The Mismeasure of Man

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Overview

The definitive refutation to the argument of The Bell Curve.
When published in 1981, The Mismeasure of Man was immediately hailed as a masterwork, the ringing answer to those who would classify people, rank them according to their supposed genetic gifts and limits.
And yet the idea of innate limits—of biology as destiny—dies hard, as witness the attention devoted to The Bell Curve, whose arguments are here so effectively anticipated and ...

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The Mismeasure of Man

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Overview

The definitive refutation to the argument of The Bell Curve.
When published in 1981, The Mismeasure of Man was immediately hailed as a masterwork, the ringing answer to those who would classify people, rank them according to their supposed genetic gifts and limits.
And yet the idea of innate limits—of biology as destiny—dies hard, as witness the attention devoted to The Bell Curve, whose arguments are here so effectively anticipated and thoroughly undermined by Stephen Jay Gould. In this edition Dr. Gould has written a substantial new introduction telling how and why he wrote the book and tracing the subsequent history of the controversy on innateness right through The Bell Curve. Further, he has added five essays on questions of The Bell Curve in particular and on race, racism, and biological determinism in general. These additions strengthen the book's claim to be, as Leo J. Kamin of Princeton University has said, "a major contribution toward deflating pseudo-biological 'explanations' of our present social woes."

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Editorial Reviews

Saturday Review
“A rare book-at once of great importance and wonderful to read.”
June Goodfield
In ''The Mismeasure of Man,'' his most significant book yet, Mr. Gould grasps the supporting pillars of the temple in a lethal grip of historical scholarship and analysis - and brings the whole edifice crashing down....It takes a master pen to bring history alive, and the chronological unfolding of this tale is told in a somewhat pedestrian manner. Its style stands in obvious contrast to Mr. Gould's earlier writings, though it still shows the flash of humor and the felicitous phrase. But ''The Mismeasure of Man'' demands a great deal from the reader. To understand the conceptual fallacy at the heart of the mathematical technique of factor analysis, which itself is a prerequisite for understanding the history of intelligence testing, requires some very hard work indeed - even though Mr. Gould attempts most valiantly to make his material accessible. -- New York Times
From the Publisher
"A rare book—-at once of great importance and wonderful to read." —-Saturday Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393314250
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/1996
  • Edition description: Revised and expanded
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 126,332
  • Lexile: 1360L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Jay Jay Gould

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.

Biography

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

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 15
Introduction to the Revised and Expanded Edition: Thoughts at Age Fifteen 19
1 Introduction 51
2 American Polygeny and Craniometry before Darwin: Blacks and Indians as Separate, Inferior Species 62
3 Measuring Heads: Paul Broca and the Heyday of Craniology 105
4 Measuring Bodies: Two Case Studies on the Apishness of Undesirables 142
5 The Hereditarian Theory of IQ: An American Invention 176
6 The Real Error of Cyril Burt: Factor Analysis and the Reification of Intelligence 264
7 A Positive Conclusion 351
Epilogue 365
Critique of The Bell Curve 367
Three Centuries' Perspectives on Race and Racism 391
Bibliography 425
Index 431
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2001

    A 'must read' for anyone interested in IQ, hereditarianism, justice, and plain old intellecutal honesty

    Many thanks to the previous reviewer for setting out the main themes and content of this remarkable book. I read the original version of The Mismeasure of Man when it was originally published, and I'm now nearly through the updated edition. Here we are, twenty years later, and society is still operating under the same old prejudices disguised as 'science' and 'fact.' Will the isolated voices of reason (Gould, Montagu, Kamin, et al.) ever be heard? If Stephen Jay Gould weren't already a national treasure because of his essays on evolution, history of science, and even baseball, The Mismeasure of Man would guarantee him a place as one of the most important thinkers of our time. You need to buy this book. Trust me.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2008

    Time to hear the truth.

    This book reveals the historical truth about man's unfortunate attempts to limit human potential by relegating the complexities of individual intelligence to performance on arbitrary tasks. Man's obsession with quantifying human performance has had disastrous consequences for society. This book gives insight and perspective to the current practices that plague psychologists today in attempting to categorize and quantify the human capacity for intelligence.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2003

    A Book That Will Make You Rethink Many Things!

    This version of the book is great because it includes additional comments by the author, updating it into more recent contexts. A definate 'must read' for anyone interested in the study of IQ development and assessment. Although the lengthy introduction can be protracted at times, the work is still an essential source for those wishing to understand the misues of statistics by many credentialed scientists. Although the book starts slowly, as straight-backed chair reading, it becomes more vital as it progresses. Gould's agenda is clearly visable throughout, making it an honest work. This is an excellent study for any graduate researcher to understand before beginning any major research project.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2003

    The Mismeasure of Gould

    Interesting and well written. Entertaining. But unable to to draw conclusions that are politicaly incorrect and, therefore, little more than a comfort piece for twentieth century humanists. There are diferences in intelligence and they are measurable. (Do you really believe that short order cook could have been a neurosurgeon if only he had applied himself?) The real question is, "What do differences in intelligence mean and what should we do about them." These are tough questions, but that does not mean we should pretend they do not need to be asked. We're not going to send the short order cook to medical school--unless he graduates from college and has excellent scores on his MCAT's (a surrogate for intelligence testing). My advice is, read "The Bell Curve." It draws some simple conclusions and asks some hard questions. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than most of the writing claiming to "demolish" it!

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 30, 2010

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