Copyright ©1996 by Stephen Jay Gould; Copyright (P)1996 by Dove Audio, Inc.
Stephen J Gould requires a little getting used to, but once you do you may really love his work.
This collection is largely focused around a single point, understanding "excellence" from a system point of view. The various topics seem at first unrelated, but he weaves them into a net so tight that you will be completely convinced of his conclusion be the time he is finished.
This book is not for everyone, but I would reccomend it strongly for those interested in Paleontology or evolution. I have listened to it three times now, since I fist downloaded it 2 years ago. Each time I enjoy it.
This is a classic ... I read it years ago and loved it again now that I listened to it. Efrem Zimbalist reads it very well, but the recording quality it pretty bad. Worth listening to because the book is so good, but annoying. Still highly recommended ... Gould's lessons in this book are life lessons that go beyond biology. His teaching about our reflexive beliefs about central tendencies helped me see, even more deeply, the fallacies of demographics in marketing, even though Gould never talked about this. And yes, I believe there will never be another .400 hitter in baseball after reading this book.
The book is well written, it's just a shame that the audio quality is so poor. It sounds as if the recording was transferred from a bad cassette recording.
A landmark thinker, the late Stephen Jay Gould doesn't let us down in this excellent narrative exploration of probability. Who else could shed some light on statistical analysis and the development of human thinking about natural systems and still make it a fun read? He does so by sprinkling his well-structured chapters with biological and paleontological evidence, departing now and then into anecdote and well-timed chat to keep the pace interesting.
Only if my friend were a baseball fan, or interested in statistics
The meaning of excellence
While I agree with the criticisms expressed above, I would urge readers to check out one of Gould's other books of essay collections from his column "This View of Life", which are more to the point. Many are not yet available with Audible--The Panda's Thumb, Ever Since Darwin, The Flamingo's Smile.
As a member of the Skeptic Society, I had heard much about the accomplishments of S. J. Gould. This was my first attempt to acquaint myself directly with his work, and it will be my last. While he may have been a fine scientist, his writing leaves much to be desired. He can't merely make a statement just once. Rather, he seems to need to repeat himself ad nauseum. The section devoted to the demise of the 0.400 hitter in baseball could have been expressed in about 15 minutes. He manages to consume something close to 60 minutes (maybe more) to make his point. Frankly, this book (which, to my irritation, was constantly described as an 'audiocassette') is simply boring. His goal in writing it was to disprove the idea that the process of evolution involves progression. He does not truly begin his discussion of his principle focus until more than half of the book is done. He spends an inordinate amount of time describing the appropriate statistical methods necessary to prove his assertion. Long-winded speakers have often been described as 'in love with their own voice'. I truly believe that Mr. Gould was enamoured with his word-processing program. Why else would he have filled his pages with so many unnecessary words?
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