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The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate…

The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History (original 2000; edition 2001)

by Stephen Jay Gould

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Title:The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History
Authors:Stephen Jay Gould
Info:Three Rivers Press (2001), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould (2000)



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I find it surprising that this is the first book by Stephen Jay Gould that I selected as a "Pick" for the Journal of Chemical Education, since I own and have enjoyed reading many of them. I have had the pleasure of meeting and hearing Professor Gould speak several times and I wish I could write as well as he speaks extemporaneously. "The Lying Stones of Marrakech" is a collection of recent columns from Gould's feature in Natural History; the title essay is about the fake fossils from Morocco that are flooding the market in the United States. As a paleontologist, Gould has a strong interest in fossils, and he takes the opportunity to discuss other important fossil deceptions that have occurred in the past. Of particular interest to chemists (at least to this one) was "The Proof of Lavoisier's Plates", describing the contributions of the famous founding father of our science to the early history of geology. ( )
  hcubic | Aug 2, 2015 |
Best bit and representative of the whole: story of JBS Haldane's vain attempt to argue in favour of poisoned gas. Somewhere he'd found an indication that mustard gas was analogous to sunburn, so black people and 20% of whites would be resistant. from this he argued that Britain could draw on colonial troops and U.S. could recruit Blacks while the 20% could provide the officers. This would beat the bullets. A side remark on other non-conventional prospects includes the energy within the atom but this will never be available. Indeed men might be sitting on the moon at some future date and the atom would still be unsplit. This extraordinary mix of convoluted argument, racism, snobbery, and plain wrong-headedness comes from a man who is, basically, a pacifist. It's fits well with the book's exploration of the limits of the scientific method: the blindness and prejudice as well as the boldness and precision of scientists at their worst and best. Some of the essays can be quite demanding as they explore deep corners of scientific history and complex aspects of scientific method. Yes, science is the only way to unravel the truths of the universe, but its practitioners are human, all-too-human.
He may be a closet Marxist and have a lightly concealed bee in his bonnet about punctuated equilibrium, but his wit, erudition and warmth transcend all that. ( )
  vguy | Jun 28, 2015 |
A landmark book - fluid account of scientific discovery ( )
  ToniRy | Jul 26, 2013 |

I was a little disappointed at this book at first. It had been so long since I read the last in the series. I'd always found his essays inspirational. They are as always very informative and insightful, but these seemed more tedious than previous ones. Perhaps my tastes have changed over the decades I've been reading Gould's essays. It took me half the book to get into it. The last three essays were the Stephen Jay Gould I remembered and saved the collection for me. ( )
  clmerle | Apr 2, 2013 |
The usual Gould. Erudite prose, vastly cultured knowledge and insightful analogies. He cares about science and about getting it right, and he makes the fine points accessible and consequential. ( )
  rsubber | Nov 10, 2012 |
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For Jack Sepkoski (1948-1999),
who brought me one of the greatest possible joys
a teacher can ever earn or experience:
to be surpassed by his students.
Offspring should not predecease their parents,
and students should outlive their teachers.
The times may be out of joint,
but Jack was born to set the order of life's history right -
and he did!
First words
In the fall of 1973, I received a call from Alan Ternes, editor of Natural History magazine.

We tend to think of fakery as an activity dedicated to minor moments of forgivable fun (from the whoopie cushion to the squirting lapel flower), or harmless embellishment (from my grandfather's vivid eyewitness tales of the Dempsey-Firpo fight he never attended, to the 250,000 people who swear they were there when Bobby Thomson hit his home run in a stadium with a maximum capacity of some fifty thousand).

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"All of the essays in this work were previously published by Natural History magazine"
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0609807552, Paperback)

Celebrated paleontologist and science writer Stephen Jay Gould has honed and matured his voice over almost 30 years of writing for Natural History. His tenure at that magazine closes with the end of the century, so The Lying Stones of Marrakech is his next-to-last collection of essays from this era. As ever, his works are clever, thoughtful, and inspiring; however, the longtime reader will detect a deeper reflection and a longer view taken by Gould in latter days, perhaps inevitable outcomes of experience and growth. The title essay refers to false fossils carved by Moroccans intent on making a few bucks off of hapless tourists, discusses the case of Beringer's 18th-century fossil hoax, and ends with a plea for a stricter separation between commercial and scientific interests--showing the breadth and scope of his paleontological interests and thinking.

Of course, he also has much to say beyond the confines of his profession: Joe DiMaggio and Dolly the sheep each get respectful treatment from the Gould pen, and he discusses the competing Christian groups sharing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Though his attitudes may have mellowed over time--he's far from the crotchety oldster some feared he'd become--his passion for knowledge and scientific freedom is still radiant. Whether you're an old-school fan of Gould's writings or a newcomer to his delightfully brainy essays, you'll find The Lying Stones of Marrakech a joy to behold. --Rob Lightner

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:51 -0400)

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