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Revolutions in Science

Dawkins vs Gould: Survival of the Fittest

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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 have engaged in a savage battle over evolution, which continues to rage even after Gould's death in 2002. Kim Sterelny moves beyond caricature to expose the real differences between the conceptions of evolution of these two leading scientists. He shows that the conflict extends beyond evolution to their very beliefs in science itself; and, in Gould?s case, to domains in which science plays no role at all.

208 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2001

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About the author

Kim Sterelny

21 books25 followers
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 Victoria University and the other half of each year with the Philosophy Program at RSSS, but from 2008 he has been full-time at ANU.

Sterelny has been a Visiting Professor at Simon Fraser University in Canada, and at Cal Tech and the University of Maryland, College Park, in the USA. His main research interests are Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Psychology and Philosophy of Mind. He is the author of The Representational Theory of Mind and the co-author of Language and Reality (with Michael Devitt) and Sex and Death: An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology (with Paul Griffiths). He is Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. In addition to philosophy, Kim spends his time eating curries, drinking red wine, bushwalking and bird watching.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews
Profile Image for Daniel Wright.
604 reviews73 followers
February 11, 2016
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, that it does concentrate far more on the actual points at issue than on the historical/biographical details that might make it more interesting for the layman. In particular, there is very little quotation from either party's prolific and eloquent writings.

I do have a more general point to make about the subject, which might help clarify some of the difficulty: natural history is not a science. Since it is mostly studied by people who call themselves scientists, this needs a little explanation. By 'science' I here mean the study of repeatable phenomena. By this definition, (human) history is not 'science', since historians by definition do not study repeatable things. Needless to say, this does not mean that these things are not true, interesting, or worth studying. By the same token, natural history studies things that are not repeatable, which may still be true, interesting, and worth studying, but aren't necessarily 'science'. Since Gould was a palaeontologist, this may be pertinent.

Part 1: Battle Joined

Chapter 1: A Clash of Perspectives

Dawkins is an ethologist (he studies patterns of behaviour and how these have been adapted by evolution); Gould was a palaeontologist. D is most interested in how evolution affects variations between entities; G was more interested in what they have in common. In particular, G thought the basic structure of an animal evolved all at once and is basically unchanged since then. Moreover, they have deeper philosophical differences: G gave more place to things other than science in finding meaning (while still being an atheist).

Part 2: Dawkins' world

Chapter 2: Genes and Gene Lineages

The fundamental unit of life (according to D) is the 'replicator'. Some would dispute this in favour of the cell, claiming that the replicator came later. These replicators are then the means my which selection can work.

Chapter 3: Gene Selection in a World of Organisms

So what's the relationship between genes and the organisms that carry them? According to D, 'the gene remains the unit of selection', because selection is cumulative, and genes are copied between generations, rather than between the organisms themselves. But surely there are several environmental factors that go into building the next generation of organisms, not just the genes themselves? Yes, but the important thing is that they ensure the next generation is like the previous one, but with variation. But how do we know that genes cause the change? After all, change in genotype and phenotype are correlated, but correlation is not causation. (This is where things get interesting for me, because I've always taken it for granted that there was a causative link). The problem is that there is no 'genetic determinism' or 'a stable and simple relation between a particular gene and the characteristics of the organism it is in'. But D claims this is taking it too far The only important thing is that 'genes have phenotypic power', i.e. some sort of probabilistic effect. The result: 'so far, a stand-off' - no-one has proved anything.

Chapter 4: Extended Phenotypes and Outlaws

D has a vision of an organism's genome 'not as a harmonious whole but as a gene population. The genes in the population will have overlapping interests. But there is conflict as well' - even G would admit that this is compelling, and has truth to it. D seems to be winning at this point, in that selection is on the gene lineages here, not the organisms.

Chapter 5: Selfishness and Selection

Genes acting selfishly can lead to co-operative behaviour, as explained in one of D's most famous books. This is against the claims of 'group selection' wherein a group like a wolf-pack is a 'super-organism'. This is a stronger theory than D will give it credit for! G went down the group selection path as well, though the group in which he was most interested was the whole species.

Chapter 6: Selection and Adaptation

G railed against 'adaptationism'. This is the tendency in biology to see everything as a selective adaptation, and to be easily convinced that this is what a given phenomenon is, even without statistical evidence, when in fact many things are just accidental results of other things. D actually broadly agrees, but disagrees about why. But it seems that there is a great deal more room for research.

Part 3: The View from Harvard

Chapter 7: Local Process, Global Change?

