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The Hedgehog, the Fox & the Magister's Pox: Mending the Gap Between Science & the Humanities

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  339 ratings  ·  29 reviews
In his final book and his first full-length original title since Full House in 1996, the eminent paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould offers a surprising and nuanced study of the complex relationship between our two great ways of knowing: science and the humanities, twin realms of knowledge that have been divided against each other for far too long. In building his case, Gould ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 23rd 2004 by Three Rivers Press (first published 2003)
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Oct 12, 2007 E S rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: intellectual circlejerks
Being dead shouldn't exempt Gould from editing.
I had a very up-and-down experience with this book where certain parts fascinated me immensely and others felt like suffering until the next chapter. Gould's first step in mending the gap between the sciences and humanities revolves around establishing mutual respect for both approaches to knowledge and appreciating what types of knowledge each is suited for (observation and empiricism being largely suited to the harder sciences; ethics, morals, culture/art being better studied by the humanities ...more
While an entertaining read throughout, Gould's final book heats up when he takes on E. O. Wilson's take on consilience, a term coined by William Whewell, an obscure 19th-century English polymath, to refer to a particular kind of scientific induction that does not rely on reductionism.

According to Gould, the sciences and humanities represent distinct ways of knowing, and distinct modes of inquiry. Scientific inquiry will never successfully reduce the humanities into constituent parts that are ne
Todd Stockslager
Review title: Science vs. the humanities in a shrugfest
Gould, while touching briefly on the more headline-grabbing battle between science and religion (which he has apparently tackled in full elsewhere), takes on the science vs. humanities here. My suspicion is that the lack of crackling urgency the topic seems to have today is dependent on two key factors:

1). Science has won! We are all materialists, we are all reductionists; even if we are not all scientists, we see the fruit of science in the
Very long sentences. That’s the key thing to use when wanting to sound intellectual. In this book it is no exaggeration to say that a sentence can last for a third of a page, complete with asides, qualifications and hedging language as it finally meanders to its conclusion. So it must be incredibly intelligent and insightful, right? Well possibly, but it might also be the academic equivalent of a Ronnie Corbett monologue; it’s difficult to say because by the time it got to the end of sentence I ...more
Juanita Rice

I want to preface this complicated review by saying that I doubt if we would have seen the book as it was published had not Gould died in 2002 during its preparation; he never saw the galleys, never had a chance to check his facts and examine his logic. I think my disappointment with the book flows from this neglect. The book fails at the level of consistency and care in the writing. It is a monstrous compendium, but although it has what I call "infelicities," one cannot fail to learn from the w
Lukas Szrot
As a student of sociology of scientific knowledge I stand on the precipice, in the midst of an ongoing debate about whether sociology should be a quantitative (a la the natural sciences) or qualitative (more like the humanities) endeavor. I wonder, 'don't we need both, and for different reasons?'

I found this book interesting because I am also reading Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea". On a side note, it was a great way to brush up on some Latin, and a reiteration in some ways of the Non-Overla
This is the first book of Gould's that I've read, and I will agree with some other reviewers on this site that his final book could have used some deft posthumous editing. Some of the book was ponderous, but overall, I enjoyed Gould's playful, intellectually self-indulgent use of language in service of his arguments, and my interest has been piqued for reading more of his books.

As an aside, did anyone else notice Gould's exorbitant use of "ineluctable" and "immiscible"?

