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The Mismeasure of Man (1981)

by Stephen Jay Gould

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,2631211,579 (4.11)47
When published in 1981, The Mismeasure of Man was immediately hailed as a masterwork, the ringing answer to those who would classify people, rank them according to their supposed genetic gifts and limits. And yet the idea of innate limits—of biology as destiny—dies hard, as witness the attention devoted to The Bell Curve, whose arguments are here so effectively anticipated and thoroughly undermined by Stephen Jay Gould. In this edition Dr. Gould has written a substantial new introduction telling how and why he wrote the book and tracing the subsequent history of the controversy on innateness right through The Bell Curve. Further, he has added five essays on questions of The Bell Curve in particular and on race, racism, and biological determinism in general. These additions strengthen the book's claim to be, as Leo J. Kamin of Princeton University has said, "a major contribution toward deflating pseudo-biological 'explanations' of our present social woes."… (more)
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» See also 47 mentions

English (11)  French (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
The first half of this book is taken up with the science of phrenology; the next quarter or so with IQ tests getting their sea legs. The author did not convince me of his thesis which is that intelligence is a nebulous thing that tells us noting about a person. ( )
  JoeHamilton | Jul 21, 2020 |
This book takes a hard look at early 20th century attempts by several psychologists and scientists to prove that human intelligence has genetic components defined and separated by factors such as race and ethnicity. Gould takes several of these scientists to task for egregiously biased methodology in testing and their conclusions.

While most honest, ethical scientists today would dismiss such claims of ethnic superiority, significant damage has been done by lingering refusal to accept the fallacy of such claims. Gould carefully exposes the errors and biases of these early pioneers in human intelligence. The book is somewhat long and tedious as a carefully written and documented academic account would naturally be, but it is a classic from an era that must be understood if we are to move beyond our understanding of human inequality. ( )
  mldavis2 | Mar 12, 2015 |
A smart and interesting read about the history of scientific racism, focusing on intellgence testing. However, it was also about science and the cultural biases of scientists and the development of science, all wonderfully and clearly explained in Gould's fantastic style. It was published in 1981 and yet is totally relevant today.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
The author discusses the unconscious errors scientists and researchers make in collecting and interpreting their data in order to fit their preconceived theories. He takes the reader through the history of IQ testing and explains the pseudo-scientific techniques used to gather the data, such as cranial measurements and biased, inadequate intelligence tests. Gould also discusses misconceptions people have regarding interpretation of the Bell Curve. Gould writes this book in a conversational tone, which makes it readable by non-scientists. It is well illustrated, documented and has a variety of solid historical analysis. This is a book I would use when discussing interpreting statistical results or creating non-biased assessments/surveys. This could also be used in a science class during discussion of the scientific method or a psychology class. ( )
  kgeorge | Dec 2, 2012 |
One of Gould's CLASSICS ( )
  vegetarian | Sep 18, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
ONE fitting way to begin this review would be to offer a solemn account of the sharp blow that the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould has delivered to Arthur Jensen and the apostles of innate, hereditary, hierarchical intelligence in human beings. . . The interest of Stephen Jay Gould's latest book really lies in watching the author's intelligence at play.
 

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Jay Gouldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pochtar, RicardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rovira, JordiEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Citizens of the Republic, Socrates advised, should be educated and assigned by merit to three classes: rulers, auxiliaries, and craftsmen.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This edition was published in 1981. The new and expanded edition (1996) contains a new introduction and 5 more chapters, increasing to 432 pages (from 352 pages in this edition) plus 10 more index pages. The original chapters have been corrected and brought up to date but are essentially the same. Please do not combine as the works are sufficently different.

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When published in 1981, The Mismeasure of Man was immediately hailed as a masterwork, the ringing answer to those who would classify people, rank them according to their supposed genetic gifts and limits. And yet the idea of innate limits—of biology as destiny—dies hard, as witness the attention devoted to The Bell Curve, whose arguments are here so effectively anticipated and thoroughly undermined by Stephen Jay Gould. In this edition Dr. Gould has written a substantial new introduction telling how and why he wrote the book and tracing the subsequent history of the controversy on innateness right through The Bell Curve. Further, he has added five essays on questions of The Bell Curve in particular and on race, racism, and biological determinism in general. These additions strengthen the book's claim to be, as Leo J. Kamin of Princeton University has said, "a major contribution toward deflating pseudo-biological 'explanations' of our present social woes."

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