Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Full House by Stephen Jay Gould ****

 Within popular culture little there is little agreement between the evolutionists and the creationists beyond that Homo sapiens are the pinnacle of creation. This supremacy is viewed by creationists as God’s work, while evolutionists see it as an inevitable product of evolution. Full House by Stephen Jay Gould agrees with no one and intends to convince scientifically minded readers of a third alternative.

With arguments heavily based on math, probability, and statistics, the author proposes that evolution does not prefer more complex organisms, or more directly, there is no survival advantage, or natural selection, for complexity. Thus, Homo sapiens do not represent the goal and accomplishment of evolution, but merely the accident of a random walk.

One quarter on this book uses baseball “as one of two central examples to carry the major message.” If you are not a baseball fan, you might find this an overly long discussion about the dearth of .400 hitters, something that hasn't happened since 1941. I have been to 3 or 4 games in my life, and watched fewer than that on TV, but I was able to follow. Regardless it felt like a significant digression.

As a result, this is another of those nonfiction book with a single conclusion that feels like it could have been presented in a tome half the size of less. Many self-help and popular-business books also exhibit this characteristic.

If you are comfortable with statistical modeling and reasoning, this is an easy read. If you like the idea that the world lacks either divine direction or scientific inevitability, this is the book for you.


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