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The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History (Reflections in Natural History #9)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  550 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
In his latest collection of essays, bestselling scientist Stephen Jay Gould once again offers his unmistakable perspective on natural history and the people who have tried to make sense of it. Gould is planning to bring down the curtain on his nearly thirty-year stint as a monthly essayist for "Natural History" magazine, the longest-running series of scientific essays in h ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 17th 2001 by Three Rivers Press (CA) (first published 2000)
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Jason Adams
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
In this penultimate volume of Gould’s collection of Natural History essays, I detect a deeper approach to his subjects. Always able to whipsaw between metaphors to illustrate a telling bit of paleontological wisdom, the essays have now become more meditative, voyaging farther afield before delivering the goods. There are far fewer pieces in this collection, yet they are generally longer; and for the first time we get are exposed to writing outside his pop science bailiwick, including an obituary ...more
Nick Rudzicz
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1) ''Altissimum planetam tergeminum observavi.
[I have observed that the farthest planet is threefold.]
I regard the last word of Galileo's anagram as especially revealing. He does not advocate his solution by saying 'I conjecture,' 'I hypothesize,' 'I infer,' or 'It seems to me that the best interpretation...' Instead, he boldly writes observavi---I have observed. No other word could capture, with such terseness and accuracy, the major change in concept and procedure (not to mention ethical valua
Andrew Langridge
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have been meaning to read Gould for years, and only just now found both time and resolve. I was not really sure where to start amongst his voluminous works, but feel extremely pleased with my choice. ‘The Lying Stones’ is a fantastic collection of essays, each one informative and thought-provoking. The evolutionary biology is perfectly pitched for someone like me with a science background yet lacking detailed knowledge of this field. But it is Gould's learning and culture that really adds life ...more
Sep 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I finished reading this book today (a good thing, as I have two other books that must be read before next Tuesday night), and very much enjoyed this not-quite-penultimate collection of essays that the author wrote for Natural History magazine on issues revolving around Evolution and Charles Darwin. Alas, Gould is no longer with us, but I treasure the essay collections, and enjoyed reading this one, as I have enjoyed reading the others in the series.

Gould writes with wry humor, but he is quite th
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Siempre es un placer leer las recopilaciones de ensayos sobre historia natural de Stephen Jay Gould. Aquí descubrimos cómo se llegó a saber que los fósiles son restos de animales que vivieron en otra época, que Charles Babbage y Antoine Lavoisier también se dedicaron a la geología (el químico francés, adelantándose un siglo a su tiempo describiendo lo que ahora denominamos como "facies"), que Lamarck creó un "árbol de la vida" separando poco a poco el grupo de los gusanos o "vermes" en moluscos, ...more
piu' che "appunti" sono microstorie, con correlazioni inusuali tra storia naturale (paleontologia in primo piano, ovviamente) e storia della scienza, con sortite in altri campi dello scibile. Pomposo, come sempre, ma perloppiu' interessante (per chi ama la biologia evoluzionista). La sua "scoperta" di un'annotazione ignota di Lamarck viene presentata come un "breakthrough" epocale, quando invece e` poco piu' di una curiosita'. Tipico di Gould...(mai scontri tra intellettuali sono stati meno sign ...more
I haven't read much Gould, and have recently been trying to rectify this. I read bits and pieces of this, and I downloaded some other essays. I liked the downloaded stuff better.

Gould is so brilliant writing about hard sciences. His essay "The Age of Bacteria" (not in this collection) was one of the most interesting things I've read in the past year. But when he moves into softer stuff, like, I dunno, culture and human knowledge - and a lot of this tends in that direction - he loses me a little.
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Nomhay duda que algunos de los ensayos de esta compilación son un poco aburridos, y pasé totalmente de largo de los de baseball, inexplicablemente incorporados en esta edición. Pero a pesar de esos detalles y de una prosa que tiene atascos, las ideas que hay en al menos seis de estos ensayos (el hallazgo de Lyell, la explicación de las ideas evolucionistas erróneas pero igualmente útiles de Lamarck, los agregados al final sobre las manifestaciones de la selección natural en las distintas escalas ...more
Jul 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Some of these essays are fascinating explorations of topics (in baseball, evolutionary biology, geology, society, and the history of science) that I would not have come across otherwise. And he makes some interesting connections between disparate events and trends (e.g. the effect of social darwinism in Eugenics and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire).

