The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
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The Structure of Evolutionary Theory

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  435 ratings  ·  35 reviews
The world's most revered and eloquent interpreter of evolutionary ideas offers here a work of explanatory force unprecedented in our time--a landmark publication, both for its historical sweep and for its scientific vision.

With characteristic attention to detail, Stephen Jay Gould first describes the content and discusses the history and origins of the three core commitm

Hardcover, 1433 pages
Published March 21st 2002 by Belknap Press
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Dec 27, 2011 Erik is currently reading it
I would love to clock Richard Dawkins on the side of the head with this book.
Tony duncan
Oct 25, 2011 Tony duncan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in evolution
Shelves: science
page 815 He has made his case explaining the development of Punctuated Equilibrium, and why it is a valid theory and how the arguments agaisnt it either have not properly understood the theory or have not seen the evidence in support. I can see the end!!!

now almost 400 pages and he has really established his historical premise, that the tension between formalism and selection are enduring themes throughout the history of biology, and that the "consensus" of the modern Synthesis went too far towa...more
Theodore Wilson
Just starting this one makes you smarter. My reference for anyone who claims that evolution isn't supported. Stephen Jay Gould first summarizes all previous thought on evolution takes it apart and puts it back together again giving birth to the modern theory of punctuated equilibrium. I won't say I have finished it though it's like the complte Oxford English Dictionary. Any page is packed full of detail and knowledge.
I finally finished this book, which certainly gives a feeling of accomplishment. It is very carefully argued, and one of the best things about it, at least to this layman, is that Gould gives a reasonably complete and careful version of opposing sides of every debate, particularly when it comes to the sections on evolution at different levels (such as species selection).

With respect to species selection, I started reading this book as quite a skeptic, but Gould won me over. Even he admits select...more
Apr 19, 2012 Ted marked it as to-read
Very optimistic of me to be adding this to the to-read shelf. I do own the book, and did start reading it a few months ago, but have deferred to more readable books since. I did enjoy the very short section that I read, but had to ask my wife many questions, only some of which she could answer (she was a molecular biologist, not an evolutionist by any means).

A book on evolution that I had better luck with was Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea. That was not only more interesting, but quite a bit...more
Will I ever be done with this brick? Should be titled: The Theory of Everything. It's kind of like reading Gravity's Rainbow, only more rewarding.
well, trying to read. Currently taking a 2 year rest from this one. This could be important, however.
Era mi biblia en la Universidad, El libro vendría a ser como el pensamiento intelectual más completo del paleontólogo de Harvard, entre la comunidad de biolocos este es uno de los autores más reverenciado respecto a la teoría de la evolución. El libro es sumamente detallado, comienza con un análisis profundo del darwinismo clásico y de la teoría sintética actual; entre sus postulados están: la selección natural actúa sobre el organismo, no sobre los genes (está en desacuerdo con Richard Dawkins)...more
Gould is best known for his many eloquent essays touching on a variety of topics from movies to history to baseball, in which he brilliantly ties whatever he happens to be writing about to his primary field of expertise, natural history and evolutionary biology. These have been collected into a number of bestselling books over the years. But Gould was also a first-class scientific researcher and made many important contributions to evolutionary theory, and this, his last book, is his magnum opus...more
Fred Kohn
Let me say up front that despite my five star rating, I found this book a colossal pain in the a$$ to read. That is not the fault of the book but rather my expectations of what I would find in the book. I was hoping to learn a lot of biology. But the book is more about the philosophical structure of various strains of thought within evolutionary theory than an outline of the nuts and bolts of evolution. Thus, rather bizarrely, there are extended discussions of Aristotle's theory of causality and...more
I swear, I've been reading this book for 3 YEARS.

Length-wise, his is the War and Peace of the Science world--I mean seriously, over 1400 pages? And a good 3 inches taller of a book if you're comparing standard editions.

