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Dawkins vs Gould: Survival of the Fittest

(Revolutions in Science)

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  260 ratings  ·  29 reviews
An international bestseller when originally published, this brand-new and completely revised edition updates the story of one of science's most vigorous arguments. Science has seen its fair share of punch-ups over the years, but one debate, in the field of biology, has become notorious for its intensity. Over the last twenty years, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould hav ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 208 pages
Published June 25th 2003 by Icon Books (first published May 2001)
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Daniel Wright
See below for my summary of the content. As for the book as a whole, I can say it is reasonably well written, but tough going. Indeed, part of the reason for me writing such a detailed summary was to get to grips with it all properly. I am not, of course, qualified to judge how good the science actually is, still less to plump for one side or the other (though I can say I agree with bits of each of them sometimes, and sometimes fall in the middle).

It's worth noting, for the prospective reader, t
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fact
Despite the silly title and backcover copy, this is a serious and thoughtful book that sheds light on the bits of evolutionary theory that we don't yet know. The danger with any attempt to present evolutionary theory as incomplete is that you'll be mistaken for a creationist. Sterelny is no creationist, and this is not ammunition for that battle. He merely attempts to summarize the differences in position between Richard Dawkins ("The Selfish Gene") and Stephen J. Gould ("The Panda's Thumb"), tw ...more
Tom Griffith
Sterelny tries to distill the arguments of two great evoluntionary theorists down into 140 short pages, and then tries to explain where the two diverge. He doesn't really succeed in either case: you leave the book thinking, yeah, sure, Gould and Dawkins disagreed...but on what? ...more
Il libro descrive le divergenze tra Dawkins e Gould relativamente ai meccanismi dell’evoluzione e della selezione (i cui principi entrambi accettano). E’ destinato quindi solo a chi abbia letto entrambi gli Autori. Peraltro, chi abbia letto entrambi una sua idea certamente se l’e’ fatta, ed allora ci si potrebbe domandare dove sia l’utilita’ di un testo essenzialmente compilativo. In effetti, l’intento sincretista dello studio lo rende non del tutto superfluo, ma presenta a mio avviso una legger ...more
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
An excellent dissection of the debate between Steven Gould and Richard Dawkins on the meaning and driving forces of evolution. Sterelny (one of the world's great living philosophers of science) knows the work of both men very well. This 2nd edition of 2007 has been updated to include Gould's magnum opus, "The Structure of Evolutionary Theory", and Dawkins' "The Ancestor's Tale". He very clearly shows what each believes about evolution, how Sterelny views their ideas, and who "wins" this particul ...more
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
It's a very succinct book on a very cerebral topic: the clash of perspectives between two school of evolutionary biologists. All in all the book can't be said bad, but the lucidity is lost with too much information crammed within too little space. This book should've been thicker, there was too little room for proper explanation. I almost forced myself to read it because I planned to write an article on this topic. ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I found this brief but comprehensive overview of the scientific rivalry between Gould and Dawkins in a bookshop in Edinburgh while I was on holiday. As someone who has read a lot of each author's work, I felt Sterelny was fair in the way he characterized their thought. His writing is sometimes clunky, but he explains the scientific material clearly and precisely.

On my Patheos blog Driven To Abstraction I wrote three articles about Sterelny's comparisons of Dawkins and Gould. First he compared th
Luca Baldini
Feb 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In questo testo Kim Sterelny presenta l'acceso dibattito tra Richard Dawkins e Stephen J. Gould su alcune questioni della teoria evolutiva. L'autore presenta le tesi di entrambi i "contendenti", le contestualizza e ci accompagna nella loro analisi. Non risparmia anche qualche commento e presa di posizione personale.
Il testo è molto utile, oserei dire fondamentale, per chi vuole avvicinarsi alla letteratura evolutiva degli ultimi decenni e in particolare dei due autori le cui tesi sono qui prese
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book summarizes and explains wonderfully various debates about the nature of evolution, which was most prominently fought between Eldredge Lewiston and Gould on the one hand and Dawkins, Dennett, Ridley, on the other. At stake is the extent to which gradual adaptations drive evolution, or whether mass extinctions mostly determine selection of species; the question if individual organisms and groups are them are genuinely new, nonreductive entities or merely 'vehicles', as Dawkins puts it, o ...more
Dinesh Viruvanti
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kim Sterelny's 'Dawkins vs. Gould' is a summary of the key debates that took place between Dawkins 'Team' and Stephen Jay Gould's 'Team' on various aspects of evolutionary theory. This book can is a rapid review on the works of the evolutionary biologists mentioned in the title. A reader who is familiar with works of Gould and Dawkins can read through this book over 2 or 3 days. The concise nature of this book nevertheless comes with a cost of omission of some important ideas. For example, Exapt ...more
Luke Illeniram
Jul 20, 2020 rated it liked it
"Don't judge a book by its cover" has never been more apt. Moving on from the terribly kitsch cover, Sterelny does an admirable job tackling the task of summarising Dawkins and Gould. I'm only familiar with Dawkins work, and couldn't help but feeling I was still somewhat confused at some of Gould's points and how they differed to Dawkins. It is quite a hard read sometimes, as the language can quickly become confusing when it delves deep into the specifics of their views. Dawkins' views seemed fa ...more
Alessandro Veneri
Utile e concisa panoramica non-tecnica sulle maggiori controversie interne alla teoria evoluzionista, aggiornato anni 2002/2003. Sterleny – professore di filosofia in Nuova Zelanda e direttore della rivista Philosophy and Biology – disamina la diatriba intellettuale tra l’evoluzionismo proposto da Dawkins e quello di Gould, privilegiando i punti di accordo anziché le divergenze teoriche. Da leggere in un pomeriggio come introduzione a due dei maggiori autori e divulgatori del neodarwinismo.
Mar 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science
Short (too short), chaotic, poorly structured. The author fails to describes clearly his points, jumping from topic to topic. Many differences between the author are left unnoticed. The summary is full of oversimplified or silly statements (e.g. accusing Gould of soft postmodernism). Not recommended
Apr 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Exposición de las diferencias entre Dawkins y Gould. Se extiende más en las diferencias acerca de la teoría de la evolución (no en ella, en la que están de acuerdo, si no en algunos mecanismos que resultan algo duros para los no profesionales) que en las existentes acerca de la consideración de la ciencia como única forma de entender el mundo.
Gabor Hernadi
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
The short and readable summary of the long public spat of Gould and Dawkins. It`s very interesting to see how two great scientist can reach very different conclusions form the same facts and principles the same time not questioning those principles and the science of evolution itself. ...more
Yash Arya
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good overview of the views of two of the most prominent Evolutionary Biologists in recent times, where they agreed, and where they vehemently disagreed.
Mark Oconnor
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biology
I started reading this a few days ago and am on page 43. I am simultaneously reading "The Selfish Gene" by Dawkins and have read many of Gould's books over the years. Other than agreeing with a previous readers comment about the incorrect use of "diploid" on page 47, my general impression is that Sterelny uses hackneyed and banal examples for explaining basic, ground level biology (who is his audience? If they already know who Dawkins and Gould are why would they require grade-school level hand- ...more
Icon Books
Nov 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: popular-science
Slim and readable ... the aficionado of evolutionary theory and the intense debate it engenders would do well to read Dawkins vs. Gould.' Nature, on the first edition

