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The Richness of Life: A Stephen Jay Gould Reader Paperback – 3 May 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (3 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099488671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099488675
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 278,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"This "best of Gould" collection leaves two strong impressions. One is that evolution is as proven a fact as gravity but that how it works is an unsolved problem. The other is that, for the practitioners, science is fun" (Brenda Maddox The Times)

"Georgeously crafted essays... entertaining... makes a plausible case for supporting claims that the author was a modern-day Montaigne of science... a rewarding read" (Sunday Telegraph)

"A modern polymath" (John R. G. Turner Times Literary Supplement)

"A great scientist and science writer" (Sunday Times)

"A Western Science phenomenon. His quirkiness, his ability to coalesce seemingly unconnected topics, and his individual passion are qualities that help make him such a powerful writer" (Observer)

Book Description

An impressive and generous selection of the best and most representative writing by one of the best loved scientists and science writers.

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

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By demola on 12 July 2009
Format: Paperback
Gould's collection of essays cleverly envelopes science, history and baseball with insight, wit and irony. It's very difficult to get bored despite the clearly technical subject matter. There is a triumvirate of themes running through the book:

1. There's no directional bias in evolution. In other words, there is no grand plan to creation and everything has happened by chance.
2. Evolution is a happenstance of small gradual changes over millennia of millennia punctuated by relatively rapid changes in what Gould calls punctuated equilibria.
3. Not every evolutionary mutation is an adaptation for some future use but can be a chance change that gets co-opted to some use, what Gould calls exaptation. An example would be the ever growing hominid brain that over 2 million years gets co-opted for reading and writing which could never have been guessed at at the start.

[And in defence of his ideas (especially no. 3 above) Gould picks bones with Richard Dawkins.]

Gould asks the reader to challenge accepted scientific explanations as these are usually presented and defended tenaciously by vested interests whether or not the dogma is true for as Gould explains, science is "rooted in creative interpretation" sometimes leading to "prejudice" as in the science of eugenics.

You will not agree with everything Gould writes but you will firstly be fired up and secondly find that he is a clever dick.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Reader from Devon on 13 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
This anthology is drawn from the books Stephen Jay Gould wrote during his lifetime, including the ones compiled from 300 essays he wrote for Natural History magazine. I've given The Richness of Life five stars, but as Stephen Gould is an iconoclast I can imagine that readers who are wedded to the orthodoxy that evolution has been an inevitable progression towards Homo sapiens won't like it.

The editors, Paul McGarr and Steven Rose, have done an excellent job of selecting a representative sample of Gould's writings. The 44 chapters are divided into seven sections:

1. Autobiography
2. Biographies
3. Evolutionary Theory
4. Size, Form, and Shape
5. Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology
6. Racism, Scientific and Otherwise
7. Religion

Autobiography:
In this section Stephen Gould shares personal stories about himself, including his love of baseball.

Biographies:
Here, Gould's purpose is to rescue from oblivion a person or episode overlooked by most popular histories of science.

Religion:
This section covers 'creationism' and Gould's contention that religion and science belong to non-overlapping realms of inquiry.

However, overall, the themes are mainly those identified by the previous reviewer, demola.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bertilak Hautdesert on 10 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not an easy read for a non-specialist! I came to this book via an article in New Scientist which I occasionally buy and read. Although I knew about Darwin and his revolutionary take on the world, I had sort of assumed that his was the final word. It has taken me over a month to read this mainly because of the density of ideas and some of the very specific biological language. Gould's writing itself is, however, crystal clear, gently humorous and very stylish. His tenor put me in mind of the late Alistair Cooke's Letter From America where a seemingly slight anecdote illuminates a complex and often contentious idea. I found the book entertaining, thought provoking, immensely civilised and it made me hugely proud to be of the same species as Stephen. Oh yes, I found that if you translate his baseball writings into cricket stats it made total sense!!
Highly recommended if you aren't shy of hard work!
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