AN URCHIN IN THE STORM: Essays about Books and Ideas by Stephen Jay Gould

AN URCHIN IN THE STORM: Essays about Books and Ideas

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A collection of book review-essays by the Harvard paleontologist--all from The N. Y. Review of Books, with the exception of a gentlemanly but devastating review of Jeremey Rifkin's Algeny that appeared in Discover. Gould groups the reviews around five themes. First and foremost is the theme of evolutionary theory, cast in Gould's anti-reductionist, anti-functionalist stance. Thus, while praising the author's meticulous scholarship, Gould's reviews of George Schaller's study of the panda makes the point that the panda is surely one of the most unfit creatures to have survived. In general, Gould takes to task the assumption that evolution is a ladder with man on the top rung, or the notion that whatever exists (gene, protein, body part) is adaptive. All ""cardboard Darwinism,"" he says. Geology, biological determinism, biologist biographies, and a potpourri of books on the non-science fringe complete the collection. The authors are, in most cases, as well known as the reviewer: John McPhee, Arthur Jensen (remember the IQ controversies?), Lewis Thomas, Freeman Dyson, Fritjof Capra, Martin Gardner. . .Alas, poor Dyson gets included with the non-science fringe (for invoking a guiding hand to the universe, inter alia). On the other hand, what pleasure to see the dishonest, the inept, and the misguided deftly given their due, While praise is lavished on the deserving--for reasons well and truly stated.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1987
ISBN: 0393305376
Publisher: Norton