Shop now Shop now Shop now Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now
Customer Review

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pacifier from the Pacific, 17 Oct. 2005
This review is from: Dawkins vs. Gould: Survival of the Fittest (Revolutions in Science S.) (Paperback)
Kim Sterelny's overview of the Stephen Gould - Richard Dawkins conflicting views of evolution is a masterful summation. Setting himself an immense task, he addresses the material published by the two evolutionists, assessing evidence, logic and interpretation. To Sterelny's lasting credit, personality is almost entirely omitted in this account. A brief education background note [Dawkins studied under Tinbergen, Gould's mentor was George Gaylord Simpson] and Sterelny moves quickly to the essence of the debate. His presentation makes this a fine introduction to the issues involved.
Debate is a gentle word to apply to some of the acrimonious exchanges the pair engaged in either directly or through proxies. The opening shot was Gould's scornful review of Daniel C. Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" in which Dennett challenged Gould and Eldredge's notion of punctuated equilibrium as setting the pace of evolution. The clash brought to light more fundamental differences in outlook - gene-centred evolution or a multi-level interacting set of forces. As Sterelny ultimately points out, the two are subject to merging into a broader synthesis. Dawkins has made that point frequently, as Sterelny notes, but that reality failed to find fertile ground on this side of the Atlantic.
Gene-centred evolution results in the creation of adaptations through mutations. Whether these adaptations are successful over time is the story of evolution. Gould found many ways to challenge this theme, chiefly because it would apply equally to human evolution, something Gould always found abhorrent. Gould's argument went deeper than human evolution. He advanced "contingency" and mass extinctions of whatever cause, as more viable mechanisms than what he labelled "gene centrism". Sterelny presents both positions with admirable clarity and laudable equilibrium. It would be churlish to criticise Sterelny's temperate treatment of Gould's notions. Dawkins and Dennett have already performed the task sufficiently, although Sterelny skirts Dennett's examination.
The loss of Gould to cancer has not quelled the debate, thus proving it wasn't simply a clash of personalities. A Gould "camp", with adherents on both sides of the Atlantic, maintains the heated dispute. Lewontin and Kamin in America and the Rose cabal in the UK still launch verbal missiles at the Dawkins target. Sterelny keeps his focus tight in this book, not being diverted to these disputants. In performing this feat, Sterelny might be criticised for failing to note why the debate is worth notice by a wider audience. He certainly hasn't written this for the academic community, although many in other disciplines might benefit from his insights and brisk narrative. Sterelny's position as a philosopher located in New Zealand is sufficient example to show how far the debate has reached. Its very universality might have prompted him to reflect on its impact on social questions. Even so, his effort is highly commendable and deserves the widest possible readership. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]


Review Details

Item

Reviewer


Location: Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Top Reviewer Ranking: 45,491