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Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History (1993)

av Stephen Jay Gould

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1,2071116,377 (3.93)8
This collection of essays ranges from history to the latest theories in biology, from controversies over palaeontology to the origins of language. The title is a pun and as always with Gould, the joke has a point that illustrates the largest pattern of life's history. For millennia, the animals that populated the Earth had four toes on each foot, or six. If evolution had taken a tiny shift - if man's ancestors had inherited a couple of genes in a different form - our canonical number, based on man's fingers and toes, might be eight instead of ten. Stephen Jay Gould has also written Wonderful Life, Bully for Brontosaurus and Finders Keepers.… (mer)
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  davidrgrigg | Mar 23, 2024 |
The sixth collection of Gould's essays, and the second I bought as a hardback: a very weighty tome printed on heavy paper. I found some of the contents a bit heavy going too, sadly. In fact, it was more turgid than the previous volume, Bully for Brontosaurus. For some reason, Gould started off in his early columns with a more accessible style: far fewer convoluted sentences and long words used for their own sake. But the overwritten style I found in the previous volume got worse here if possible. Together with the fact that he hardly ever provided a pronunciation guide to the various Latin terms used for the creatures he was discussing, it made for a difficult read and I found the subjects very dry. The only essay I could remember after finishing was the one where he 'revised' the previous take on one of the Burgess Shale life forms which had been obviously (to me anyway and to about 20 of his correspondents it seems) turned the wrong way up. So I can only give this 2 stars. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Jan 18, 2024 |
More of Gould's essays from Natural History, mostly (loosely) focused on evolution. Enjoyable as usual, but also some getting a bit dated now. ( )
  JBD1 | Oct 31, 2021 |
This collection of essays is Gould's last as an author but my first as a reader of him. They are somewhat eclectic, though grouped according to theme and overall evolution and scientific method crop up the most often. Technically, the approach is less diverse, with an opening starting with some personal or topical (at the time of writing) anecdote leading into a more general discussion of a Big Idea. This is somewhat irritating to me, because it reminds me of Radio 4's Thought for the Day, in which a news story is used to lead into some crass attempt to foist religion on to me.

The main body of each essay is well argued and clearly explained and demonstrates that Gould had not only a thorough understanding of his subject but the history of it, too. I learned much about modern ideas about evolution and found his remarks on scientific method interesting and worthwhile. It is also clear that he found an ocean of incomprehension of evolution around him - which he tried to mop up with his books, knowing that they could hardly even have a measurable effect.

I am left, however, with an even stronger desire for a book (preferable by Gould or Eldredge) in which a coherent description of evolution and all scales of operation is given. If anyone knows of one such, please mention it! ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
This collection of Gould's essays was published in 1993, but contains material from as far back as 1989. As with all his collections, the focus is on evolutionary biology, but he ranges pretty far across that subject. Sometimes he's focusing on small scientific details, which he uses to make broader points. Sometimes he's poking into odd corners of scientific history and shedding light on the lives of the people involved, especially when he feels they've been misunderstood in some way. A couple of the essays appear to be about completely unrelated things -- Mozart's musical prodigy, or the unreliability of Gould's own childhood memories -- but he always brings even those digressions back around to his main theme in unexpectedly graceful ways.

As always, his writing is both enthusiastic and wonderfully erudite. I don't know quite what it is about Gould, but somehow I always feels smarter after reading him. ( )
  bragan | Dec 8, 2014 |
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This collection of essays ranges from history to the latest theories in biology, from controversies over palaeontology to the origins of language. The title is a pun and as always with Gould, the joke has a point that illustrates the largest pattern of life's history. For millennia, the animals that populated the Earth had four toes on each foot, or six. If evolution had taken a tiny shift - if man's ancestors had inherited a couple of genes in a different form - our canonical number, based on man's fingers and toes, might be eight instead of ten. Stephen Jay Gould has also written Wonderful Life, Bully for Brontosaurus and Finders Keepers.

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