Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History

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W. W. Norton & Company, 1994 - Nature - 479 pages
12 Reviews
If Stephen Jay Gould did not exist it would hardly be possible to invent him. Who else among scientists who write reaches so far or grasps so surely the "pretty pebbles" that together make up the amplitude of life? Eight Little Piggies is the sixth volume in a series of essays, begun in 1974 in the pages of Natural History under the rubric "This View of Life." Now numbering more than 200 in an unbroken string, they comprise a unique achievement in the annals of literature. And they will continue, vows the author, until the millennium, in January 2001. So Stephen Jay Gould's readers, numbering in the millions around the world, have not only this present pleasure but also much to look forward to. Eight Little Piggies is a special book in several ways. In all of Gould's work, this is the most contemplative and personal, speaking often of the importance of unbroken connections within our own lives and to our ancestral generations, "a theme of supreme importance to evolutionists who study a world in which extinction is the ultimate fate of all and prolonged persistence the only meaningful measure of success." This personal view leads naturally to an area that has become, for Gould, of major importance - environmental deterioration and the massive extinction of species on our present earth. He chooses, typically, unusual and telling examples: the demise of the land snail Partula from Moorea (the Bali Hai of South Pacific) and why the battle that raged over the Mount Graham red squirrel of Arizona was worth fighting. There are, in addition, more than thirty of those pretty pebbles that make Gould's work unique, opening to us the mysteries of fish tails and frog calls, of the coloration ofpigeons and the eye tissue of completely bind mole rats. Along the way, we learn what story lies behind the bent tail of an ichthyosaur and how hearing bones evolved and how, probably, we with our five fingers and toes (subject of the title essay) evolved from ancestors that had six
  

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - quantum_flapdoodle - LibraryThing

A collection of essays by the indomitable Stephen Jay Gould, an intellectual romp through natural history that at once amuses and educates. As with all Gould's books, there are some essays that miss the mark, but overall, this is one of his better. Read full review

Review: Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History (Reflections in Natural History #6)

User Review  - Gregor - Goodreads

Great book! It elucidated many aspects of the history of biology and the theory of evolution that I was unaware of, or about which I only had a sketchy idea. What I liked the most were the chapters ... Read full review

Contents

A Reflective Prologue
11
THE SCALE OF EXTINCTION
21
Unenchanted Evening
23
A The Golden Rule A Proper Scale for Our Environmental Crisis
41
Losing a Limpet
52
ODD BITS IF VERTEBRATE ANATOMY
61
Eight Little Piggies
63
Bent Out of Shape
79
Counters and Cable Cars
238
HUMAN NATURE
247
Mozart and Modularity
249
The Moral State of Tahitiand of Darwin
262
Ten Thousand Acts of Kindness
275
The Declining Empire of Apes
284
GRAND PATTERNS OF EVOLUTION
297
Two Steps towards a General Theory of Lifes Complexity
299

An Earful of Jaw
95
Full of Hot Air
109
VOX POPULI
121
Evolving Visions
123
Men of the ThirtyThird Division An Essay on Integrity
124
Darwin and Paley Meet the Invisible Hand
138
More Light on Leaves
153
Time in Newtons Century
167
On Rereading Edmund Halley
168
Fall in the House of Ussher
181
MUSINGS
195
Clouds of Memory
197
Muller Bros Moving Storage
198
Shoemaker and Morning Star
206
Authenticity
219
In Touch with Walcott
220
The Wheel of Fortune and the Wedge of Progress
300
Tires to Sandals
313
New Discoveries in the Earliest History of Multicellular Life
325
Defending the Heretical and the Superfluous
326
The Reversal of Hallucigenia
342
REVISING AND EXTENDING DARWIN
353
What the Immaculate Pigeon Teaches the Burdened Mind
355
The Great Seal Principle
371
A Dogs Life in Galtons Polyhedron
382
Betting on Chance and No Fair Peeking
396
REVERSALS FRAGMENTS OF A BOOK NOT WRITTEN
407
Shields of Expectation and Actuality
409
A Tale of Three Pictures
427
A Foot Soldier for Evolution
439
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About the author (1994)

Born in New York City in 1941, Stephen Jay Gould received his B.A. from Antioch College in New York in 1963. He received a Ph.D. in paleontology from Columbia University in 1967 and has been a professor at Harvard University since then. He is also curator of invertebrate paleontology at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. His research has been mainly in the evolution and speciation of land snails. Gould is a leading proponent of the theory of punctuated equilibrium. This theory holds that few evolutionary changes occur among organisms over long periods of time, and then a brief period of rapid changes occurs before another long, stable period of equilibrium sets in. An outspoken advocate of the scientific outlook, Gould has been a vigorous defender of evolution against its creation-science opponents in popular magazines focusing on science. He writes a column for Natural History and has produced a remarkable series of books that display the excitement of science for the layperson.

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