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The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History

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"Gould himself is a rare and wonderful animal—a member of the endangered species known as the ruby-throated polymath. . . . [He] is a leading theorist on large-scale patterns in evolution . . . [and] one of the sharpest and most humane thinkers in the sciences." --David Quammen, New York Times Book Review "Gould himself is a rare and wonderful animal—a member of the endangered species known as the ruby-throated polymath. . . . [He] is a leading theorist on large-scale patterns in evolution . . . [and] one of the sharpest and most humane thinkers in the sciences." --David Quammen, New York Times Book Review


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"Gould himself is a rare and wonderful animal—a member of the endangered species known as the ruby-throated polymath. . . . [He] is a leading theorist on large-scale patterns in evolution . . . [and] one of the sharpest and most humane thinkers in the sciences." --David Quammen, New York Times Book Review "Gould himself is a rare and wonderful animal—a member of the endangered species known as the ruby-throated polymath. . . . [He] is a leading theorist on large-scale patterns in evolution . . . [and] one of the sharpest and most humane thinkers in the sciences." --David Quammen, New York Times Book Review

30 review for The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History

  1. 5 out of 5

    William2

    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 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 Rev. William Buckland (who misinterpreted evidence of past glaciation as proof of The Flood), Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (who straddled the epigenicist/preformationist embryology debate of the 18th century), and the father of taxonomy himself, Carolus Linnaeus (whose work was also skewed by the false great chain of being theory). Gould is always careful to point out that no science is without its limiting cultural or social preconceptions. Scientific knowledge, moreover, is conditional, never fixed, and changes with our ever modifying understanding of it. He writes:Good arguments don't provide nearly as much insight into human thought, for we can simply say that we have seen nature aright and have properly pursued the humble task of mapping things accurately and objectively. But bad arguments must be defended in the face of nature's opposition, a task that takes some doing. The analysis of this "doing" often provides us with insight into the ideology or thought processes of an age, if not into the modes of human reasoning itself. (p. 284) Also see my reviews for Gould's Dinosaur in a Haystack, Bully for Brontosaurus, Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, and Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ben Sutter

    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 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 assumptions and poorly reasoned conclusions, pursuing truth over ego and differentiating between evidence and speculation. Using real world examples this book is a kind of training manual in critical thinking.

  3. 4 out of 5

    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 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 became non-disprovable, it stops being a science and starts being a belief, like believing in god. So he spent a lifetime not just doing his own research but in popularizing disciplined neo-Darwinian critical thinking in this series of essays in Natural History magazine or Nature magazine, I forget. Most of my understanding of the neo-Darwinian synthesis comes from reading Gould.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I really like his writing style and the essays were all great. Some of them didn't appeal to my interests but that's not the fault of the essay. I'll definitely read more works by SJG in the future but maybe smaller chunks. This book is pretty hefty and though it's comprised of easy length essays it was kind of a lot to read in 1 month as a book club book (sorry about that friends!). Some of what he touched on related to previous books we've read so that was cool. All in all I enjoyed it and I'm I really like his writing style and the essays were all great. Some of them didn't appeal to my interests but that's not the fault of the essay. I'll definitely read more works by SJG in the future but maybe smaller chunks. This book is pretty hefty and though it's comprised of easy length essays it was kind of a lot to read in 1 month as a book club book (sorry about that friends!). Some of what he touched on related to previous books we've read so that was cool. All in all I enjoyed it and I'm glad I read it!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stacey

    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 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 scientists and religious figures from around the world, to prevent it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Taylar

    This was a very different read for me. I don't typically read a lot about geology or paleontology. I found Gould's writing approachable and understandable. Sure, there were things I had to read a couple of times but overall I think I understood his arguments and I learned some new things - and now have a lot to think about/ was challenged. I looked forward to reading Gould's perspective. Would love to see some of these updated with current research! This was a very different read for me. I don't typically read a lot about geology or paleontology. I found Gould's writing approachable and understandable. Sure, there were things I had to read a couple of times but overall I think I understood his arguments and I learned some new things - and now have a lot to think about/ was challenged. I looked forward to reading Gould's perspective. Would love to see some of these updated with current research!

