Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History
Stephen Jay Gould
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
More than any other modern scientists, Stephen Jay Gould has opened up to millions the wonders of evolutionary biology. His genius as an essayist lies in his unmatched ability to use his knowledge of the world, including popular culture, to illuminate the realm of science.
Ever Since Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould's first book, has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. Like all succeeding collections by this unique writer, it brings the art of the scientific essay to unparalleled heights.
between, but superabundant when found by such a tiny fly. Cecidomyian gall midges therefore gain a selective advantage if they use newly discovered mushrooms for building up their population as rapidly as possible. What, then, is the most efficient way to build a population quickly? Should the midges simply lay more eggs or should they reproduce as early as possible during their lives? This general issue has inspired a large literature among mathematically inclined ecologists. In most situations,
14, 15, 16, or 18? 13 and 17 share a common property. They are large enough to exceed the life cycle of any predator, but they are also prime numbers (divisible by no integer smaller than themselves). Many potential predators have 2–5-year life cycles. Such cycles are not set by the availability of periodical cicadas (for they peak too often in years of nonemergence), but cicadas might be eagerly harvested when the cycles coincide. Consider a predator with a cycle of five years: if cicadas
proposals ranging from the absurdly ad hoc to the eminently plausible. To cite just a few: (1)The Cambrian represents the first preservation of unaltered rocks; Precambrian sediments have been subjected to such heat and pressure that their fossil remains have been obliterated. This is empirically false, beyond any doubt. (2)Life evolved in terrestrial lakes. The Cambrian represents the migration of this fauna to the sea. (3)All early metazoans were soft-bodied. The Cambrian represents the
champion of upright posture during the nineteenth century was Darwin’s German bulldog Ernst Haeckel. Without a scrap of direct evidence, Haeckel reconstructed our ancestor and even gave it a scientific name, Pithecanthropus alalus, the upright, speechless, small-brained ape-man. (Pithecanthropus, by the way, is probably the only scientific name ever given to an animal before it was discovered. When Du Bois discovered Java Man in the 1890s, he adopted Haeckel’s generic name but he gave it the new
of a possible range of behaviors. But peacefulness, equality, and kindness are just as biological—and we may see their influence increase if we can create social structures that permit them to flourish. Thus, my criticism of Wilson does not invoke a nonbiological “environmentalism”; it merely pits the concept of biological potentiality—a brain capable of the full range of human behaviors and rigidly predisposed toward none—against the idea of biological determinism—specific genes for specific