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Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes (1980)

by Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Jay Gould

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1,3421214,271 (3.92)30
History. Science. Nonfiction. Over a century after Darwin published the Origin of Species, Darwinian theory is in a "vibrantly healthy state," writes Stephen Jay Gould, its most engaging and illuminating exponent. Exploring the "peculiar and mysterious particulars of nature," Gould introduces the listener to some of the many and wonderful manifestations of evolutionary biology.… (more)
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  davidrgrigg | Mar 23, 2024 |
Volume 3 of the collected essays of this author was a mix as usual of rather dry ones I found hard to get into, and more interesting topics such as whether all varieties of zebra (there are three, each with distinctive stripe patterns) are actually related and whether the capacity for stripes is inherent in horses as a whole (it is). Another essay deals with the development of the horse leg and how two toes fused to another bone but in some throw backs appear as large toes branching off the leg too high up to actually function as toes.

I was puzzled by the section on the Piltdown Man hoax since the previous volume included a similar article on the subject - it seems that after the one in the present volume was originally published a furore resulted with defenders of Teilhard de Chardin launching vicious attacks upon Gould. In this volume, a second article appears where he refuted the arguments of a few more prominent attacks (while drawing a veil over nastier comments which, reading between the lines, might have been anti-Semitic, the author being Jewish). I don't know why they reacted thus after this second essay when seemingly the first very similar one passed unremarked.

One essay discusses the possibility of an asteroid being responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs - this is so well accepted today that it's interesting to see the early stages of the introduction of this idea.

On the whole this balances out as 3 stars. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
A collection of essays on evolutionary biology by provocative and original thinker Stephen Jay Gould, a paleontologist at Harvard University. A good bit of debunking and setting the record straight on matters pertaining to evolution and evolutionary theory.
  PendleHillLibrary | Sep 14, 2023 |
Witty and well-informed as ever. One of the best is on how pioneers of statistics got it all wrong about immigration, moulding their criteria to fit their racist prejudices. Several excursions into Darwin, how wide-ranging he was, what a master of detail as well as grand theory. Strong on, or rather against, creationists - no such thing as "scientific creationism". Seems to be a particularly American delusion, a precursor to our present "post-truth" culture. ( )
  vguy | Oct 26, 2021 |
Another set of Gould's essays, mostly focused on the theme of evolution in one form or another. Like many of these volumes, some of the essays have dated a bit more than others, but there remain some interesting bits. ( )
  JBD1 | May 5, 2021 |
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Gould, Stephen Jaymain authorall editionsconfirmed

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For my Mother: Brave woman, Wise owl
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Alfred, Lord Tennyson, never known for egalitarian perspectives, had this to say about the relative merit of the sexes:
Woman is the lesser man, and all
thy passions, matched with mine,
Are as moonlight unto sunlight, and
as water unto wine.
Quotations
Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.
— "Evolution as Fact and Theory," Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, New York: W. W. Norton, 1994, p. 254.

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History. Science. Nonfiction. Over a century after Darwin published the Origin of Species, Darwinian theory is in a "vibrantly healthy state," writes Stephen Jay Gould, its most engaging and illuminating exponent. Exploring the "peculiar and mysterious particulars of nature," Gould introduces the listener to some of the many and wonderful manifestations of evolutionary biology.

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