Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History

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Crown Pub., 1997 - Nature - 480 pages
4 Reviews
Gould's seventh collection of essays covers a wide range of subjects in natural history, literature, and popular culture--from the wisdom of Charles Darwin to that of the Old Testament Psalms, from the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park to the dinosaurs of the latest scientific theories, from the thwarted humanity of the Frankenstein monster to the inhuman fallacies of eugenics and other pseudoscience. With black and white illustrations.

"Here is a new collection of Gould's unexpected connections between evolution and all manner of subjects, literature high among them. Gathered from his monthly column inNatural Historymagazine, these articles should delight, surprise, and inform his vast readership, as have his six prior volumes of essays. Somehow the light bulb pops on every month as his deadline approaches, some glowing fact pulled out of memory--often a line from Shakespeare or Tennyson--that illumines a                    generality Gould wishes to discuss. "Nature, red in tooth and claw" (Lord Alfred's line) induces dilations on the extent science can inform moral matters (not much, Gould believes); a remembrance of the infamous Wansee protocol prompts Gould's denunciation of the genocidal looting of evolutionary theory and, by extension, its vulnerability to ignoramuses in general. These two examples of the Gouldian essay method, fortunately, don't foreshadow a gloomy parade of topics: Gould can as easily alight at the fun house where mass culture absorbs ideas about evolution through movies of monsters run amok from Frankenstein to Jurassic Park. In other essays, he plunges directly into matters of evolutionary interpretation but customarily employs a literary twist: who else but Gould could link Edgar Allan Poe with his own area of professional eminence, the paleontology of snails? A discovery awaits in every essay--in every haystack--which solidifies Gould as one of the most eloquent science popularizers writing today."
--Booklist

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User Review  - vguy - LibraryThing

Full of interest, though a bit scattered and with a touch of the manic. Amazed to discover on page 374 that I'd read it before - perhaps 10 years ago. The item that rang a bell was the 3 meanings of ... Read full review

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User Review  - AliceAnna - LibraryThing

A Darwinian's delight. Although much of the reading was dry, there were certain compelling essays. I particularly enjoyed (if that's the right word) the sequence on eugenics and the essay on Poe's scientific writing (maybe, maybe not). Read full review

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About the author (1997)

Born in New York City in 1941, Stephen Jay Gould received his B.A. from Antioch College in New York in 1963 and a Ph.D. in paleontology from Columbia University in 1967. Gould spent most of his career as a professor at Harvard University and curator of invertebrate paleontology at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. His research was mainly in the evolution and speciation of land snails. Gould was 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. Gould also made significant contributions to the field of evolutionary developmental biology, most notably in his work, Ontogeny and Phylogeny. An outspoken advocate of the scientific outlook, Gould had been a vigorous defender of evolution against its creation-science opponents in popular magazines focusing on science. He wrote a column for Natural History and has produced a remarkable series of books that display the excitement of science for the layperson. Among his many awards and honors, Gould won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His titles include; Ever Since Darwin, The Panda's Thumb, Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory and Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin. Stephen Jay Gould died on May 20, 2002, following his second bout with cancer.

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