The world's most revered and eloquent interpreter of evolutionary ideas offers here a work of explanatory force unprecedented in our time--a landmark publication, both for its historical sweep and for its scientific vision.
With characteristic attention to detail, Stephen Jay Gould first describes the content and discusses the history and origins of the three core commitments of classical Darwinism: that natural selection works on organisms, not genes or species; that it is almost exclusively the mechanism of adaptive evolutionary change; and that these changes are incremental, not drastic. Next, he examines the three critiques that currently challenge this classic Darwinian edifice: that selection operates on multiple levels, from the gene to the group; that evolution proceeds by a variety of mechanisms, not just natural selection; and that causes operating at broader scales, including catastrophes, have figured prominently in the course of evolution.
Then, in a stunning tour de force that will likely stimulate discussion and debate for decades, Gould proposes his own system for integrating these classical commitments and contemporary critiques into a new structure of evolutionary thought.
In 2001 the Library of Congress named Stephen Jay Gould one of America's eighty-three Living Legends--people who embody the "quintessentially American ideal of individual creativity, conviction, dedication, and exuberance." Each of these qualities finds full expression in this peerless work, the likes of which the scientific world has not seen--and may not see again--for well over a century.
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Table of Contents
- 1. Defining and Revising the Structure of Evolutionary Theory
- Part I: The History of Darwinian Logic and Debate
- 2. The Essence of Darwinism and the Basis of Modern Orthodoxy: An Exegesis of the Origin of Species
- 3. Seeds of Hierarchy
- 4. Internalism and Laws of Form: Pre-Darwinian Alternatives to Functionalism
- 5. The Fruitful Facets of Galton’s Polyhedron: Channels and Saltations in Post-Darwinian Formalism
- 6. Pattern and Progress on the Geological Stage
- 7. The Modern Synthesis as a Limited Consensus
- Part II: Towards a Revised and Expanded Evolutionary Theory
- 8. Species as Individuals in the Hierarchical Theory of Selection
- 9. Punctuated Equilibrium and the Validation of Macroevolutionary Theory
- 10. The Integration of Constraint and Adaptation (Structure and Function) in Ontogeny and Phylogeny: Historical Constraints and the Evolution of Development
- 11. The Integration of Constraint and Adaptation (Structure and Function) in Ontogeny and Phylogeny: Structural Constraints, Spandrels, and the Centrality of Exaptation in Macroevolution
- 12. Tiers of Time and Trials of Extrapolationism, With an Epilog on the Interaction of General Theory and Contingent History
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Verdi's comment on hearing of the death of Wagner -- 'Sad, sad, sad!' -- should be magnified a thousand times to describe the world's loss when Stephen Jay Gould died, just 60 years young, earlier this year (2002). This book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, was -- as he knew -- his swan song. It is an awesome work -- the distillation and explication of a lifetime's work in biology and evolution. Gould explores the history of human thought on the origin and development of life; the astonishing insights of Charles Darwin; Darwin's critics and defenders; and the relatively modest amendments to Darwin's theories made by scientists who've enjoyed the advantages of later geologic and fossil finds. Gould's painstaking analysis and defense of 'punctuated equilibrium' -- his own, admittedly slight modfification of Darwin -- is, at least to this reader, thoroughly convincing. Creationists need not open this book: in fact, they should not open it. 'The Structure of Evolutionary Theory' will either be incomprehensible to them or it will destroy their small-minded and superstitious views of the world. I mentioned Verdi's comment on the death of Wagner. Better, perhaps, is Boito's on the death of Verdi: 'It is evil and wrong that such a great man should cease to be among us.' Indeed. The death of Stephen Jay Gould was wrong. It should never have happened.
At 1300 pages plus, Gould's book is a challenging read but he writes so well and so engagingly that the pages almost turn themselves. This is the clearest and best book I have ever read on evolution. Witty, detailed, argumentative, and arrogant (in a professorial and good way). A bargain for the price.