An international bestseller when originally published, this brand-new and completely revised edition updates the story of one of science's most vigorous arguments.

Science has seen its fair share of punch-ups over the years, but one debate, in the field of biology, has become notorious for its intensity. Over the last twenty years, R
Deniz Cem Önduygu
Sep 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who have read Dawkins and Gould
I had low expectations for this book because of its (typographically) cheesy cover design and clumsy typesetting. In the end it made me want to read his other books.

Sterelny uses the debate between Dawkins and Gould to walk through many important topics in evolutionary biology, mentioning lots of other scientists and philosophers on the way, and successfully switching between detailed examples and the big picture. His writing is so clear and concise that it somehow resonates with the in-your-fac
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
SJG approaches the questions thrown open by evolution as a biologist: His primary response is to observe and categorise. SJG does seek explanations, but they come late in the game and are guided first by observations, not abstract reason.

RD's approach is much closer to physics. RD has full confidence that at the some low enough level of reductionism a handful of simple meta-laws can account for the astounding range of natural phenomena.

The modern theory of evolution owes equally to both viewpoin
Kristen Davies
Mar 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
I thought this book was very poorly written. The narrative skips from place to place, sometimes trying to summarise differences in thought between dawkins and gould, before then attempting to explain key biological concepts. There is no logical development of key arguments. There is repetition of many examples throughout the book, seemingly unrelated to the dawkins/gould debate. I had to put it down at page 63. I was seemingly almost to the end of the dawkins section, yet the author was still bu ...more
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a concise but clearly written account of Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould's differences over evolutionary theory. There's no definite conclusion as to who's right, as the science has not advanced enough to announce a clear winner, and anyway it's likely that they are both right to some extent. However reading about the two different viewpoints will undoubted give a much deeper understanding of the complexities of how organisms evolve and how the biodiversity we see on our plant has ...more
Dec 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: pop-science
I'd read quite a few books by Richard Dawkins and Stephen Gould but hadn't really understood the distinctions in their approach to thinking about evolution.
This is quite a short book, 180 pages, that compares the two.
This book by no mean stands on its own. If you haven't read, say, The Extended Phenotype by Dawkins and Wonderful Life by Gould then I don't thing Dawkins versus Gould will make much sense.
All in all quite and interesting an fairly light read that illustrates the importance of a num
Carlo Santiago
Jan 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Does Gould's evaluation of the fossil record conflict with Dawkin's account of evolution? Are we splitting hairs here? Maybe, but it's nice to take a step back from the theism debate and just watch the scientists do their thing. This is a balanced piece of writing, so don't expect a complete smack-down. ...more
S.m. Elliott
Apr 29, 2013 rated it liked it
A solid, but rather dry, introduction to the differences between the evolutionary theories of Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould. For those already familiar with the work of both men, this book will be too basic.
Jul 04, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Scientists of the World
Sterelny likes Dawkins, I like Gould.
Some muckity bits, but for the most part it was easy to understand. The author does a good job framing the arguments but comes to a mild conclusion: (Spoiler!) They're both right! (End Spoiler!)
Worth it, whits the appetite, hooray for Darwin!
Simon Chamberlain
Short discussion of the differing theories of evolution proposed by Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould. Quite readable and informative.
May 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A look at the differences in thinking of Dawkins and Gould. Enlightening and concise.
Apr 04, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: scientific
My money rests on the actual scientist . . . the latter.
Ariel del Rio
rated it really liked it
Jun 22, 2018
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After studying philosophy at Sydney University, Kim Sterelny taught philosophy in Australia at Sydney, ANU (where he was Research Fellow, and then Senior Research Fellow, in Philosophy at RSSS from 1983 until 1987), and La Trobe Universities, before taking up a position at Victoria University in Wellington, where he held a Personal Chair in Philosophy. For a few years he spent half of each year at ...more

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