There are two connected views G took as particular targets. Firstly, he reckoned that microevolution - that is, within a species - is contemporaneous with, but not a consequence of, genetic change, and argued against those who assume otherwise (such as D). Secondly (and more importantly) he argued against 'extrapolationism', which is the view (accepted in evolutionary biology since the time of Darwin) that major changes are just aggregations of minor changes.

Chapter 8: Punctuated Equilibrium

In the fossil record, we find that types of fossils which resemble each other closely enough to be labelled a 'species' tend to appear suddenly, hang around for a few million years, and then disappear equally suddenly. G (along with a fellow palaeontologist by the name of Eldredge) argued that those intervals between speciation and extinction are when the species was in a state of ecological 'equilibrium' and these intervals are 'punctuated' by sudden change. D and other critics argue that this is nonsense, because evolution can only take place gradually, and this undermines the whole concept of the common descent of species. In any case, you can't stake too much on the patchy fossil record. But as G would point out, what appears instantaneous geologically may have taken tens of thousands of years in reality. D has little time for the theory, but the weight of the evidence is starting to point G's way.

Chapter 9: Mass Extinction

According to G, mass extinctions, not just small, gradual, localized ones, are a big driver behind evolution.

Chapter 10: Life in the Cambrian

About 543 million years ago, on the cusp of the Cambrian geological age, we find a dramatic increase in the number of observable animal forms, called the Cambrian explosion. On its own, this seems to be a point scored for G, but of course, it might be that there was a great deal of hidden evolution we simply don't have evidence for. G had something else in mind, though. He makes a distinction between 'diversity' and 'disparity'. 'Diversity' is simply a count of the number of species. 'Disparity' denotes the breadth of the differences in physiology between species. G maintained that there is a great deal more diversity now than during the Cambrian, but there is less disparity. But the cladists disagree. Cladists argue that the only way to classify life is by descent. Things are more closely related if they have a more recent common ancestor. This undermines the whole notion of disparity, which is in any case somewhat subjective and difficult to measure. G admitted that more work needed to be done to define it adequately, but tragically was never able to do it himself. (Incidentally, D gets referred to in this chapter as 'a true son of orthodoxy', a title which must suitably infuriate him but is entirely true).

Chapter 11: The Evolutionary Escalator

Although more complex forms of life have tended to emerge over time, G believed that this was only one aspect of the way evolution works, since less complex forms of life continue as well, and are more numerous. In fact, the increase in complexity is only an accident; if you started again with different parameters, it might not happen. D agrees that growth in complexity is not central, preferring the concept of genes continuously adapting, but he adopts a more deterministic stance about its occurrence, arguing that the phenomenon of convergent evolution shows that complexity was always inevitable.

Part 4: The State of Play

This part's title is somewhat misleading, as it does not give the reader any idea of how the fight is panning out within academic biology at the time of writing. This does have the advantage that the edition remains broadly accurate some eight years later.

Chapter 12: A Candle in the Dark?

We move now away from evolutionary biology to more general matters in science, ethics, and philosophy. D tends to view science as a catch-all for explaining everything, whereas G put strict boundaries on it, sometimes with little coherence. Sterelny seems somewhat uncomfortable in this area, and basically confesses to taking D's side of the argument. Although from what I know of G's views, I generally disagree with him, I would rather get them from the horse's mouth.

Chapter 13: Stumps Summary

It certainly does stump summary, as I have been discovering while trying to write this review!
Profile Image for Tom Griffith.
45 reviews2 followers
December 5, 2010
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?
Profile Image for Nathan.
Author 8 books112 followers
July 8, 2008
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"), two prominent evolutionary theorists.

There are differences in emphasis (Dawkins feels adaptation to environment is what evolution must explain and so focuses on natural selection; Gould feels evolution's biggest question is why animal lineages change so little over time and so he focuses on variation more than natural selection) and outright different conjectures (can selection happen for a species as a whole or does it only happen for individuals). The most direct opposition is over "extrapolationism"--can you look at changes we see in our lifetimes and then extract to the many billions of years that life has been on our planet, through mass extinctions and ice ages and ... ?

I've realized that "evolution" isn't a complete theory by any manner of means (though because each individual hypothesis is falsifiable, it's still preferable to religious explanations) and that there are many interesting areas in which new work is being done.

