Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History Paperback – 16 Nov 1992
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A remarkable achievement by any measure. [Gould] is profoundly intelligent, a writer of great natural wit, and his sophistication and learning range far beyond the parameters of his academic field, biology. . . . One is hard pressed to single out past writers who could wear the sobriquet of natural history essayist with such distinction.--David Walsten
A shrewd and learned intellectual whose essays on Charles Darwin have the style and address of what in other circumstances might be the writing of a literary critic upon Stendhal or Proust or other such major figure in the world of letters.--P. B. Medawar
Stephen Jay Gould reexamines Darwin's theory in light of the findings of modern evolutionary biology and shows the ways in which biological theories have been concocted to justify social ills.See all Product description
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The great overall impression is of humaine tolerance both for ill framed ideas and of the people who produced them. In other works of his one encounters hints of the horrors of the American High School System and its treatment of Dweebs Nerds and outsiders which must have shaped such an abiding combination of sympathy and revulsion for those who pervert science to an illiberal social goal.
It's a wide selection of topics and Gould sure knows how to write an interesting essay. There's plenty to learn between the covers and a fair dose of entertainment as well. Despite its age, Ever Since Darwin is well worth reading.
Stephen Jay Gould's writing is easy to read, and these essays are targeted to people interested in science, but you don't have to be a scientist to understand them by any means. Gould also makes the reading more entertaining by including interesting bits of trivia, such as covering who was the naturalist aboard the Beagle, correcting many bits of misinformation regarding Darwin and his theory, and discussing why Darwin waited so long before publishing. Unlike many more recent books (this book was originally published in 1977), Gould avoids getting drawn into the name calling which goes on between creationists and Darwinists.
Gould's enthusiasm for the subject comes through in his writing, and his passing in 2002 from cancer was a great loss to science, as well as to the public discussion of science to which he offered a thoughtful and insightful voice. That is not to say that Gould was never the focus of controversy, as he forced evolutionary biologists to rethink some of their ideas due to his ability to view things from a different angle. Some have claimed that his theories, such as punctuated equilibrium which he developed with Niles Eldredge, were never more than what was already contained in the theory of evolution, but I still see the echoes of his approach in many recent articles about evolution.
I have heard some people claim that Gould later decided that "Ever Since Darwin" was his worst book, though I have never been able to verify this claim. It wouldn't surprise me if that were true, as many authors cringe when looking back on their earliest works. That being said, I think the essays in this book still offer a wonderful place for those who are interested in the subject to get a good understanding of the subject and the theory. Of course, given that it was published in 1977 there is so much more that has been discovered that this should not be the only resource that one uses, especially if you want to understand the current state of the theory.
As an introducer of popular notions and as a scientist, I believe that Gould will be remembered as a genius. I think he was one of the great essayists of the 20C. Warmly recommended.