books pdf The Structure of Evolutionary TheoryAuthor Stephen Jay Gould –

The World S Most Revered And Eloquent Interpreter Of Evolutionary Ideas Offers Here A Work Of Explanatory Force Unprecedented In Our Time A Landmark Publication, Both For Its Historical Sweep And For Its Scientific VisionWith Characteristic Attention To Detail, Stephen Jay Gould First Describes The Content And Discusses The History And Origins Of The Three Core Commitments Of Classical Darwinism That Natural Selection Works On Organisms, Not Genes Or Species That It Is Almost Exclusively The Mechanism Of Adaptive Evolutionary Change And That These Changes Are Incremental, Not Drastic Next, He Examines The Three Critiques That Currently Challenge This Classic Darwinian Edifice That Selection Operates On Multiple Levels, From The Gene To The Group That Evolution Proceeds By A Variety Of Mechanisms, Not Just Natural Selection And That Causes Operating At Broader Scales, Including Catastrophes, Have Figured Prominently In The Course Of EvolutionThen, In A Stunning Tour De Force That Will Likely Stimulate Discussion And Debate For Decades, Gould Proposes His Own System For Integrating These Classical Commitments And Contemporary Critiques Into A New Structure Of Evolutionary ThoughtIn The Library Of Congress Named Stephen Jay Gould One Of America S Eighty Three Living Legends People Who Embody The Quintessentially American Ideal Of Individual Creativity, Conviction, Dedication, And Exuberance Each Of These Qualities Finds Full Expression In This Peerless Work, The Likes Of Which The Scientific World Has Not Seen And May Not See Again For Well Over A Century

10 thoughts on “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory

  1. says:

    I would love to clock Richard Dawkins on the side of the head with this book.

  2. says:

    page 815 He has made his case explaining the development of Punctuated Equilibrium, and why it is a valid theory and how the arguments agaisnt it either have not properly understood the theory or have not seen the evidence in support I can see the end now almost 400 pages and he has really established his historical premise, that the tension between formalism and selection are enduring themes throughout the history of biology, and that the consensus of the modern Synthesis went too far towards the pure selectionist side I tend to agree, and some of the 19th century views of orthogenesis are quite fascinating and perfectly reasonable considering the degree of knowledge then And certainly eve deco lends much credence to the formalist approach that inherent limitations and organically preferred channels are a constraint on selection.I think recent b breakthroughs are clearly showing the complexity of interaction between genetics and environment, and that understanding the matrix of how development operates is the key to understanding evolutionOk, I have only read the first two hundred pages,out of thirteen hundred, but I have skimmed through various other parts This is a monumental work, that may have it s flaws was it actually edited at ALL Gould put everything onto this and his historical perspective on scientific thought is really crucial in understanding the science of Evolution His views on evolution are extremely well thought out, and I agree with much of his thinking.The history is fascinating and while parts are a little long and meandering, it is worth reading if you want to know where the science of evolution cam from and how it developed It is full of astonishing examples of evolutonary process from a tremendous range of organisms he was a specialist on mollusks and uses mollusks in some of his explanations, but the incredible range of ideas brings in ecxample after example of unusual species and how evolution operatesI plan to finish this in the next few yearsAnd I have mixed feeling about how accurate his main contention is, that there is a basic trunk to the theory of evolution and that the main branches are basically understood, but the smaller ones keep being moved around This seems obviously as a defense against creationists and their argument that evolution theory keeps changing so it is not a valid theory While Gould is dismissed by many well respected evolutionary biologists as thinking a little too much of his impact on the field some of their arguments seem to mischaracterize his views Also his views very closely mirror mine and form a strong basis for my theory of comprehensive learning Clearly his famous contribution of punctuated equilibrium has turned out to be basically accurate, though some argue that he didn t say anything new I think that is a little disengenious This is a magnum opus by one of the most famous scientists of the late 20th century, he is a good writer, if verbose in this case I wouldn t recommend this to anyone for light reading But if you see it at someones house pick it up and look through it you will almost surely learn something that will surprise you, and make you glad you looked

  3. says:

    I was a great fan of Gould s monthly essays, having the whole set of collected volumes and long marvelling at his general erudition and graceful writing For this reason, I find it greatly frustrating to have to give this immense volume so poor a rating At one time or another, in fact, I was on the point of hurling it through the wall and thus possibly endangering some poor soul in a neighbouring room At over 1400 vocabulary dense pages this is a lot of effort to put into reading a work that does not fill one with conviction.It is not that Gould does not convince On some points I can see what he is driving at It s just that where he is able to express a concept clearly one feels that it is rather incidental to the point of understanding evolution, and a lot of the time he does not explain concepts clearly at all He returns on quite a number of occasions to his skirmishes with Richard Dawkins, and than once accuses Dawkins of not grasping the subtleties of some detail of evolutionary theory currently at issue The most certain indication that one has understood a concept, however, is that one can explain and teach it clearly and by multiple approaches Dawkins exposition of R.A Fisher s linkage disequilibrium is one of the most bracing pieces of clarification I have ever read Gould, with 1400 pages of space, doesn t manage a single clear exposition of this kind.Gould devotes a lot of space to punctuated equilibrium, of which he was co author, and he kind of makes a case that it is to be seen in the fossil record There are a couple of graphs of morphological variation that support the contention that a punctuational phase snail shell evolution in lake sediments is quantitatively distinct from stasis, but on the whole far verbiage than solid science The proposition that species are mainly stable and then encounter geologically rapid speciation events is unobjectionable, but that s exactly the point that Dawkins made decades ago Speciation events of tens of thousands of years duration are only geologically sudden, and if you were studying one that was actually in progress the rate of evolution could not be measured over a human lifetime The actual evolution is still gradual It is still Darwinian natural selection which drives.Stasis may certainly be interesting in its own right There is the germ of an idea here that some form of self organised criticality may apply to evolution, with brief avalanches emerging from time to time But Gould does not come close to elucidating the mechanism, far less the mathematics, and as Dawkins says, it is in any case the phase of change, driven by natural selection, which actually tells us how complex forms emerge Similarly with general trends in evolution They may, indeed, by interesting to a specialist, but if you want to understand why there are trees, bees and people the fact that horses are a small clade and antelopes are a big one is piddling stuff indeed The emergence of the eukaryotic cell, sexual selection, haplodiploidy in the Hymenoptera and a thousand other details of theory tell us vastly about the central why are we here of evolution.In any case, some of Gould s claims from palaeontology appear to be outright wrong when looked at using other evidence Species may be static and distinct in the fossil record, but in the real world there are ring species and other continua Ring species are not even static across their geographical range, let alone across time Speciation is known to occur by mechanisms that leave no morphological record whatsoever song dialects in birds, for instance, or UV plumage marking that could not possibly show up in fossils using current techniques There are reproductively isolated bird species that can only be distinguished under UV light There are finches in the Galapagos whose species appear to be merging due to the changed selective pressure introduced by tourism.Gould speaks of genes as a means of bookkeeping , yet genes do not just record forms Their actions actually create them They are not merely a record, they are a causal mechanism And who is this bookkeeper anyway Gould presents a Straw Man version of gene selectionism, alleging that it fails to take linkage into account, yet linkage is a key feature of one of Fisher s mechanisms Gould speaks of emergence, yet if a feature is truly emergent then it cannot be book kept at a level below the emergent Finally, his PE, after all this talk, still seems to me to be a generalisation, not a theory And as for group selection, it is back in fashion and may have merit, but Gould does not say what it means in terms of predictive power There is one reference to a prediction of sex ratios, but not a word on how it was calculated or how it shows the working of group selection Group selection may be true and of crucial importance, but you wouldn t know it from reading this.Altogether a wearying and frustrating read, but with lots and lots of long words needed for the technical prerequisites to understanding the long sentences And it saddens me to be so negative about so great a writer.

  4. says:

    After a contemplation of reading this book 6 yrs back, I could finally complete reading it now over a span of 2 months With an agenda of restructuring the Darwinian logic of evolution, while diplomatically drenching Darwin with showers of praises ,Gould organizes a major coup against the reductionist and panselectionist interpretations of evolutionary theory This tome is divided into 2 parts The first part gives you a ride through the peri darwinian evolutionary views halting at the Modern synthesis The second part is the exposition of the logic of his views analogized as the three branches of Scilla s Coral Agency, efficacy and scope of natural selection He attempts to make radical cuts at these three branches of Darwin Wallace logic thus altering its basic structure As for knowing how far he succeeded in doing so is left to the reader s understanding This book is not a reference science book nor it is a popular science book This piece of work deals with the logic of basic structure of evolutionary theory which attempts at reinforcing Gould s views about 1 Hierarchical selection stressing on Species selection , 2 Stasis and Punctuated equilibrium and 3 Constraints, Exaptations and Spandrels As far as my reading is concerned, just like T H Huxley s caveat to Charles Darwin You have loaded yourself with an unnecessary difficulty in adopting Natura non facit saltum so unreservedly , I felt that Gould overburdened himself by trying to extrapolate fallaciously Species selection to Punctuated equilibrium and to some extent to explain Exaptations and spandrels Regardless of the reader s agreements and disagreements with the author, the reader will be benefitted with a joyous and informative ride through the 1300 odd pages of this book which makes the reader to ponder I was delighted to see Exaptation s connection with Nietzsche Only A scientist and Science historian with education in Philosophy like Gould can write such a masterpiece and masterpieces don t deserve anything less than five stars.