At other times, there's a didactic tone that I don't really enjoy. Reminds me a bit of Martin Gardner, who can be interesting but also obscure and stri
Aug 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is the third book of Stephen Jay Gould essays I have read, and I am in awe of the depth and breadth of his knowledge. His subject is science, but he can write intellegently about history, philosophy, baseball, Broadway musicals and tons of other subjects. The perfect man is, of course, my husband, but I have revised my description of the second perfect man to have: the romanticism and manners of Niles Crane from Fraisier, the intellect and respect for personal honor of Stephen Jay Gould, an ...more
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Loved the title essay; skipped three of the more esoteric chapters; was a bit miffed over the Darwin chapters as I'm a Wallace supporter; and ended by thinking essays and columns are perfect for someone like me who thinks they're not interested in science (but can actually find it quite fascinating at times). Gould, a well-known paleontologist and scientist, and prolific writer, was a great find (on my son-in-law's bookshelf). Will definitely look for his other collected writings.
May 12, 2012 rated it liked it

I was a little disappointed at this book at first. It had been so long since I read the last in the series. I'd always found his essays inspirational. They are as always very informative and insightful, but these seemed more tedious than previous ones. Perhaps my tastes have changed over the decades I've been reading Gould's essays. It took me half the book to get into it. The last three essays were the Stephen Jay Gould I remembered and saved the collection for me.
I gave this a try, and found the title essay just dull. and or reminded me that I've tried Gould essays in the past, with the same reaction. Maybe I'll still try one of the non-collection books, some time. But I've got the impression I'm less impressed or interested by his popular writing, than many reviewers.
Mar 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: natural-history
This is another collection of interesting essays by Gould. Most of the topics are on history of science and evolution with his usual wit and knack for making connections and turning stories inside out to great advantage.
He manages to get a few baseball stories in as well. Recommended.
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it
I generally enjoyed all of these essays, but I found some of them to be exceptional--especially "Above All, Do No Harm". Mr Gould's humane rationalism and wide-ranging tastes (and erudition in classical culture) made these books a treat to read.
Chris Salisbury
Aug 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Essentially a collection of essays written for a scientific magaazine. Very well-written, especially for a scientist! However, try as hard as he can, this book is still a struggle for those of us laymen.
Apr 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Benedict Reid
Aug 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As with his other books. So good. Wish they'd collect his essays in smaller chunks though. I've normally had enough of him by the end of each book.
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
En este libro hay un maravilloso ensayo sobre Lamarck.
Stephen Hampshire
Good in places, but surprisingly hard work for Gould.
Jun 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
As always, hours spent with a SJG book are hours well-spent. His range of knowledge is amazing.
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A landmark book - fluid account of scientific discovery
Apr 07, 2008 rated it liked it
I feel like a dumbass for only giving it 3 stars. It was interesting. But that's it.
Scott Macleod Liddle
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
5th read - the best set of essays out of all Gould's collections.
Feb 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Stephen Jay Gould is an excellent writer. Filled with information as well as exciting to read. Really keeps the momentum going.
Nov 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Some great little articles in this book, particularly the title piece.
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Vintage Gould as you would expect. I have read almost all now. I would rank it somewhere in the middle. A trifle lengthy at times but still good. Baseball as usual. Have fun.
Jason Brown
rated it liked it
Sep 11, 2009
rated it liked it
Feb 13, 2017
Chris Jenson
rated it it was amazing
Sep 06, 2015
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  • Fragile Species
  • The Cooperative Gene: How Mendel's Demon Explains the Evolution of Complex Beings
  • In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace
  • The Dinosaur Hunters
  • Conversations about the End of Time
  • In The Blink Of An Eye: How Vision Sparked The Big Bang Of Evolution
  • Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist
  • Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature
  • Glorious Accident
  • Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution
  • Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect
  • The Malay Archipelago
  • Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins
  • Alpha and Omega: The Search for the Beginning and End of the Universe
  • Time, Love, Memory: A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior
  • Time Detectives: How Archaeologists Use Technology To Recapture The Past
  • Darwin's Ghost: The Origin of Species Updated
  • Science: A Four Thousand Year History
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
  • The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History
  • Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History
  • Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History
  • Dinosaur in a Haystack
  • Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History
  • I Have Landed: The End of a Beginning in Natural History

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“Objectivity cannot be equated with mental blankness; rather, objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and then subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny — and also in a willingness to revise or abandon your theories when the tests fail (as they usually do).” 9 likes
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