“Ever since Darwin” by Stephen Jay Gould

I picked this collection of essays (selected from Gould’s mid-1970s contributions to Natural History) up during a recent visit to Rodgers Book Barn (along with “The Panda’s Thumb”, and another book I’ll write about later). Pop-science writing always runs the risk of becoming out-dated, but this collection holds up remarkably well after 45 years. I particularly appreciated the discussion of the history of ideas – for example, why the acceptance of continental drift was contingent on the theory of plate tectonics (and therefore on the discovery of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge). Gould’s discussion of race science could practically be contemporary (e.g., these recent debates on how Wikipedia should treat the question of race and intelligence: 1 2). I am looking forward to moving on to “The Panda’s Thumb”. Also, this made me laugh out loud:

One day, at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, I entered the Hall of Free Enterprise to escape the rain. Inside, prominently displayed, was an ant colony bearing the sign: “Twenty million years of evolutionary stagnation. Why? Because the ant colony is a socialist, totalitarian system.”

Gould, “Sizing up human intelligence”

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