I found the middle part of
Gould has a good point in this book about the separation and mutual value of science and the humanities, but it sadly gets lost in the verbiage. Here Gould is at his worst, showing off translation skills, bragging about his book collection, and generally being an obnoxious know-it-all in love with his own language. I love Gould, but this is not a good book.
Through his usual informed and intelligent use of meaningful figures and sayings, Gould makes a good case for the false and ongoing division between the humanities and sciences and presents a resolution. In his conclusion he critiques E. O. Wilson's resolution (presented in Consilience)and counters with his own distinction between consilience and reductionism. He concludes with an affirmation of the important and necessary differences in ways of knowing and what the sciences and humanities can g ...more
Catharine Evans
Don't ask me why I'm reading this - or why I've been trying to read it since I bought it way back in something like 2003; let's just say I'm going through my let's find out more about Isaac Newton phase.
Indeed a lot of the books I've been working my way through at the moment have mentioned Newton - including Quicksilver, in which he's plays a key role, to the Lost Symbol, Discovery of Witches and even Rivers of London, in which it turns out he defined magic!!
Anyway, Gould has a dry wit and whil
Jesse Dunietz
The historical tidbits are fascinating, the argumentation is mostly sound, and the point the book aims to make -- that the sciences and humanities must be informed by each other -- is noble. But Gould focuses way too much on picking apart E.O. Wilson, and the book ends up being a repetitive litany of reasons to distrust science centrism. His writing style is also suffocating: every sentence seems to have so many twists, turns, and subordinate clauses that by the end I would find myself literally ...more
This is one of Gould's last books, full of logorrheic musings on the relationship between science and the humanities. He says that science is not an enemy of religion, not an enemy of "science studies", not an enemy of art, and the people who make the opposite impression are marginal radicals; C. P. Snow's famous essay on the two cultures overgeneralizes a parochial British situation; Vladimir Nabokov was a competent lepidopterist and Ernst Haeckel a great art nouveau illustrator.
Interesting read, but I had a few complaints. One, he's real happy about pointing up the size of his rare book collection (TURN OFF); and two it's obviously unfinished. I mean the writing's real good but you can really tell that the argument is seriously undeveloped for, well, such a long argument. Which lets you yell back, true, but I wish that the argument had cohered better at the end.
An interesting examination of what science and the humanities have to offer each other. Also a historical look at how the two disciplines started off antagonistic and examination of flare ups of hostilities since then.

The historical information is good, and to me, new. I particularly liked the examples of how each discipline could benefit from each other.
Brilliant book (and Gould's last) outlining and expanding his concept of "overlapping magesteria" to describe why science and the humanities (including religion) aren't mutually exclusive. His discussion of false dichotomies is killer, and his description of the need for spirituality that begins "we live in a vale of tears" is right on.
Not the typical essay compilation, here we have Gould essentially responding to Edward O. Wilson's Consilience in a most critical manner. Perhaps of interest to you scientific types, this book is certainly many steps removed from the openness (orientation to the layperson) exhibited by his essays and he just seems crabby.
Stephen Cranney
I didn't understand what he was getting at in the first half of the book, but he has a lot of good things to say in the second half. Admittedly I skimmed large portions, as he sometimes goes into agonizing detail about 19th century lithographs.
Mar 21, 2009 George is currently reading it
This is not what you expect. Certainly makes you want to read War and Peace. I'm obsessed with the work of Isaiah Berlin, one of the great undervalued geniuses of the 20th century, for my money.
David Melbie
Dec 12, 2010 David Melbie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Apologeticists
Recommended to David by: Picked myself
Very good. I found this in a bargain bin, but I really enjoyed this book. I must look for some of his other works. --From A Reader's Journal, by d r melbie.
You ahve to wade through a page or two of meandering to get to a paragrpah or two that is pure gold. It is worth the effort, however.
Samuel Brown
The book suffered by my reading it at the same time I was reading other, better works on similar subjects. Ultimately mostly mediocre.
Alas, my enjoyment of Gould's prose has lapsed. His style strikes me now as simultaneously complex and repetitive.
Couldnt finish this one - not one of my favorites of his. The concept was great but just too ponderously written
I love SJG--unfortunately, not this book! Probably because he did not get a chance to edit it. :(
Jan 15, 2010 Alicia is currently reading it
In preparation for March's book club selection (The Elegance of The Hedgehog)...
Feb 01, 2014 Kimberly marked it as unfinished
Too pedantic
David Bird
An entertaining read, but without the provocative power of a Dawkins.
Gould wrote this book to respond to E.O. Wilson's Consilience.
Charlotte marked it as to-read
Jul 02, 2015
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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 about Stephen Jay Gould...
Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History The Mismeasure of Man The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History

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“Science tries to record and explain the factual character of the natural world, whereas religion struggles with spiritual and ethical questions about the meaning and proper conduct of our lives. The facts of nature simply cannot dictate correct moral behavior or spiritual meaning.” 1 likes
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