The book isn't an easy read, although it's by no manner of means difficult. I had to keep flicking back to remind myself what a "gene lineage" was, what "progressive evolution" means, and so on. Sterelny does a very good job of explaining the commonalities in the men's thinking, and then going into useful detail with meaningful examples to highlight their differences. You don't need a background in biology to read this book.
Profile Image for Makomai.
241 reviews8 followers
March 31, 2015
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 leggerezza ed un rischio: la leggerezza consiste nel non avvedersi del diverso peso specifico delle singole tesi, se armonizzate nei limiti del possibile: mentre Dawkins – anche in una lettura sincretica – ha apportato innovazioni sostanziali, Gould - se lo si vuole leggere in maniera piu’ o meno compatibile con il mainstream biologico-evoluzionista – perde gran parte del suo rilievo autonomo (mentre se letto in una visione piu’ radicale e significativa non convince proprio…). Il sincretismo di Sterelny ridimensiona Gould, ma non ridimensiona di conseguenza – come dovrebbe - la portata delle sue innovazioni interpretative. Il rischio consiste nel fatto che Gould aveva – ed ha – una notevole diffusione esterna al circuito degli addetti ai lavori, e tali lettori meno smaliziati sono naturalmente portati a credere nell’autoasserito carattere rivoluzionario delle tesi gouldiane e di conseguenza ad interpretarle letteralmente-estensivamente. In tale contesto, le tesi di Gould rischiano di ingenerare visioni completamente falsate dell’evoluzione. Io stesso ho sentito persone che avevano letto Gould sostenere che l’evoluzione procede per grandi balzi in avanti (confondendo Darwin con Mao)… Resta da domandarsi perche’ Gould abbia avuto una diffusione presso i profani maggiore di quella di Dawkins: cinicamente ritengo sia per la sua impostazione piuttosto “ruffiana” dei magisteri separati (non-overlapping) di scienza e religione. Dawkins e’ notoriamente molto piu’ estremo, e l’estremismo scientifico vende meno della ruffianeria verso i credenti, i quali certamente preferiscono un’ambiguita’ che li induca a ritenere giustificato credere contemporaneamente nel dio biblico e nell’evoluzionismo, tesi che lo stesso Gould – se messo alle strette – non avrebbe potuto avallare.
81 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2016
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 particular debate and why.
Both Gould and Dawkins are committed Darwinians, but Gould was a paleontologist and Dawkins is an ethologist. One of Gould's main contributions was his Theory of Punctuated Equilibrium, but he is probably as well known for his idea of separate magisteria of science and religion. Dawkins ideas were elucidated in "The Selfish Gene" and "The Extended Phenotype", and he is equally well known as one of the world's most outspoken atheists. The differences between them extend far beyond the borders of religious belief, and this book spells those differences out in clear language for the non-scientist. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the history and philosophy of evolution.
Profile Image for Shafat.
90 reviews94 followers
December 8, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Steve.
Author 1 book11 followers
July 13, 2018
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 their approaches to natural selection , with Dawkins being the "adaptationist" while Gould emphasized the importance of other mechanisms to evolution. The second deals with the different ways they characterize the development of life on Earth , from the gradualism of Dawkins to the more chaotic and contingent picture drawn by Gould. Lastly I talked about how Sterelny described the difference between their attitudes toward science and inquiry in general ; Sterelny claims to be firmly in the camp of Dawkins the "science worshipper"(Sterelny's phrase) while I have much more in common with Gould the postmodernist.
Profile Image for Ruward.
32 reviews3 followers
February 25, 2019
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, of war-waging gene lineages; and not least: the extent to which neo-Darwinian explanations are the only explanations allowed in biology, i.e. What is the goal of science?

I've been reading much philosophy of biology over the years, but I've never learned so much about this topic in so few pages - about both the scientific details and the philosophical back-and-forth. I am genuinely amazed by the clarity and brevity of Sterelny's writing without haggling nuance.
Profile Image for Luca Baldini.
41 reviews
February 20, 2021
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 presentate.
Ricco di utili esempi e interessanti immagini, non è però sempre chiarissimo nei passaggi e nelle scelte di approfondimento di certi temi.
Al termine presenta una magistrale serie di consigli di lettura per ogni specifico argomento trattato.
Da leggere per chi si interessa del tema, certamente non però per chi non ha qualche base sull'evoluzionismo darwiniano e i suoi risvolti moderni.
Profile Image for Luke Illeniram.
150 reviews
July 20, 2020
"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 far more clear, but I suspect that is due to my prior knowledge. I may have to read more Gould to really get the most out of this book. Extra points for the numerous Australian references too Kim!
29 reviews
June 24, 2021
Fine review of the state of evolutionary theory as exemplified by the different views of SJ Gould and R Dawkins about subjects such as whether genes or organisms are the focus of evolution, whether the possible range of body plans are relatively restricted, and the role of mass extinctions in history.

