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The Mismeasure of Man Paperback – 5 Jun 1996

3.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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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: 14 x 2 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 122,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


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.

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Jan. 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Psychology is still embedded within eugenics and lacks the insights of Bronfenbrenner and the idea that the external world impacts upon the individual. So its adherents try to measure the world based upon individual qualities, in a form of autistic fantasy, that the key to human endeavour lies within the corpus of each body and mind. However having said that they then sever the body and concentrate upon the mind.

Here nasty reality checks such as racism, gender inequality, social stratification are conveniently ignored and instead they adhere to filling skill cavities with buckshot or their favourite, the IQ test. As Gould explores human beings make up the world as they go along, and the upshot is of course they create the facts they inhabit. These facts are psychological projections of those who assume power at any particular mantle. Within fifty years the Chinese will be there and they will no doubt be constructing their own league tables based on racial grading. Then these autists will have some explaining to do.

Most of this drivel began with Galton back in 1865, the former Quaker who later had a nervous breakdown after being rejected by his Muslim lovers after his capers around the Orient. As a result he constructed league tables of intelligence and placed himself on the top. Meanwhile there were numerous scientists forging results to ensure the white Anglo Saxon races did not become diluted in the US melting pot. They needed mass European migration to take over the land mass. However they were also wary of hordes of Italians, Jews and East Europeans from taking away their power base. They desperately needed a science which justified their superior position.
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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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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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