With 'The Structure of Evolutionary Theory' (SoET), The late Stephen J. Gould offers readers a comprehensive revision of Darwinian thought. His revision disagrees with the current orthodoxy, known as the Modern Synthesis, though adherents of each view call themselves Darwinists. In SoET, Gould identifies three defining features of Natural Selection: agency, efficiency, and scope. To survive the revision, Darwinism¿s tripod (Gould's image) must keep all of its three legs; amputation of any one would topple the whole structure. By agency, orthodox Darwinism argues for evolution happening exclusively at the organismic level. Ultimately it is individuals who survive and breed, or die. It is this or that particular being who will outlive its siblings long enough to have children. Groups, species, and populations, for Darwinism, don't do anything. By efficiency, Darwinism argues that from many random variations, only those variations that help the organism do something better (see more clearly, run faster, etc.) will be transmitted. Features appear because they are useful to the organism, because they have a function that contributes to the living being¿s survival and progeny. By scope, Darwinism argues that Natural Selection operating on individual organisms can explain the entire history of life on earth, and that no further process needs to be introduced into the theory. Natural Selection would be a complete theory. Having presented the image of the tripod, Gould continues with an exegesis of Darwin's Origin of Species. The first part of the book develops a history of evolutionary thought, presenting and rehabilitating many discredited formalist thinkers, such Geoffroy St-Hilaire and Hugo DeVries. The first part ends with a description of the Modern Synthesis (current orthodoxy). Then, in the second part, we are given a revised evolutionary theory, much of which was in fact developed by Gould and his colleagues Niles Eldredge and Elisabeth Vrba (to both of whom the book is dedicated). The book describes Gould¿s and Eldredge¿s own theory of Punctuated Equilibrium (PE): that often and in most cases (though not all) in between long stretches of nothing-happening (equilibrium, or stasis) evolution happens quickly (punctuation). Gould also presents the concept of constraints as positive forces, and shows them as channels of direction aiding flow. He contrasts this positive interpretation with the usual negative one of constraints restricting movement. Gould uses this with his earlier rehabilitation of formalist thinkers, to present historical and structural constraints as creative forces of evolution that operate independently from Natural Selection (i.e. orthogonally or sideways rather than with or against). Throughout the second part, Gould revises each leg of the tripod. Following Gould, Natural Selection does not explain all of history (the scope leg) e.g. it fails to explain lineages that don¿t change. Immediate usefulness (the functional leg) is only one of the forces at work; constraints in particular work independently to, the functional drive; 3) evolution occurs at many levels (the agency leg): at the gene, cell, organisms, species, and clade levels. Throughout the book Gould also emphasizes two concepts. The first is Relative Frequency and the second is the distinction between Historical Cause and Current Use. Neither of these concepts belongs to Gould, nor does he claim them, and Darwin himself was intimately familiar with them. Gould champions these ideas because he feels even experts aren¿t paying them enough attention. First, by relative frequency Gould means determining how often different processes occur throughout the history of life. For instance, Gould accepts that species often evolve gradually (classical Natural Selection) but he does insist that much of the time speciation happens quickly following long periods of no change (Punctuated Equilibrium) and even suspects that th
Sadly, Stephen Jay Gould died only two months after his 1433 pages book The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (henceforth, TSET) was published. Surprisingly, TSET is NOT about the structure of evolutionary theory, and it is NOT a portrayal of the current state of evolutionary theory. Instead it is about The Structure of Gould¿s Evolutionary Theory. So even the title of this book is confused. (Below I will show that the content of the book is extremely confused.) Gould claims TSET to be part of a Hegelian dialectic, in which Darwinism has become the thesis, with ¿Gouldism¿ (my word) as antithesis, and, of course, a synthesis waiting to be born in the future. Obviously, Gould is Darwin II. Like Marx¿s Das Kapital, the TSET does not end. And, like Marx, Gould uses ¿outpouring, masquerading as a single sentence.