By Stephen Jay Gould
"What excitement to determine the cheating, the inept, and the inaccurate deftly given their due, whereas compliment is lavished at the deserving―for purposes good and actually stated."―Kirkus Reviews
Ranging so far as the fox and as deep because the hedgehog (the urchin of his title), Stephen Jay Gould expands on geology, organic determinism, "cardboard Darwinism," and evolutionary idea during this glowing assortment.
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Extra resources for An Urchin in the Storm: Essays About Books and Ideas
A review of l’aulting Ambition by Philip Kitcher, Myths of Gender by Anne Fausto-Sterling, and Females of the Species: Sex and Survival in the Animal Kingdom by Bettyann Kevles. The public often equates the best science with the biggest questions. Surely the heroes of science are those who dare to ask how the brain thinks and where the universe ends. Practicing scientists, though not unmindful of these deepest conundrums, know that such questions, however vital and thrilling, are vacuous (at least for now) if we have no data for testing competing hypotheses and don’t even know where we might find the requisite information.
Yet this metaphor, imposed by Archilochus himself, is too harsh and negative. The hedgehog’s posture can be joyous and expansive. Like the porcupine of legend, he can aim his darts and strike like Cupid. (Real porcupines do no such thing, and are not closely related to hedgehogs in any case. ) The happy hedgehog of this volume roots his posture—and the organization of his essays—into three linked statements about nature and knowledge. First, nature’s way: If life’s history cannot be read as an ascending ladder to human wisdom, step after predictable step, neither can the opposite pole of true randomness capture its evident order.
Yet the very vehemence of dismissal also indicates—on the old Shakespearian principle of protesting too much—that reviews are not so lightly ignored. ” But why waste such emotional verbiage on an activity really accorded (if I calculate correctly) but one forty millionth of an old English penny in value. Yet books are the wellspring and focus of our lives as scholars. Commentary upon such a source should, at its best, be expansive and enlightening—a sign of respect for a basic product. That so many book reviews are petty, pedantic, parochial, pedestrian (add your own p’s and q’s, querulous, quotidian, quixotic)—so much so that they have folded what might be an honorable genre into their gripping nastiness—strikes me as a sadness that might not lie beyond hope of reversal.