Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from BN.com
$19.12
Buy Used
Buy Used from BN.com
$16.76
(Save 41%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 93%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (43) from $1.99   
  • New (6) from $11.61   
  • Used (37) from $1.99   

Overview

Rarely has a scholar attained such popular acclaim merely by doing what he does best and enjoys most. But such is Stephen Jay Gould's command of paleontology and evolutionary theory, and his gift for brilliant explication, that he has brought dust and dead bones to life, and developed an immense following for the seeming arcana of this field.

In Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle his subject is nothing less than geology's signal contribution to human thought--the discovery of "deep time," the vastness of earth's history, a history so ancient that we can comprehend it only as metaphor. He follows a single thread through three documents that mark the transition in our thinking from thousands to billions of years: Thomas Burnet's four-volume Sacred Theory of the Earth (1680-1690), James Hutton's Theory of the Earth (1795), and Charles Lyell's three-volume Principles of Geology (1830-1833).

Gould's major theme is the role of metaphor in the formulation and testing of scientific theories--in this case the insight provided by the oldest traditional dichotomy of Judeo-Christian thought: the directionality of time's arrow or the immanence of time's cycle. Gould follows these metaphors through these three great documents and shows how their influence, more than the empirical observation of rocks in the field, provoked the supposed discovery of deep time by Hutton and Lyell. Gould breaks through the traditional "cardboard" history of geological textbooks (the progressive march to truth inspired by more and better observations) by showing that Burnet, the villain of conventional accounts, was a rationalist (not a theologically driven miracle-monger) whose rich reconstruction of earth history emphasized the need for both time's arrow (narrative history) and time's cycle (immanent laws), while Hutton and Lyell, our traditional heroes, denied the richness of history by their exclusive focus upon time's Arrow.

Gould's subject is nothing less than geology's signal contribution to human thought--the discovery of "deep time, " a history so ancient that we can best comprehend it as metaphor.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

In [this book], Gould has turned to the history of geology, a field very close to his main concerns as a paleontologist. He offers a revisionist historical account of the discovery of geological time. If anyone suspects that Gould has at last written a book on a rather dry historical question, I should emphasize that he has hit upon a rich subject and has written a highly perceptive and fascinating book. Furthermore, his latest volume offers his readers a valuable insight into his wider intellectual vision, providing them with a literary blueprint for a number of the basic concerns that unite his many essays and books. To understand Gould one should read his new book.
— Frank J. Sulloway

Nature

This new work arises from Gould's delivery of the first series of Harvard-Jerusalem lectures presented at Hebrew University in April 1985. It is a highly individualistic document (Gould admits it to be 'a quest for personal understanding') and sometimes discursive (the book opens within the works of Sigmund Freud and closes outside the south front of the Cathedral of our Lady of Chartres), but it is always highly readable...Vastly entertaining and stimulating...Gould's subject here is geological time; he is concerned with aspects of the discovery of what John McPhee has appropriately termed 'deep time'...Underlying the entire book, however, lurks yet another and still deeper theme which should commend the work to a readership far wider than historians of ideas and of science. Gould both explicitly and implicitly demonstrates that science is a creation of human minds which are ever feeling the influence of pressures far removed from those natural phenomena that are laid out before the scientist's gaze.
— Gordon L. Herries Davies

New Scientist

Geological time, its enormousness and humankind's place in it, is the great intellectual contribution of geology. In his latest book, Stephen Jay Gould shows us how its discovery embraced both time's cycle and time's arrow, and how, because these metaphors went unrecognized, we misinterpret geologic discoveries. Gould's style will be familiar to his readers—the historical snippets, the dichotomies, the odd and unusual, the common, the startling, and the contrary are all here.
— Jere H. Lipps

New Yorker

The blasphemous and dwarfing revelation of 'deep time' forms the underlying drama of [this book]...In the monthly essays with which Gould has been amusing and edifying the readers of Natural History magazine for some fifteen years, he now and then shows a surprisingly fond acquaintance with the debunked and forgotten theories that litter the history of science: the present book, an expanded version of lectures given at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, considers three early British geologists—Thomas Brunet (1635-1715), James Hutton (1726-1797) and Charles Lyell (1797-1875)—who he feels have been misrepresented in the contemporary textbook version of geology's progress...Gould's lucid animated style, rarely slowed by even a touch of the ponderous, leads us deftly through the labyrinth of faded debates and perceptions...Gould, with a passion that approaches the lyrical, argues for a retrospective tolerance in science and against fashions that would make heroes and villains of men equally committed to the cause of truth and equally immersed in the metaphors and presumptions of their culture and time.
— John Updike

