September 1991): 553-55.
[In the following review, Haegel offers a positive assessment of Bully for Brontosaurus, calling the work a “rich and integrated collection of essays.”]
Bully for Brontosaurus is Stephen Jay Gould's fifth volume of essays collected from his monthly contributions to Natural History magazine. The author himself calls it the best of the five, in part because “I have become a better writer by monthly practice.” This bit of encouragement to those who practice the writer's craft is especially welcome from Gould, the acknowledged...
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SOURCE: Shapiro, Arthur M. “A Humanist at Heart.” New Leader 74, no. 12 (4 November 1991): 24-5.
[In the following review, Shapiro focuses on Gould's views concerning the creation-evolution debate in Bully for Brontosaurus.]
This book [Bully for Brontosaurus] landed on my desk at an interesting moment. Shortly before, I had been asked by a representative of a student Fundamentalist organization if I would publicly debate one of the pitchmen from the Institute for Creation Research. No, I responded, the creation-evolution “debate” is a gross oversimplification; there is no conflict unless one's ideological presuppositions demand one. But I said I would be...
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SOURCE: Morris, Simon Conway. “Rerunning the Tape.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4628 (13 December 1991): 6.
[In the following review, Morris examines Gould's treatment of the idea of contingency in Bully for Brontosaurus.]
Does Natural History really matter? To judge from the continuing conversion of our cathedrals of science, most notably the Natural History Museum in London, into the marketing triumph of theme-parks, seemingly not. So when Stephen Jay Gould canters into view, lowers his lance and goes full tilt into battle on behalf of evolution and natural history, the respectful bystanders throw their hats in the air and let out a resounding cheer; or do...
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SOURCE: Smith, John Maynard. “Taking a Chance on Evolution.” New York Review of Books 39, no. 9 (14 May 1992): 34-6.
[In the following review of Wonderful Life and Bully for Brontosaurus, Smith discusses Gould's concept of contingency and his views about whether or not science is necessarily progressive.]
Although very different in style and content, the last two books by Stephen Jay Gould—Wonderful Life and Bully for Brontosaurus—and Ernst Mayr's Toward a New Philosophy of Biology are ultimately about the same questions. Is evolutionary biology a science? If so, what kind of a science is it? Mayr's book is a collection of...
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SOURCE: Gonzales, Moishe. “Postmodern Biology?” Telos 25, no. 92 (summer 1992): 181-86.
[In the following review, Gonzales argues that Wonderful Life acts as an example of how postmodernism may have infiltrated the biology and paleontology disciplines.]
Nothing seems to annoy scientists more than the suggestion that their work is dependent on or influenced by something outside of science. The paradigmatic image of a dogmatic Cardinal Bellarmino coercing Galileo into recanting his discovery of Jupiter's moons has terminally discredited any attempt to judge scientific claims within any allegedly higher extra-scientific tribunal, be it theological, metaphysical...
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SOURCE: Kohn, Marek. “Pick and Mix.” New Statesman and Society 237, no. 6 (29 January 1993): 49.
[In the following review, Kohn praises Gould's “spirit of intellectual generosity” in Eight Little Piggies.]
Looks like Hallucigenia wasn't such an apparition after all; merely upside down. The weirdest and most memorable of the fauna in the bestiary of the Burgess Shale, the trove of fossils about which Stephen Jay Gould wrote the award-winning Wonderful Life, has now been reinterpreted. It never quite made sense as an organism living anywhere more real than a Dr Who set, but it can be rationalised by a couple of assumptions and rotation...
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SOURCE: Gould, Stephen Jay, and John Horgan. “Escaping in a Cloud of Ink.” Scientific American 273, no. 2 (August 1995): 37-41.
[In the following interview, Gould discusses Marxism, science and truth, relativism, punctuated equilibrium, Darwinism versus creationism, and historical inquiry.]
Stephen Jay Gould hasn't even appeared yet, and already he has me guessing. Although the world-famous author and evolutionary biologist has taught at Harvard University since 1967, he asked me to meet him here in New York City, where he was born and raised and still keeps a home. Minutes earlier a woman in a French maid's uniform admitted me into a museumlike townhouse on...
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SOURCE: Alessio, Carolyn. “Evolutionary Ideas.” Chicago Tribune Books (3 March 1996): 9.
[In the following review, Alessio compliments the essays in Dinosaur in a Haystack.]
True or false: The shells of most snails coil to the left (sinistrally). False, according to Stephen Jay Gould in Dinosaur in a Haystack, the latest volume in his collection of monthly columns from Natural History magazine. Most snails' shells coil dextrally, or to the right, Gould says, despite the tendency of 17th century engravers to illustrate them in reverse. Gould examines this phenomenon in light of evolutionary history and its often unpredictable intersection with...