They also share very different views about the limits (or lack thereof) of science in illuminating moral questions for humans.

The discussion is rather technical at times, but full of interesting examples of how life adapts and evolves.
Profile Image for Alessandro Veneri.
73 reviews10 followers
June 26, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Tomasz.
133 reviews21 followers
March 18, 2018
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
Profile Image for CCBaxter.
51 reviews
April 25, 2020
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.
481 reviews2 followers
October 31, 2018
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.
91 reviews
August 6, 2022
It wouldn't be possible to read this book without some prior introduction to the debate it dealt with. Especially, reading Dawkins or Gould, or , preferably both makes the reading of it easy and engaging.

Profile Image for Yash Arya.
61 reviews3 followers
December 6, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Mark Oconnor.
26 reviews10 followers
August 23, 2013
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-holding?). In addition to the already mentioned error about sex determinism in hymenoptera, he even manages to contradict both Dawkins AND Gould, specifically stating that Dawkins claims there is a specific gene for creating the eye (which he clearly denies in his 30th anniversary edition of "The Selfish Gene", incidentally referring to the same accusation in a Gould article entitled "Caring Groups and Selfish Genes" from his book "The Panda's Thumb"). He similarly misrepresents Gould, first repeating Robert Wright's orotund and portentous attacks on Gould's politics (which he addressed in several editorials already), and then stating that "your liver cells are very different from your neurons in both their structure and their function" (golf clap). The very notion of the phrase "gene expression" is utterly defeated here in a resounding note of irony. He then boorishly and hilariously reaches the conclusion that no gene makes a trait, and "few genes are invariably connected with a specific trait". Huh? Try telling that to the Swiss scientist Walter Gehring who in the 1990s inserted the master control gene called "eyeless" from a fruit fly into a mouse, which then produced a normal mouse eye. And I haven't even addressed the poor organization of the material in general which resembles the results of a last minute, desperate Red Bull and Vodka all-nighter constructed by an ADHD college freshman for a BIO101 term paper. Sterelny needs to stop cribbing other author's material or at least have the decency to get their arguments right. Simply a mess.
Profile Image for Icon Books.
57 reviews12 followers
November 18, 2011
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, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould have engaged in a savage battle over evolution, which continues to rage even after Gould's death in 2002.

Kim Sterelny moves beyond caricature to expose the real differences between the conceptions of evolution of these two leading scientists. He shows that the conflict extends beyond evolution to their very beliefs in science itself; and, in Gould's case, to domains in which science plays no role at all.


‘Book of the month’ Focus

‘Slim and readable … the aficionado of evolutionary theory and the intense debate it engenders would do well to read it’ Nature

‘A deft little book … its insights are both useful and fun’ The Australian

‘A useful and highly readable introduction to some potentially confusing debates in modern biology.’ The British Society for the History of Science
Profile Image for Deniz Cem Önduygu.
61 reviews41 followers
February 24, 2021
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-face 12-point Times New Roman it's set with. The book ends with an amazing Suggested Reading part where Sterelny makes useful comments on every book he suggests – ideal for Goodreads people who like to use their to-read shelves.

In any case, Kim, if you're reading this: change your publisher. Your book deserves better design.

And this is something I did (based on the original) reflecting where I stand on the debate.
November 21, 2021
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 price : omission of some important ideas. For example, Exaptations and Spandrels are important contributions of Stephen Jay Gould to the evolutionary theory which are not handled in this book. While dealing with 'Constraints', the author totally left out Gould's 'Constraint as a positive concept'. I think these are major omissions. Otherwise, reading this book is quite enjoyable (even the 'suggested reading' at its end).
Profile Image for Frank.
735 reviews38 followers
December 26, 2013
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 viewpoints, but their integration remains a work in progress. Undoubtedly the condescension/envy with which physicists and biologists regard each other plays a role in the nature of the exchange, as does the combatative and general touchiness of the protagonists.
Profile Image for Kristen Davies.
9 reviews3 followers
March 17, 2013
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 bumbling his way through random examples for which the "views of Dawkins and Gould have converged to some extent".

I wonder if the word 'diploid' on page 47 should instead be 'haploid'?

55 reviews12 followers
December 24, 2008
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 number of apparently subtle, unresolved aspects of evolution
Profile Image for Tim.
201 reviews4 followers
March 28, 2016
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 arisen.
Profile Image for Carlo Santiago.
5 reviews3 followers
March 23, 2010
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.
Profile Image for Tycoon.
96 reviews11 followers
July 11, 2007
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!
15 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2013
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.
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