Times Higher Education Supplement

Gould provides a fascinating, informally written excursion into the ways we conceptualize the past. He explores a central dichotomy between time's arrow (a unilinear Newtonian succession of unique events) and time's cycle (the recursive patterns that reappear in a world that remains fundamentally unchanged)...With its accessible style and its range of subjects, the book will be read by the same wide audience that has enjoyed Gould's earlier collections of essays...[The book] carries an enthusiasm, intelligence, and sense of purpose that render it a worthy follower to Gould's earlier work. Entertaining, sometimes annoying, highly personal, but never dull, this is the shortest of Gould's books, but also his most adventurous and experimental.
— J. A. Secord

American Journal of Physical Anthropology

What you read in textbooks and what your teachers told you is really wrong, Gould expounds. All this is a lot of fun, and there is such history and philosophy to intellectually chew on in this book...As we have come to expect from Gould, this book is interesting and clear.
— Eugenie C. Scott

Smithsonian

In his painstaking yet engaging manner, Gould examines three central documents in the evolution of our notions about geological time. These works have been connected wrongly, Gould finds, in an arrowlike progression of their own, from religious notions of Earth's creation as God's fast work to empirically based theories of slow, steady changes...Gould's chosen task is significant nonetheless—setting the record of that discovery arrow-straight. He's done that in his unusual book with his usual charm and erudition.
— Don Lessem

