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Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural…
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Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History (1977)

by Stephen Jay Gould

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Reflections in Natural History (1)

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Collection of columns. ( )
  hcubic | Aug 2, 2015 |
Gould is best known as an advocate for atheism, but those leanings are not readily apparent here. The book is a series of short essays on various aspects of evolutionary theory as seen from a 1977 perspective and as such is of historical interest. Additionally, most of what Gould says is still mainstream opinion and hasn't changed in nearly 40 years. His approach to evolution is best summed up by the last sentence in the book: "I will rejoice in the multifariousness of nature and leave the chimera of certainty to politicians and preachers." ( )
  mldavis2 | Feb 17, 2015 |
This collection, Gould's first, has gotten a bit dated over the years, but his style comes through even here. While I don't agree with all of his conclusions, his essays are just about always worth the read, and some of them (as on Darwin's role aboard the Beagle and about the Irish elk) are simply delightful. ( )
1 vote JBD1 | Nov 18, 2014 |
Note: I wrote this review sometime before Gould's death.

How does one write about a book of essays? Ever Since Darwin is a collection of essays drawn from Natural History magazine for which Gould wrote a monthly column entitled "This View of Life." While not especially easy reading, all the essays provide an intellectual delight that make them well worth the effort. A common thread running through all is the wonder and amazement Gould has for the extraordinary variation and adaptability of nature. One can see in these essays the development of ideas more fully defined in [b:Wonderful Life The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History|36475|Wonderful Life The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History|Stephen Jay Gould|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1228161229s/36475.jpg|55914]

His examples are most absorbing and occasionally bizarre. He explains how the tiny gall midge reproduces in two ways: either normally from eggs as sexually reproducing flies; or without the aid of a father, i.e., via parthenogenesis, otherwise known as virgin birth. When food is abundant (midges feed primarily on mushrooms) the young grow in the mother's body feeding on her flesh. After she has been consumed they emerge and within two days their own children begin to feed off the parent. This matricide which at first glance might appear somewhat foolish is not just a disgusting freak of nature. As Gould points out, in light of evolutionary theory, the behavior is truly efficient and adaptive. As long as food is plentiful reproduction remains parthenogenetic. As food inevitably becomes scarcer the flies reproduce normally (hate to use the word normal in this context) at which point they can fly and scout out new food sources. "The flightless parthenogenic female stays on the mushroom and feeds. When it exhausts its resources it produces winged descendants to find new mushrooms." This still does not answer the question of why matricide? Gould explains better than I (read the essay entitled "Why should a fly eat its mother?;" but, basically it has to do with adaptability to environments which impose irregular catastrophic mortality (fairly common in nature,) or where food sources are hard to find but abundant when located. The best adaptability is to "reproduce like hell while you have the ephemeral resource, for it will not last long and some of your progeny must survive to find the next one." Whether this lesson should be applied to Man I will not hazard a guess.

Gould recognizes the social and cultural influences of the scientific imagination. Theories, at their best, should free us from our prejudices, at their worst they support the biases of their creators (witness Wolcott and his misinterpretation of the Burgess Shale), illustrated also in the attempts to find parallels between individual development and evolutionary history. (Gould has another book Ontoqeny and Phyloqeny dealing with just this issue which I have not yet read, but will soon?) Gould is very skeptical of biological determinism. (At a recent conference I witnessed E.O. Wilson, author of [b:Sociobiology The New Synthesis, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition|183819|Sociobiology The New Synthesis, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition|Edward O. Wilson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1172521072s/183819.jpg|177649] , a proponent of biological determinism, and Gould argue these points, much to the fascination of the audience.
Gould argues for biological potentiality.) Biological determinism has become popular in Gould's mind because it allows us to escape responsibility, e.g. the homeless are inevitably thus because they inherited the wrong genes; we can fob off responsibility for war to man's inherent aggressiveness rather than to blame the political structures we have created. Several essays deal with just such issues. Obviously I have not come close to doing justice to this richly diverse and fascinating collection of essays. Read the book, I guarantee you will be fascinated. ( )
1 vote ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
I always love Stephen Jay Gould's books. This is the very first book he wrote, and it did not leave me down. His craftsmanship and intellectual power over tthe essay is superb. Very simply, he always weaves a spell that will not let me put his books down. I find it horrible that he has passed away, but I can take some solace in knowing, I still haven't read all of his essays and books. ( )
  robrod1 | Apr 29, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gould, Stephen Jayprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Temurcu, CeyhanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For My Father  who took me to see the Tyrannosaurus when I was five
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One hundred years without Darwin are enough, grumbled the noted American geneticist H. J. Muller in 1952.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393308189, Paperback)

More than any other modern scientists, Stephen Jay Gould has opened up to millions the wonders of evolutionary biology. His genius as an essayist lies in his unmatched ability to use his knowledge of the world, including popular culture, to illuminate the realm of science.

Ever Since Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould's first book, has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. Like all succeeding collections by this unique writer, it brings the art of the scientific essay to unparalleled heights.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:44 -0400)

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Provides information on developments in evolutionary theory, discussing such topics as the Cambrian population explosion, Velikovsky's theories, and others.

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W.W. Norton

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