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SOURCE: Oakeshott, Robert. “The Charm of the Even Queerer.” Spectator 277, no. 8766 (20 July 1996): 31.
[In the following review, Oakeshott offers a positive assessment of Dinosaur in a Haystack.]
When and why was the column—or more accurately the puzzle strip—‘Believe it or Not’ by Ripley, axed by the Sunday Express? From memory, it relied quite heavily on reports of prodigies of one kind and another, though with more two-headed chickens than young Mozarts. At boarding school in the 1940s I became rather an addict and can't believe I am the only one among Spectator readers in that age group.
In the same genre, though...
(The entire section is 871 words.)
SOURCE: Wheeler, David L. “An Eclectic Biologist Argues That Humans Are Not Evolution's Most Important Result; Bacteria Are.” Chronicle of Higher Education 43, no. 2 (6 September 1996): A23.
[In the following review, Wheeler examines Gould's opinions about the limits of natural selection in Full House.]
Stephen Jay Gould's brain could be viewed as the product of a few billion years of evolution, but he is using it these days to argue that progress isn't inherent in the evolutionary process.
Humans, he says, shouldn't be regarded as evolution's most important invention. “I don't deny that the consciousness of one species has had a profound impact...
(The entire section is 2091 words.)
SOURCE: Alexander, R. McNeill. “The Game of Life.” New Scientist 152, no. 2050 (5 October 1996): 46-7.
[In the following review, Alexander focuses on Gould's views about trends in evolution in Full House and the problems associated with interpreting means, averages, and statistics.]
Diagnosed as suffering from abdominal mesothelioma, Stephen Gould went to the library to read about the disease. There he found the statistic that the median time from diagnosis to death was eight months. His case sounded hopeless until he wondered why the median was given, rather than the mean. The reason, he surmised, was that a few long-term survivors were skewing the...
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SOURCE: Jones, Steve. “Up against the Wall.” New York Review of Books 43, no. 16 (17 October 1996): 33-4.
[In the following review, Jones criticizes Dinosaur in a Haystack as informative but irritating and discusses Gould's “spread of excellence” concept in Full House.]
Stephen Jay Gould on a bad day can be the Lincoln Continental of science writing—ponderous, well upholstered, and designed to travel in a straight line. Comfortable, certainly; assured—no one can doubt that—and if you turn on the radio you are certain to get grand opera; but, somehow, well, just too Executive Style, too Harvard Yard, to sell anywhere except in America....
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SOURCE: Shermer, Michael. “Evolution Up against a Wall.” Los Angeles Times Book Review (20 October 1996): 10.
[In the following review, Shermer addresses Gould's discussion of the ways various systems change over time in Full House.]
For the past 15 summers, I have either competed in or directed “Race Across America,” a 3,000-mile, nonstop, transcontinental bicycle race. In the race's first decade, the transcontinental record plummeted from 12 days and 3 hours to 7 days and 23 hours, but for the past five years it hasn't budged even though half of the cyclists routinely break earlier records. Why?
Some of the race's pioneers, not surprisingly,...
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SOURCE: Vines, Gail. “Sermons in Stones.” New Statesman 125, no. 4312 (29 November 1996): 48.
[In the following review, Vines discusses possible reasons behind the popularity of Gould's books about evolution and science and offers a mixed assessment of Life's Grandeur.]
The palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould is a publishing phenomenon. The author of more than 200 evolutionary essays collected in eight volumes, he has produced another full-length book [Life's Grandeur,] to follow his bestselling Wonderful Life. Why do people buy his books in such vast numbers? Granted, Gould is a talented writer, but why should so many people want to read about...
(The entire section is 721 words.)
SOURCE: Bywater, Michael. “Planet of the Bugs.” Spectator 277, no. 8785 (30 November 1996): 48-50.
[In the following review, Bywater examines Gould's arguments about evolution in Life's Grandeur.]
We live in interesting times and I sometimes wonder if we realise just how interesting they are. Perhaps we only see the symptoms. Cultures blur and decline, the hamburger-and-rock ethic governs the world, economies burst, shudder and cling on by their fingertips, porn floods the Internet, statecraft implodes towards the centre, ideologies shatter, politicians twitter helplessly about religion and ethics, the Church of England buys into the logo shibboleth. We conflate...
(The entire section is 1293 words.)
SOURCE: Gould, Stephen Jay, and Michael Krasny. “Interview with Stephen Jay Gould.” Mother Jones 22, no. 1 (January/February 1997): 60-3.
[In the following interview, Gould responds to questions about Full House and discusses various topics such as the popularization of science, how his work has been received, and coping with cancer.]
