BULLY FOR BRONTOSAURUS by Stephen Jay Gould

BULLY FOR BRONTOSAURUS

: More Reflections in Natural History
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Gould's picks of the best of six years' worth of his ``This View of Life'' columns in Natural History add up to dozens of choice essays. The themes are familiar--reflections on evolution as bush of diversity and not ladder of progress; as chance and not design; as punctuated equilibrium and not gradualism. There are wonderful disquisitions on special creatures like Australian platypuses and echidnas, not only exceptional as egg-laying mammals but equipped with large and, in the case of the echidna, richly convoluted brains. (They score pretty well on maze test, too.) Then there are the mother frogs who use their stomachs as brood pouches delivering live-born froglets from their mouths. Alas, this species may have gone extinct as part of the strange worldwide decline in amphibian populations in recent years. Kiwis come in for discussion a couple of times, in one case as an example of wanton predation by a dog, thus giving the lie to the clichÇ that only man kills for pleasure. And, as always, Gould, the George Will of paleontology, waxes eloquent on his favorite sport, baseball, sometimes for lessons in probability, sometimes as a springboard for one of Gould's favorite scholarly sports: supplying historical correctives. Thus we learn the real truth behind Abner Doubleday and Cooperstown, N.Y.; what Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce really said in the Great Debate; and how the Burgess Shale was really discovered. Teaching and its decline; textbooks and their decline; and other signs of the decrepitude of the culture are balanced by the cheer and zeal with which Gould extols advances in science like the space probe Voyager. Finally, there is the admirable Gouldian trait of un-pedantry, according to which he sides with the post office in choosing the technically incorrect but popular name for the dinosaur depicted in a recent issue. Bully for Brontosaurus and bully for Gould, too.

Pub Date: May 13th, 1991
ISBN: 0-393-02961-1
Page count: 524pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991




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