¿ One searches in vain for a clearly expressed sentence. Several Gouldisms are impossible to understand. An example: ¿autapomorphy¿. And, like Marx, he does rely too heavily upon rhetoric. In TSET Gould picks his history: ¿Sociobiology¿ doesn¿t appear in the index. The revolutionary theory of ¿Evolutionary psychology¿ emerges briefly. Robert Trivers is ignored although reciprocal altruism is mentioned (unattributed). William D. Hamilton is largely ignored. E. O. Wilson is ignored. No Haeckel. No Spencer. No Mayr. No Dobzhansky. No Simpson. No ¿ Selective argumentation characterizes most of TSET. An example: Richard Dawkins devastingly critical analogy for the gradualist-punctuationalist debate is unmentioned. Unbelievable but true: Gould claims that it is impossible to speak meaningfully about the effect of a single gene. But, undoubtedly, Mendel did speak meaningfully about the effect of a single gene. Moreover: No matter how complex the interactions, the substitution of one allele for another must have a mean arithmetic effect on fitness. In turn fitness will convey differential evolutionary advantage upon different alleles. Again, Gould is absolutely wrong. Punctuated equilibrium isn¿t the revolutionary approach that Gould claims. Obviously, there have been periods of relative ¿stasis¿ (stasis = no evolutionary change) punctuated by relatively rapid changes, because environments change irregularly and unevenly. However, even rapid evolutionary change involved tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years and when they occurred, ordinary natural selection was responsible! Gradualism does not deny that catastrophes sometimes happen. But after catastrophes, ordinary natural selection takes up where it left off. Clearly, the ¿theory of punctuated equilibria¿ is not a scientific revolution. 'Gould has been pushing against an open door', says David P. Barash. Gould falsely claims that the ¿subject of stasis had never been subjected to quantitative empirical study ¿¿ In fact, there had been numerous quantitative studies of evolutionary stasis in many taxa. Gould claims that selection does not at all occur at the gene level! He even speaks of gene selection in the past tense, as though it has been disproved! How can genes NOT be a unit of selection? In fact, genes are THE unit of selection. Richard Dawkins, Robert Trivers, William D. Hamilton, and George C. Williams emphasize selection at the gene level, because genes, unlike individuals, groups, and species, are persistent ¿replicators¿, which selection can maintain, promote, or extinguish over time. But, of course, even arch-reductionists acknowledge that selection operates at many different levels simultaneously. Again, it is much ado about nothing. We all know that natural selection is not the only mechanism of genetic change, but undoubtedly it¿s by far the most important mechanism. But Gould makes it appear as though natural selection has been dethroned! And the path-breaking works of John Endler and numerous other scientists about natural selection are totally ignored! Gould argues that evolution has almost nothing to do with human behavior. 'Go
I did go down to the local Barnes and Noble bookstore and look through Gould's last book written before he passed on, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, which they call his 'magnum opus'. I would indeed agree with that assessment since spending part of a day there flipping though it and reviewing it. It is the largest literary tome that I have ever come across that in essence says absolutely nothing about anything, filled with minutae and garbled arguments on the topic of whether organisms evolve or species evolve (sadly, I believe that at the point when he wrote this, his mind must have verged on the border of delusion or early senility, the entire wording and vague pronouncements that he makes on such an obtuse and essentially non-definable irrelevant subject are indications that he was beginning to get lost in the fog of his own nebulous Darwinian dogma) or how any other types of species arrived here either. The only other book that I can equate it to would be The Urantia Book, a huge bestseller back in the seventies with the UFO crowd that appealed to a host of strange alien abduction/reincarnation/newage cults who thought that we were being guided in our socio/historical progress by unseen alien beings. Goulds work is a monumental tribute to man's stubborn insistence to refute such plain, unequivocal evidence placed here before our very eyes-the remarkable evidence for Intelligent design and the glaringly obvious separate and distinct Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species classifications of organisms that to this day give credence to Linnaeus' classical theistic viewpoint of the origin of life.