The Panda’s Thumb, Stephen Jay Gould

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The Panda’s Thumb, Stephen Jay Gould, Norton, 1980, ISBN 0-393-01380-4

The second collection of Gould’s articles from Natural History continues to explore Darwin’s themes and the resultant ideas since. There’s several interesting essays here, including my favorite one in which the evolution of Mickey Mouse is discussed.

One of the essays here dealt with Richard Dawkins’ controversial stand (in The Selfish Gene) on genes in which he states that a person is just a gene’s way to make another gene. (This is different from normal evolutionary thought in that genes there are the subject of random variation which then is subject to the environment and tested.) Gould is not convinced by Dawkins’ theory, mainly because, he says, there is no evidence that genes can be linked to specific attributes, i.e., there isn’t an “eye” gene. Gould wrote this some years back, so it will be interesting to see if he revisits this subject now that researchers have indeed discovered the “eye” gene (through testing on flies).

Gould also covers Robert Bakker’s theories about warm-blooded dinosaurs (later written up in Bakker’s The Dinosaur Heresies) and the link to birds, a good essay for people to review prior to the hullabaloo that will follow Jurassic Park 2 (it’s always fun to check up on an author’s source material).

[Finished 11 April 1995]

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