The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History

The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History

Stephen Jay Gould

Language: English

Pages: 384

ISBN: 0609807552

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In his latest collection of essays, bestselling scientist Stephen Jay Gould once again offers his unmistakable perspective on natural history and the people who have tried to make sense of it. Gould is planning to bring down the curtain on his nearly thirty-year stint as a monthly essayist for Natural History magazine, the longest-running series of scientific essays in history. This, then, is the next-to-last essay collection from one of the most acclaimed and widely read scientists of our time. In this work of twenty-three essays, selected by Booklist as one of the top ten science and technology books of 2000, Gould covers topics as diverse as episodes in the birth of paleontology to lessons from Britain’s four greatest Victorian naturalists. The Lying Stones of Marrakech presents the richness and fascination of the various lives that have fueled the enterprise of science and opened our eyes to a world of unexpected wonders.

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formerly recognized]. The process of “natural selection,” as Mr. Darwin called it… has shown to be a chief cause … of that evolution through which all living things, beginning with the lower, and diverging and re-diverging as they evolved, have reached their present degrees of organization and adaptation to their modes of life. But putting aside the question of Darwin’s particular influence, the more important, underlying point remains firm: the theory of Social Darwinism (or social Spencerism)

reporter: “If we assume that there are other genes out there that we haven’t looked at yet, and that each gene exerts more or less the same influence as the D4 receptor, then we would expect maybe four or five genes are involved in the trait.” But the most significant errors, as always, fall into the third category of mis-proclaiming “genes for” specific behaviors—as in the title of the technical report from Nature Genetics, previously cited: “Mapping Genes for Human Personality.” (If our

maximally similar form. Two general strategies may be cited, the second far more interesting than the first, for acquiring the requisite “breathing room”—a little bit of unique space that no other species contests in exactly the same way. In the first strategy—the “Holy Sepulchre solution” if you will—two species perceive the surrounding environment in basically the same manner and therefore must divide the territory to keep out of each other’s way. Division may be strictly spatial, as in my

all this wood, and where it originates, and some of the nearby mouths of fire [steaming volcanic pits near Acquasparta that played a major role in Stelluti’s interpretation of the wood]. You will observe all this with both surprise and enthusiasm. We don’t usually think of Galileo as a geologist or paleontologist, but his catholic (with a small c!) interests encompassed everything that we would now call science, including all of natural history. Galileo took his new telescope to his first

standard,” as defined by constant repetition and presence in all shops. (Whatever the unique and personal items offered for sale in any shop, this vin ordinaire of the genre always appears in abundance.) These “standards” feature small (up to four or six inches in length) flattened stones with a prominent creature spread out in three dimensions on the surface. The fossils span a full range from plausible “trilobites,” to arthropods (crabs, lobsters, and scorpions, for example) with external hard

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