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 really 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 concept during this gleaming assortment.

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Extra resources for An Urchin in the Storm: Essays About Books and Ideas

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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.

Few general theories can survive the collapse of their crucial case. If the sociobiological argument for universals fails, the more questionable extension to cultural differences hardly has a prayer of success. Kitcher’s most effective section—Chapter 10 on “the emperor’s new equations”—dissects the mathematical models developed by Lumsden and Wilson to close their system and complete the revolution. These models begin by acknowledging the obvious—that cultural differences are too rapidly developed to explain as genetically grounded adaptations.

Cain in particular)5 have charged that critics of sociobiology have sacrificed the known truth of adaptation’s hegemony in nature in order to provide self-serving arguments for pursuing a purely political dislike of sociobiology. If I may indulge one paragraph of autobiography, I can only maintain that, in my case, the location of strict adaptationism as the central fallacy of contemporary Darwinism had three major roots, two preceding sociobiology. The first arose from seven years’ composition of Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977), and my growing respect for the great European structuralist literature on laws of form (dating to such seminal thinkers as Goethe and Geoffroy).

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