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Pandas Thumb [Paperback]

Stephen Jay Gould
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1992 0393308197 978-0393308198
With sales of well over one million copies in North America alone, the commercial success of Gould's books now matches their critical acclaim. Reissued in a larger format, with a handsome new cover, The Panda's Thumb will introduce a new generation of readers to this unique writer, who has taken the art of the scientific essay to new heights. Illustrations.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
The second collection of Gould's articles from Natural History continues to explore Darwin's themes and the resultant ideas since. There's several interesting essays here, including my favorite one in which the evolution of Mickey Mouse is discussed.
One of the essays here dealt with Richard Dawkins' controversial stand (in The Selfish Gene) on genes in which he states that a person is just a gene's way to make another gene. (This is different from normal evolutionary thought in that genes there are the subject of random variation which then is subject to the environment and tested.) Gould is not convinced by Dawkins' theory, mainly because, he says, there is no evidence that genes can be linked to specific attributes, i.e., there isn't an "eye" gene. Gould wrote this some years back, so it will be interesting to see if he revisits this subject now that researchers have indeed discovered the "eye" gene (through testing on flies).
Gould also covers Robert Bakker's theories about warm-blooded dinosaurs (later written up in Bakker's The Dinosaur Heresies) and the link to birds, a good essay for people to review prior to the hullabaloo that will follow Jurassic Park 2 (it's always fun to check up on an author's source material).
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The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould is classic Gould with a more open and approachable style. This is Gould's second in a series of books gleamed from his essays in "Natural History" and they have a timeless value to them.
As Henry Adams said, "A teacher... can never tell where his influence stops." So it can be said of Stephen Jay Gould as these essays are twenty plus years old they still have inherent and intrinsic value as they are essential in historical character. Gould's writings here are compassionate, well founded, plausible, and spot-on. As Gould explores evolutionary biology, were dinosaurs dumb, a panda's thumb, or why are there as many men as women born, to magneticly seeking food... Gould explores the realm of biological theory and does an excellent in expanding the readers mind .
If found this book to be a wonderful look into how biology, theory and history all interplay with discovery. Gould acts as a tour guide to thought and observation as he writes. This is an excellent book written in a more relaxted style, but his rapier skill is apparent and you cannot help but read on and enjoy his elegantly explored essays.
These essays have a broad range, but are integrated and organized into eight sections of thought-provoking prose. Enjoy Gould's arguments as he takes you on a ride. A ride that compels us to seek the answers within ourselves.
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By John Kwok TOP 500 REVIEWER
"Panda's Thumb" is the second volume in a series of essay collections culled primarily from Gould's column "This View Of Life" that was published for nearly thirty years in Natural History magazine, the official popular journal of the American Museum of Natural History. Once more readers are treated to elegantly written, insightful pieces on issues ranging from racial attitudes affecting 19th Century science to evolutionary dilemnas such as the origins of the Panda's thumb (Not really a dilemna, though "scientific" creationists might argue otherwise; instead Gould offers an elegant description of how evolution via natural selection works.) and the evolutionary consequences of variations in size and shape among organisms. Gould is differential to the work of other scientists, carefully considers views contrary to his own, and even points the virtues of the faulty science he criticizes. Those who say contemporary science is dogmatic should reconsider that view after carefully reading this volume or any of the others in Gould's series. Instead, what we see are the thoughts of a fine scientist rendered in splendid, often exquisite, prose.
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5.0 out of 5 stars That's my story and I'm sticking to it July 8 2001
When it comes to evolution, the interesting "leit-motiv" of Stephen Jay Gould seems to be: "I ain't got a witness, and I can't prove it, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it". By repeating and recycling the mantra of Charles Darwin again and again, Stephen Jay Gould keeps convincing himself and others that evolution gives the final account of all that is. Of course he couldn't be further from the truth. This point is clearly made by man like William Dembski, Phillip Johnson and Michael Behe, among others, whose books are available and are much more promising than Stephen Jay Gould's. This Harvard Professor takes the same view of Occam's razor as Richard Dawkins: "as long as we can speculate freely about natural causes of all there is, we will keep ignoring all evidence of intelligent design, no matter how strong, even if that requires engaging in scientific acrobatics". Stephen Jay Gould's "punctuated equilibrium" is just an example of such acrobatics. This theory came as response to the huge problems that darwinism faces, and to the fact that many darwinists are coming to the conclusion that they have been "climbing mount impossible" in their quest to explain life with the tools of chance and necessity, leaving intelligence, information and design aside. Of course to some darwinists, these huge problems are just minor detais that their own "naturalism of the gaps" can quickly fix and hold together. But the equilibrium is getting harder and harder to maintain. This is the man who knows well that the lack of correspondence between the fossil record and the theory of evolution is the trade secret of paleontologists. It is true that Stephen Jay Gould has a problem with darwinian mechanism of matter, mutations and selection. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but dated
An entertaining and elegantly written collection of discursive essays on natural history and evolution. Read more
Published on Sept. 8 2002 by D. P. Birkett
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear thinking
This volume is a collection of Gould's earlier essays for the New York Museum of Natural History. They reflect his marvelous insight into the heart of current arguments in... Read more
Published on March 8 2001 by Atheen M. Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Panda's thumbs up.
First published on 1980, The Panda's Thumb is a collection of slightly edited essays from Professor Gould's monthly column at Natural History Magazine. Read more
Published on Jan. 2 2001 by Leonardo Alves
5.0 out of 5 stars Good as Gould
I'll be short, there are plenty of other good reviews. My main point is that this book, although written over 20 years ago, retains its readability and accuracy because many of... Read more
Published on April 21 2000 by Roger McEvilly
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice insight into geology and biology.
I bought this book for a class several years ago. I still read it sometimes, because it has many great historical essays. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys science.
Published on March 24 2000 by Oskar Norlander
5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun
What Carl Sagan is to astronomy, Stephen Jay Gould is to biology. Both men can write about their subjects fascinatingly and in layman's terms without dumbing down the material. Read more
Published on Oct. 31 1999 by ADP
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly fascinating and a fun read
I read this book for an undergraduate course about fifteen years ago. It was by far the best part of the course and its content has stuck with me ever since. Read more
Published on Aug. 14 1999
2.0 out of 5 stars very interesting
I had to read this book for a class a few years ago, and I found it to be extremely thought provoking. Read more
Published on April 21 1999 by
5.0 out of 5 stars Gould's best
Stephen Jay Gould is probably the finest scientific writer working today. His books, based on the column he has written for Natural History magazine since the 1970s, mix... Read more
Published on Nov. 16 1998
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