New York Times Book Review - Frank J. Sulloway
In [this book], Gould has turned to the history of geology, a field very close to his main concerns as a paleontologist. He offers a revisionist historical account of the discovery of geological time. If anyone suspects that Gould has at last written a book on a rather dry historical question, I should emphasize that he has hit upon a rich subject and has written a highly perceptive and fascinating book. Furthermore, his latest volume offers his readers a valuable insight into his wider intellectual vision, providing them with a literary blueprint for a number of the basic concerns that unite his many essays and books. To understand Gould one should read his new book.
Nature - Gordon L. Herries Davies
This new work arises from Gould's delivery of the first series of Harvard-Jerusalem lectures presented at Hebrew University in April 1985. It is a highly individualistic document (Gould admits it to be 'a quest for personal understanding') and sometimes discursive (the book opens within the works of Sigmund Freud and closes outside the south front of the Cathedral of our Lady of Chartres), but it is always highly readable...Vastly entertaining and stimulating...Gould's subject here is geological time; he is concerned with aspects of the discovery of what John McPhee has appropriately termed 'deep time'...Underlying the entire book, however, lurks yet another and still deeper theme which should commend the work to a readership far wider than historians of ideas and of science. Gould both explicitly and implicitly demonstrates that science is a creation of human minds which are ever feeling the influence of pressures far removed from those natural phenomena that are laid out before the scientist's gaze.
New Scientist - Jere H. Lipps
Geological time, its enormousness and humankind's place in it, is the great intellectual contribution of geology. In his latest book, Stephen Jay Gould shows us how its discovery embraced both time's cycle and time's arrow, and how, because these metaphors went unrecognized, we misinterpret geologic discoveries. Gould's style will be familiar to his readers--the historical snippets, the dichotomies, the odd and unusual, the common, the startling, and the contrary are all here.
New Yorker - John Updike
The blasphemous and dwarfing revelation of 'deep time' forms the underlying drama of [this book]...In the monthly essays with which Gould has been amusing and edifying the readers of Natural History magazine for some fifteen years, he now and then shows a surprisingly fond acquaintance with the debunked and forgotten theories that litter the history of science: the present book, an expanded version of lectures given at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, considers three early British geologists--Thomas Brunet (1635-1715), James Hutton (1726-1797) and Charles Lyell (1797-1875)--who he feels have been misrepresented in the contemporary textbook version of geology's progress...Gould's lucid animated style, rarely slowed by even a touch of the ponderous, leads us deftly through the labyrinth of faded debates and perceptions...Gould, with a passion that approaches the lyrical, argues for a retrospective tolerance in science and against fashions that would make heroes and villains of men equally committed to the cause of truth and equally immersed in the metaphors and presumptions of their culture and time.
Times Higher Education Supplement - J. A. Secord
Gould provides a fascinating, informally written excursion into the ways we conceptualize the past. He explores a central dichotomy between time's arrow (a unilinear Newtonian succession of unique events) and time's cycle (the recursive patterns that reappear in a world that remains fundamentally unchanged)...With its accessible style and its range of subjects, the book will be read by the same wide audience that has enjoyed Gould's earlier collections of essays...[The book] carries an enthusiasm, intelligence, and sense of purpose that render it a worthy follower to Gould's earlier work. Entertaining, sometimes annoying, highly personal, but never dull, this is the shortest of Gould's books, but also his most adventurous and experimental.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology - Eugenie C. Scott
What you read in textbooks and what your teachers told you is really wrong, Gould expounds. All this is a lot of fun, and there is such history and philosophy to intellectually chew on in this book...As we have come to expect from Gould, this book is interesting and clear.
Smithsonian - Don Lessem
In his painstaking yet engaging manner, Gould examines three central documents in the evolution of our notions about geological time. These works have been connected wrongly, Gould finds, in an arrowlike progression of their own, from religious notions of Earth's creation as God's fast work to empirically based theories of slow, steady changes...Gould's chosen task is significant nonetheless--setting the record of that discovery arrow-straight. He's done that in his unusual book with his usual charm and erudition.
David Rains Wallace
''Time's Arrow'' may not attract as wide a readership as Mr. Gould's essay collections - it contains less of the whimsy and moralizing that leaven the latter. Mr. Gould relies here on a close reading of Burnet's, Hutton's and Lyell's texts. Yet the book is far from an exercise in historical esoterica: the Gould style and wit remain, and the complex argument expands the play of ideas that is the chief pleasure of reading him. -- New York Times
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674891999
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1988
  • Series: Jerusalem-Harvard Lectures Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 887,056
  • Product dimensions: 6.03 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Jay Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University and Vincent Astor Visiting Professor of Biology at New York University. A MacArthur Prize Fellow, he received innumerable honors and awards and wrote many books, including Ontogeny and Phylogeny and Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle (both from Harvard).

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.

Read More Show Less
    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

  • 1. The Discovery of Deep Time
    • Deep Time
    • Myths of Deep Time
    • On Dichotomy
    • Time’s Arrow and Time’s Cycle
    • Caveats


  • 2. Thomas Burnet’s Battleground of Time
    • Burner’s Frontispiece
    • The Burnet of Textbooks
    • Science versus Religion?
    • Burnet’s Methodology
    • The Physics of History
    • Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle: Conflict and Resolution
    • Burnet and Steno as Intellectual Partners in the Light of Time’s Arrow and Time’s Cycle


  • 3. James Hutton’s Theory of the Earth: A Machine without a History
    • Picturing the Abyss of Time
    • Hutton’s World Machine and the Provision of Deep Time
    • The Hutton of Legend
    • Hutton Disproves His Legend
    • The Sources of Necessary Cyclicity
    • Hutton’s Paradox: Or, Why the Discoverer of Deep Time Denied History
    • Borges’s Dilemma and Hutton’s Motto
    • Playfair: A Boswell with a Difference
    • A Word in Conclusion and Prospect


  • 4. Charles Lyell, Historian of Time’s Cycle
    • The Case of Professor Ichthyosaurus
    • Charles Lyell, Self-Made in Cardboard
    • Lyell’s Rhetorical Triumph: The Miscasting of Catastrophism
    • Lyell’s Defense of Time’s Cycle
    • Lyell, Historian of Time’s Cycle
    • The Partial Unraveling of Lyell’s World View
    • Epilogue


  • 5. Boundaries
    • Hampton’s Throne and Burnet’s Frontispiece
    • The Deeper Themes of Arrows and Cycles


  • Bibliography
  • Index

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)