  5. says:

    I finally finished this book, which certainly gives a feeling of accomplishment It is very carefully argued, and one of the best things about it, at least to this layman, is that Gould gives a reasonably complete and careful version of opposing sides of every debate, particularly when it comes to the sections on evolution at different levels such as species selection.With respect to species selection, I started reading this book as quite a skeptic, but Gould won me over Even he admits selection is a powerful force at the organism level, but he argues very effectively for the other levels as well Gould concentrates on evolution of multicellular life, spending almost no time on single celled organisms That leaves out most life, but of course is the most interesting bit.The section on constraint is excellent, and begins simply but really gives a feel for the evolutionary effect of existing conditions Toward the end, it feels like both the reader and Gould would have preferred he had a little time to learn and write about evo devo and molecular genetics Still, this book is a superb snapshot of the state of knowledge in one of our finest scientific minds.

  6. says:

    Dear god I spent literally a year reading this tome 1350 pages of tiny font, big ideas, and beautiful prose At times torturous, at times rapturous, but always eloquent and deeply insightful, this monster has provided an entire education in evolutionary biology I m a bit hesitant to give it five stars given that it could have been so much better trimmed down to a reasonable 400 600 pages But then again, when I think about all the vapid fluff out there getting five star reviews and I weigh that against the profound wisdom, so well expressed, in this opus, I ll go with the highest possible review If you re really interested in evolution and want an excellent history of the development of the theory from its beginnings to the current state of the art, as told by a leading figure in the field and a world class writer, this book is well worth your attention.

  7. says:

    Let me say up front that despite my five star rating, I found this book a colossal pain in the a to read That is not the fault of the book but rather my expectations of what I would find in the book I was hoping to learn a lot of biology But the book is about the philosophical structure of various strains of thought within evolutionary theory than an outline of the nuts and bolts of evolution Thus, rather bizarrely, there are extended discussions of Aristotle s theory of causality and Nietzsche s distinction between the history and purpose of punishment, with analogies drawn to problems that have arisen as evolutionary theory has itself evolved The book seems to assume a hefty background in biology which I lack, so I often had to refer to Wikipedia to bone up on the appropriate concepts If you don t know offhand the difference between anagenesis and cladogenesis I didn t before reading this book , you may want to think twice before taking on this book.Another suggestion I have is to read the final section of the last chapter first to give you a feel for the book, rather than starting at the beginning Shortly into the first chapter, Gould launches into a dry and lengthy discussion of European cathedrals Gould is known for the colorful and witty prose in his books aimed at a general audience, but you will find none of that here The book does get better in this respect later on, but even so you will have dry sections to plod through.All in all, I m very glad I made the investment and it is a major investment of reading this book However, if you are considering reading it, make sure you count the cost

  8. says:

    This is a triumph.Gould lays out some of the history of evolutionary theory and the theory s own evolution, clearly sorting out the elements Then he supplements and complements recent advances in the field with propositions of hierarchical evolution in units lower than or higher than individuals, such as species and of course punctuated equilibrium evolution realized mostly in occasional modest jumps rather than always gradually.Gould s emphasis is somewhat on the evolution of form and structure of organisms their hard structures are all that may remain, long after behavior, immune system, DNA, embryonic development, and many other characteristics disappear from the earth, and so allow a linear perspective in evolutionary time Such other features are considered here as well.Gould apparently wrote each chapter to stand on its own That may explain redundancies noted Gould is ever careful to distinguish between fact and hypothesis.As an interested layman to the field, I was fascinated by this from start to finish and was convinced by the evidence and analysis Certainly it should be read by anyone in the field Gould devoted 20 years to writing it and died two months later.If you are discouraged by the size of this book, then pick up any collection of Gould s many enjoyable and thoughtful essays.

  9. says:

    Don t get me wrong, this book is pretty good, but I couldn t finish it in time and I don t feel like taking it out again I have tried to read it, but now I just can t get into the whole story that is being presented here At the moment, Gould is going on about the history of Hierarchical Structure in taxonomy and Biology He repeatedly reiterates his initial idea, but I keep forgetting it Still, I did get up to page 316 or so before giving up, so that has to count for something, but this book is just too long and dense.He mentions Darwin and his ideas, along with a number of other historical biologists that had some effect on modern thought with evolution and all of that.Bottom line is, this book just wasn t for me It wasn t fun to read, and I am deluding myself in trying to finish it So it has been dropped Luckily I didn t buy it

  10. says:

    Just starting this one makes you smarter My reference for anyone who claims that evolution isn t supported Stephen Jay Gould first summarizes all previous thought on evolution takes it apart and puts it back together again giving birth to the modern theory of punctuated equilibrium I won t say I have finished it though it s like the complte Oxford English Dictionary Any page is packed full of detail and knowledge.