With more than 15 books in print, including Wonderful Life and The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould has been called the dean of popular science writers. A professor of geology and zoology at Harvard University, Gould is best known for his writings on dinosaurs and his talent for explaining evolutionary science...
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SOURCE: Barr, Stephen M. “Mismeasure of Man.” Public Interest 127 (spring 1997): 120-23.
[In the following review of Full House, Barr argues that, contrary to Gould's suppositions about complexity and the “success” of a species, “it is quite doubtful that proliferation of species is a sign of success.”]
Stephen Jay Gould's latest book, Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin, is a grab-bag of miscellany—his successful struggle with cancer, the disappearance of the.400 hitter in baseball, Plato's theory of ideas, the history of life on earth. Somehow though he manages to weave all of this together into a grand philosophical...
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SOURCE: Harman, Nicholas. “Any Advance on a Thousand.” Spectator 279, no. 8833 (15 November 1997): 44.
[In the following review, Harman praises Questioning the Millennium, complimenting Gould for addressing the various ways that the passage of time has been calculated.]
It's one of those known facts, isn't it, that millenniums are significant? For instance they make religions go millenarial, a word lots of people use as if they know what it means. But hold on a minute. There has only been one before, and there may never be a human one again. Whenever Christ's reign on earth began, it was not 2,000 years before the year 2000, and even more certainly not on...
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SOURCE: Masters, Alexander. “A Messy Mathematician.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4958 (10 April 1998): 30.
[In the following review, Masters offers a mixed assessment of Questioning the Millennium, asserting that Gould does not explore the issue adequately.]
Stephen Jay Gould's questions [in Questioning the Millennium] are: What does “the millennium” mean, When does a millennium begin, and Why are we so interested in the subject, anyway? “I began to think about this book,” he writes, “during the first week of January, 1950.”
The first essay, “What?,” is the longest. It bothers Gould that we use the same word to...
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SOURCE: Page, Ra. “It's the Way They Tell 'Em.” New Statesman 127, no. 4406 (9 October 1998): 47-8.
[In the following review, Page criticizes the content of Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, but notes that Gould is a “great essayist.”]
The trouble with science is that it's not taught properly. Unlike politics, philosophy or art, which have always been studied as socially entrenched histories of ideas, science is handed down as a string of disembodied facts, laws and dictates usually inaccurate, always incomplete and fatally amputated from the humanity that concocted them. Science students aren't likely to read a single primary text by...
(The entire section is 698 words.)
SOURCE: Appleyard, Bryan. “The Royal Road of Science.” Spectator 281, no. 8881 (24 October 1998): 53-4.
[In the following review, Appleyard comments on Gould's smug attitude in Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms and argues that Gould is too forgiving of science as a discipline.]
[Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History] is Gould's eighth volume of essays collected from his monthly series in the magazine Natural History. That series has now established him as one of the great essayists of his time. Clever, accessible, conscientious and humane, he has become science's finest and most...
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SOURCE: Cowen, Robert C. “Religion Has No Bone to Pick with Science.” Christian Science Monitor 91, no. 77 (18 March 1999): 19.
[In the following review, Cowen praises Gould's assertion of the importance of religion in conjunction with science in Rocks of Ages.]
Make no bones about it, Stephen Jay Gould has found religion. The popular paleontologist hasn't embraced any particular creed. That would violate his self-proclaimed tendency toward atheism. He has done something more transcendent in [Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life]. He has recognized religion for what it essentially is—a major mode of thought that helps us cope with...
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SOURCE: Johnson, Phillip E. “Material Principle.” Commonweal 126, no. 8 (23 April 1999): 29-30.
[In the following review, Johnson focuses on the papal statement that Gould uses in his analysis of religion and science in Rocks of Ages.]
In October 1996 Pope John Paul II sent a statement on biological evolution to the Papal Academy of Sciences. After some general remarks, John Paul observed that Pius XII's encyclical Humani generis in 1950 had described the theory of evolution as “a serious hypothesis,” worthy of in-depth study and not contrary to the Catholic faith—provided that it was not presented as certain, proven doctrine, and that it did not...
(The entire section is 1084 words.)
SOURCE: Weigel, George. Review of Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life, by Stephen Jay Gould. Commentary 107, no. 5 (May 1999): 67-70.
[In the following review, Weigel argues that there are several biases evident throughout Rocks of Ages.]
Stephen Jay Gould, the Harvard/NYU paleontologist whose formidable skills as a popularizer have made him one of the world's most successful science writers, now deploys those same skills in discussing for nonspecialist readers the future relationship between scientists and religious believers. His aim [in Rocks of Ages] is to resolve what he aptly terms “the supposed conflict between science and...
