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The Mismeasure of Man [Paperback]

Stephen J Gould
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

5 Jun 1996
When published in 1981, The Mismeasure of Man was immediately hailed as a masterwork, the ringing answer to those who would classify people, rank them according to their supposed genetic gifts and limits. And yet the idea of innate limits of biology as destiny dies hard, as witness the attention devoted to The Bell Curve, whose arguments are here so effectively anticipated and thoroughly undermined by Stephen Jay Gould. In this edition Dr. Gould has written a substantial new introduction telling how and why he wrote the book and tracing the subsequent history of the controversy on innateness right through The Bell Curve. Further, he has added five essays on questions of The Bell Curve in particular and on race, racism, and biological determinism in general. These additions strengthen the book's claim to be, as Leo J. Kamin of Princeton University has said, "a major contribution toward deflating pseudo-biological 'explanations' of our present social woes.""

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 2nd Revised edition edition (5 Jun 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393314251
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393314250
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.9 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 305,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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

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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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
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
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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19 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the mismeasure of Gould 19 Dec 2008
Some critics complain that in The Mismeasure of Man Stephen J. Gould attacks a straw man: craniometry is, after all, no more than fin-du-siècle quackery with which no self-respecting scientist would dream of having truck these days. Likewise, the nave early attempts at to link IQ with heredity that Gould spends so much time recounting have long since been soundly and uncontroversially demolished, so Gould at best is shooting fish in a barrel, and many suspect him of something more mendacious than that. Some suspect a political agenda. The late Stephen Jay Gould, you see, was a *Marxist*, after all.

That particular, ad hominem, charge has mystified me the more I've read of Gould's work. I first encountered Gould in discouraging circumstances where his evolutionary theory of punctuated equilibrium was subjected to a contumelious lambasting at the hands of (usually) mild-mannered philosopher Daniel Dennett, in his (otherwise) wonderful and thought-provoking book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life.

Taken as I was by Dennett's general argument at the time (I'm less swooned by it these days), I thought his vituperative treatment of Gould was out of character - from what I can tell Dennett is a positively genial chap - but otherwise thought nothing of it, other than supposing Gould to be part of the problem and not the solution.

There I surely would have left it, and Stephen J. Gould, were it not for Richard Dawkins' silly entry to the "religious wars"
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent history of the IQ Test
An excellent history of the IQ test originating in France as a means of identifying school children who required extra tuition but which later became a tool of discrimination in... Read more
Published 4 months ago by KStevenson
5.0 out of 5 stars How can you measure man
Although I have not read the book yet, I have always been a great fan of Stephen Gould. He is a scientist, he lets the facts speak for themselves. Read more
Published 14 months ago by JHvW
1.0 out of 5 stars Debunked.
University of Pennsylvania remeasured Morton's Skulls and found no fault with Morton's original conclusion, but find every detail of Gould's analysis wrong.

[... Read more
Published 23 months ago by El_Pablo
1.0 out of 5 stars A fraudulent book, don't waste your time on it
I read this book several years ago, and at the time I believed both the facts represented here and the conclusions of the author. Read more
Published on 24 Nov 2011 by Gabor Laszlo Varkonyi
1.0 out of 5 stars Misrepresentation of Science
Gould fraudulently misrepresented Morton's work. Recent research has re-examined Gould's and Morton's work and found that Gould fudged his own numbers, suggested bias where there... Read more
Published on 11 Jun 2011 by R. Salisbury
2.0 out of 5 stars Misrepresents the literature
1. Gould's allegation that Morton had doctored his skull collection was re-investigated by John Michael. Read more
Published on 10 May 2009 by Viewer
1.0 out of 5 stars Political correctness disguissed as scientific arguments
Gould has utterly dissapointed me by writing this tabloid about how nature "ought to be" rather than how nature behaves. Read more
Published on 23 Aug 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing blend of Science and History
Gould's _Mismeasure of Man_ is a remarkable text. Not only does has it addressed a critical contemporary scientific (and societal) debate, but it has done so with commendable... Read more
Published on 6 Aug 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous book
This is a splendid book for its historical (some not so ancient history!) treatment of biased measures of intelligence. Read more
Published on 28 Jun 1999
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a Psychologist
Gould is not a psychologist, nor does he understand statistics.
The authors of the particular statistical tests he writes about discredited those approaches long ago see... Read more
Published on 29 May 1999
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