The theory of evolution is regarded as one of the greatest glimmerings of understanding humans have ever had. It is an idea of science, not of belief, and therefore undergoes constant scrutiny and testing by argumentative evolutionary biologists. But while Darwinists may disagree on a great many things, they all operate within a (thus far) successful framework of thought first set down in The Origin of Species
In The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, a monumental labor of academic love, Stephen Jay Gould attempts to define and revise that framework. Using the clear metaphors and personable style he is so well known for, Gould outlines the foundation of the theory and attempts to use it to show that modern evolutionary biology has lost its way. He then offers his own system for reconciling Darwin's "basic logical commitments" with the critiques of modern scientists.
Gould's massive opus begs a new look at natural selection with the full weight of history behind it. His opponents will find much to criticize, and orthodox, reductionist Darwinists might feel that Gould has given them short shrift. But as an opening monologue for the new century's biological debates, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory sets a mountainous precedent in exhaustive scholarship, careful logic, and sheer reading pleasure. --Therese Littleton
For all its rigorous detail and painstaking historical, scientific, and philosophical explication, Gould's massive work is profoundly personal and dramatic, laced as it is with his great love for Darwin, frank intellectual autobiography, and his belief that the history of evolutionary thought "constitutes an epic tale"...[E]very scientifically inclined reader, will be affected by some aspect of Gould's passionate argument, humanistic sensibility, and sheer pleasure in the noble pursuit of knowledge and understanding. -- Donna Seaman Booklist 20011215 Stephen Jay Gould doesn't hold anything back in this remarkable and important book. Impressive on many levels, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory represents Gould's all-out attempt to revise and extend evolutionary theory as proposed by Darwin in 1859...Gould's respect and admiration (I would even say, love) for Darwin as a scientist and as a man have been evident throughout all his writings, and this book, which begins and ends with Darwin, is no exception. In stating his motivation for it, Gould leaves no doubt that his goal is not just to explicate evolutionary theory but to laud Darwin as well...While presenting a case that should strengthen his own place in history, Gould also makes it known that he is preserving the legacy of his mentor as well, at least for now. -- Mark Davis Ruminator Review 20020401 [A] magisterial tome...[The Structure of Evolutionary Theory] is destined to go down in history alongside the writings of Galileo, Darwin, Huxley, Freud, Mayr and others as a work that will change its culture forever. Gould's critics (and there are plenty of them) may weep and gnash their teeth at such an assessment, but they ignore him at their--and our--peril. This man has something important to say about the preeminent origin myth of our age--evolutionary theory--and he has said it in this magnificent work. -- Michael Shermer Washington Post 20020414 Fascinating, discursive, dogmatic, intensely personal and often quite technical, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory is also in most of its sections readily accessible to lay readers--and well worth the effort...This summation of Gould's idiosyncratic life work will undoubtedly arouse tremendous enthusiasm in loyal Gouldites...Gould's detailed arguments and scholarly exegesis of the historical literature on evolution's forebears and conflicts fully justify the length of this book. But the nuggets of Gould, the literate and rambunctious scientist, give it delicious flavor on page after page...This is a brilliant, controversial, thorough and immensely readable updating of Darwin. -- David Perlman San Francisco Chronicle 20020414 The culmination of about 25 years of research and study, this book traces the history of evolutionary thought and charts a path for its future...This book presents Gould in all his incarnations: as a digressive historian, original thinker and cunning polemicist...Even Gould's opponents will recognize this as the magnum opus of one of the world's leading evolutionary thinkers. Publishers Weekly 20020211 [This is] a summation of Stephen Jay Gould's life work, building on Darwinism to provide a novel synthesis of how evolution has shaped the living world...One of the joys of reading about good science is the chance not only to observe how scientific theory works, but also to participate in the workings of the mind behind the words. In Gould's...The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, the reader will find such joy in abundance. -- Tim Flannery New York Review of Books 20020523 The Structure of Evolutionary Theory was, we are told, ten years in the making, and is in many ways likely to be seen as Gould's greatest achievement. Of the enjoyment that many hundreds of thousands have gained from reading Gould's essays there can be no doubt...[T]here is no doubt that this is a profound and major contribution to evolutionary theory, standing high above the smoke of battle in the Darwin Wars. -- Steven Rose Times Literary Supplement 20020517 By literary standards [The Structure of Evolutionary Theory] is unique, a combination of scientific argument, historical analysis both of this argument and of all that went before it, an apologia pro vita sua, and many entertaining diversions...It is hard to think of any one else with this combination of polymathic ability and of sheer cheek, and equally hard to imagine filling a scientific auditorium with people who have read it right through--one of several ways in which the book can fairly be likened to The Origin of Species. -- John R. G. Turner The Spectator 20020629 Stephen Jay Gould's work always generates keen interest and the present volume perhaps more so given his recent death. It is a thoughtful and technical book--a statement of position and a response to critics--and it is huge...It is not a textbook as the title might suggest; instead, it is evolutionary theory as viewed through Gould's unique vision. -- Stephen Lewis Biologist 20021001 Stephen Jay Gould was no lightweight, physically or intellectually. This vast book...unveils his distinctive vision of evolutionary biology--as it should be, as it is, and as it has been...A book of great power, scope and learning...It is a book that one would expect to read and reread, for Gould articulates and defends a distinctive vision of the agenda of evolutionary biology; of the mechanisms of evolutionary change; and of the relationship of evolutionary biology to its own past...There is, indeed, a certain grandeur to this view of life. The Economist 20021206