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Ontogeny and Phylogeny Paperback – Feb 16 1985


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; Reprint edition (Feb. 16 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674639413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674639416
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.3 x 23.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 739 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #128,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Earl Dennis on Aug. 29 2002
Format: Paperback
Oh my friends, I tried Atlas-fashion but to no avail. This drawn out excercise in long haired erudition was simply too much for me. I'm sorry but there were cracks on the cieling that needed observing, weekends to be spent at the market and hangnails to chew. No, Ontogeny and phylogeny was simply not to be. I tried mind you, I read it up to page 223 where Gould set out to delineate De Beer's eight categories of heterochrony in part II, chapter 7 of this opus, where upon I cried "enough!!" I really like Gould too. I loved "Wonderful Life" and devoured "Ever Since Darwin." Indeed, Gould waxed eloquently (and succintly) on neoteny, paedomorphism and heterochrony in "Ever Since Darwin." Ontogeny and Phylogeny on the other hand will make you wish you'd never heard of these terms. I will say, having read part I, that I did get a thorough grounding in why Haeckel's recapitulation is untenable, but I was able to get that in one paragraph in Werner Muller's "Developmental Biology." Maybe this book was just a bad personality fit for me, and lord knows I love biology better than money or food, but I found it to be a not pleasant to read, sparingly informative, massive waste of time. This may seem harsh to Gould-ophiles, but I'd be lying if I said otherwise. On a positive note, it did give a good historical account of such 19th century natural science luminaries like Haeckel, Von Baer, de Beer, et al, and the development of their thought. Maybe if I were incarcerated I'd read this book, as it is there are too many other interesting and rewarding activities to pursue.
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Format: Paperback
Ontogeny and Phylogeny by Stephen Jay Gould is an enlightening book filled with facts, history, knowledge, science, sociology, biology and mixed with this is the Gould Factor.
By this, Gould Factor, what I mean is this. There are illustrative bits woven into the tapestry of this scientific work. I always liked how Gould did this... always bringing more information into the mix. Then, when you think you know how he is going to arrive at the conclusion he brings you into a whole different level of thinking and you become enlightened and then, only then, do you see... you arrived at the conclusion... via the Gould Factor.
Now, some may say that, why doesn't he get to the point... ah those are the impatient ones... as knowledge to be wisdon has to be appreciated... thought through to the end and only then... will the enlightenment be appreciated. The same has to be said about Ontogeny and Phylogeny, as the development of the individual leads to the development of the whole (type).
Gould's clever brilliance is evidenced here and you'll see him working the esoterics, bringing the reader on, interlacing ideas, and ultimately to the conclusion. A learning process that is evident here as only Gould could do. Gould also brings the reader a broad base of knowledge at the begining forming a foundation. From this foundation, the book begins to construct the major points of Gould's perseptiveness, then later we get the major point of the work.
I found the book to be very well written with excellent documentation and a classic of felicity of style.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the three most influential books I've read in the last 20 years.
"The world was a better place when I was young," "Kids today are worse than they were 20 years ago," are two of the more egregious examples I hear of people confusing ontogeny (development of an individual) with phylogeny (development of a type or collective). The world has always been a complicated and widely mixed placed. It is far more likely for an individual's perceptions to change in the course of a lifetime than the world that we perceive.
Gould's essays (and books collecting them) are pleasant bits of fluff that entertainingly (and sneakily) deliver well-informed and timely bits of science. "Ontogeny and Philogeny" goes the next level down, using interesting bits of (mostly) science to deliver well-informed and timely bits of philosophy.
I bought this book because I was curious about the relationship between ontogeny and philogeny. "Does ontogeny recapitulate phylogeny?" was on my mind. No, says Gould. Better, he describes what that relationship is. Along the way, he explains how humans are differentiated from other species (a topic well expanded by Jared Diamond in "The Third Chimpanzee").
Gould starts with the history of science (Lamarck, Ernst Haeckel); philosophy (Anaximander, Aristotle); and psychology (Cesare Lombroso; Freud). He starts by showing the history of the perceived relationship between phylogeny and ontogeny.
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Format: Paperback
Stephen Jay Gould's brilliance is evident as always in his ability to make the esoterics of great science available to people who have not thoroughly studied his field. He doesn't dumb it down, nor remove such huge slices that we are fools walking that dangerous tightrope of a little knowledge. Equal evidence of his genius is his broad base of real knowledge. He knows linguistics, for example; he would recognize that he does not know as much as Noam Chomsky, but he knows a great deal more than the typical lay person.
He uses this knowledge at the beginning of this book to construct a carnival of phrenology and psychoanalysis that gives a social context to his later discussion of ontogeny and phylogeny. Looking at the subject of the title outside of this context would make a reader feel awfully disconnected from the people who believed this. It helps to rememeber that history is the story of a species and its learning process.
One hundred years from now, people may know things that make them skake their heads at our use of protease inhibitors in treating AIDS, CD-ROM's in computer operations, or at the fact that only autistic kids, and not even all of them used weighted vests to develope proprioceptive skills.
The book made me feel superior, and at the same time humbled. No single person is capable of what our species can do as a whole.
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