Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History [NOOK Book]


"There is no scientist today whose books I look forward to reading with greater anticipation of enjoyment and enlightenment than Stephen Jay Gould."—Martin Gardner

Among scientists who write, no one illuminates as well as Stephen Jay Gould doesthe wonderful workings of the natural world. Now in a new volume of collected essays—his sixth since Ever Since Darwin—Gould speaks of the importance of unbroken connections within our own lives and to our ancestralgenerations. Along with way, he opens to us the mysteries ...
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Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History

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"There is no scientist today whose books I look forward to reading with greater anticipation of enjoyment and enlightenment than Stephen Jay Gould."—Martin Gardner

Among scientists who write, no one illuminates as well as Stephen Jay Gould doesthe wonderful workings of the natural world. Now in a new volume of collected essays—his sixth since Ever Since Darwin—Gould speaks of the importance of unbroken connections within our own lives and to our ancestralgenerations. Along with way, he opens to us the mysteries of fish tails, frog calls, and other matters, and shows once and for all why we must take notice when a seemingly insignificant creature is threatened, like the land snail Partula from Moorea, whose extinction he movingly relates.

Acclaimed science writer Gould explores continuity in relation to environmental deterioration and the potential massive extinction of the earth's species. The sixth volume in a series of essays begun in 1974 and first published in Natural History magazine. Author lectures.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his latest collection of essays originally published in Natural History magazine, paleontologist Gould examines diverse and diverting topics. The title piece refers to toes, and we learn that five is not necessarily the optimum number. Gould re-examines the work of astronomer Edmund Halley and 16th-century Irish Archbishop James Ussher, who pinpointed the moment of creation Oct. 23, 4004 B.C.; Gould finds an ``invisible hand'' connecting William Paley, Charles Darwin and Adam Smith. His recollection of an incident in his childhood leads to a discussion of selective memory. Other topics are the extinction of land snails on Moorea, development of the tiny bones of the ear, romanticism about the past and Gould's own ecological ``Golden Rule'' for our planet. He writes about the threatened red squirrel of Arizona and the ``evolution'' of old tires into sandals. This collection, easily equal to The Panda's Thumb and Bully for Brontosaurus , will not disappoint Gould's fans. Illustrations. BOMC, QPB and History Book Club selections. Jan.
Library Journal
With expected wit, insight, and erudition, Harvard geopaleontologist Stephen Jay Gould Bully for Brontosaurus , LJ 5/15/91 has written 31 engaging essays on the disparate but related issues of time, change, and organic evolution. Gould critically explores a cascade of ideas that shed new light on ecology, human nature, vertebrate anatomy, neo-Darwinism, and mass extinctions; he even includes personal musings. Of special interest are the essays that deal with William Paley's natural theology, Archbishop James Ussher's biblical chronology, Miocene fossil apes, the Darwinian interpretation of life's struggle for existence, and a reexamination of the Cambrian onychophoran Hallucigenia . Gould respects the scientific quest but has disdain for human intolerance. His own model of organic evolution permeates these analyses see Wonderful Life , LJ 9/1/89. Rich in thoughts and perspectives, Eight Little Piggies is recommended for all academic and public libraries. BOMC, Quality Paperback Book Club, and History Book Club selections.-- H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
Stuart Whitwell
No reader of Gould's monthly column in "Natural History" is ever completely surprised by the occasional collection of these columns in book form. Yet seeing them side by side does alter them slightly: their reach seems broader, their reflection deeper, their humanism more compelling. Their humanism? Isn't Gould chiefly concerned with snails (his area of specialization) and the refinement of Darwinian thought? He is, of course, but at the same time he is also a wonderful illustrator of the humanism that lies behind the best and most important work in science. This seems to be more and more the case now that the dazzle of "The Panda's Thumb" and "The Flamingo's Smile" are behind him. The 31 "musings" of the current collection patiently work at the way we think, the way we interpret, and the way we place ourselves in the vast world Darwin and others have opened up. And though their subjects seem to range widely--from the problem of memory through the elimination of species to the iconographic history of biology's classic texts--these essays also seem very much of a piece. The picture they paint--of a good-natured but somewhat arrogant species, determined to see itself as the apex of nature's work--is so wholly without sentiment, so wholly devoid of special pleading, and so straightforwardly honest, that one is put in mind of Bacon, Montaigne, Darwin, and other great careful and modest thinkers of the past. Gould would blush at these comparisons and deny them. But the resonance of these thoughtful essays allows them to transcend their subject. They should be required reading for everyone, especially those whose interests lie outside the field of science. Dante, Shakespeare, and Aristotle would be proud to see this work placed on the shelf beside their own.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393340846
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/29/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 583,862
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Geology at Harvard University. He published over twenty books, received the National Book and National Book Critics Circle Awards, and a MacArthur Fellowship.


Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould was arguably the leading science writer for the contemporary literate popular audience. His explications of evolutionary theory and the history of science are peppered with oddball cultural and historical references, from Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak to Catherine the Great's middle name. But Gould insisted that his work wasn't dumbed-down for nonscientists.

"I sort of operate at one end of what's called popular science," he told a Salon interviewer. "Not because I don't appreciate the other end, I just wouldn't do it well, somehow. But the end I operate on really doesn't sacrifice any complexity -- except complexity of language, of course, complexity of jargon. But I like to think that my stuff is as conceptually complex as I would know how to write it for professional audiences."

In 1972, Gould and fellow paleontologist Niles Eldredge shook up the field of evolutionary theory with their idea of "punctuated equilibrium," which suggests that the evolution of a species is not gradual and continual, but marked by long periods of stasis and brief bursts of change. Over the next several decades, Gould would continue to develop his critique of evolutionary theory, questioning assumptions about evolutionary progress and provoking debates with the likes of evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, philosopher Daniel Dennett and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

From early on in his career, Gould was interested in reviving the scientific essay, in the tradition of Galileo and Darwin. Gould began writing a series of monthly essays for Natural History, the magazine of the American Museum of Natural History. Published as "This View of Life," the well-received essays addressed a broad range of topics in the biological and geological sciences. In his essays, Gould not only explained scientific facts for the lay reader, he critiqued the shortcomings of certain scientific viewpoints and the cultural biases of particular scientists.

Armed with a historical view of evolutionary theory, he tackled the problem of human intelligence testing in The Mismeasure of Man (1981). The book won a National Book Critics' Circle Award, while a collection of essays, The Panda's Thumb (1980), won the American Book Award. Together the books established Gould's presence as one of the country's most prominent science writers.

Gould's popularity continued to widen with the publication of such unlikely bestsellers as Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (1989), which challenged the notion that humans are the necessary endpoint of evolutionary history. "Not only does [Gould] always find something worth saying, he finds some of the most original ways of saying it," The New York Times said in its review of Bully for Brontosaurus (1993), another collection of essays.

In 1998, Gould was elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and his description of that office could apply to his whole life's work. He pledged to "make people less scared of science so they won't see it as arcane, monolithic, and distant, but as something that is important to their lives." Stephen Jay Gould died in May of 2002 of cancer.

Good To Know

In a Mother Jones interview, Gould mentioned that he was teased as a child for his fascination with paleontology. The other kids called him "fossil face." Gould added, "The only time I ever got beat up was when I admitted to being a Yankee fan in Brooklyn. That was kind of dumb."

Gould was diagnosed in 1982 with abdominal mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. In one of his most famous essays, "The Median Isn't the Message," he explained how statistics are often misinterpreted by nonscientists, and why the grim statistics on his own disease -- with a median mortality of eight months, at that time -- didn't deter him from believing he would live for many more years. "[D]eath is the ultimate enemy -- and I find nothing reproachable in those who rage mightily against the dying of the light," he wrote. He died in May 2002 -- 20 years after his diagnosis.

Gould made a guest appearance as himself on The Simpsons in 1997, participating in a town debate over the authenticity of an "angel skeleton" found in Springfield.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Stephen Jay Gould
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 10, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      May 20, 2002
    2. Place of Death:
      Boston, Massachusetts

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