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Pandas Thumb Paperback – Sep 1 1992

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton (Sept. 1 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393308197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393308198
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.3 x 21.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #277,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“It is a wonder what Mr. Gould can do with the most unlikely phenomena: a tiny organism's use of the earth's magnetic field as a guide to food and comfort, for instance, or the panda's thumb—which isn't one. . . . Science writing at its best.” — The New Yorker

“Stephen Jay Gould is a serious and gifted interpreter of biological theory, of the history of ideas and of the cultural context of scientific discovery. . . . is fresh and mind-stretching. Above all, it is exultant. So should its readers be.” — H. Jack Geiger (New York Times Book Review)

About the Author

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Geology at Harvard University. He published over twenty books, received the National Book and National Book Critics Circle Awards, and a MacArthur Fellowship.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
"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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Format: Paperback
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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