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The Mismeasure of Man Paperback – 5 Jun 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Revised & Expanded edition (5 Jun. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393314251
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393314250
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"A rare book-at once of great importance and wonderful to read."

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.

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CITIZENS OF THE REPUBLIC, Socrates advised, should be educated and assigned by merit to three classes: rulers, auxiliaries, and craftsmen. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By John Engelman on 10 July 2015
Format: Paperback
Whenever The Bell Curve is mentioned, someone is likely to claim that it has been "decisively refuted" by Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man. The Bell Curve, by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, makes three assertions. First, intelligence is the single most important factor in determining academic success and prosperity, and it is highly important in determining other beneficial outcomes in life. Second, intelligence is primarily determined by genes. Third, the average intelligence of some races is higher than it is for other races, for reasons that are again genetic.

These assertions infuriate many liberals. Nevertheless, few conservatives embrace them. This may be because they imply that there is little moral significance to the distribution of wealth and income. Charles Murray has acknowledged, "science is demonstrating that no one deserves his IQ." The Bell Curve suggests that the rich are not better people than the rest of us. They are more fortunate in a way the rest of us would rather not think about. Moreover, their achievements are out of reach for most of us.

Rich conservatives want us to believe that we can achieve what they have achieved if only we apply ourselves. They fear that if we don't believe that, we may believe that raising their taxes is a good idea.

Therefore, The Mismeasure of Man has received a positive reception. Unfortunately, Professor Gould's arguments are so erroneous as to indicate deliberate deception.

In much of the book he describes and refutes nineteenth century explanations of racial differences in intelligence and behavior. Think about that for a moment. During the nineteenth century everyone knew that the sun provided the earth with warmth and light.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Jan. 1999
Format: Hardcover
Most reviews of this book will focus on the question of Gould's treatment of biological determinism as one of this century's greatest follies. My own opinion is that those focusing on this issue are missing the point. While I do think that the eugenics movement is certainly one of the sadder chapters in our history, I found this particular issue, while beautifully developed and addressed, to be but an example of a larger, more fundamental question. What I see as the main thesis of this book is this: Scientists are people, human. They are prone to the same passions, desires, hopes, dreams, motivations, fears, ambitions, mistakes and biases as the rest of us. That is what makes the mistakes made 80-100 years ago (indeed 50 years ago, last year, yesterday) so relevant. The scientists of the last century were as brilliant as those today, but they viewed the world much differently. Biological determinism was a certainty, a constant. They simply assumed it was so and interpreted all data in this light. Given this premise, of course they would reach the conclusions that seem so horribly biased today. The real message of this book, (to me at least) is this wonderful (and frightening) idea that even today, all scientific "truths" need to be examined and re-examined and re-examined. We can never be sure of what we are seeing as we view all data through a societal lens. To a layman such as myself, often frustrated by the pretentiousness and aloofness of scientists (as well as the jargon-filled literature) this knowledge is one of great liberation. It makes science much less certain, but so much more enjoyable! It brings the scientist down from the priest's alter to the congregation. This is Gould's great gift he gives to readers in all his books, but most of all in this one.Read more ›
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Feb. 1999
Format: Paperback
Review of Stephen Jay Gould's 1996 revised and expanded publication of "The mismeasure of man" New York: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1981)
In "Thoughts at Age Fifteen", the sub-title to the new Introduction to the Revised and Expanded Edition of "The Mismeasure of Man", Stephen Jay Gould (1996) calls himself a "working scientist by trade" (p. 24), then "a statistically minded paleontologist" (p. 25) and finally "an evolutionary biologist by training" (p. 41). The author of thirteen books, Mr. Gould currently teaches geology, the history of science and biology at Harvard University. His strong interest in intelligence initially arose from his desire to bring science and its discoveries to the attention of the nonscientist.
In considering the mainstream arguments made about "the theory of a measurable, genetically fixed, and unitary intelligence", Dr. Gould (1996, p. 21) became concerned about how the social sciences, especially psychology, were misused in the development of the concept of intelligence, in particular, the whole nature of intelligence testing itself. Over the past 19 years, Gould has well responded to such misuses with two timely publications. First of all, in 1981 he produced "The Mismeasure of Man" mainly to argue against the social and political results of those misapplications, more specifically, in response to Arthur R. Jensen's (1969) article "How much can we boost IQ and scholastic achievement?" Likewise, in 1996, Gould generated the revised version of "The Mismeasure of Man" as a response to Richard L. Herrnstein and Charles Murray's (1994) book "The bell curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life" (Gould, 1996).
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