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SOURCE: Goodenough, Ursula. “The Holes in Gould's Semipermeable Membrane between Science and Religion.” American Scientist 87, no. 3 (May/June 1999): 264-68.
[In the following review, Goodenough criticizes Gould's central argument in Rocks of Ages, noting that the “non-overlapping magisteria” (NOMA) principle Gould presents is difficult to accept because he fails to adequately address the “magisterium of religion.”]
Lifelong Stephen Jay Gould readers will find in Rocks of Ages much that is delightfully familiar: graceful language flecked with occasional irreverence, wonderful anecdotes about Darwin and his friends and their times, and the side...
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SOURCE: Pope, Stephen. Review of Rocks of Ages, by Stephen Jay Gould. Christian Century (2 June 1999): 622-27.
[In the following review, Pope argues that Gould's NOMA principle in Rocks of Ages is not “sufficiently complex” and that science and religion are more closely intertwined than Gould asserts.]
We could avoid all sorts of nasty fights, Stephen Jay Gould argues [in Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life,] if we would stop expecting science to provide validating evidence for religious dogmas or biblical events. Nor ought we to turn to religion to resolve questions of a properly scientific nature. He wants no more...
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SOURCE: Flynn, Tom. “But They Do Overlap.” Free Inquiry 19, no. 4 (fall 1999): 69.
[In the following review, Flynn asserts that Rocks of Ages, which purports to help bridge the divide between science and religion, actually does the opposite.]
“Faith and knowledge are totally different things,” wrote Schopenhauer, “which for their mutual benefit have to be kept strictly separate, so that each goes its own way without paying the slightest attention to the other.” In a sentence, that's the message of biologist-essayist Gould's latest book.
Gould is a deservedly decorated veteran of the evolution wars. Surely his job would be...
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SOURCE: Ruse, Michael. “Both Sides Now.” Skeptic 8, no. 2 (spring 2000): 81-3.
[In the following review, Ruse contends that although he and Gould agree on many of the points presented in Rocks of Ages, Gould's NOMA concept is “a lot less fair-minded than appears at first sight.”]
Stephen Jay Gould is justly honored not only for his contributions to science but also for his sensitive and humane spirit, something which shines forth from his popular writings, especially his monthly column in Natural History. Nor should we forget his many activities on behalf of tolerance and understanding, not the least is the work he has done to support the...
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SOURCE: Blackford, Russell. “Stephen Jay Gould on Science and Religion.” Quadrant 44, no. 4 (April 2000): 8-14.
[In the following review of Rocks of Ages, Blackford cautions that Gould misinterprets the nature of religion as well as its scope.]
While there is considerable controversy about Stephen Jay Gould's contributions to evolutionary theory, he is an eminent scientist, an important socio-political thinker, and an exemplary prose stylist whose lucid books and essays are a source of pleasure as well as knowledge. Unfortunately, he seems to have reached such authorial prominence and saleability that publishers now allow him to indulge himself on subjects...
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SOURCE: Coyne, Jerry A. “Is NOMA a No Man's Land?” Times Literary Supplement, no. 5071 (9 June 2000): 29-30.
[In the following review, Coyne discusses what he sees as Gould's many analytical errors in Rocks of Ages, particularly his failure to provide an acceptable definition of religion.]
Like everyone else, scientists have mid-life crises. They are seized by the urge to forsake their daily tasks and embrace one or another of the great metaphysical problems that have engrossed philosophers and theologians throughout the ages. The result is often a big book dealing with the human condition. So common is this tendency that it has acquired a name:...
(The entire section is 1381 words.)
SOURCE: Malik, Kenan. “Inventing Allies in the Sky.” New Statesman 130, no. 4525 (19 February 2001): 49-50.
[In the following review, Malik criticizes how Gould equates religion with morality in Rocks of Ages.]
By the time you read this, children in the American state of Kansas will, with any luck, be reading The Origin of Species in their classrooms. In August 1999, the Kansas Board of Education, under pressure from creationists, removed evolution (as well as the Big Bang theory) from the school science curriculum. It took a vocal campaign by scientists and others—and the unseating of two antievolution members of the board in local elections—to help...
(The entire section is 1568 words.)
Bass, Rick. “Survival of the Luckiest.” Chicago Tribune Books, (22 October 1989): 1.
Bass summarizes Gould's key arguments in Wonderful Life.
Haq, S. Nomanul. “Thou Shalt Not Mix Religion and Science.” Nature 400, no. 6747 (26 August 1999): 830-31.
Haq presents the objections of both scientists and religious theologians to Gould's NOMA theory as discussed in Rocks of Ages.
Osman, Tony. “O Lucky Man.” Spectator 265, no. 8461 (8 September 1990): 31-2.
Osman evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of Wonderful Life.
(The entire section is 234 words.)