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

    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! 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!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Debbie "DJ"

    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. 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Liedzeit

    Reflection in Natural History as the subtitle says. Gould had a natural gift in explaining or in just talking about science. Not very unlike Asimov even if he was much more restricted in his subjects. But impressing enough. The Darwin worship is a little annoying but there are excellent pieces, like the one False premise, Good Science about Kelvin’s refutation of the ”Doctrine of Uniformity”. And even better: ”For Want of a Metaphor”. Here Gould gives a good example how progress in science is de Reflection in Natural History as the subtitle says. Gould had a natural gift in explaining or in just talking about science. Not very unlike Asimov even if he was much more restricted in his subjects. But impressing enough. The Darwin worship is a little annoying but there are excellent pieces, like the one False premise, Good Science about Kelvin’s refutation of the ”Doctrine of Uniformity”. And even better: ”For Want of a Metaphor”. Here Gould gives a good example how progress in science is dependant on metaphors. It is the story of preformationists vs. epigeneticists. Gould rejects the usual good guy vs. bad that is so natural in the history of science. How asks the protagonist Maupertuis (*1698), can Albinos or polydactyly be possible if they existed as homunculi from the beginning of time? He felt there must be something from father and mother that comes together. What he missed was the metaphor of programs, that makes it so easy for us to understand what is going on. “Carrie Buck’s daughter” is remarkable because of the extraordinary coincidence that I read it just after watching “Judgment of Nuremberg”. “Losing the Edge” explains why baseball players in the past were better. Would be interesting to see if that is also true for football.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jason Adams

    "The Flamingo's Smile" capture a unique moment in science. The excitement of the Alvarez finding of an asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous is palpable throughout the essays. Thirty years later, the theory is a given and it is a joy to see the excitement from a top scientific mind when a great idea first comes to light. The rest of the essays are of the quality to expect from the series. I particularly enjoyed the collaboration with Carl Sagan and the Pope (!?) to describe nuclear winter "The Flamingo's Smile" capture a unique moment in science. The excitement of the Alvarez finding of an asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous is palpable throughout the essays. Thirty years later, the theory is a given and it is a joy to see the excitement from a top scientific mind when a great idea first comes to light. The rest of the essays are of the quality to expect from the series. I particularly enjoyed the collaboration with Carl Sagan and the Pope (!?) to describe nuclear winter. Overall four stars.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jill Rebryna

    I've never read one of Stephen Jay Gould's books before, only heard of him through other science authors in the discipline. I thought he sounded an interesting man, and so I decided to check one of his books out. The essays are interesting, insightful, and strangely dated, which I don't always find in the scientific disciplines when it comes to books. Still, they were all extremely interesting, and in the dating, proof that things have changed, and that we have learned more. I've never read one of Stephen Jay Gould's books before, only heard of him through other science authors in the discipline. I thought he sounded an interesting man, and so I decided to check one of his books out. The essays are interesting, insightful, and strangely dated, which I don't always find in the scientific disciplines when it comes to books. Still, they were all extremely interesting, and in the dating, proof that things have changed, and that we have learned more.

  12. 5 out of 5

    DaveD

    This is a book of 30 different essays. I found about 3-5 interesting and the rest of the book was a struggle that I slowly powered through. For me, Stephen Jay Gould is not an interesting writer and so this will be my first and last of his books.

  13. 5 out of 5

    jjonas

    Nothing to add to the reviews of other Gould essay collections I've read. Nothing to add to the reviews of other Gould essay collections I've read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    I liked it! I could relate to much of the writing angst and decisions about stepping away from the novel writing. Not sure I’d recommend it for non-writers though.

