An Urchin in the Storm: Essays About Books and Ideas by Stephen Jay Gould

By Stephen Jay Gould

"What excitement to work out the cheating, the inept, and the inaccurate deftly given their due, whereas compliment is lavished at the deserving―for purposes good and really stated."―Kirkus Reviews

Ranging so far as the fox and as deep because the hedgehog (the urchin of his title), Stephen Jay Gould expands on geology, organic determinism, "cardboard Darwinism," and evolutionary conception during this gleaming assortment.

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Step four is the basis for political unhappiness with human sociobiology—the false equation of genetic grounding (itself unproved) with inevitability or resistance to change (many defects of vision are 100 percent heritable and easily corrected by a pair of glasses): “Because there are these genetic differences and because the behavior is adaptive, we can show that it will be difficult to modify the behavior by altering the social environment”—see the quotation from Wilson in Chapter 3 for an example of this final fallacy.

In appreciation for their inspiration but, above all, for their kindness. Contents Preface I Evolutionary Theory 1. How Does a Panda Fit? 2. Cardboard Darwinism 3. Misserving Memory 4. The Ghost of Protagoras II Time and Geology 5. The Power of Narrative 6. Deep Time and Ceaseless Motion III Biological Determinism 7. Genes on the Brain 8. Jensen’s Last Stand 9. Nurturing Nature IV Four Biologists 10. Triumph of a Naturalist 11. Thwarted Genius 12. Exultation and Explanation 13. Calling Dr. Thomas V In Praise of Reason 14.

Yet books are the wellspring and focus of our lives as scholars. Commentary upon such a source should, at its best, be expansive and enlightening—a sign of respect for a basic product. That so many book reviews are petty, pedantic, parochial, pedestrian (add your own p’s and q’s, querulous, quotidian, quixotic)—so much so that they have folded what might be an honorable genre into their gripping nastiness—strikes me as a sadness that might not lie beyond hope of reversal. Why should articles of commentary on other books not lie within the domain of the essay?

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