Unlike War and Peace, I never feel like clawing my face off (sorry sorry sorry if you're a W&P fan, I'm just being dramatic, of course). I finished W&P ages and ages and ages ago, and I can't remember a darn thing except Vanderbilt-like families in Russia and the feeling...more
Mark Longo
Dear god. I spent literally a year reading this tome - 1350 pages of tiny font, big ideas, and beautiful prose. At times torturous, at times rapturous, but always eloquent and deeply insightful, this monster has provided an entire education in evolutionary biology. I'm a bit hesitant to give it five stars given that it could have been so much better trimmed down to a reasonable 400-600 pages. But then again, when I think about all the vapid fluff out there getting five star reviews and I weigh t...more
I do not expect to ever read the whole of this extraordinary work, any more than I expect to read every word of Shakespeare. But I do agree with the other reviewers on this site that it is brilliant. It has turned my head around, making sense of a lot of questions about evolution that have puzzled me for years, drawing my attention to other things that I had never taken in, and connecting with a lot of other knowledges, as well as engaging with all sorts of obscure but fascinating topics and (mo...more
Feb 10, 2008 Joe rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: natural history fans
To be fair, I didn't get all the way through this monster of a book. Though Gould clearly went to some lengths to make a complicated subject accessible, it was nonetheless a bit above my skill level. Still, it is a fine testament to a wonderful thinker and outstanding scientist. Also, if you've ever been annoyed by Creationists but felt like you lacked the proper grounding to defend evolutionary theory with calm, well-reasoned assurance, this book will give you the legs to stand on. Outstanding.
Lee Drake
This is Stephen Jay Gould's magnum oppus, finished shortly before his death. In this work he surveys the history of evolutionary theory, going over major paradigm shifts and the people responsible for them in the first half. The second is an extensive analysis of various aspects of evolutionary theory developed over the past century of a half.
Brian Beatty
Much too long, but afterward it felt like I understood what was going on in his mind in his essays - including the cognitive dissonance of his patterns of setting up straw men.
Worth reading, but take notes and stay skeptical of his attempts to convince.
This is what you get when you take one of the most amazing evolutionary thinkers of our time and download his brain onto the page. This book is very full, and in some ways a little disorganized, but such a volume in informations is incredible.
Well.. I actually gave up about 300 pages in; I didn't have the dedication to continue. But it was informative, comprehensive, and well-written from what I read. Probably needed some more editing.
David Hunt
Dec 23, 2007 David Hunt rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: biology fanatics.
Though this is a very interesting story, it is stylistically quite dull and seems to meander a bit. Normally, this would not be a terrible hindrance -- however, the book is also very long.
Joseph Knight
Five stars just for the effort. First half is great, two chapters on hierarchical selection and punk eke are great — phenomenal — but the evo-devo chapters are rather weak.
Lindsay Nance
Ive read bits and pieces of this, and I would recommend Jay Gould to anyone that is curious about Evolution. One caveat: Gould is known for being an Atheist blow-hard at times.
It took me two years to read through this, and another year, easily, to understand it. An essential read for those who want fluency in the biological and life sciences.
It's an impressive work by someone truly passionate about their work and aware of their mortality (impending). He had so much to say and so little time...
Aug 24, 2009 Bernie_dunham rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: My daughters, son-in-laws, and wife.
I first read most of this book on the family cross country trip to Maitreya's Ph. D. presentation at Stanford. Gould's best work.
The title says it all. It is great, but difficult. Encyclopedic in its scope and detail.
An overkill to support Gould's politically correct politics.
May 09, 2010 Daniel is currently reading it
A tome with the weight and heft of a Gutenberg Bible
Scott Macleod Liddle
Mar 01, 2011 Scott Macleod Liddle is currently reading it
will take me some time....wish i had the 'snail' version ;)
Oct 14, 2009 Marckissel is currently reading it
i don't think i will ever finish this book!
People say my name should be Jeff
I would give it 5 stars if he had an editor.
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Stephen Jay Gould was a prominent American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation. Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Most of Gould's empirical research was on land snails. Gould...more
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