  15. 4 out of 5

    JM

    Gould is that rare public figure who somehow manages to marry a great intelligence, a deep curiosity, an able writership and a empathetic humanism. He is a delight to read. Spanning diverse subjects of evolution he always makes both the specific and the general a fascinating insight into the histories of life. The greatest take away from all these essays is the diversity and robustness of being. There are so many ways things could have (and still could) turn out, and all this wonder around us ha Gould is that rare public figure who somehow manages to marry a great intelligence, a deep curiosity, an able writership and a empathetic humanism. He is a delight to read. Spanning diverse subjects of evolution he always makes both the specific and the general a fascinating insight into the histories of life. The greatest take away from all these essays is the diversity and robustness of being. There are so many ways things could have (and still could) turn out, and all this wonder around us has been the reverence of contingency. We are incredibly lucky that we are here at all. It is against all odds that it were to be so. And yet it is. And even with this how much we seem to have screwed up along the way. Social lessons abound in these essays, sometimes as more observational curiosities, sometimes as staunch condemnations. Always with an eye for understanding and bettering. Gould isn't trying to lay out a theoretical groundwork here so much as he is attempting to excavate and understand the histories of what is. To clear up misunderstandings and impart the knowledge that will hopefully be used for future wisdom. A really refreshing point that he had made, which I haven't seen before in my (admittedly sparse) readings into scientific fields was the idea that old models of thought-though now laughable- still were, in their own way, brilliant consolidations and rationalizations of what was then known. And while this doesn't mean that you have to commend all old ideas, it should be used as a way to try and understand (again to uncover) WHY they came about. Because knowing is power. Even if power to make clearer and more informed changes. To avoid the failings of the past. To strengthen our adaptability and avoid dying out from under our own hand. Even when confronting religion, Gould avoids the generalist combative atheistic approach (ala Dawkins) and instead leans into a more nuanced appreciation of what likely religion came about for, and a very learned understanding about how even science doesn't have all the answers for all the questions out there. Again, the humanistic approach makes him such a warm and admirable figure to read. I'll leave off with one of my favorite passages in the book: "The excitement of new theories lies in their power to change contexts, to render irrelevant what once seemed sensible. If we laugh at the past because we judge it anachronistically in the light of present theories, how can we understand these changes of context? And how can we retain proper humility toward our own favored theories and the probability of their own future lapse into insignificance? Honest intellectual passions always merit respect." I know, right?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bill Keefe

    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 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, not remember enough of the vital matter to be able to explain to anyone what I read, or why it was important or even why I believed or did not believe a particular conclusion or line of thought. (Except for the piece on the demise of the .400 hitter in baseball...I was well grounded in that, can assess the validity of argument, regurgitate most of the facts and discuss the essay with ease!) That being said, his topics are generally very interesting, some fascinating and the learning overwhelming. And, if you've never read him in the New Yorker, he is such a powerfully consistent thinker and wonderful writer that you keep plowing through the 30 or so essays because you know the next one will also be fruitful and possibly inspiring (before, that is, it becomes depressing). It's hard to recommend the book but if you just want to pick something up that will educate you, make you think and make you wonder, you would not regret plowing through this tome. And, it being essays, you can pick and choose a few and then put it down. I, for one, am glad I stuck it out and, in fact, am going to read much of it again.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    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 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 curious title comes from the very first essay to appear. A flamingo's smile is almost as enigmatic as Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa's. Why? In this essay, Gould explores the theme of form follows function and the question of just why do pink flamingos have upside-down smiles? Gould writes: “In most birds (and mammals including us), the upper jaw fuses to the skull; chewing, biting, and shouting move the mobile lower jaw against this stable brace. If reversed feeding has converted the flamingo’s upper jaw into a working lower jaw in size and shape, then we must predict that, contrary to all anatomical custom, this upper beak moves up and down against a rigid lower jaw. The flamingo, in short, should feed by raising and lowering its upper jaw.” Which, by the way, it does. Flamingos are filter feeders that feed with their heads upside down, submerged in water. So, for a practical purpose, in nature, the jaw that is actually on the bottom during feeding is the movable one. Most curious. Most curious, indeed.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    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 - 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 - Kunstformen aus dem Meer and really enjoy studying the carefully orchestrated plates like never before. I will most probably read some of the other essay collections and books by Stephen Jay Gould, since I believe I have reached that point in my development when I can at least appreciate if not completely understand most of his points and cultural references. Don't be fooled by the introduction into thinking this book is not interesting. Had I not just ignored the intro, it could have been a reason for me not to continue reading this book. Skip it if you want to, it's nothing more than an overview of the structure of this collection of essays. The essays themselves are rich and buoyant and well balanced. I would recommend this book to anyone with the slightest interest in the natural sciences. They might find that so many beautiful topics await discovery and development.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Heman

