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The Structure of Evolutionary Theory

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,268 ratings  ·  49 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 commitmen
Hardcover, 1433 pages
Published March 21st 2002 by Belknap Press
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Feb 03, 2008 is currently reading it
I would love to clock Richard Dawkins on the side of the head with this book.
Elliott Bignell
May 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
I was a great fan of Gould's monthly essays, having the whole set of collected volumes and long marvelling at his general erudition and graceful writing. For this reason, I find it greatly frustrating to have to give this immense volume so poor a rating. At one time or another, in fact, I was on the point of hurling it through the wall and thus possibly endangering some poor soul in a neighbouring room. At over 1400 vocabulary-dense pages this is a lot of effort to put into reading a work that d ...more
Tony duncan
May 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Dinesh Viruvanti
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After a contemplation of reading this book 6 yrs back, I could finally complete reading it now over a span of 2 months. With an agenda of restructuring the Darwinian logic of evolution, (while diplomatically drenching Darwin with showers of praises),Gould organizes a major coup against the 'reductionist' and 'panselectionist' interpretations of evolutionary theory. This tome is divided into 2 parts. The first part gives you a ride through the peri-darwinian evolutionary views halting at the 'Mod ...more
Mark Longo
Apr 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
William Bies
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Stephen Jay Gould was a prominent figure in intellectual circles for many years, known for his eloquent prose style and outspoken atheism. This reviewer has attended public lectures by Gould twice, once decades ago during his college years at Princeton. Older readers may well remember his long-standing column in the Natural History Magazine, which has been reprinted in book form in a series of installments. But he is more than just a popularizer along the lines of Richard Dawkins; he has perform ...more
Thant Zin Kyaw
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gould may be right or wrong with his theories but just to know that how they were developed, the rationale behind them and how Gould had defended them is a great fascination for me.
Fred Kohn
May 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
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
Sep 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
William Schram
Don't get me wrong, this book is pretty good, but I couldn't finish it in time and I don't feel like taking it out again. I have tried to read it, but now I just can't get into the whole story that is being presented here. At the moment, Gould is going on about the history of Hierarchical Structure in taxonomy and Biology. He repeatedly reiterates his initial idea, but I keep forgetting it. Still, I did get up to page 316 or so before giving up, so that has to count for something, but this book ...more
Sep 02, 2009 rated it did not like it
An overkill to support Gould's politically correct politics.
This is a triumph.

Gould lays out some of the history of evolutionary theory and the theory's own evolution, clearly sorting out the elements. Then he supplements and complements more recent advances in the field with propositions of hierarchical evolution (in units lower than or higher than individuals, such as species) and of course punctuated equilibrium (evolution realized mostly in occasional modest jumps rather than always gradually).

Gould's emphasis is somewhat on the evolution of form and
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. ...more
Brian Beatty
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
David Hunt
Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was ok
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.
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Dec 28, 2008 rated it liked it
well, trying to read. Currently taking a 2 year rest from this one. This could be important, however.
May 09, 2010 is currently reading it
A tome with the weight and heft of a Gutenberg Bible
Very thorough, but not at all easy to read for a non specialist.
Joe Ward
Jun 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
An EXTREMELY long-winded defense of Gould's, at best, marginal contributions to evolutionary theory. Please read Doug Futuyma instead. ...more
Mark Schnell
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book several times, then set it aside, and then began again at the beginning. I found it difficult to get into, at first. Then I hit upon the idea of photocopying the table of contents, and drawing a line through the title of each entry as I finished reading the corresponding section. This tangible sign of progress kept me motivated long enough to get hooked on the book.

I also slowed down my reading speed, often reading the passages aloud to do so. (When facing such a lo
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 my free
Charles Eliot
Dec 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm neither a biologist nor a paleontologist, so perhaps I was foolish to take on a technical monograph like "The Structure of Evolutionary Theory", but I've read the rest of Stephen Jay Gould's books - including his other technical work, "Ontology and Phylogeny" - and I wanted to honor those good times by reading the book he wrote to capture a career's worth of research and thinking. Was it worth it? On the whole, and speaking only for me, yes. But would I recommend "The Structure of Evolutiona ...more
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Lee Drake
Feb 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Sep 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: didnt-finish
I didn't finish reading this—not because I didn't like it, but because it's so freaking long. Lots of fascinating ideas. I got through about half of the 1400 pages when I was out of work for a month, but then never went back to it again. ...more
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Lindsay Nance
Nov 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
The title says it all. It is great, but difficult. Encyclopedic in its scope and detail.
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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

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