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Il sorriso del fenicottero (Reflections in Natural History #4)

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  1,848 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
Lo scienziato e divulgatore Stephen Jay Gould in questa raccolta tratta degli argomenti più svariati e, apparentemente, stravaganti. Tra questi: il macabro pasto della vedova nera; Rita e Cristina, gemelle siamesi dall'incerta identità; un'improbabile teoria del passato che tentava di conciliare scoperte geologiche e Creazione divina; una Venere ottentotta che fu la meravi ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published 2007 by Feltrinelli (first published 1985)
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This book is 30 years old and still highly readable. It's about biology, more specifically about Darwinian evolution and the history of science. Quite good and gripping writing explaining what is still pretty much the current state of our knowledge.

Gould has a fondness for rehabilitating scientists who were wrong for interesting reasons. In this volume those figures include: Edward Tyson (who sought to place chimpanzees next to humans as the next link in the great chain of being theory), the Re
Adrian Colesberry
The greatest modern voice for the neo-Darwinian synthesis. He and a colleague, whose name I forget, re-purposed Kipling's term "just-so stories" to describe evolutionarily plausible but unprovable explanations for things. An amazing critical thinker, Gould realized that if you didn't establish some way of critiquing evolutionary explanations, they would become the equivalent of folk explanations, overpredicting to the point that they could never be disproven. Once evolutionary explanations becam ...more
May 07, 2015 Stacey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This may be my favorite collection of his essays because of the note at the beginning about his personal bout with mortality that occurred at this time and because the essays reflect his initial skepticism of and gradual acceptance of the Alvarez theory for the cometary extinction of dinosaurs and its implications for understanding our evolutionary history more broadly. This volume also documents his concern about the possible impact of nuclear war and his public efforts, together with other sci ...more
This is not an easy book to read--Gould's language and style are aimed at educated, but non-professional readers. Each essay is a gem in its own way, on a wide diversity of subjects. Gould sheds much light on how science is done, and the importance of the process rather than the conclusions. Highly recommended!
Debbie "DJ"
May 22, 2013 Debbie "DJ" rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love all of Gould's books. There is nothing more fascinating than the world we live in with all it's peculiarities. Gould is THE expert in paleontology. His books are very scientific, so not an easy read, but for anyone who is really interested in paleontology he's the best.
Oct 18, 2016 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a while to finish this book, since every time I came upon some new concept or organism I had to google it and read a whole lot more about it. The parts that I enjoyed the most have nothing to do with the baseball part of the book (which aren't really that many, but they show up in unexpected places), but more with the organisms and evolution of different traits that the author talks about with such eloquence.

I am lucky enough to own a (recent edition) copy of Kunstformen der Natur -
Bill Keefe
Apr 12, 2010 Bill Keefe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! What a fire hose full of science and history. I listened and listened intently to SJ Gould's essays. It was hard. It was all new. It was often detailed in areas of knowledge where I hadn't yet learned the generalities. Each story was a struggle and in a real way, a disappointment. A disappointment in so far that I knew that no matter how much I enjoyed the essay, no matter how much I felt I learned, how new the point of view or artful the argument made I would not know enough at the end, no ...more
Mar 26, 2009 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of Stephen Jay Gould’s books are collections of his essays he wrote for years (until his untimely and unfortunate death in 2002) that appeared in “Natural History” magazine. “The Flamingo’s Smile: Reflections in Natural History” is the fourth such collection.

Gould was a prominent paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and astute historian of science, who spent most of his career teaching at Harvard. His essays are a mix of science and history.

I'll take my lead from Dr. Gould. This book’s
May 14, 2009 Beatles24 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first foray into evolutionary biology. The book held a lot of promise and more than delivered despite the over florid writing that Gould has perfected (who uses words like synechdoche?). It is a book that speaks to the accidental nature of evolution but also puts an entirely different twist on the term "intelligent design". The intelligence referred to here simply means the adaptive nature of how we all came to be who we are - physically speaking. That is we build on small changes over time t ...more
Ben Sutter
Mar 05, 2016 Ben Sutter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, history
There is a lot more than meets the eye to this esoteric collection of paleontology/biology articles.

Whilst working through some of the strangest topics, for example (i) the special variation among Caribbean sea snails and (ii) why pre-Cambrian worms aren't actually worms, I was surreptitiously being taught the intricacies of the scientific method.

These articles are lessons in critical thinking concepts such as - open-mindedness, acknowledging errors (including your own), recognizing false assu
Alex Rubenstein
May 24, 2014 Alex Rubenstein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic foray into the history of natural selection, and common myths about Darwin, the Beagle, his "finches", and his paradigm. The other essays are just as wonderful, particularly those regarding the forced eugenics movement, incentivizing education as a means of population control, the history of preformationist ideology, alternative but now-defunct theories of dinosaur extinction, and, what was maybe most interesting to me, the polemic on appreciating continua and natural complexity vers ...more
Aug 22, 2012 s rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book, the first I've read of Gould's essay collections, sure sharpens my regret at his early passing. He speaks eloquently and with a sparkling wit about a great many subjects, most consistently (and enjoyably) those of natural history.