    It is 2020 when I am writing this, and various scientific papers on climate change make a prediction that we have just about 20 years or so left to reverse the effects of climate change through some sort of carbon capture process or (more drastically) through some sort of geoenginerring scheme. There are yet other papers and reports that think it is already too late and the planet’s temperature will rise by the dreaded 1.5 degree Celsius as soon as 2021 to as late as 2030. In the one before last It is 2020 when I am writing this, and various scientific papers on climate change make a prediction that we have just about 20 years or so left to reverse the effects of climate change through some sort of carbon capture process or (more drastically) through some sort of geoenginerring scheme. There are yet other papers and reports that think it is already too late and the planet’s temperature will rise by the dreaded 1.5 degree Celsius as soon as 2021 to as late as 2030. In the one before last essay of Flamingo’s Smile, titled continuity, Stephen Gould mused about nuclear holocaust all the way back in 1984. There he brings up his constantly spoken-of-image of the tree of of evolution and the fact that we are but the tip of a twig of this enormous tree of life and that we are such a peculiar twig that can comprehend its origins and trace its path through 5 billion years to the trunk of the tree. Yet he says, “I cannot imagine anything more vulgar, more hateful than the prospect that a tiny twig with one peculiar power might decimate the majestic tree whose continuity goes back to the dawn of earth’s time and whose trunk and branches house so many thousands of prerequisites to the twig’s existence” His sentiment is nearly 40 years old but rings truer than ever as we slouch toward some form of slow moving disaster that we seem not to comprehend, even as it unfolds day after day on our TV and phone screens.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Beatles24

    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 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 to accumulate into the current state - meaning that in a couple of million years we would be the sum total of the intervening changes. That and a number of other concepts are illustrated beautifully with a number of examples from the natural world. The science requires a bit of concentration initially to get used to but once you are past that stage it becomes a transformative experience. As easy as it is to dispose off conservative arguments regarding intelligent design this books provides one with the solid intellectual foundation to believe in evolution as well as increasing one's confidence in the primacy of science over religion based arguments for our presence and sustenance as a race. In other words, God created evolution and then watched it unfold and was surprised and delighted at how it turned out (dare I say evolved). A superb book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tomomi Landsman

    I bought this as part of a boxed set at Second Story Books in Washington DC. The other books in the collection are The Panda's Thumb, which I already own, and Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes which is another new one for me. I was really happy to find this for $20, even with one overlapping book. I think this might be my fifth collection of essays by Stephen Jay Gould I've read. I found this collection excellent as always, but I think I'm starting to see a little too much repetition of overarching th I bought this as part of a boxed set at Second Story Books in Washington DC. The other books in the collection are The Panda's Thumb, which I already own, and Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes which is another new one for me. I was really happy to find this for $20, even with one overlapping book. I think this might be my fifth collection of essays by Stephen Jay Gould I've read. I found this collection excellent as always, but I think I'm starting to see a little too much repetition of overarching themes. I still have two in queue, but maybe after I finish those, I will give myself a break from Gould for a while. I do wish that he were still alive today as a sober and thoughtful voice in our political climate. One of my favorite quotes from "The Freezing of Noah": "The enemy of knowledge and science is irrationalism, not religion"

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alex Rubenstein

    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 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 versus the procrustean bed that is dichotomy. While in some areas I disagree (Gould himself is a staunch believer that nature's effects are weaker than nurture, and having read "The Mismeasure of Man", it is not well-supported), The Flamingo's Smile is so interesting, and remains relevant to this day.

  23. 4 out of 5

    s

    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 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 knowing the history of science, especially with its messy details.

  24. 5 out of 5

    P

    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 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 interesting to realize that we've only known how dinosaurs died for thirty years, though.

  25. 5 out of 5

    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. 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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (aka EM)

    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. 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.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elise Jenkins

    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.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ken Bishop

    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. 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.

  29. 4 out of 5

    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. 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.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Another of Gould's great best ofs from his series of essays in Natural History magazine. Always a treat! Another of Gould's great best ofs from his series of essays in Natural History magazine. Always a treat!

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