Some of the science is strikingly dated, and it's sad Gould isn't here to update them -- and that I can think of no worthy heirs. But this datedness doesn't too terribly diminish the pleasure of reading, since one of Gould's recurrent themes is the value of k
Sep 26, 2016 Pauline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sciences
I really love Gould, and the way he writes about biology and evolution without ever dumbing it down. This was a great read and I recommend it! My only problem with the book is that it's nearly 30 years old, which means I was regularly having to check if the theories and discoveries he talks about were still relevant. You can probably skip all the parts about the cyclicality of mass extinctions (they're not cyclical) and the hypothesis of a second sun (there very probably isn't one). It's interes ...more
Woodward Library
Martin Adamson, Professor, Zoology recommends . . .
Flamingo's smile by Stephen J. Gould

Why is this a favourite book?

The greatest and most broad thinking of all recent biological writers might well be Stephen Jay Gould. Few authors approach Gould in his ability to provoke critical thought around a biological topic. All of his series, taken from his Natural History essays, are worth reading.
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jan 06, 2009 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just don't have the background or training to be able to dive into most science books and get out of them all they offer, although my interest in the subject--whether physics or astronomy or natural history--is and has always been strong. I need books like this, where the science is sound but served up in bite-size, easily digestible chunks.
Elise Jenkins
Sep 23, 2013 Elise Jenkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Flamingos smile by Stephen jay Gould is a book based on the idea if evolution it includes facts, ideas from other scientists as well as a few drawings to show what the author is explaining. Gould uses different and creative examples to show his idea of evolution. He writes very structurally and the book was easy for me to follow.
Ken Bishop
Jul 20, 2007 Ken Bishop rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
See my comments on Ever since Darwin. Interesting discussion of the extinction of dinosaurs and potential extinction of humans by nuclear war. This is more complex than some of Gould's other works.
Aug 11, 2013 Devero rated it really liked it
Della buona divulgazione su un tema difficile, che in troppi oggi non capiscono o addirittura, quando ministri, vogliono eliminare dall'insegnamento pubblico (chi pensa alla Moratti ha centrato il bersaglio): l'evoluzione e la selezione naturale.
Donna Jo Atwood
I like Stephen Jay Gould's book and the way he mixs a wide range of subjects together--just like in real life.
Sometimes his essays get a little too technical for me, but he has stretched my mind more than a lot of other writers put together.
Highlights included Human Equality is a Contingent Fact of History and his reminders of science as method of fruitful inquiry. Most was forgettable.
Mar 06, 2016 Marley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really cool science stuff, very interesting but gets a little dry by the end. Otherwise really fascinating biology stuff.
Jun 05, 2014 Hectorianus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
increible el explorar el humanismo y la visión clara de Jay Gould para combinar arte , recuerdos y compilación de historias que se entraman con la ciencia...
Clare Bell
Feb 23, 2008 Clare Bell marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, honest, and insightful. I am perusing this one once again, after many fond re-readings. I love Gould's writing, and wish I could have met him.
Jul 21, 2015 Shawnee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Valuable discussions of Buck v Bell case (eugenics) and the process of science as a methodology not a result.
Aug 21, 2016 Kurtbg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, fiction-non
Gould is always a great read to both learn something, be entertained, and make you think about biology, evolution and humans.
Dec 24, 2007 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another of Gould's great best ofs from his series of essays in Natural History magazine. Always a treat!
Andres Varela
Oct 04, 2013 Andres Varela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Otra conjunto de ensayos que nos dejó Gould para comprender la belleza de la vida y la complejidad de la naturaleza.
Oct 30, 2011 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Interesting essays, as always, about how science works, evolution and natural history. Reading these essays is a pleasure, tinged with regret that Stephen Jay Gould is no longer writing them.
Nicholas Griffith
Written for anyone with a penchant for natural history; Gould straddles the scientific and literary world perfectly; one foot solidly on each hallowed ground.
Jayantasen1964 rated it really liked it
Mar 16, 2016
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ebook 1 3 Sep 05, 2012 03:34PM  
  • The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher
  • Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature
  • The Cooperative Gene: How Mendel's Demon Explains the Evolution of Complex Beings
  • Origins
  • Digging Dinosaurs: The Search That Unraveled the Mystery of Baby Dinosaurs
  • Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind
  • The Great Dinosaur Debate: New Theories Unlocking the Mystery of the Dinosaurs and Their Extinction
  • Life on Earth
  • Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds
  • Ravens in Winter
  • The Malay Archipelago
  • Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution
  • The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time
  • Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution
  • At the Water's Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea
  • Dawkins vs Gould: Survival of the Fittest
  • A Field Guide to Western Birds: A Completely New Guide to Field Marks of All Species Found in North America West of the 100th Meridian and North of Mexico
  • The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth
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...

Other Books in the Series

Reflections in Natural History (10 books)
  • Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History
  • The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History
  • Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History
  • Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History
  • Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History
  • Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History
  • Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History
  • The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History
  • I Have Landed: The End of a Beginning in Natural History

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“We have become, by the power of a glorious evolutionary accident called intelligence, the stewards of life's continuity on earth. We did not ask for this role, but we cannot abjure it. We may not be suited to it, but here we are.” 102 likes
“The human mind delights in finding pattern—so much so that we often mistake coincidence or forced analogy for profound meaning. No other habit of thought lies so deeply within the soul of a small creature trying to make sense of a complex world not constructed for it.” 17 likes
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